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Precision Verb & Noun, Inc.

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Jones, Jul 4, 2007.

  1. Jones

    Jones Active Member

    So, thinking out loud here, wondering if this might work:

    A little while ago, I formed a company -- consisting entirely of me -- called Precision Verb & Noun, Inc. I named it that because I like the idea of writing being manual labor, and that sounded like the name of a joint that cranks out widgets on a metal lathe. I formed it because my financial planner calls it a "magic box" that he does all sorts of shady accounting things with.

    But it's got me thinking: Is there such a thing out there as a company of writers -- freelancers, joined together under a banner, the way consulting firms work? So that, say, the Chicago Tribune needs a piece, they could come to the company, and the company could assign the story to one of their roster, and the company would take care of the shitwork -- the hustling and the billing -- and the writer could just write. I guess so that the company operates almost like an agency, surviving on a percentage of the take, like ten or fifteen percent.

    I'm thinking if you had a dozen or so high quality writers spread around the country, they could band together like this, for marketing reasons and to rescue them from the drudgery that surrounds writing. Outfits would use it because they're guaranteed high-end work from a well they can return to, hopefully again and again. And then I could get fat on the backs of other writers, like a proper capitalist pig.

    Anyway -- does anybody know of such a thing already operating or having been tried? For the writers out there, would you give up a small percentage of your revenue on each take to be part of something like this? Or should it be that the writers are salaried and all the revenue goes to the company? And should there be photographers included, too, so that it's like a one-stop shop?

    So many questions, so few answers.

    What say you, Bolsheviks?
  2. Songbird

    Songbird Well-Known Member

    Funny you mention this, Jonsey. Talk to UT, who has a similar idea but on a broader scale.
  3. Moderator1

    Moderator1 Moderator Staff Member

    Sign me up
  4. John

    John Well-Known Member

    Am I hired?
  5. Chi City 81

    Chi City 81 Guest

    I want in.
  6. Jones

    Jones Active Member



    Well, let's brainstorm about it anyway.

    I'm starting to think the problem won't be signing up writers. It'll be the clients.

    Editors out there: You into something like this? Would you use such a company?

    I have to head out to do some of the aforementioned shitwork, alas, but I'm really fired up about this. I hope to come back to a completed mission statement, a roster, a client list (with assignments), and maybe when I can expect us to issue an IPO.

    Moddy, John, Doc: YOU'RE HIRED!
  7. Mystery_Meat

    Mystery_Meat Guest

    For some reason, I have an image of the Blue Moon Detective Agency, with Jones and UT storming off to their offices and slamming their doors, and Bubbler answering the phone in rhyme.

    I'd be in, assuming you're not holding out for good writers.
  8. da man

    da man Well-Known Member

    Speaking as someone who was freelance only until recently, call me dubious. The average newspaper freelance piece doesn't pay enough for me to give up 10-15 percent just so someone else can handle the billing and drum up the business. Billing isn't that complicated, and I've worked a long time to build a reputation, references and a list of regular clients. If I'm freelancing, I'm not relying on anyone else to find me assignments. Either I find them or I don't get paid, so I'm relying on me.
  9. Songbird

    Songbird Well-Known Member

    I'd be in for stories and/or photos.

    And MM, funny reference.
  10. jgmacg

    jgmacg Guest

    Jones convenes the first PVN, Inc. staff meeting. Here, he explains the company's policy regarding domestic business-class travel.


    (Oh. And count me in. But no coveralls. And no Canadian "money.")
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 15, 2014
  11. leo1

    leo1 Active Member

    this sounds like a terrible idea. it's great for the individual writers but in the long run you guys are killing the newspaper industry if you do this.

    let's say a decent size newspaper with a decent size travel budget wants a feature that requires travel to podunkville. if the paper uses this company, the staff writer doesn't get to go. why spend $1,000 on a flight, car rental and a couple nights in a hotel when the editor knows he can get jones or some other top notch writer to do the same thing for $250? if papers keep doing this, they'll cut back on staffers because they are outsourcing so much.

    eventually the higher ups are going to realize that if they can outsource features, they can outsource beat writing, too, at least to an extent. i'm not suggesting the chicago tribune will stop covering the cubs and white sox when they're 15 games out in august and september but for smaller papers, what's the point in sending your guy on the road if you can get something just as good? and forget about covering the post season. papers are already scaling back on that, right? so why would they pay your expenses to cover the world series when five guys from this freelance firm will be there stringing for 20 papers?

    what if papers can start outsourcing design and copy editing? maybe it won't happen for deadline pages. if you can outsource special section stuff and sunday pages or anything that's not done on deadline, you'll eventually cut back on staff.

    so the individuals who join this firm will do well. a few will probably even get to move on to better jobs as a result of the great clips and contacts. but overall it's like asking someone to slowly snuff you out.
  12. for_the_hunt

    for_the_hunt Member

    I remember reading a little snippet in AJR few months back how this practice is widespread in countries like Germany, which have loads of journalism students but few hiring newpapers (sound familar?).

    Even graduates from the more prestigious universities can't find jobs (Germany is only about the size of one-and-a-half Michigans), so they create companies like these. Better free-lance companies have better reputations and see more work. It's actually fairly competitive.

    I'm sure more information is out there. But that's all I can find for now ...
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