Free Verse Isn’t Necessarily Free, Either

This Month’s Daily Diary

This piece was originally published in November 2013 edition of The Columnist, the members’ newsletter of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists.

By Ben S. Pollock
NSNC Director of Media
2010-12 NSNC president

Ben Pollock

Ben Pollock

Slaves of the Internet, Unite!

Huh? A late October op-ed column in The New York Times by the writer-cartoonist Tim Kreider raised the complaint of how common it is for people in positions to publish to presume that they can get free, good content.

The difficulty in our profession to get paid for our work is not new: “No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money,” famously said Samuel Johnson, a resident of the 18th century. Was he even paid for that? Or his heirs, considering how long-lived the line is?

Probably neither ever saw a farthing, because it’s a quote from James Boswell’s 1776 biography Life of Johnson.

The issue comes up every so often, but this essay sparked a number of other columns/blog posts in recent days. Most agree with Kreider, but some hedge, such as Daniel D’Addario’s in,When Should a Young Writer Write for Free?

One tangent appeared just before deadline at, noting a new website has opened that lists publishers who promised to pay but haven’t. It’s called, “Pay Me Please.”

My take long has been a shrug of the shoulders, that writers should choose their goals carefully, as it’s difficult to make writing a paying profession and that getting one’s words out at any price grows harder the larger an audience you want (or think you deserve). My attitude hasn’t changed in the 14 months I’ve been a full-time freelancer. I doggedly hunt for clients, and I’ve found some that have paid the market rate for Arkansas (don’t get me started) and a handful that have paid better than that. Outside of that, when I want personal expression, then I blog it and shout the link on Facebook and Twitter.

Now, it’s your turn. Let’s publish your thoughts on writing for profit at our website I will upload the post initially on Monday, Nov. 11, what I’ve received from y’all by that day, and add late arrivals to the list of comments through Nov. 30.

One rule: Make it short, 140 words (a nod to Twitter’s 140-character limit so this is perhaps five times that verbiage). An exception to the count: Your submission can consist of 139 words — plus the specific Web address of your own web/blog post on the matter, where of course you can write as much as you want. Send them to

A C-note of irony: No pay for submissions.

With what?

• • •

To take a turn, here is the best column I’ve read all month. It’s actually the transcript of a lecture by Katharine Viner, deputy editor of London’s Guardian newspaper and editor-in-chief of the online-only Guardian Australia. It’s titled “The Rise of the Reader: Journalism in the Age of the Open Web,” and the post has been annotated with hyperlinks of her sources and related references.

No one has been much good of late on predictions in communications, but Viner sure makes a lot of sense.

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