No one in their right mind is going to tell you that journalism — especially online journalism — pays very well. Sure, there are a couple of examples where people have made names for themselves and ended up a featured (and well paid) columnist for a newspaper’s website or a blog, but overall you’d be better off being a waitress if you were in this gig for the money. (Look no further than our own ex-Fishbowler Amanda Ernst for a clue.)
Yet we’re still shocked to hear that a source as big as The Associated Press still manages to undercut its writers, especially since this is the same company that makes such a stink about online aggregators making money off its content.
According to a Gawker article updated today, many of AP’s pieces are outsourced, which is not news considering the news wire’s global reach. What is surprising is how tough a bargain they drive with their employees: in the example that’s come to light, AP has a deal with Yahoo Finance where AP writers must come up with a quota of 500 articles a day for just this one specific client. And this quota hasn’t changed despite the 10 percent staff cuts made last year. Says one anonymous AP employee, this often means a bunch of really slap-dash articles written in a not-so-timely manner…just to get the quota up to the daily average.
“At these times, we scrape the bottom of the barrel by writing up two-line filler stories based on information nobody cares about. Sometimes the info is days old, even a week old. We produce a large number of worthless stories just to fill our quota.”
It’s sad that we almost expect this sort of behavior from Internet entities (and when companies do start treating writers like full-time employees, it comes as a shock), but to have a prestigious publication like the AP revealed as nothing more than a meat factory for grinding out sub-par material? Maybe the media company needs to divert some of its attention from trying to broker exclusive deals with companies like Yahoo and actually make sure its writers — you know, the ones without which you wouldn’t have any news to get possessive over — aren’t being worked to death.