How the writers' strike could affect you

As of this posting, the writers’ strike in Hollywood continues, and television programming is getting worse because of it – not that many network programs or reality shows were any good to begin with, but the situation does not appear to be near a conclusion. If you’re not familiar with the situation, TV and movie writers (and their union) want to be compensated when networks repurpose programming for online use. You might be asking yourself what any of this has to do with you or b-to-b publishing, but the implications could be big.

First, the writers’ strike mirrors (admittedly on a much bigger scale) similar cases from the publishing world. For example, a few years ago a major consumer magazine was hit with a lawsuit over using a contributed writer’s article on the web without this person’s express, written permission (in other words, without paying for it). The lesson to be learned here, and in many other cases, is that freelance writers or other contributors to magazines, journals, newsletters, etc., should read their contracts.

Most publications (those that offer actual written contracts to freelancers, anyway) indicate these days that their articles could and likely would be placed online or repurposed in some other fashion. This should be expected of any publication. After all, the web is becoming an increasingly important part of magazines’ identities. This is true for b-to-b publications too. (Note: If your employer does not offer written contracts to freelance writers, get them to do so immediately. Protect yourselves and assure your contributors that you will act professionally with their work.)

Depending on the outcome in Hollywood, whether or not you stand with the writers and their predicament, the results could soon be seen in our industry. It would not be out of the realm of possibility for our writers to start demanding more compensation (or at least renegotiated contracts) for when their work is placed online or used again in some way other than the original feature assigned. And they could have quite a precedent on their side. The contributors certainly would be within their rights to do so, but could risk losing a valuable client.

As a writer and editor (though I do not freelance), I understand how freelancers could want to paid more for reuse of their work, but by the same token, most freelance contracts (that I’ve seen and used anyway), allow the writer to sell their work again – after a specified period – as long as it is not the exact same version previously published. That published version belongs solely to the publisher. I’m not so sure the same rules apply to Hollywood writers.

Have you and/or your employer thought about how you would handle your freelancers if they started asking for more money to have their articles used in ways other than print? If you haven’t asked yourselves this question, I suggest you start the conversation now. And please let the rest of this writing community know what you decide.

Update: The studios and the writers' union reportedly have reached an agreement that will provide the writers with a share of profits from online activities. I for one am pleased that this is over, and I am happy for the writers. I'm still curious how this could play out for the publishing world. What are your thoughts? Share them in the comments section.

The Freelancing Quandary

Let me preface this post by saying that I'm guilty of the very practice that I'm questioning. But I want to get some thoughts on it from other journalism professionals. This is actually something that a lot of us, I'm sure, struggle with, and I'm sure other young journalists who may just be breaking into the business from college (or wherever) may be struggling with it as well.

So you've got a job. You've got benefits. You've got a regular paycheck. And you've got a way to occupy your time from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (or insert your own regular work hours here). Conventional theory is that you should have more than enough work, and financial compensation as a result thereof, to satiate your appetite for writing and/or editing.

But let's look at reality here. As a former journalism professor once told me (and I've heard other notable journalists like Charlayne Hunter-Gault and Cynthia Tucker issue similar approximations), "If you're getting into journalism for the money, then get out of journalism." So when the time comes, freelancing can present itself as a very viable option to add clips to your portfolio, add experience to the ol' resume and, perhaps most importantly, add some cash to your wallet.

But here comes the "quandary" part. How do you coordinate a full-time editorial day job with a freelance job? Is there enough time in the day to do both? If so, how do you balance the time?

Note: Before you're quick to say that you should set aside a little time during the day to work on freelance assignments (including conducting interviews, editing, writing, etc.) remember that when you accepted your full-time job, you pledged to give it your undivided attention and effort. So, again, how do you balance freelance work with your full-time job? Ethically, is it wrong? Or do you think it's OK to "rob Peter to pay Paul?" Or is there a way to do things the "right" way? Is there such a thing?

We'd love to hear your comments! Blog away!!!

ASBPE Changes Awards Deadline to Feb. 15

The American Society of Business Publication Editors (ASBPE) has moved the date of the ASBPE entry deadline to February 15.

Mark that on your calendars -- February 15. Still not sure if -- or how -- to submit an entry?

Check out the ASBPE website for tips, tricks and webinars on how to submit winning entries.



Welcome Fellow Business Journalists

Hello fellow business journalists and editors,

My name is Jamar Laster and I am a member of the Atlanta ASBPE board. It's my distinct honor to post the first bit of content on the Atlanta chapter's board. As you probably know, if you ever need to contact any of the fellow Atlanta chapter board members, please feel free to contact us via the ASBPE Web site ( and by clicking on the Chapters link, then clicking on "Atlanta".

Visit our blog to read our views, and post your own comments, about various business journalism issues, as well as to find out about new developments and scheduled events within our chapter.

Feel free to post any comments you feel appropriate for any of our board members to answer. And if there's any issue you would like to see addressed on this blog, feel free to contact any of our board members, or you can e-mail me directly at

We sincerely hope you enjoy your time on our blog and find it as useful and informational as we will strive to make it.

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