Tuesday, November 14, 2006


Every once in awhile, I'll receive from Write for You readers exchanges between them and the job scammers. Spike Benjamin, a Portland freelancer recently responded to an ad for an editor for a new launch, Prose Magazine, out of Portland. Here's Benjamin's snarky response:

I'm responding to your recent CraigsList posting seeking a feature editor for Prose Magazine. At first glance, the arrival of a new magazine in Portland is cause for celebration -- another market, another voice, a new opportunity to connect with readers.

Unfortunately, in the case of your new magazine the elation ends quickly. Though you'll undoubtedly be deluged with letters of interest from self-loathing freelancers and aspiring writers who are willing to handle both the editing and production tasks you outline, I thought I'd take an alternate tack and tell you why I'd prefer to stay dry and clear of the applicant pool.

In no particular order:

The job is called features editor, not feature editor; that is unless you intend to publish only one, ever.
How can you demand that applicants possess "extensive knowledge of writing and editing techniques" and the Chicago Manual of Style, yet misspell both journalism and digital? (that's a rhetorical question)
What is the difference between taking over the duties and assuming the duties? (also a rhetorical question?)
Is it part-time? Is it an internship? You say both, but for the $250+ compensation you mention, any "feature editor" would be better off flipping burgers and that goes for the 10 staff journalists you're seeking at the $250 rate as well.
Here's a suggested revision to your CraigsList posting:

Prose Magazine Features Editor

Prose Magazine is looking for an independently wealthy individual in need of a hobby to serve as features editor. The ideal candidate will be able to put in long hours, but receive no compensation or benefits for their efforts. The successful applicant must be expert in writing, editing, and production and be willing to spend long hours with the publication founders reviewing basic spelling and explaining how style guides work. The successful applicant should have extensive investigative journalism experience and an advanced journalistic education, yet have no other professional options available to them with any media organization or publication that knows how to spell journalism. The successful applicant should have a well-developed personal and professional network in Portland and be willing to pimp out those contacts relentlessly. The successful applicant must not only edit features, but also complete all necessary production prior to publication.

If you have great credentials, don't need any compensation, and want to associate with dilettantes, please send a concise email detailing why you are qualified for this position to prosemag@prosemag.com.

For $250, you'll get $250 worth of journalism that won't come close to achieving your stated goal of producing "in depth and unbiased regional news coverage."

There's nothing wrong with being in bootstrapping start-up mode, but don't present yourself as a "real" magazine and then write such an amateurish job posting with such insulting compensation.

And part of the editor's response:

"I will pay what I can, when I can, and will mislead no-one. When the magazine is able to generate revenue, I will continue to pay as much as it takes to continue to publish high quality writing."

And Benjamin responded in part: "In your response, you mention that your ability to pay writers depends upon Prose Magazine generating revenue. Does your ability to pay your web hosting fees, your advertising sales staff, or your printer depend upon generating revenue? Why is it that those creating the content from which you intend to derive revenue rank so low among your priorities?

As to what you should pay your writers, I'd suggest market research: consult editors of publications you aspire to rival, contact any of the many industry trade groups such as the Society of Professional Journalists or American Society of Magazine Editors, or -- this would really require going out on a limb -- talk with some writers. No writer expects a start-up magazine to pay rates on par with The Atlantic or The New Yorker. However, writers do expect rates that don't belittle their efforts and few professional writers will work for what you're offering.

Although you've staged a defense in your email, I notice that you've removed both Prose Magazine job postings from CraigsList and removed all staff names from the Prose Magazine Web site. Perhaps you've had a change of heart and amended the Prose Magazine business plan to include a budget line for paying writers or perhaps my response just embarrassed you.

Here's to the hope that you'll become an editor who values writers and eventually reap the rewards that accompany that belief."

Good job, Benjamin. Keep 'em on their toes!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good stuff. I particularly liked the reference to paying a writer based on the success of the publication. Go to the printer or your landlord and let him know you will pay based on potential sales.

10:12 AM CST  
Blogger Kristen King said...

Girl, you are relentless!


1:50 PM CST  
Anonymous Valerie Brooks said...

Oops, I meant to post this here but instead posted it in response to the other nutcase who wants writers to do academic papers for illiterates (I mean well-intentioned school students who, um, need help). It really belongs here in response to Prose Magazine:

Wow, Kerri, here is a huge cyber hug and a high five. I would just love to say to one of these cheap and deceitful employers: "If you had a plumber come over to fix your pipes, would you tell them you can't pay because it's a start-up toilet?"

Good work!

Valerie Brooks

3:39 PM CST  

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