Freelance round-up: This month in writing

Freelancers go on strike

A group of journalists went on unofficial strike earlier this month and spent the afternoon in the pub. The downing of tools was in protest at issues such as falling rates for freelances, as well as late payment and lack of courtesy from editors.

Liz Hodgkinson, a journalist who organised the unofficial action, said it was most definitely not an April Fools. She said: “"Rates are down, publishers are taking more and more of our rights, people commission jobs and then don't bother replying or paying you if they don't run the piece, which never used to happen.”

She said she hoped the move could be “the first blast of the trumpet from ground level and that this is just the start."

Is the failure to schmooze holding women back?

Freelancers are regularly encouraged to attend networking events. I’ve been along to a few and they have been useful to an extent. They’ve also been almost physically painful. I’m not a natural networker…is it because I’m a woman?

An article in the Times recently discussed why many women don’t network in the same way as men and how this could be holding them back. One expert said that women tend to lack the “social capital” that men have, while another agreed that “women don’t attach as much importance to networking. Women do their jobs in a quiet professional manner and don’t tell everybody what a good job they are doing.”

Jessica Pryce-Jones, chief executive of iOpener, the human asset management consultancy, and author of the management book Happiness at Work advised that: “[Networking is] about forming relationships that can be used to help others, and get help in return. You need to accept that it is a game.”

Liz Cable, a social media expert, added that many women were losing out by not networking online sufficiently. She said: “Women are not promoting themselves in the right way. Many of them are slipping under the radar because they are afraid of people they don’t know saying no, either in person or online. Men don’t worry so much about rejection — they just go for it.”

Times and Sunday Times to charge for content

The Times and Sunday Times newspapers will start charging for access to their websites in June, owner News International (NI) has announced.

Users will pay £1 for a day's access and £2 for a week's subscription – this includes access to both sites. Existing subscribers to the print editions will be given free online access.

It is the first national general-interest newspaper in the UK to charge for online content.

In a presentation to the company’s journalists and staff, James Harding, the Editor of The Times, said that while he appreciated that people saw the move as a risk, it would be “nowhere near as big a risk as continuing to do what we’re doing”.

He added: “Paid content is the only way that we are going to see a sustainable economic model for quality journalism.”

However, sceptics have predicted that, with free content still available from many other papers, the pay wall model will not work.


Simon Singh wins appeal

In a Court of Appeal judgement, science writer Simon Singh has won the right to rely on the defence of fair comment in a libel action.

Singh was accused of libel by the British Chiropractic Association (BCA) after he wrote a blog post for the Guardian in which he questioned some chiropractors’ claims about evidence for the treatment of certain childhood conditions.

A High Court decision, which was overturned by the Court of Appeal, previously found that Singh’s words were presented as fact not opinion - meaning Dr Singh could not use the fair comment defence.

The Court of Appeal judgement said: "This litigation has almost certainly had a chilling effect on public debate which might otherwise have assisted potential patients to make informed choices about the possible use of chiropractic."

The BCA said it was considering its position.

Simon Singh has spent around £200,000 defending his case.

 Sarah Wray

 

7th April 2010

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