Standing Up for Journalistic Integrity: Even You Can Do It

Over the weekend on my social media, I did something that was questionable in nature. As a ghostwriter, you’re not supposed to really talk about your projects. In this case, the work around to this in my head was that since I refused to do the project, I wasn’t necessarily locked into the secrecy of it. The important part is.. that I refused to do this article. Was that money that I wasn’t going to be getting? Sure, but as I mentioned here, it was probably only about $4 that I was saying “No” to. Would that have mattered? I’d like to think that I would have said “No” even if it were more than that.

I wrote a small little 35 page book called “How Not to be a Bully“. I didn’t write this to make a fortune off of it. In fact, I’m fairly certain that I mostly wrote it to get those thoughts off of my chest about how awful things had gotten in America at that point. I wrote it around when the Trump election happened, not because I was so emphatically against him that I needed to insult everyone associated with him. It was because I was so disgusted how people were treating each other on both sides of the party lines. People were downright hateful to one another. It was appalling to me. Did I agree with his politics or think that he should be president? Absolutely not. (It’s a shame that I have to point this out, but I also felt the same way about Hilary Clinton. I didn’t think either were a good choice for America.) But, I respect the office. I respect that this is America, and everyone has their right to their own opinion.

Since then, I’d like to think that I have made my blog a statement on anti-bullying. That I was clear that people need to stop being toxic to each other. That we as a country need to do better. To do anything other than this would be hypocritical of me. It would ruin my journalistic integrity to do so. My platform is one of acceptance across the board, from political parties to whatever consenting adults do with their lives. If it doesn’t effect my life, I don’t care. You do you.

So when I was asked to write an article that was supposed to be for the sole purpose of insulting another human being, I refused. Did I agree with this Democrats thoughts and ideas? While there are some that I think are articulate and make sense, on a whole absolutely not. She goes too far. Does this mean that I’m going to write an article about her being an idiot for the sole purpose of belittling her for entertainment? Again, absolutely not. I will not bully a person of any political party… or any person in general, just to entertain people. I won’t. I would never. That goes against who I was raised to be. I’d like to think that my parents raised me with a little bit more respect for others than that.

I didn’t write the article. The mainstream media may be all for tearing people down who they don’t agree with, but I don’t. I have the one thing that these so-called journalists lack: integrity. Had the article been about disproving her political stances, or nabbing her on policies, I would have written the hell out of it whether I agreed with that or not. But the minute that you ask me to publicly insult someone for sport, I won’t do it. Maybe this can start a small trend of other people standing up for what’s right.

The Ugly Side of Freelancing

There are so many positives to freelancing from sites like Upwork (full disclosure, this is where I freelance from). You can earn some money on the side to earn an income. If you’re really lucky, like I have been a few times, you can find clients that will pay you as much as a part-time job. The plus side is that you don’t have to worry about daycare. They market to this group of people. The ones that need extra money to help make ends meet. Some sites, including soon Upwork, charge for the services of finding a job. Though I may consider ending this relationship, should they also take a cut of my earnings in addition to helping me find work. Because that’s double dipping and I’m not sure that I’m okay with this.

The main reason why this is a problem is because you’re essentially paying someone to not do anything but process payments. You’re paying someone for work, only so that the clients can not pay you without any repercussions. There are no payment protections for freelancers, unless you get the coveted hourly paying job. In those cases, you can sometimes get protections so long as you are logging the hours and not putting them in manually. These are sites that are meant to benefit the organization that connects the freelancers and their clients. These are meant to benefit the clients. They are the ones who get to literally pay pennies for work, while expecting $15 an hour worth of work. You can’t have it both ways. Or you can, because who’s going to stop you? This is a system that isn’t a level playing field where both parties gain a benefit.

For instance, I have a client that pays about $2 per 500 words. It’s ghostwriting so not only do I get paid only $2 per 500 words, I also don’t get credit for the work to build up a portfolio to show my experience. I get emails sometimes at 7 or 8 at night, expecting the work to be done that day. Sometimes I have to write 4000 words in only a few hours because that’s when I have to go to bed. Or I don’t get full instructions or any instruction then I have to rewrite something that if they had offered instructions, I would have given them exactly what they wanted. Best part of this gig? Sometimes I go 3 or 4 months without getting paid. And there’s nothing I can do about it. Because there are more clients like that than not.

That isn’t to say my entire experience on this site is terrible. I have found some amazing clients on this site, one of whom I still work with and is easily one of the best clients ever. Another one paid very well and was also very generous, but they didn’t need freelancers anymore. But the bad experiences make me hesitant to find more clients, despite the fact that it would be extremely helpful if I could find something great again. The main point is that there aren’t enough protections for freelancers when they do get stuck in terrible contracts. If they just leave, they get a bad review that hurts their rankings. Considering I’m a Top Tier freelancer, that would hurt my amazing rating on the site. But that doesn’t help the fact that sometimes clients just don’t feel like paying so they don’t. Which is insane when you think about it. Because you know that some clients are getting paid $15-$20 an article, paying you only $1-$2 per article, while they earn the “big money”. It’s essentially a pyramid scam that you think will work out for you.

With the high amount of the workforce that is currently freelancing, you would think that something would change. But there is no regulation, likely because it would be a logistical nightmare to try. Instead, I get to make myself feel better about the ugly side of this industry that could have so much promise for people like me who need to be at home with their kids. Those who may not have any marketable skills outside of the arts, also like me. Freelancing sites need to do better about protecting their freelancers and making sure that they get the money that they earned, without feeling defeated.

The Art of the Sell Out

I remember when I wrote my first story in the 3rd grade. This assignment was supposed to be a one page historical fiction essay. I dreaded it. I loved to read and was never really asked to write anything, but I figured that I was smart enough and capable of doing it at least to a decent enough degree to get a good grade. I ended up writing a 6 paged short story as a result of getting so into it and was worried that my teacher was going to give me a lower grade as a result. Sure enough, she called me to her desk and applauded my work and gave me edits that needed to be done. After that, a few days later I sat nervously in the principal’s office. I didn’t really do anything wrong, but that doesn’t mean I could have been falsely accused. As it turns out, my story ended up on her desk so the school could praise my efforts. I was rewarded a certificate of being awesome, and a pencil with a “Principal’s Award” on it. It seems silly to look back at that now, but when you’re in the 3rd grade this really does have an impact on your life. From that moment on, I had wanted and dreamed of being a writer.

High school didn’t give me that sort of creative release and sometimes I look back and wonder that maybe if I had more of an opportunity to focus on that, I would have done a lot better in school. I did excel in the art classes, especially my clay sculpting class but it wasn’t enough. I knew I had skills for matching colors and it was effortless for me, but I loved writing more. I probably could have made more money going into interior design or some other art related field, but I went for love.

In college, I did very well. My first English professor made us do essays every few weeks and at some point it was a fictional essay. I had remembered this story that I had wanted to write, which lead to me applying to college in the first place. From there, I again took a one page assignment and tripled it. Again, there was a note on the paper when he returned it that said “see me after class” in large red letters. Again, I felt defeated and was glad that I was going into teaching instead of following my dreams of writing. I walked up to him after class, and he raved about how awesome this story was and where did it come from. The next semester I was waiting outside of the classroom for my new English professor when I saw my old and new professor walking together. My former professor said to my new one “watch out for that girl, she’s going to end up on the New York Times Best Sellers list”. Later the “new professor”, who I proceeded to have for the rest of my time at that school, wrote in my recommendation letter the same sentiment about how I had such a talent. My creative writing professor declared that some day she would be watching me read my novel aloud to eager listeners and how I bring the story alive when I do so. These people are the ones responsible for me throwing caution to the wind and going for it.

That said essay did end up being my NaNoWriMo book I released earlier this year though it was obviously completely reworked because I had lost the original piece. Years later, I have no made it big. I’m not on a best seller’s list. In fact, I have only sold 5 books. Maybe 6. I’ve decided to go into freelancing to help supplement this until I “make it big” or at least “big enough to pay bills”. Pretty much all the jobs have been awesome, but recently I picked up a job that makes me question the morality you sometimes are faced with on these sites. It seemed like an easy payday, and it really is. Give an honest review of a product. I can do that. And I did that, only to get a “I appreciate that review, but….” response back. They didn’t want my honest review, they wanted their honest review to hock a product. I gave myself a day to consider this, and then I saw bills piling up. I went against every fiber of my being and I feel guilty for it, and gave them the review they wanted. After I receive the payment for it, I will immediately end that contract because I’m not some pony that does tricks against my will. I know I’ll be faced with the same dilemma again, and unfortunately I will probably make the same decision again because the advantage is not in the freelancer’s court. We are pawns of a greater game where we sell words for menial profit just to make ends meet until our dreams are fulfilled. And those other people profit from our words, often times without us even getting credit. Which we generally don’t mind until something like this comes along and we’re stuck with “do we want to really lie about how great a product is for a retailer’s website?”

I sold out for $5. That’s all it took. Was $5, just enough to buy milk that my ravenous boys goes through so quickly. Am I giving up though? No, in fact today I’m hoping to start my next novel and hope I can release it for Halloween. And I will be participating in this years NaNoWriMo again, and hope for achieving it again. Hopefully with more breathing room than 5 hours before deadline. I can do this. I’m talented enough, and I’m focused enough to do this.