Saturday, 2 May 2009

Does reading for free on the internet mean the end of paid careers for writers and journalists?

Ian Jack in The Guardian examines the problems faced by print journalism and book publishing and comes to a gloomy conclusion.
"We are in the twilight years of a certain kind of paid employment: the business of inking words on paper, to be read by a large audience that is largely unknown to the author. The crisis in newspapers is especially acute. But neither is book publishing immune. Advances against royalties are tumbling, staff have been cut, publishers take far fewer risks. The recession offers only a small part of the explanation. The fact is that generations are now growing up with the idea that words should be read electronically for free - a new human right - which has grave consequences for the people paid to compose and edit them.
"Writers and journalists like me, old enough to know manual typewriters, tend when we meet to congratulate ourselves on having seen "the best of it", meaning the years when a career could be based solely - mortgage secured, lunches enjoyed, etc - on small or large acts of English composition, often flawed."
Jack notes a paradox, demand for journalism and creative writing courses is soaring despite the problems faced by book and newspaper publishers.
He says of creative writing courses: "Why do young people apply? Because they think they can be the next Zadie Smith. Why do universities encourage them? Because money can be made from fees. Is this responsible behaviour? We need to weigh the smashed hopes of creative writers against the financial needs of their tutors, who are themselves writers, and earning the kind of money that writing would never supply."

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