Why Nate Thayer’s expectation of payment pissed so many people off

This blogger did a great analysis of the drama:

who is Nate Thayer thinking so highly of himself and better than us?  This makes sense; we like to think ourselves better than others, not the other way around.  We also really don’t want to think about how working hard =/= success.   It scares us and once you add some jealous, thus in short, we decide that Thayer is uppity, unrealistic, ungrateful, and possibly lazy.

There’s a larger issue here, and I’ve addressed it before.

The world is filled with people who think they are Writers because they bang away at a keyboard for hours. I wish good luck to everyone. I do.

But none of the most deeply thwarted or unrealized ambition — and there is enough of it to light L.A. for a century if converted to electrical power — justifies trashing someone who has actually succeeded in the field.  Someone who (!) chose to turn down an offer of $125,000 from The Atlantic to turn out six stories a year.

First cover of The Atlantic Monthly magazine. ...
First cover of The Atlantic Monthly magazine. November 1857. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Dozens, if not hundreds of writers I know, would kill for such an opportunity and will never ever get it. Not because we suck. Because it’s one of the very few well-paid spots ever available to any writer, with a Big Name Magazine that many people would also kill to even write for and will also never get the  chance.

Whaddya mean I can’t get it?

This is a deeply un-American thing to say. It flies in the fantasy that we are all — yes, we are! — such special little snowflakes that we will all get a ribbon or a prize or a trophy just for showing up and trying really really hard.

It does not happen that way. It is just not going to happen for many people.

This week on Facebook I’ve watched a former journo crow with (well-deserved, hard-won) delight that she is now casting major stars for her network television pilot. Do I wish I were in her shoes? Hell, yes!

But I’m not. And hating and trashing her for achieving something I’d reallyreallyreally like to have, but do not have and may never ever have?

Madness.

So those who are busy sucking their thumbs and clutching their blankies and hissing that Thayer is possibly

“uppity, unrealistic, ungrateful, and possibly lazy.”

need help, my friends.

He wants to earn a living using the skills he’s spent decades acquiring.

So do we all.

Freelancers don’t want to be “paid” in exposure!

If you’re a freelancer in any field, chances are that you’re being asked, more and more, to work without pay for the “exposure” to millions of potential buyers for your work.
Just say no.
Nate Thayer discussing Pol Pot's trial, July 1997
Nate Thayer discussing Pol Pot’s trial, July 1997 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Here’s a link to his site, and some of his email with The Atlantic.com:

After a brief phone call where no specifics were really discussed, and she requested I email her:

Hi Olga: What did you have in mind for length, storyline, deadline, and fees for the basketball  diplomacy piece. Or any other specifics. I think we can work something out, but I want to make sure I have the time to do it properly to meet your deadline, so give me a shout back when you have the earliest chance.

best,

Nate Thayer

From the Atlantic:

Thanks for responding. Maybe by the end of the week? 1,200 words? We unfortunately can’t pay you for it, but we do reach 13 million readers a month. I understand if that’s not a workable arrangement for you, I just wanted to see if you were interested.

Thanks so much again for your time. A great piece!

From me:

Thanks Olga:

I am a professional journalist who has made my living by writing for 25 years and am not in the habit of giving my services for free to for profit media outlets so they can make money by using my work and efforts by removing my ability to pay my bills and feed my children. I know several people who write for the Atlantic who of course get paid. I appreciate your interest, but, while I respect the Atlantic, and have several friends who write for it, I have bills to pay and cannot expect to do so by giving my work away for free to a for profit company so they can make money off of my efforts. 1200 words by the end of the week would be fine, and I can assure you it would be well received, but not for free.

If there is a phrase that causes apoplexy among veteran freelancers, it’s the increasing fantasy that “exposure” — i.e. having millions of people see our stuff, without pay — is worthwhile. Editors now routinely offer freelancers in many fields exposure to their audiences, none of whom are guaranteed to offer us paid work.
I can’t buy groceries or gas with “exposure”, nor get my hair cut or see a dentist. None of them work for “exposure.”
Very few freelancers have the cojones to tell editors offering us this insult to just piss off. Nor do they ever make public that they actually took a stand — what if no one else has? In a crappy economy, everyone’s afraid to lose a client or get a rep for being a diva.
Thayer is right.
Enough already!