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Discarded Print Journo Tries to Adapt to the Scary World of Freelancing

From a tiny village in Spain, Christina Patterson has shared an essay that is at once wonderful and depressing. After ten years at London’s The Independent newspaper, she was recently and very suddenly given her walking papers.

Patterson is an overseas journalist, yes; but what she describes could just as easily have come from the forced-vacation keyboard of a Cleveland Plain Dealer vet or Gannett Co. goner. She talks about a couple of recent plays that resonated, hints that her exit from The Independent hit a high decibel level and gives a very good description of freelancing:

Since then [the firing], I’ve done what freelancers do. I’ve sent a lot of emails. I’ve had a lot of meetings. I’ve discovered, as freelancers apparently often do, that most of your working hours, at least for the first few months of being freelance, are spent trying to get work. You can only do the work – or start to do the work – when the working day ends. Which means, or seems to mean, you end up working pretty much all the time…

Plumbers haven’t yet been told they should mend toilets for free. Builders aren’t yet expected to put in new kitchens for the thrill of being asked. But we’re all meant to be building our “brand”. I don’t know about writers as brands. I suppose a writer can be a brand. But I’d rather think writing was less about brand, and much, much more about “voice.”

Patterson has secured freelance assignments at the Sunday Times and The Guardian. But away from the blazing Spanish sun, the future of print journalism remains bleak.

[Photo courtesy: christinapatterson.co.uk]

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