Is Ghostwriting Op-Eds an Unethical Practice for Freelance Writers?

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Opinion pieces have long been an esteemed venue that showcases the voice of experts and a ideas of activists within the pages of a newspaper. But how would your own opinion of the Op-Ed section change if you knew that these pieces were not written by the the names on the byline? In a piece for The Guardian, journalist Dan Gillmor opines for the op-ed page, and the practice of hiring ghostwriters to pen pieces under famous names.

He refers to “bylined opinion pieces that are quite obviously not written by the supposed authors. Op-ed pieces that run under the bylines of famous politicians, celebrities and business people are almost never written by those people, just as they rarely author their autobiographies. They don’t have time. Their staffers and PR people, or paid ghostwriters and content writers in the case of books, do the research and writing for them.”

Gillmor looks to place blame on publications for the unchecked use of ghostwritten materials.

Unfortunately, newspapers often don’t check to see if their op-ed contributors are shading the truth or lying outright. The evidence is clear that some editorial page editors don’t believe it’s their responsibility to vet for accuracy and truth what they publish, unless the material comes from their own staff – and, of course, even that doesn’t guarantee veracity.

What do you think of ghostwritten op-ed pieces? Are they unethical? Many freelance writers ghostwrite for a living, but are there certain ghostwriting gigs you just wouldn’t take? Let us know in the comments.

Improve Your Freelance Writing Bio With These Tips

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Gone are the days when freelance writers journalists can hide behind their typewriter or computer in relative anonymity. Now, with the advent of social media, writers need a snappy bio and eye-catching headshot. In fact, even traditional publishers sometimes request a bio and headshot from contributors, so it’s smart to have both pieces at the ready. Here’s how.

Match the tone to the platform.
Some people use the same photo and bio for everything to maintain a consistent brand. But if you’re writing for a variety of publications on a variety of topics, then one size may not fit all. I keep a few different versions of my bio for different types of publications (business, lifestyle, blogs) and different lengths, playing up the credits or tidbits that are most relevant to those readers. Ditto on photos. You might use a casual, friendly photo for your Twitter profile and a more formal, professional-looking headshot for a trade publication.

Get creative.
Headshots and bios tend to be formulaic (“She has written for X, Y, and Z magazines”), so mix things up by varying the sentence structure or mentioning something that sets you apart. Have you worked as a foreign correspondent? Scored an exclusive interview with Michelle Obama? Started a popular blog that’s been optioned for a movie? Include that! To make your headshot more memorable, think about what settings or props you could include without distracting too much from your face. When a photographer friend agreed to help with my headshots, I got permission for us to shoot at a writer’s space that features old-fashioned chalkboards, rows of bookshelves, and other writerly backdrops.
Nix the nerves.
I know several writers who hate writing bios or posting for photos, and unfortunately people can sense that discomfort. Hate writing about yourself? Ask a friend to help or pretend you’re writing a bio for a client to give yourself some distance from the project and relieve self-consciousness. Not ready for your close-up? Enlist the help of a photographer with experience putting clients at ease so she can help you loosen up. Alternately, find a candid photo of yourself that you love (ideally one without lots of other people or crazy backgrounds) and crop it as your social media avatar. Better to use a candid photo where you look like yourself than a headshot where you’re clearly uncomfortable.
Keep it up to date.
To keep it from getting stale, update your social media bios every few months or whenever you have an exciting new accomplishment to add. And reread your bio before sending it to an editor. Photos are a little tougher to update as often, but certainly make sure it still looks like you and avoid anything that feels dated (shoulder pads, scrunchies, bleached denim, unless that’s what you’re going for). Speaking of which, I need to revisit the bio and photos on my website now …

How Much Do Editors Make? A New Salary Report May Surprise You

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Ever wonder how much your editor is making? Folio Magazine wondered the same thing, and commissioned a survey of almost 500 people on editorial staffs and found that pay rates were actually rising for some editors.

“While all levels of editors are finding themselves with increasing responsibilities and decreasing resources, at least some of those surveyed are seeing relief in their paychecks. However, the editorial categories that experienced monetary gain are certainly earning their dollars.”

Editors reported that they had gained many more responsibilities other than circling typos with a red pen (many reminiscing being a freelance writer). Now editors are in charge of developing iPad issues, blog posts, and video content for the web. Editors have now taken a turn toward the multimedia realm.

For an insight into this salary survey, here are some of the results of what editors are making today:

Editorial Director/Editor in Chief

Editor/Executive Editor

Managing Editor / Senior Editor

What do you think of these salaries? Do they seem consistent with the editors in your areas? Let us know in the comments!

Journalism Salary Report: Freelance Business Journalists Make $54,091 A Year

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How much are business journalists making in this troubled economy? That’s the question the Donald W. Reynolds National Center for Business Journalism set out to answer during its phone survey of 773 randomly selected business journalists. What they found was that most business journalists make less than they did in the previous years’ study by Society of Business Editors and Writers. In 2009-2001, the median of the 394 journalists surveyed was $60,000-$70,000 per year. This year the median income for U.S. business journalists was $56,220 in 2010-2011.

Here is the breakdown of incomes by business journalists across media.

The research also found this breakdown for median salaries by place of employment in 2010-11:

  • Print: $50,100
  • Freelancing: $54,091
  • Broadcast: $55,588
  • Online: $57,308
  • Wire services: $78,438.

For editors and supervisors overall, the median was $57,308, and for reporters, it was $55,714.

In addition, they found that only 14 percent of those business journalists and content writers surveyed in July mentioned that their newsroom was actively seeking and hiring full-time journalists. As for cutbacks, “one in five said their newsroom had shrunk in the past six months.”

Read the whole article and view the rest of the study’s results here.

 

 

How Freelance Journalists Can Find Sources Through Better Online Searches

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Nowadays, many journalists and investigative content writers do their research online instead of combing through the stacks at a library. However, the volume of online information makes it tricky to find what you need and filter out resources of questionable credibility. Here is our first Ebyline freelancer education video to highlight  some strategies to help you improve search results and streamline your research.

What are your tips for using online searches effectively? Let us know in the comments!

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