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Ed Driscoll

‘The State of Journalism in 2013′

March 10th, 2013 - 2:00 pm

Veteran journalist Nate Thayer writes, “for those of you remained unclear on the state of journalism in 2013, you no longer are” — or at least won’t be after reading his exchange with an editor of what remains of the Atlantic:

From the Atlantic:

Hi Nate — I completely understand your position, but our rate even for original, reported stories is $100. I am out of freelance money right now, I enjoyed your post, and I thought you’d be willing to summarize it for posting for a wider audience without doing any additional legwork. Some journalists use our platform as a way to gain more exposure for whatever professional goals they might have, but that’s not right for everyone and it’s of course perfectly reasonable to decline.

Thank you and I’m sorry to have offended you.

Best,

Olga

From me:

Hi Olga: No offense taken and no worries. I am sure you are aware of the changing, deteriorating condition of our profession and the difficulty for serious journalists to make a living through their work resulting in the decline of the quality of news in general. Ironically, a few years back I was offered a staff job with the Atlantic to write 6 articles a year for a retainer of $125,000, with the right to publish elsewhere in addition. The then editor, Michael Kelly, was killed while we were both in Iraq, and we both, as it were, moved on to different places. I don’t have a problem with exposure but I do with paying my bills.

Wow, shades of the legendary (and/or possibly apocryphal) run-in between High Noon director Fred Zinnemann and a wet-behind-the-ears movie studio executive in the 1970s or ’80s:

He doesn’t miss the young, arrogant, Armani-suited studio executives. He recalled a story about the highly respected director, Fred Zinnemann. “He went to one of these kid vice presidents, and the kid said, ‘Tell me something about yourself, Mr. Zinnemann.’ And Zinnemann looked at him and said, ‘You first.’”

Regarding the Atlantic, much more so than most magazine editors, the late Kelly made an effort to bring in writers from both sides of the aisle during his tenure — which also brought in readers from the starboard sign of the aisle. After Kelly’s death, his successors at the Atlantic worked hard at first removing its conservative writers — and then worked very hard at thoroughly alienating its conservative readers by employing Andrew Sullivan at the peak of his uterine detective phase. As Thayer wrote in the passage quoted above, “I don’t have a problem with exposure but I do with paying my bills.” So does the Atlantic, apparently. Perhaps the loss of potential readers helped contribute in some way to this infamous moment in January:

Read the whole thing, and then check out these two posts by Stacy McCain for both more of the backstory of this exchange, and more on the future of online “liberal” journalism. Or perhaps, the lack thereof.