While enjoying Jenny Diski’s post on paying speakers and the accompanying Twitter conversation, I discovered that a Guardian “Comment is Free” post is worth almost exactly two-and-a-half of xoJane‘s “It Happened to Me” articles–that is, about $135 as of today. Of course, this varies with the exchange rate and with the solvency of either publication, but still.
I was shocked and appalled–well, no, really, but I was slightly surprised. I always assumed that someone who was published in the online arm of a broadsheet would receive a fee much larger than someone who was published in an online-only mag like xoJane. Why? Because it’s easy enough to make up some nonsense about your vag, slap a fake name on it if you’re feeling particularly shy, and make $50, but presumably someone who moves in the rarefied circles of the Guardian wants the only finest writing, vagina-themed or otherwise. Or maybe because one publication is aimed towards women alone, and therefore it’s supposed to be cheap and exploitative, but anything with university-educated men involved must have money involved as well. But–I was wrong! Oh, the horrors of the world.
Most of my life I’ve worked on salary, so this must be the equivalent of a 40-year-old figuring out that the earth is round and the sun shines to anyone who’s worked freelance. I do wonder if there are differences in who gets paid what outside of standardized “piecework” blogging, though, and who’s pressured to do things for free because they’re supposed to be grateful just to be seen or heard.
Postscript: If anyone stumbles on this page and wants to take the time to explain–why would the Guardian pay in “expenses” rather than in fees? The obvious reason is so that they can shift the cost upwards or downwards depending on the speaker (and get out of paying altogether in a lot of cases), but perhaps I’m missing something.