Freelance writer Nate Thayer posted to his blog Monday an email exchange between himself and an Atlantic editor, who wanted to see if Thayer would “repurpose” a recent article into a shorter version for the Atlantic website. For free.
Atlantic editor Olga Khazan wrote, in part: “We unfortunately can’t pay you for it, but we do reach 13 million readers a month. … 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.”
Thayer stridently refused: “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. … Frankly, I will refrain from being insulted and am perplexed how one can expect to try to retain quality professional services without compensating for them.”
In a statement today, Bennet writes:
Atlantic staff journalists write most of the stories on our sites. When we publish original, reported work by freelancers, we pay them. Our freelance rates vary, depending on the kind of work involved. We do publish some unpaid pieces, typically analysis or commentary by non-journalists, if the work meets our standards and if, of course, the writer sees value in publishing with us. We don’t force anyone to contribute to us, and we are extremely grateful to the wonderful writers who do.
The case involving Nate Thayer is unusual. We did not ask him to report and write an original piece for us, but we did ask if he’d be interested in posting a condensed version of an article he had already published elsewhere, which we would have done with full credit to the original publisher. We rarely do this outside our established partnerships, but we were enthusiastic about bringing Thayer’s work to a larger audience – an outcome, I guess, we have now, backhandedly, achieved. We’re sorry we offended him.