Why is it that because we all are taught the ability to comprehend and use the language of out particular culture, the concept that anyone with enough time and effort can legitimately become a writer has become so pervasive? In a world where almost anyone; including people that don’t have homes and live on the street, have access to a computer and some form of the internet, the so-called information age has become the living embodiment of the Infinite Monkey Theorem.
You know the saying “ A monkey hitting random keys on a typewriter keyboard for an infinite amount of time could write Shakespeare…” Now imagine almost 2 billion monkeys trapped in their own lives.
If only ten percent of those people had dreams of being a writer, that would mean that there are two hundred million people on the internet writing some form of blog, article, or opinion editorial. Now one more math problem…of that two hundred million maybe ten percent of those writers actually have the talent to be real writers. That is 20 million writers worldwide and all of them competing with not only the talented but the untalented alike for a piece of the tiny pie that is paid writing positions available in the world.
The end point of this math lesson is to underscore what is easily becoming the biggest threat to journalism and the greatest theft of intellectual idealism in the modern age. The reality of what has been called “sweatshop journalism” was finally been brought to light in the major media by an article written by op-ed journalist Tim Rutten in the Los Angeles Times.
Coining the term “The Data Age”; because of the business model of using piecemeal unpaid journalism in tandem with news aggregating programs to fill their site with content, Mr. Rutten describes how writers for HuffingtonPost.com are starting to stand up for their rights. Realization has set in as writer see that despite the site’s recent acquisition by AOL for 315 million dollars, there is no plan in place to pay them for all the hard work that built the political site into a cultural phenomenon.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Huffington Post averages 25 million unique visitors a month, all brought in on the back of intelligent and idealistic writers looking to make their mark in the hopes of someday becoming real journalist who get paid for their work. Yet despite the financial windfall brought in by the corporate merger, HuffingtonPost.com is not willing to spare a meger penny per word.
This is not unusual in the “Data Age”, HuffingtonPost.com is only the most visible face of these virtual sweatshop. There are hundreds of sites out there making their millions off of the fear tactic that someone is willing to do the work for free if you don’t. These website owners don’t care about writers, their profits are made by ad revenue or corporate buyouts. Much like like the sideshow in the old carnivals, the profits go straight in the pockets of the owners and the “freaks” who actually do the work fight each other over the scraps.
The life of a writer has always been a hard row to hoe and now with the right technology everyone thinks they can do it. The intellectual waters have been muddied by 200 million feet and deep below the surface…there be sharks.