From a conversation Nate Thayer had with The Atlantic newspaper, requesting a reprinted (non-fiction) story from a journalist:
Thanks for responding. Maybe by the end of the week? 1,200 words? We unfortunately can’t pay you for it, but we do reach 13 million readers a month. I understand if that’s not a workable arrangement for you, I just wanted to see if you were interested.
Thanks so much again for your time. A great piece!
I don’t want to get cranky at the Atlantic – obviously this is part of their business model – but it really isn’t appropriate to expect professionals to work for free. It’s certainly okay for a professional to offer their services for free: it’s just not okay for a publisher to expect it for free. Even a token offer of payment is a good way to start.
Enfin: my thoughts on this are not unknown.
The day after his post started getting a lot of attention on the ol’ Internet, Nate followed up with The Atlantic’s response, and commented:
I will be writing more on this topic in the near future once I wrap my head around why a story of an email exchange between a major news organization seeking to commission my professional services with the condition that they don’t contribute to paying my rent, putting food in my stomach, or keeping me clothed to protect me from the elements, that took fifteen minutes to write and never crossed my mind would hit a nerve with tens of thousands globally garnering more attention than any story since I found Pol Pot in the jungles of Cambodia. There is a message in there somewhere.