My first column for the Chronicle of Higher Education was published this week: Should academics write for free? This is the first of a series of advice columns I plan to write for academics attempting to navigate the non-academic job market. An excerpt:
Seven years later, journalism has adopted the academic publishing model, only without the pretense of integrity. The 2008 economic crisis, combined with the transition to digital media, led to a glut of desperate writers willing to work for free—a practice that media corporations embraced and repackaged to novice journalists as “the way things have always been.”
Today media outlets making healthy profits refuse to pay the freelance writers who help make them a success. Exploitative publishers tend to argue along two lines: a fake crisis (“Unfortunately, we can’t afford to pay you at this time…”) or a false promise (“Exposure will help your career.”).
Academics are particularly vulnerable to media-industry exploitation. They are accustomed to writing for nothing and, in the case of adjuncts, to being treated terribly by their employers. Because academic work in professional journals is hidden behind paywalls, the prospect of reaching a wider audience can be enticing. For scholars interested in leaving academia and forging a new career, online visibility is essential.
Should academics ever write for free? Maybe.
Should academics write for free for a publisher that can afford to pay them? Never.
Read the full article at Vitae, a new section of the CHE focusing on jobs and the economy.