A story in today's Times profiles one of those dudes who takes a job a week for a year in hopes of writing one of those "I spent a year doing BLANK and all I got was a noticeably lower advance than the last guy who pitched a book about spending a year doing BLANK" memoirs. It's filled with quotes on how young people today have so many options, how no one feels any loyalty to their jobs anymore, how we all have a "the only person I work for is myself" mentality. (Memo to people still giving quotes like that to newspapers: FUCK YOURSELF.) Okay, back to you guys. So, you're probably at work now. And I take it you don't love your job. But it pays the bills, offers insurance, whatever, right? Or maybe it doesn't, even? Okay, if something awesome came along, not matter how long you've been doing that job, you'd probably take it, right? I asked the Jezebels, who have had something like 34 post-college staff jobs among them.
(And Jenny is 23, Tracie worked at Bust for six years and all of us have had more internship, temp and freelance gigs than we could actually count before afternoon.) And I realized something: we could have written that book!
Anna worked for pennies at "Fashion Wire Daily" for ten weeks out of desperation and left when she found a job that paid twice as much, Jessica worked for a week at an upstart magazine called Cocktail, after leaving one of those "freelance" jobs that's really a staff job without any rights or benefits; when the week was over Cocktail laid her off and closed down operations. Dodai worked at Alloy.com for three days when her old company found it within their budget to hire her back launching a new project that then got abandoned. And my shortest gig turned out to be the longest!
I was working at the Washington Times, at a rate of $8 an hour, on the metro desk. I hated it, because all but one of my editors would rewrite my stories. The paper, which is owned by a Korean cult and almost hilariously conservative in editorial bent, was managed mostly by embittered refugees from the Washington Star, a newspaper that had folded like a hundred years earlier. Like most newspapers at the time, the Star had had unions. Unions were the reason it was basically impossible for me to get a full-time job at a real newspaper, and one of the reasons newspapers were dying, but time was you could have a non-union position at a company and they'd try to keep you around anyway. So anyhow, as you know, those days are over. Isn't there a fucking happy medium? Some of us would like to stop switching jobs.
Oh, and if you're wondering how that story ended, after five months I quit and got a Time Inc. internship that paid $700 a month, in Hong Kong, a city where the average rent at the time was about $1500 a month, and worked maniacally until they found a $24,000 staff position for me within their budget. I think they justified the low pay because Hong Kong income tax is more like sales tax in the United States. I left when a website doubled my salary, but when I returned to the New York and found, actually, media companies paid people pretty piss poor in the United States too.
What Do You Do? Depends On What Week It Is [New York Times]