(Note: This was written in July, 2013, when the blog first started. References apply to the paper I had been working for at that time.)
Welcome to A Fresh News Start (AFNS). I’m located in a very rural spot near Gananoque, Ontario, part of Canada, and I cover several small communities. I’m brand, spanking new, and very unsure of myself. After all, I’ve never been here before and I have so much to learn!
AFNS wasn’t even an inkling or a twinkle when real world print news started becoming more and more difficult to work with. The place where my freelance material was selling was sold, and a new company came in with new ideas and new people. Things got harder.
Although I had been trying for some time to get taken on as a full-time paid employee, apparently this was not something the company chose to consider. They preferred to keep me as a “freelance”, so I worked an average of 70-80 hours per week for a minimal income and no benefits whatsoever. Sadly, other publications did not seem to have an interest in my work, reminding me that I “worked for THEM”, which seemed to negate the “free” in “freelance”.
Then more changes came. The new paper gave me a new editor to work with, one who made sweeping changes. Perhaps the most dramatic for me were seeing my work dramatically reduced, not just for number of assignments (which also meant a drastic reduction in pay), but often to see as much as 65% – 75% of the content removed from what did end up seeing print. This drastic over-cutting often left pieces with little or no meaning remaining, and made me start to question the value of my work.
It became more distressing when my readers began approaching me in anger, wanting to know what was going on and why. Many of them were advertisers with the paper and wanted to know why they were no longer getting the coverage they expected. Others missed the photo essays they had grown accustomed to, and a selection of pictures about events near and dear to their hearts.
I tried checking with the paper, and was told the editor was doing a wonderful job. It seems that I work too hard, too long, too well, too often, and don’t always have permission for what I do, and this is not allowed. Therefore, I needed to learn to get along better with the person in charge and accept whatever was thrown my way, or I would be replaced.
That was when I started looking carefully through my files. It is important to remember that I have NO contract with the newspaper. They have always emphasized to me that I am a freelance – essentially, a mercenary writer who can go wherever I see fit, peddling and publishing my wares. Yes, they have paid me small amounts of money, but I have received nothing to show me that they have ever purchased anything more than first printing rights, so my publishing any of them electronically myself cannot be a problem. Legally, I own my work, and only use what is mine or items I have express permission to use (and all copyrights for those materials belong to their creators).
What you will find here are pieces that have either not seen print yet, are not destined to see print with those to whom they were offered, or were printed and need to be shown in their original form to be better appreciated. Yes, I have been paid for some of them, but not enough to demand that I give the purchaser more than first printing rights. I retain my copyrights under law, and will continue to do so. This cannot be stressed enough.
I believe that my duty, first and foremost, is to those I cover and to the readers who follow my work. Whether through written work or photographs, I owe them my very best. And this is where I hope they will find it – now, and well into the future. Please forgive the bumps and rattles and incongruous tight spaces as I learn my way around, and I will do everything in my power to bring up the quality of this blog to where it gives you everything you are hoping to find here.