appreciating professionalism towards writers

We writers in all fields of media, communication and arts could probably rant endlessly about our woes, the top two being (1) payment fees collection and (2) dealing with editors.

Mine is both, right now.

Writers write. That's it. (photo by my friend Teta, November 2010)

 

I’ve been writing for a major newspaper in the country and I got this gig because a friend of mine stepped in as the lifestyle editor a few years back. He posted a call for columnists so I submitted my proposal. Luckily, I was chosen, and even if he warned us about the super-duper late payment practice of newspapers, I still agreed and signed the contract.

Now how late is that late payment? The thing with publication work is, writers don’t get paid unless their articles have already been published. And upon publication, it usually takes the companies a few weeks to process your payment. Usually, it takes them a month, maybe two or even three, depending on the state of their admin work. But with this particular daily, it takes closer to forever to get your payment. Case in point: I just called their HR department and found out that I already have a check for June-July. Last June, I was able to collect a check for April-May. I still don’t have checks for the months of January to March, August up to October. Bummer, right? But such is the fate of writers, even columnists, in this specific daily.

Comparing this to another daily, I contributed one article there before for a special edition of one of their sections. And after maybe 4-6 months, I was informed by that section’s guest editor to go to the daily’s office and collect my contributor’s check. Sweet, right? At least they inform us.

But this current daily where I contribute, I feel sad that up to now, they have this kind of practice, making writers wait, but having the editors bug us to submit content on a regular basis, even imposing deadlines with a scare tactic kind of “warning” or something to that effect. I understand that tactic very well, since I was also a section editor of a daily before, so I was willing to play along. I’ve already accepted this late payment/upon publication practice here in the Philippines anyway, since my bottomline is to just have venues for my writing where people could read them. Yes, it’s still that simple, and probably that noble, that even if I don’t get paid on time or the payment is just small, I still write, and I will continue to do so since this is who I am and this is what I enjoy doing. Plus of course my editor is my friend, so as a friend and a co-worker, I am both professional in my relationship with him.

Until he resigned a few months back. And that’s when “trouble” began.

My editor friend has his own reasons for leaving, and he was kind enough to warn us of his departure, also giving us tips on what our future as columnists entail as well, seeing that we were “his recruits.” See, in the writing world, sometimes it’s still “who you know” that rules. And since the new lifestyle editor might not know us from Adam (or Eve), there is the tendency to have us booted out as well.

But as I found out, the editor that replaced my friend was a good one, even if I haven’t met her personally in the flesh, just online via email and text. So I happily went along my columnist duties, submitted articles and even went to events that invited me because of my capacity as a columnist for this daily. Life is good. Yes, they still pay ever so slowly, but I was happy enough to get published, under the hands of this new editor.

Until the weekend edition was handed over to another team.

 

People do read my column. Like Manolo Quezon. In this FB status, he was referring to the controversial Great Book Blockade thing last 2009 when the Bureau of Customs stopped the importing of books for Philippine bookstores.

For weeks now, I noticed that the literary section where my column appears seems to get thinner and thinner every week. It’s sad, but it’s also understandable, since in the newspaper business, you really prioritize stories and articles according to relevance. It’s just sad that these past weeks, they seem to be neglecting my column.

As I found out from the editor, she said that there is a new team closing the weekend edition of the paper, and she graciously reminded the team of their penchant for “neglecting” my column. At first, they heeded. But again, in recent weeks, they seem to be neglecting me again. I even tried to contact this new team if they need to talk to me directly so that the editor won’t act as the middle person all the time. But as of this writing, they haven’t made any move to contact me back. I submitted my latest column some weeks ago and it still hasn’t seen the light of publication up to now. And since that article has some time-bound elements in it (about an upcoming book launch happening this Saturday), its content is already stale since my column comes out every Sunday.

This brings me to thinking about how professionalism is sometimes absent inside news rooms. I wonder if this is what’s happening in the newspaper now. I don’t actually have a problem if they lack space for my column but I would appreciate it better if they just have the professionalism to tell me, or us, as I notice that I’m not the only one who seems to be experiencing this situation.

Sometimes this is the sad fact in Philippine media. Writers are the content providers, the ones who supply the bulk of a medium’s body, but we are the ones who are not treated properly in terms of publication guidelines and payment terms. This is just so sad. And it’s even sadder that it just doesn’t happen in newspapers and magazines both online and print, but this also happens to other writers in other media, especially those in TV.

You know, if all writers boycotted these media companies and stopped working even just for one day, Philippine media will really be paralyzed. Look at what happened in the USA, with the Writer’s Guild of America (WGA) writer’s strike thing. That took guts, and that was actually so cool, writers standing up for their rights. It’s just sad that if you even tried to do that here in the country, it won’t amount to anything. For all we know, I am merely currently pegged as a nuisance of the newspaper admin, “that makulit columnist who keeps on calling for checks” even if I ask nicely and say thank you and other niceties.  Once, I tried telling them “How would you feel if the company didn’t release your salary this month? I’m sure you’ll raise hell.” The accounting person I was talking to agreed 100 percent, and was even apologetic to all of us columnists while explaining their company’s slowness in accounting all writers’ back pay. Sadly, last time I called, that accounting person already resigned and was no longer connected with the newspaper.

Because of these developments, I don’t feel like continuing to write for that daily any longer if they continue doing this. Let’s just see. I’m still waiting for word from them, up to now. But if they don’t contact (and frankly speaking, I don’t think they will), then it’s not really such a big loss for me. I am a writer and I could find other venues for my material. I could retreat quietly since I don’t see the point of wreaking havoc. Yes, I should fight for my rights in any field, but if you know that it’s a losing battle, would you engage? Life’s too short to feel heavy and negative about stuff, and I don’t want that, really. Honestly, I don’t. I just want to write, not engage negatively. I’ll still be patient in following up my payment. But that’s all I would do. And I’ll just find other venues who would treat writers better than this.

Let’s hope there’s still some here in the Philippines.

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~ by leaflens on November 10, 2010.

2 Responses to “appreciating professionalism towards writers”

  1. Worry not dear writer, you’re not the only one experiencing scarcity of that thing called ‘professionalism’. We, corporate slaves, erm, technical writers maybe getting our paycheck on time but we are shackled by whimsical style guides from suited gods.

  2. Awww. That is indeed sad. Hayst…

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