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date: 20 November 2018

Summary and Keywords

The profession of journalism can hardly be explored today without recognizing the large number of journalists who work as freelancers rather than as organizational media direct employees. While this type of work is not new, the number of freelancers is growing as a share of all journalists as legacy media organizations lose audiences, trim workforces, and outsource labor in the context of an industrywide digital revolution. The increase in freelance journalists also comes amid a larger, postindustrial capitalist desire for flexibility and dexterity in staffing, with the resulting structural benefits for organizations. Yet there are all manner of so-called freelance journalists, and they are not easily located or defined. The most successful find opportunities and freedom in being their own boss and choosing their work. Many, however, find themselves thrust into pay-reducing competition, which engenders economic uncertainty and work volatility, the need to supplement journalism with other work, and unpaid time spent to market themselves and their work, or to get assignments (or even paid). Some freelancers find that it is not worthwhile to do time-consuming projects for which they will not receive pay commensurate with the time required.

Freelancers are used in all manner of journalism work today, throughout the world where they have been studied, and involving every media platform. Some entire content models are based mostly or entirely on freelance labor. This has implications for journalism educators, who have traditionally trained students for organizational news media jobs; and for researchers, who have not considered the freelancer in their scholarship into journalism production, culture, or journalist practices, routines, and attitudes.

Keywords: freelance journalism, self-employment, job satisfaction, precarity, autonomy, effort-reward imbalance, postindustrial, copyright, journalism studies

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