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Court Dismisses Huffington Post Blogger Suit

Photo by Donkey Hotey, Flickr

A group of bloggers hoping to get a cut of The Huffington Post’s lucrative sale to AOL were thwarted last week with a court decision to dismiss their lawsuit. A large part of the reasoning is in what the judge stated when they announced the decision: “The plaintiffs entered into their transactions with the defendants with full knowledge of the facts and no expectation of compensation other than exposure.”

The important takeaway from this is that if you are writing for exposure, you shouldn’t expect any monetary compensation down the road should the site you are writing for be sold for umpteen million dollars. Despite my problems with writing for free as a rule, I accept that what I believe is the right path to success in a freelance career may not be the formula for the next person.

I do believe the Huffington Post business model waters down freelance earnings for the rest of us as other media organizations try to copy it for the express purpose of putting writers out of work, but the blame should clearly be laid at the feet of the site itself, not the people who write for it.

That being said, it is regrettable that a court has officially devalued the work of writers who write for free. It is true that they entered into the transaction knowing that they were donating their work, but the missing element in the argument is that they placed their trust in Arianna Huffington, however naively, that the site would be used as a collective platform for crowdsourced news, not as a way for the media mogul to stock her garage with fine cars or her shoe closet with whoever is popular with the fashionistas these days. It’s the abuse of this trust, however naively given, that should be penalized.

We should never trust blindly that a site owner or media company will “do the right thing”. We should join up with groups like PWAC and the Canadian Freelance Union to be stronger collectively and to give ourselves a voice should abuses like this occur in Canada, because they do happen. As with any industry, we are better together.

 

Canada’s Next Green Journalist contest for young reporters

Young writers with an eye for environmental news will want to check out the Canada’s Next Green Journalist competition. The contest, open to young people between the ages of 12 and 21, is an annual event that invites aspiring reporters to submit stories, photographs or videos about environmental topics in their communities.

The contest is open until April 30, 2012, at which point the top three submissions in the two eligible age groups (12-17 and 18-21) will be chosen to move on to the international Young Reporters competition. The winning pieces may appear in publications from the advocacy group Environmental Defence and the authors will win prizes or cash for their school. Canadian finalists will be announced in May and the international winners will be announced in June.

You can find information, resources and the entry form at youngreporters.ca.

Happy Canada Day!

Hopefully you are too busy enjoying today to be reading this, but Happy Canada Day to all our readers who toil in our ink-stained Canadian trenches. Stop writing, grab your beverage of choice, and toast this great country that we all call home.

Why Being “Negative” Can Be a Good Thing on Social Media

If you are on Twitter, chances are you see a number of inspirational quotes per day. I try to use them sparingly, and only pass on quotes that truly inspire me.

Some of the “inspirational” quotes that I see just plain bother me. There are a lot in the “if you think negative, you’ll turn into a troll and lead a horrible life” category that really bunch up my shorts. Here’s why:

1. Everyone has negative thoughts

You can’t avoid having negative thoughts. It just happens. A negative thought isn’t a horrible thing that murders all the good in your soul, it’s just disliking a certain thing or action.

2. You learn from the negative

Not every day is a pleasant thing that floats by with no incident. Problems happen, clashes happen, and sometimes *gasp* negative things happen. That’s OK. Working through bad situations and clashes helps you become a stronger person and learn. A pan doesn’t make your food taste good unless it has seasoning. Negative events season us, mature us, and give us strength.

3. Cynicism can be confused with negativity

As writers, we know that words can be used incorrectly. Cynicism is often mistaken for negativity, and a good dose of cynicism keeps you from being taken advantage of financially and emotionally. The trick to life is finding out when to be cynical and when to trust. That’s something I haven’t figured out yet, and I err on the side of the cynical. Or, as some would call it, negative.

4. If you seem nothing but happy, you seem fake

I love seeing social media updates that aren’t blooming flowers of happiness, because they remind me that a real person is behind them. Not that real people can’t be happy, but if all of your social media updates are puffy happy messages, I’m either going to tune you out or want the name of the drugs you are taking.

5.  “Anti-negative” messages seem righteous and imperious

There’s a good reason I don’t talk to some of my family members. They are righteous about their religion and look down on anyone who doesn’t believe in their very specific religious faith. It’s the same thing with the “always happy” crowd – if you say anything negative, you are relegated to being an unhealthy influence. When did this start?

It is true that negative-sounding messages do not sell, unless you are in politics (and I wish negative political campaigns didn’t work, but they do). If you are specifically marketing a product or brand, you don’t want it associated with negativity of any kind. But when using social media, you do want to sound like a real person, and this can mean acknowledging that there is a minor issue in your day, like being stuck in traffic, or eating a particularly gross kind of cheese.

So if you are concerned about being too negative after seeing a string of rosy quotes online, don’t be. Chances are you sound like a human.

Join PWAC in Montreal For Jam-Packed Writing Conference

You don’t have to be a PWAC member to enjoy the fabulous professional development that the PWAC Quebec folks have put together for the PWAC annual conference.  If you’ve been on the fence for a while and need an excuse to join, you will save on the conference.

PWAC presents excellent networking opportunities, professional development, and actively circulates exclusive, high-end writing gigs privately to all members by email.

Below reprinted with permission from PWAC Quebec.

The PWAC National Conference will be held June 17-19, 2011, in Montreal!

There’s a great line-up of professional workshops, panel discussions, and seminars that are open to members and non-members alike!  As usual, they cover a spectrum of topics of interest to writers:

  • A panel with top Montreal editors from enRoute, Maisonneuve, and Reader’s Digest
  • A workshop on writing for trade magazines
  • A panel featuring successful entrepreneurs to help you rethink your freelance business
  • A workshop on medical writing
  • A journalist’s guide to Twitter, Facebook, and new mobile tools
  • A seminar on writing nonfiction book proposals
  • A seminar on business skills for freelancers
  • A session on travel & food writing

Professional Development sessions will be held on Saturday, June 18 at Concordia University, in the Henry F. Hall Building (7th floor), 1455 De Maisonneuve Ouest, Montreal. (It’s the “H Building” on campus maps).

  • Click here to download the jam-packed schedule! Register before May 23 to take advantage of the $225 Early Bird rate (for PWAC members only), or $250 for sister writing and/or publishing organizations, and $275 for non-members. Professional Development sessions may also be purchased individually.
  • Click here to download the registration form (word doc), fill it out and email it to info@pwac.ca with National Conference in the subject field. (NB: See the registration form for payment options.)

If you have any questions about the conference, contact the head office at (416) 504-1645.