Careers: Writing/Freelancing in the 1970s
I wonder if you can help? I was a freelance journalist for some years until the recession hit and I became unwell. I since turned my attention to writing books and was told y someone on a writers forum that freelance journalism didn't exist in the 1970s! I was pretty sure it's existed since time immemorial! Could you clarify this for me?
I might also have one or two other questions if you don't mind but I'll let you absorb this one first! Thanks ever so much!
ANSWER: Hi, Lucy!
I don't know who told you that on the writer forum, but they're wrong. Freelance journalism has existed for at least a hundred years. In the trade, the writer or photographer is called a "stringer." It's even what Peter Parker did for a living in the early Spiderman comics from the 60s! Peter was a "superstringer" because he worked primarily for one newspaper, but not on salary. I was a stringer as a teenager for a couple of newspapers in my hometown. So, yes, you're right. 😊
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QUESTION: I knew I had to be right. I;m pretty sure as long as readers and publishers have existed so have freelancers! I belie Shakespeare started of freelancing! This is what happen when you talk to amateurs! They get things soooooooo wrong.
They also seemed to think that there'd be a lot of prejudice and chauvinism in the 1970s for a freelance female journalist but to be hones I've encountered plenty f that myself in the past few (recent) years! Most freelance writers for the publication I wrote for were male and I think at one point I was the only woman writer in a particular magazine. Would you say there would have been much more chauvinism back then than now? I'm researching for a story I'll be writing but can't ask much more without setting it to private so I think I'll have to start up a whole new topic/question to do that as there doesn't seem to be an option to set to private here. Anyway I'll let you absorb and answer that question first.
PS: do have a few more questions if that's ok but don't worry I don't want you to write the story for me, its all coming from me,all I want is practical suggestions really.
I think a lot depends on where the story is set. I can only speak for living in the US at the time, but yes, there was a lot of prejudice. Only at first, though. Once I proved I could write a good story, my editor didn't care about gender. I was lucky, in that my mother worked in ad sales at the time, so I had an "in". But there was a lot. It was mostly that women would get stuck with "fluff" pieces, so really investigative stuff would be given to men. I do have a few author friends who were reporters in the 70s. I could ask them a few very specific questions if you like. They're very busy so I don't know how long it would take to get an answer though. I don't know what your timetable is.
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QUESTION: Apologies for the delay in responding I only just found this reply from you.
Thanks again for the reply. It sounds to me as though not a great deal has changed in terms of prejudice really. What a sad, sad world we live in but on a lighter note itís nice to know some things never change! I was very forceful and quite cunning in a way in order to get my foot in the door especially as I started out interviewing rock bands. That's not something a woman normally does in editors eyes lol. Crazy. However, like you, once I proved I could write I set the ball rolling and I think a lot of celebrities or entertainment/showbiz people like being interview by women as oppose to male journalists. Male interviewees like the attention and novelty of it and female interviewees relax more with a female journalist I find.
I was very unique in my approach however and ethical in that I didnít pry into their personal lives I was only interested in their work. If they wanted to talk about their personal lives, great, Iíd let them, but at their own choosing and pace and be a 'friend' of sorts for that 30 minutes or however long I had using an almost therapeutic response. I was a freelancer though not a reporter. My heroine in the novel I'm planning will be a freelancer also and I wondered how female freelancers interviewing showbiz people might be viewed in the 70s.
If it helps for you to ask reporters you knew who were working in the 70s what it would have been like for a female showbiz freelancer then Iíd be very grateful. Donít go out of your way however and thereís no rush on that one. I need to get things sorted sooner rather than later but that in itself i not an urgent inquiry that would require me to give out a deadline. I do have a few or questions where Iím REALLY stuck and ironically they are the more urgent ones as Iíll need to do some serious hands on research in advance! Also not sure if youíd be able to answer them as you are US based and this might relate more to he UK but shall we have a go? I don't want to underestimate your knowledge r overburden you with things you just happen not to know about due to your location. Iíd best set it to private though as I donít want to offend the people on the board who weren't able to help and other reasons (including identifying myself.)
Thanks again so so much or your time and help and I look forward to hearing from you. Been a pleasure talking so far,
Hi, again, Lucy!
Okay, I contacted a few friends who were journalists in the 70s. They had a few stories but they could only loosely be considered gender related. Mostly they were more about co-workers who conspired to get assignments away from her by making her look incompetent and editors who favored other reporters and wouldn't give her a chance at the "big" stories--political or major crime stories that could win awards. One involved a conspiracy between two co-workers to sabotage her leaving the office to get to the scene of a multi-car accident so they could get there first. It was fairly cutthroat (and common) to have to compete for assignments on the traffic desk and battle to be the byline for a top of the fold story.
Hope that helps a little. Good luck!