Media Alliance to launch membership category for freelancers

The Freelance Pro media access card

The Freelance Pro media access card

The union representing journalists will this afternoon launch a new class of membership aimed at freelancers, Mumbrella can reveal.

The new category called Freelance Pro, will be launched by Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull, broadcaster Tracey Spicey and blogger Greg Jericho, and is aimed at the growing number of freelance journalists in Australia.

The Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance says it will offer them both professional indeminity and public liability insurance, contract advice, a media access card and training in ethics and media law.

“Last year we did a survey around the issue of insurance and there were hundreds of members who said they were very interested in take up such an option,” said Marcus Strom strategic campaigner on the MEAA’s future of journalism project.

“We would therefore expect a strong take up both from existing members… but we are also expecting people who up until now haven’t seen the need to be a member will now see a tangible benefit.”

The MEAA will also today also release the results of a survey of 326 freelance journalists which indicates that more than 45 per cent of those surveyed earned less than $29,000 a year from journalism.

IncomeThe survey results also claims that only 50 per cent those survey were able to derive more than 50 per cent of their income from journalism.

Percentage“I think it reflects the person’s age, now we didn’t ask for age but we did ask how long they’ve been in the industry,” said Strom.

“I think it matches with 42 per cent who have been in the industry more than 15 years. A lot of them might be people who have gone on a sea change or a tree change and are semi-retired or have taken redundancy. That would be my interpretation.”

“It appears many have some kind of other journalism work or other kind of work.”

Industry experienceConducted over two weeks, the poll represented around 20 per cent of the union’s current freelance membership and also asked members about the various freelance rates between various media outlets.

The survey asked members if they have written for Bauer Media, News Life Media, Fairfax Magazines, Fairfax Media metro, News Limited community newspapers, News Limited metro and a variety of smaller publishers.

The results indicated that the rates of pay even at major outlets such as Fairfax and News Limited varied dramatically between writers with editors generally offering anywhere from 30 cents a word up to $1 a word.

Survey results of rates offered per word at Fairfax Media metro

Survey results of rates offered per word at Fairfax Media metro

Survey results of rates offered per word at News Limited metro

Survey results of rates offered per word at News Limited metro

“At Fairfax there was only one person who got more than a $1 per word but there is huge spread. There appears to be no consistency with the rate that is paid,” said Strom.

“When I working as an editor at Fairfax we were told 70 cents a word was the floor but I’ve since been told its 50 cents a word.”

“The other thing that jumped out at me was that at Bauer no body got paid less than 30 cents a word, but they did at News and Fairfax. What it suggests to me is that magazines industry seems to be able to pay a little better than newspapers.”

The MEAA also points out that there is a huge discrepancy between what editors will pay from work published in print versus what they will pay for online content, such as blogs, opinion pieces and even photographs.

BlogsOpinionPhotographAccording to the survey, almost 40 per cent weren’t paid for blogs, almost 14 per cent said they weren’t paid for opinion pieces while 22 per cent indicated they hadn’t been paid for providing a photograph.

News itemFeatureAround 11 per cent indicated they weren’t paid for news stories above 500 words, while six per cent said they weren’t usually paid for features up to 1200 words.

Strom says that while the results are indicative the survey was not large enough to be definitive.

“It’s a fairly small survey about 20 per cent of our freelance membership responded which is not too bad in two weeks,” he said.

“The sample size of 326 is big enough to give us an idea but I think it’s a little too small to give us a definitive answer. That can only come when everyone starts logging a ratetracker and that something we’d like to do over time.”

The MEAA hopes its new freelance pro membership will help improve the rates of pay among freelancers and also help them operate in the competitive market.

Membership of the Freelance Pro category will require members to take an online course in the the MEAA code of ethics they will also have to provide evidence that they have undertaken a refresher course in media law in the past 5 years.

For those that have not completed such a course the union will offer a refresher class at cost.

“We are trying to bridge the gap and give assistance to freelance journalists to display their professional credential through their association. They will also get a trust mark that they can use on their business cards and on their website,” said Strom.

“People who see that will know this is a journalist who is insured, has training in code of ethics and media law, and is part of a professional association.”

“It’s $3.85 extra a week and that will largely cover the insurance, which provides up to $1-million professional indemnity insurance, defamation and negligence claims. $1-million public liability insurance and if people need extra they can opt for that.”

Nic Christensen




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