Tuesday, March 16th, 2010

Tina Brown on Building a Subculture of Impoverished Writers

TINA, MY TINAHere's Tina Brown, from January, 2009: "For a while last year, the downsized people I know went around pretending they enjoyed the 'freedom' and 'variety' of doing 'a whole lot of interesting things.' Twelve months later, nobody bothers with that cover story anymore. Everyone knows what it actually feels like, this penny-ante slog of working three times as hard for the same amount of money (if you're lucky) or a lot less (if you're not). Minus benefits, of course…. The managers of all these disintegrating companies tend to be mesmerized by the notion that everyone can now be hired cheap-that everyone is slave labor." And then there's Tina Brown late last week, on Charlie Rose-in which Tina has cast herself in a different role in this fractured, problematic transactional relationship.

TINA BROWN: We do pay for content on "The Daily Beast," but it is certainly not the —

CHARLIE ROSE: You don't get rich on what you pay.

TINA BROWN: Right. So are we building this new sort of subculture frankly of impoverished, living in garret writers, because the fact is writers can hardly make a living right now because they don't get paid. The same is true of songwriters and the same is true of so many artists today. We are actually relegating great people to not being able to make a living.

CHARLIE ROSE: So how are we going to change that?

TINA BROWN: Well I think we haven't figured it out, and I think what we are right now is in a volatile moment of absolute realignment, I mean, there is kind of a volcanic shift that is happening in the landscape. And it is painful interim for artists and writers at the moment. They feel absolutely beached and orphaned. I think we are going to emerge from that and, in fact, there is a golden future, that in fact we will figure out these business models and actually there is an effervescence of content, of need for content, and real good material to see feed these multi-channels.

43 Comments / Post A Comment

Well, better this than Chris Anderson…

HiredGoons (#603)

"there is a golden future"

Notice that she does not say 'for whom.'

KarenUhOh (#19)

"We're still working on the bugs with getting the money to filter down."

Zack (#2,609)


narnio (#38)

People have been saying "we'll figure it out later" for too long. This saddens me immensely.

katiebakes (#32)

Same :(

Zack (#2,609)

Well, she does get it with the "volatile moment of absolute realignment." Cause that's really what it is. Without getting to much into it here and now, we have to understand that an innovation as disruptive as the internet is going to take some time to figure out – from a monetary standpoint.

KarenUhOh (#19)

Scarcity=market value.

Bah! Unorganized workforce = poor. That's all there is to it, from farmworkers to shoemakers to automakers to writers.

KarenUhOh (#19)

There's an App for that.

jolie (#16)

@narnio: Too true. I vote that we go back to the "rich patron" system of supporting the arts. I mostly want this to happen so I can buy Choire and install him in my home.

HiredGoons (#603)

@jolie: this is why I have royalist tendencies.

narnio (#38)

Or maybe instead of building gigantic behemouth aggregators with editorial adornments and no real revenue model, we should be spending money on learning how to *make* money. We've been "realigning" for what seems like forever… can someone just take the plunge and burn through their investment capital in pursuit of sustainable revenue?

brianvan (#149)

Does this make it any less outrageous that less-intelligent people work less-interesting jobs for similarly meager salaries, and thus can't afford basic human needs like safe shelter, healthful food, and medical care? Yes, it's only a shame if it happens to Ivy Grads.

I do feel bad for the youngs who are working in media and not making enough money for rent and health insurance, but only because they don't have enough money for rent and health insurance. No regrets here that the interns aren't building wealth either. (Most of the time, everyone is an intern.)

gregorg (#30)

agreed. I was trapped listening to Brown on NPR a week or two ago as she explained the most fascinating and important things to read, but they were all about what was happening in and to the media.

It's like if it doesn't happen to a writer, it's not even on her radar [sic]

brianvan (#149)

@gregorg: Yes, but often we have the same problem, despite our best intentions. All of the hand-wringing about "the survival of journalism" certainly has now outpaced any similar sentiment about any other late-20th-century collapsed industry.

Though it is perfectly fair to converse about your own occupation, generally speaking.

And true, some people have been sounding the death bell about imported manufacturing, imported agriculture, health care affordability, etc. for a long time. But only a few in media. The bells are ringing a lot louder now for those who stand at the lectern.

Is this where I get to point out that Spiers' latest consulting gig for Crushable resulted in over 100 blogger layoffs? Because I've been wanting to point that out for a while. Of course, now they're all available to write for The Awl, so there's that.

narnio (#38)

How so?

sigerson (#179)

Am I the only one who thinks of Sally Quinn and Tina Brown as cut from the same cloth? Both married powerful editors and PRESTO! they get to pretend to be journalists or "tastemakers" or whatever. And then they get on moronic talk shows and make idiotic noises (even briefly getting to HOST a chat show that flames out immediately). What a huge sack of shit.

p.s. – Suzy Welch. Also.

dntsqzthchrmn (#2,893)

Running the HBR then running away with your subject is a slightly different narrative?

mikkipedia (#4,023)

I'm not a big fan of TB, but that is unfair. She was pretty young when they got together, but she had already won some journalism awards and made a bit of a name for herself.

sailor (#396)

Hey Tina, why "figure it out" when starvation wages fits perfectly in your economic model? Le plus ça change…

atipofthehat (#797)

What are we paying the Awl for this post?

boyofdestiny (#1,243)

I, for one, am patronizing the shit out of this page's advertisers. Ford Transit Connect, here I come!

gregorg (#30)

seats five disco-pants-wearing American Apparel models comfortably!

joeclark (#651)

Sorry. The "volatile moment" has long since passed. A moment lasts a moment, not a decade. She should read Jaron Lanier.

Screen Name (#2,416)

My friend Eddie Willoughby once told me, "If you're doin' what you love, the money will come." But Eddie loved to grow and sell pot, so I guess he was lucky in that respect. These days I don't believe that old bullshit. There's an increasing economic randomness at work, an entropic wobble that makes planning and careering not unlike trying to nail Jell-O to a tree.

Jell-O. See? Someone all the way back in 1897 conceived that as a non-descriptive name for animal proteins, collagen, so that people who were not rich and therefore, apparently, already predisposed to eating desserts made from powdered animal skin and bones, could get over their naturally occurring peasant gag reflexes and buy box after box of the stuff. That's been a successful formula for well over a hundred years now.

If you find that entire Jell-O process objectionable, then you should accept the fact that you will never make anything resembling real money in America other than as a strange consequence of some fortuitous, and purposeless, gesture; and, if you flinched at the very notion of "real money" in the first place, then more's the pity, for you don't stand a chance.

Sure, it's possible to see that and to get real sad. The irony, of course, is that your sadness means you've already separated from the herd, and separating from the herd makes you a candidate for the Nietzschean act of sublimation – the unification of the self, a move beyond simple repression – not to be confused with the bullshit notion of the "noble poverty" of the "artist."

Poverty isn't noble. And money is indifferent. The good news is Eddie Willoughby was half right. If you're doin' what you love, the money might come, but it might not, either; the trick is, whether it does or it doesn't, to just not give a shit.

dntsqzthchrmn (#2,893)

How much to write all my five paragraph essays for me?

Screen Name (#2,416)

Just pay me after I do it, or not. It's totally up to you!

Ken Layne (#262)

Jesus christ, does this come with a CYANIDE TABLET? Because it should. (ALSO CHOIRE PLZ RUN THIS AS A POST. FREE CONTENT!)

boyofdestiny (#1,243)

"effervescence of content." That's a pretty phrase. Someone should pay Tina Brown to write.

KarenUhOh (#19)

Or pour her another Perrier.

HiredGoons (#603)

"It's terrible, I know, but we're trying to figure it out. But for now, just keep doing for free for us. Kthnxbai."

mimithedog (#1,165)

Jesus. It makes Maoism look appealing; send her out to shovel pig shit for five years so she can figure out the realignment. She's grotesque, as is what's going on. Sigh. I'm a cliche, but blame the victors, and she's one of them.

Yes, yes. But why is she wearing the back seat of a Lincoln Continental as a jacket?

fairest (#413)

Sounds like someone is about to kill an old lady pawnbroker!

Baroness (#273)

I just spent 10 minutes considering and writing about Tina Brown, her legacy at Vanity Fair, how prophetic she was,, Barry Diller's closet, the way she exposed Hollywood and Park Avenue, SPY magazine, how social history IS history.. the time I met her, how I can't hate her.

Then the Awl page blinked and refreshed, and it was all lost, gone.
Maybe the paragraphs I wrote would have been boring to some, but any way of the Awl NOT doing that? Blinking, refreshing, erasing thoughtful posts that are more than a quip?

Bittersweet (#765)

YES! I'm quite sure none of my lost posts were anywhere near as knowledgeable or well-written, Baroness, but it would be nice to know that what I've started will still be there when I come back here after dealing with some urgent IM…

Baroness (#273)

Right. Thanks for that sarcasm, it was exquisite and so funny. Cheers.

Sometimes if you hit back on your browser right away, your comment will still be there. Don't ask me how or why, but it is.

And I'd definitely be interested in reading what you have to say, if rewriting it isn't too soul-crushing.

garge (#736)

Do you guys run Firefox? My half-typed comments always remain in the text box, although if it were intended to be a reply it does not maintain that formatting ..

Baroness (#273)

Thanks Rich, you're really too kind. I did try that, ah well. Appreciated though.

KarenUhOh (#19)

If you're really onto something, the old saw of hitting "copy" probably saves Ass as much as anything you can do.

Not that it ever did much for me, though. There's a REASON anything good I say usually fills half of one line.

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