Friday, 16 August 2013

My (non-) career as a freelance journalist

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I never wanted to work in a newspaper office, or be a reporter; but had a long-standing yearning to be a columnist, an opinion writer - or else a reviewer of something like TV, movies or perhaps books.  A pundit in fact.

And at one point, between academic positions, I did make some kind of attempt to 'make a living' with my pen/ word-processor - but unfortunately my timing was off.

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For a few years around 1990, it was possible for me to make a significant amount of money writing for national papers - first New Scientist, and the Times Higher Education Supplement - then most lucratively for The Times (of London), where I think I peaked at 300 pounds an article, and they took everything I sent them.

An added bonus of these articles was the ego trip of being invited onto the radio, or sometimes the TV, to be interviewed or discuss something on a panel - his became frequent when I lived in Glasgow, Scotland and lived very near to the BBC studio.

But fairly suddenly these magazines stopped using the work of freelances such as myself, and generated their material 'in house' - and the opportunity to make a living dried-up at exactly the moment when I needed it. 

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Essentially, I would write on almost any topic for anyone; a lot of book reviewing, mostly of course for free.

Free, because this was a compulsion - partly the compulsion to write, and partly a compulsion to impose my opinions and personality on the world.

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So now I blog, which serves the same purposes - plus a few more; since the feedback comments from even a micro-blog such as this one are more satisfying than anything I got for publishing in The Times: a process which felt like posting a letter into a void; except that I occasionally got a crazy letter scribbled on torn-out sheets, or cyclostyled and mass mailed.

One of these contained diagrams of demonic transformations, another included hand-drawn electrocardiograms, and another was unsigned - except for the photo of a dolphin...

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