Yes, the layoff horror stories are piling up (Time Inc.! Conde Nast! USA Today!, and anxiety is growing in the stomach pits of all who scribble or otherwise modify text, audio, and video for a living.
Six Apart, the leading blogging company, scored a New York Times story with a clever offer to set up all laid-off journalists with a free “pro” account. Retailing for $150 a year, the pro account can include revenue-generating ads on your blog. The Times quoted Johanna Neuman, a veteran White House reporter recently laid off by The Los Angeles Times, as saying she’d use her blog to try and score a book deal.
This is truly a market failure at work–call it the tragedy of the Creative Commons. While it may behoove the individual out-of-work reporter to try to scrape up a few dollars and some recognition by posting online, collectively we all hurt our economic prospects and the journalistic profession as a whole by providing content for free.
Just try to hang on. Join a dubious PR venture. Teach workshops to young freelancers even more desperate than yourselves. Ultimately a more efficient hybrid nonprofit model will put us back in business, perhaps in combo with an updated Federal Writers Project as part of the Obama New Deal.