20 Highest Paying Media Sites for Freelance Journalists
From left: Dean Baquet, executive editor of the New York Times; Jill Abramson, ousted executive editor; Bill Keller, Abramson’s predecessor, who was reportedly paid more than she. Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times via Associated Press; June 2011.
A while back, The New Yorker reported the high profile firing of New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson. Abramson was allegedly let go in part because she demanded more money after she learnt she was being paid less than her (male) predecessors. From the outside, it may appear her ouster was sexist and a harsh and humiliating process to play out in the media, but it’s hard to say for sure that sexism was at play in this case.
Abramson was reportedly working with a coach to improve her management skills—presumably in response to complaints by Times newsroom staffers who thought she was unapproachable, brusque and condescending. A report on POLITICO indicated she was already on the verge of losing the support of the newsroom before she was fired. It was mumbled that she had become a source of widespread frustration and anxiety within the newsroom.
We may never know for sure why she was fired, but the firing opened up debate that rages on today about the pay and power gap in the media industry. Economic journalist Felix Salmon wrote a piece on Vox advocating for salary transparency for media workers, a call that freelance writer Manjula Martin has made since 2012 when she started her blog Who Pays Writers?.
Salary Transparency in the Media Industry
Martin’s blog calls on freelancer writers and journalist to anonymously divulge how much publications paid them for individual assignments. The site is a place to list which publications pay writers, and how much. Apart from listing just dollar amounts, posters often add tips and instructions about topics like cold pitching, editing process and how long it takes to get payment after publication.
Martin admits the user submitted information on her site is not official and might be considered gossip, but she adds it is “gossip that matters.” The information helps writers assess which publications are worth their time and which are not.
Here’s an inside peek at some of the best paying publications for freelancer writers and journalists according to information anonymously disclosed by actual writers on the Who Pays Writers? website.
Top Digital Publications for Freelance Journalists
The Sun daily newspaper published in the U.K and Ireland has paid a writer $600 for a 2-4K word personal essay in print and online. The story was submitted on spec. Writer says, “They edit every piece pretty heavily, but they are willing to negotiate the changes with you.”
2. The Washington Post (WashingtonPost.com)
The Washington Post has paid a writer $500 for a 2,000-4,000–word feature in print and online in December 2013. Writer says, “There was so much back and forth and waiting [between writer and editor], I probably lost money writing this piece.”
ChristianityToday paid a writer $500 for 2-4K word feature (personal essay) in print and online in 2013.
4. The Wall Street Journal - Op-Ed (Online.wsj.com)
The Wall Street Journal paid a writer $400 for an 800-word op-ed in print and online, in 2013. Writer says, “Quick payment.”
The Daily Beast paid a writer $350 for a 100-500 word book review online. Writer had pre-existing relationship with editor. The publication bought all rights.
6. BBC - Travel (bbc.com/travel)
The BBC – Travel paid a writer $350 for a 900 words piece.
7. The New York Times (nytimes.com)
The New York Times paid a writer $300 for a 1,000-2,000 word Modern Love essay in print and online, 2011. The essay was submitted on spec. An editor came to another writer in 2012 with an assignment. Writer was paid $75 for a 500-1000 word op-ed piece in print and digital formats, 2012.
Slate paid a writer $300 for a 1,000- 2,000-word criticism/review piece online. Writer says, “After 3 months I can grant a third party a license to publish the work, with credit line citing original pub on Slate.”
9. The New Yorker (NewYorker.com)
The New Yorker paid a writer $250 for a 1,000-2,000 word personal essay on the New Yorker blog in 2013.
10. Gawker.com (Now closed)
While it was open, Gawker paid a writer $250 for 1,500-word on-the-ground reported piece in late 2012/early 2013. Writer says, “Mildly hazardous reporting conditions.”
BuzzFeed paid a writer $200 for a 500-1000 word criticism/review piece online. Writer says there was little to no reporting and ongoing/pre-existing relationship with editor or publication. Contract was verbal or “handshake” agreement and the publication bought all rights, or it was a work for hire. "I gave up my rights to republish or use the work elsewhere," writer adds.
Parents paid a writer $250 for a 700-word reported piece in 2013.
Grist paid a writer $200 for a 500- 1000-word news item online in 2013. Writer says, “We went through several rounds of edits and they were all incredibly helpful.”
TIME reportedly agreed on $150 for a 500-1000 word op-ed on ideas.time.com to accompany an article in the print magazine. Writer says piece was published in August 2013 and as of March 2014, the writer still hadn’t been paid.
The Atlantic paid $150 for 1,100-1,300 word originally reported feature article in 2013. Article was accepted on pitch. The writer says payment check was received in about two weeks.
Esquire paid a writer $150 for a 500- 1000-word interview online. Story was accepted on cold pitch. Writer says, “Extensive edits and rewrites.”
Shareable paid a writer $150 for a 1-2,000 word profile online in October 2013. There was pre-existing relationship with editor and agreement was verbal or “handshake.” Writer says, “Invoices can only be submitted at a specific time each month, but payment comes quickly afterward.
Fast Company paid a writer $135 for a 500-1,000 word review online in 2013. There was medium reporting, solicited pitch and no contract. Writer says, “Rights were not discussed.”
Ask Men paid a writer $100 for a 1,000-word personal/opinion piece in 2012.
Vice – Motherboard paid a writer $100 for a 500- 1000-word news item online. Writer says, “Never discussed rights terms, oddly. Payment terms were as follows: direct deposit 30 days after an invoice on the 15th and 30th of every month. They pay $50 for a blog post with no reporting, $100 for 500 words with a quote. $250 for reported features around 1000-1250 words. Good editors.”
Over to you...
Tell us which publications paid you for a piece of writing, and how much in the comments section below. Or, head over to Who Pays Writers? and take an anonymous survey about how much you got paid for a story. This information matters. It helps shed light on how much writers make and keeps us all updated and more educated about the state of the publishing industry.