Quality of writing for hire

Over the weekend, I did something I rarely do. I read some column inches in the newspaper and a weekly news magazine. I was struck once again by the disappointing quality of the writing. I found what I read to be inferior to my usual reading of blog posts and books. I rarely read paid journalists for this reason. The quality of "writing for hire" seems lacking to me. Today I've been reflecting on why that is. Here are some of my thoughts:
  • Writing as freedom of expression comes from a different place than writing for hire. The freedom from commercial constraints frees up the style and topics to be closer to the writer's heart. When we write what we feel like writing about, it comes across as more authentic, passionate and revealing. I find it more engaging as a reader when the writer has been set free of those commercial constraints.
  • Writing as a profession claims to be capable of delivering quality regardless of personal moods, circumstances and conflicts. The professional training, expertise and demeanor is presumed to override whatever detractors could interfere with one's professionalism day to day. Writing as self expression is better when the authors listen to their moods, learn from their circumstances and explores ways to resolve current conflicts. It keeps writers together rather than splitting them in two.
  • When we're paid to do anything, we're obligated in very different ways from when we're contributing for attention and reputation, not recompense. Receiving money means there is a overseer with say-so over our final product, and possibly our process too. There are these commercial constraints that can impair and impede the flow of inspired ideas and wording.
  • When people are writing professionally, they read professional writers. They take up residence in an echo chamber of stylistic conventions, popular phrases and consensual tones. There's no discrepant feedback to steer the conventions in a different direction. The writing is presumed to be high quality, regardless of how it compares or gets perceived by readers. The professionalism sets up an implicit ultimatum: take it or leave it.

What I've been reading about experiments in reinventing journalism seem to uniformly assume their quality of writing is a given. What's missing is a revenue mechanism and business model to sustain the "writing for hire". I'm getting the picture that those innovations are sustaining the profession. The preservation of "writing for hire" deserves to be categorized as "Journalism 1.5". The disruptive innovations I'm exploring as Journalism 2.0 will likely engage "writing for free and with freedom from commercial constraints". Journalism 2.0 will compete with incumbent news organizations on the quality of writing and be proven superior.

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