Digital journalism: A cautionary tale

The brave new world of digital journalism can be more dystopian than utopian, as author Tony Horwitz recently discovered. In his op-ed in the New York Times, Horwitz recounts that sorry tale of months of hard work and unpaid efforts that all but disappeared down the drain.

“As recently as the 1980s and ’90s, writers like me could reasonably aspire to a career and a living wage,” he writes. “I was dispatched to costly and difficult places like Iraq, to work for months on a single story. Later, as a full-time book author, I received advances large enough to fund years of research. How many young writers can realistically dream of that now?”

Book-writing and book-publishing have always been challenging enterprises, with thousands of authors languishing with low pay and low sales — if they were lucky to be published at all — for every big-name best-seller who made millions. If there’s any lesson to be learned from Horwitz’s experience, it’s that digital publishing and the potential of quickie e-books hasn’t necessarily changed that reality for most writers.

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