Unionized blogging

Via TechCrunch comes this discussion, which is itself discussing an Wall Street Journal piece, “Is Blogging Ready for a Unionized Workforce?” I think the short answer is “no.”

As someone who is in a profession that is mostly not under the umbrella but who is actually in a faculty union, I have profoundly mixed feelings about unions in general and mine in particular. I don’t want to rehash all of that now, but I guess I’ll say two things, both of which I think applies to the idea of unionized bloggers. First, while I think the union for the faculty has done a good job at doing things like providing guidelines on procedures (e.g., how tenure and promotion works, a mechanism to complain about things, etc.), it doesn’t exactly reward individual achievement. Want to see smoke come out of a hard-core union person’s head? Talk about merit pay. And ultimately, I think one of the main reasons to write in blogs is individual achievement.

Second, I don’t exactly feel like I’m in a field that needs the protection of a union to prevent exploitation. I suppose this is all relative since lots of very well-paid workers have unions: airline pilots, professional athletes, etc. But when I think of people who most need unions, I think of occupations like factory workers, coal miners, truck drivers, and other performers of unpleasant work. The same is true with bloggers.

On the TechCrunch site, there’s some interesting points and discussion here, but I think the last paragraph sums up my feelings on this when it comes to the exploitation of bloggers:

As long as the supply of labor that will accept low rates exists, no amount of organization will create a marketplace that provides pay rates that are equal to that of comparable fields such as journalism. Exploitation only exists where those being paid do so because they have no alternative; bloggers have many alternatives, although most do not involve blogging itself. A fair wage is a noble cause, but one that will always be undercut as long as there are more potential writers than positions available.

And again, it raises some questions about why people blog in the first place– at least in terms of my assumptions about why people blog. In BAWS, I intend to primarily examine blog writers who are not doing it for the money; on the other hand, I suppose if one actually makes something that resembles a living, I suppose that too is a factor in considering the reasons to write, the audience one writes to, when one writes, etc.

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One Response to Unionized blogging

  1. Whenever I read something like this about blogging, I think of the story of the blind men and the elephant. “An elephant is like a tree,” says the blind man standing near a leg. “An elephant is like a rope,” says the blind man standing near the tail.

    Given the recent unpleasantness over the Obama fan site that was taken over by the official team, I think there’s no question that volunteer bloggers are capable of creating something of value to the establishment. The talented bloggers who are willing to toe the line for a paying boss (be it Microsoft or Michael Moore) feel they should get paid. Will they be bloggers anymore if they’re staff writers who happen to write online?

    No matter where the blind men are standing, they’ll be able to smell the result.

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