I agree, with all of it. Like Hesser, I am often asked by young writers how to go about getting work, and whether they should go to journalism school. To the latter, I always say no. Of the several hundred journalists I know, only two that went to J school. While I am sure there are others, my measure is of all the crack and successful people who did not. And with traditional journalism as a paying career having contracted about 90%, the idea of paying $70,000 or whatever journalism school costs, strikes me as both foolish and a waste of time, time you could be writing for free.
Which is what nearly every writer will do anyway, and should want to do. This is good; it gives you time to create things your way, not fit into a mold that no longer exists, or exists only for the few, whose jobs are more and more tenuous. Hesser's numbers are spot on. In 2003, I made $58,000 as a freelancer and was sent, on various publications' dimes, to the Bahamas, San Francisco and North Carolina on stories, stories that paid between $1 and $2 a word, and ran between 3,500 and 8,000 words. Every editor of the above stories has lost his or her job in the past three years. In January of 2009, five of my editors -- at Bon Appetit, the LA Weekly and Wired -- lost their jobs in the same month.
Lest you think I am walking point for the doom patrol, I am not. I have had spectacular things happen because old journalism is dying. I am part of Dymaxicon, a new and nimble publishing house. Because of the speed with which work travels, I was able to post The Queens of Montague Street on New Year's Day, at home, while the rest of my household nursed hangovers, and the following day, have my publisher slap together a cover and have it for sale on Amazon by the evening of January 2nd. From there, and with the help of some tweeting from Sam Sifton at the New York Times, about 10,000 read it, Longreads named it their #1 read of the week, and the NY Times Magazine asked me to excerpt it as a Lives column. This would not have happened back in the 90s. As Hesser writes, "This new era is actually better. Everyone who can write well is now welcome to."
I love what's happening in publishing, and expect to continue the love affair. But that love has to be of one's own devising. There can be no mewling for what has passed; what's the point? Start a blog, write a book and serialize it, lurk or shout online, do it. Try it. You'll see.
Hesser's tips are at the end of her post. With twists, they apply to any sort of writing. Now go!