Tuesday, 2 January 2007

On Boxing Day, The Age posted a story on its Web site that appeared to be written by "[f]irst-time author Kate Morton" but it seems that it was an interview, because today much of the same information appeared in The Sydney Morning Herald's summer herald supplement with a by-line.

The by-line belongs to freelance journalist Michelle Hamer who, it seems, is represented by the same literary agent as Morton, Selwyn Anthony. The new version of the piece is much shorter but tells similar stories, which is why it rang a bell.

The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald, of course, are both owned by media giant Fairfax Limited. I wonder if it is right that they publish the same story twice, in different guises: once as an original story and once as an interview. Shouldn't they mention somewhere in the second piece that the story was originally published elsewhere in a slightly different form? And why was the by-line missing in the first instance?

5 comments:

michelle hamer said...

Hi there, thanks for your interest in my interview with Kate Morton which ran both in The Age and the SMH. I sold the story to both papers receiving a fee from each.
The Age omitted to run my byline on the first piece - but if you check my continuing How it Feels column - which is still running on Pg 5 of the Summer Age each day throughout Jan - you will see that my byline has been restored.

Once I sell a story each paper has control over how much of it they run and how they credit it. Very frsutrating sometimes!

As to mentioning that the story ran elsewhere first - as you say Fairfax is a big company and as such stories are often shared between the papers - as long as the story is not misrepresented in any way I think this is fine.

As a freelancer I own copyright of my stories and can sell them in their original forms or different forms to different publications.

Also it is correct that I am represented by the Australian literary agent Selwa Anthony.

Thanks for your careful observation of the media and my work! It's nice to know someone out there is paying attention.

All the best, Michelle.

Dean said...

Hi Michelle,

I'm always on the look out for pieces about books. It's my main diversion between reading about global warming and Iraq. I take book talk in the press very seriously. Although I'm studying journalism currently, I know almost nothing about the way papers handle stories submitted by freelancers. Hence my interest.

I am genuinely curious about this case as the fact that the story -- which was very good -- appeared in both locations piqued my curiosity.

I look forward to reading more of your work in the future.

bibliobibuli said...

it's great when a freelancer can sell a story twice - i'm trying to perfect the art! great too that there's a blog dialogue with journalists.

michelle hamer said...

Hi Dean, I'm pleased you enjoyed the story and it's a good thing to know that someone is keeping an eye on the press - the worst thing for me is when a paper just lifts one of my stories from a sister publication and uses it without my permission - and without paying me. This is a problem for freelancers as many big papers do have a copy-sharing policy.

When a freelancer sells a story it is paid for on the understanding that the payment will cover one use only and the copyright of the piece remains with the author - therefore I can sell a seocnd-use (usually for a cheaper price) third use etc to other pubishers.
Unfortunately larger papers often place these stories on their Internet sites (as well as in their hard copy pages) without paying an additional fee - but at the moment it's a case of accept this or don't sell any stories.

As a freelancer you need to be a good writer, negotiator, salesperson and debt collector! But at least I can work in my PJs!

Best, Michelle

michelle hamer said...

Hi Dean, I'm pleased you enjoyed the story and it's a good thing to know that someone is keeping an eye on the press - the worst thing for me is when a paper just lifts one of my stories from a sister publication and uses it without my permission - and without paying me. This is a problem for freelancers as many big papers do have a copy-sharing policy.

When a freelancer sells a story it is paid for on the understanding that the payment will cover one use only and the copyright of the piece remains with the author - therefore I can sell a seocnd-use (usually for a cheaper price) third use etc to other pubishers.
Unfortunately larger papers often place these stories on their Internet sites (as well as in their hard copy pages) without paying an additional fee - but at the moment it's a case of accept this or don't sell any stories.

As a freelancer you need to be a good writer, negotiator, salesperson and debt collector! But at least I can work in my PJs!

Best, Michelle