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Monday, 8 October 2012

Hildebrand puts struggling freelancer in his place

Lady Catherine de Bourgh in a
TV adaptation of Jane Austen's
1813 novel Pride and Prejudice.
And he should be grateful. Now, astute readers will immediately notice the image that accompanies this post, and the more foolish ones among them will attempt to draw parallels between Lady Catherine and Joe Hildebrand as if that were my intention. It's not. If First Dog on the Moon can innocently use a chiko roll as a stand-in for Margie Abbott, then I am allowed to use an image (badly cropped, I admit) of Lady Catherine instead of one of Joe Hildebrand. I tried to find a picture of Joe Hildebrand looking haughty and austere but failed miserably because all the photos available online showing this News Ltd journalist have him smiling impishly. In the present case that would not be appropriate, as you'll see. This is how the divine Jane Austen characterises Lady Catherine:
Her air was not conciliating, nor was her manner of receiving them such as to make her visitors forget their inferior rank. She was not rendered formidable by silence; but whatever she said was spoken in so authoritative a tone, as marked her self-importance.
The impetus for this blog post (one NOT written in my mother's basement, I would have readers note in advance, in case they fall prey to a particularly virulent and hateful News Ltd trope that seeks to render bloggers illegitimate by painting them as uncouth and unacquainted with the ways of the world which, it should be clear to any reader, is certainly not true in this case) is a story on Mumbrella about one Matt Smith who sought to place a story with the Daily Telegraph and, when he asked if he would get paid, stroked Hildebrand the wrong way. The beggar wanted money ("Please, sir? Can I have some more?") but was refused by a penniless Hildebrand. Here's what Smith wrote, somewhat sadly, in response:
Hi, Joe. That’s a tough ask for an emerging/aspiring journalist – especially when sites like Daily Life manage to give contributors some money – so I hope you can understand my disappointment. Please run the twitter handle at the end at least, and let me know when the piece will run. Photo attached.
You can feel the guy's chagrin. It's quite palpable and full of earthly pathos. In reply to this Hildebrand wrote (I kid you not, you couldn't make this up):
Getting published in the Telegraph at all is a pretty massive deal for an aspiring journalist mate and you just blew it. Take your piece elsewhere.
BAM! "That's nice," as Dennis Nedry says ruefully in the film Jurassic Park just as he is about to be attacked and eaten by a Dilophosaurus, a nauseating creature that lived uncountable aeons ago and that hunted by spitting grey poison from its mouth before striking lethally and devouring its prey while it was still alive. (Again, I have to underscore that I am NOT comparing Joe Hildebrand to a poisonous dinosaur, that would be completely insane as well as professionally damaging.) But just to emphasise how unrepentant Hildebrand is, I'm going to include the words he sent to Mumbrella in response to their enquiry about Smith's case. He said that he has "had the unpleasant duty of telling far more worthy, experienced and talented writers than Matthew that we are unable to pay them for future work. None has ever responded with such pathetic self-important whining."

BAM! But this kind of uncompromising, strike-to-kill, Special Forces-style response is white bread for News Ltd journalists, especially when they are writing behind the scenes, as it were. I had a similar run-in with someone from News Ltd some time back, an editor who works for The Punch, the company's op-ed blog, who gave me boisterous stick for answering back, just like Hildebrand does in Smith's case.

Now when it comes to freelancers the word "garret" and "starving" should immediately come to mind. Smith notes in his article that he earned $2000 in a year doing freelance work, and that even reputable outlets do not pay ANYTHING at all for work that occupies the hours, and the cerebellum, of the struggling freelancer. I'm not blaming the Daily Telegraph for refusing to pay for stories, Fairfax is equally parsimonious when it comes to freelance work. But to callously chastise a freelancer who dares to express disappointment at being offered no pecuniary recompense for work he takes pride in for its quality, is to add salt to an open wound.

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