American scientist, DN Lee, writer of the Urban Scientist blog for Scientific American, was asked by a blog editor if she was “an urban scientist or an urban whore” because she declined an offer of unpaid blogging.
This grotesque, sexist bullying behaviour is becoming all too common in professional writing.
It's a pretty sick tale. There are no excuses for the sheer lack of professionalism, let alone the sexism.
Sydney Morning Herald has the story, which has since developed:
It all started when DN Lee, who runs the Urban Scientist blog on the prestigious Scientific American network, got asked to do some blogging for Biology-Online.
It would be a monthly article, he said, and she would have to wait two weeks before she was allowed to repost the blog on her own site.
Lee declined, after being told by the editor, someone called Ofek (how apt…) they didn’t pay. Ofek responded:
“Because we don’t pay for blog entries? Are you an urban scientist or an urban whore?”
At this point, forget professionalism, this is pure abuse. It’s also appalling business conduct. Biology Online should go offline, and preferably stay offline, on the basis of this alone.
Lee’s version includes proof of the offensive emails. She was solicited for services without pay, she declined, understandably enough, and she says:
It wasn’t just that he called me a whore – he juxtaposed it against my professional being: Are you urban scientist or an urban whore? Completely dismissing me as a scientist, a science communicator (whom he sought for my particular expertise), and someone who could offer something meaningful to his brand.What? Now, I’m so immoral and wrong to inquire about compensation? Plus, it was obvious me that I was supposed to be honored by the request..
After all, Dr. Important Person does it for free so what’s my problem? Listen, I ain’t him and he ain’t me. Folks have reasons – finances, time, energy, aligned missions, whatever – for doing or not doing things. Seriously, all anger aside…this rationalization of working for free and you’ll get exposure is wrong-headed. This is work. I am a professional. Professionals get paid. End of story.Freebies? Why?
As a professional writer, I can tell readers that this free work is providing billions of dollars’ worth of materials for “people” who aren’t worth the time of day. Lee’s experience is unusual, but these so-called publishers want value for nothing.
“Exposure” doesn’t mean a damn thing, as she says, in context with the handout values of expert materials. Scientific writing is target-specific. It’ll be read by people who read the paid publications, anyway. There’s no incentive, let alone any sort of rationale, in simply giving away these materials, particularly when you can’t duplicate your work under Google rules, etc.
Unless there’s some other value to be obtained from writing on a reduced rate, standard rates should apply. Giving your work away to parasites is a bad enough problem for all copyright owners without the entire internet thinking it can get valuable work for nothing. Writers should demand fair pay, period, or benefits in lieu of pay which are acceptable to them. Why “donate” your work for no returns?
The abusive nature of this incident is intolerable. Particularly coming from a Nobody Incarnate blog editor who should have realized that someone writing for Scientific American isn’t likely to work for nothing on a minor league blog, of all things.
Why not get a job as a janitor instead? It’d pay more.
A new word for the language may be the only benefit of this episode:
If a gig doesn’t pay me, I can now tell people “Ofek off.”
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com