#appropriationprize (+ exploitation of stories)

Getting paid to be a journalist and/or writer is a hard task. It feels almost impossible sometimes. It is not just about finding your voice, learning to write well, having a strong sense of narrative, finding strong and interesting subjects – although those are all foundation to being considered good at the craft. It’s also about privilege.

Perhaps, consider, that the space one occupies is limited. That paid work for critical writing is fewer and farther. While we (yes, pejoratively) bemoan the death of print media, or critical journalism, or properly researched and fact checked news stories, often we leave out the inconvenient obvious that we are bemoaning the loss of a privileged class and space for privileged persons. A space that has traditionally been open to few. A space of critical thinkers, the fourth (bleeding into the fifth) estate, where voices were valued and actually paid for their intellectual contributions. But, a space where a few people were permitted to tell the stories of folks and communities they have no connection to. A space rich with appropriation, and no desire to change that.

Rarely, is it mentioned that largely and traditionally, mainstream media and the vast majority of well paid and sustained writers do not reflect the plurality of stories and experiences. Then, now, voices of those not traditionally reflected in MSM challenge the exploitation of story telling (and if you are profiting off of the experiences of others without opening space for them to also profit // experience value for their work it is indeed exploitation). The truth is that truly great reporters, editors and writers – people that change spaces and challenge the craft, are not all that common and are often considered auxiliary.

So, what is to say the Jonathan Kay is any better at the craft and the work than most of the folks working for much less then he. (This is a rhetorical question).

There is a quote about privilege, and how those being challenged are less likely to understand why they are being challenged. Or something about ivory towers. Or glass houses. I couldn’t find it.

Regardless. This conversation is as much about the loss of a traditional privilege to occupy these spaces as it is about appropriation and exploitation of others.

Writers are supposed to tell their stories, tell the stories of what is happening around them. Great writers do that by finding ways to understand, deeply understand, those experiences. The greatest writers have lived those experiences.

Perhaps, with the resignation of Kay and others who have traditionally occupied those spaces (and will, likely, find paid work that will continue a comfortable lifestyle) there will, maybe, please, be spaces for those writers and editors who better reflect our communities. Those lived experiences have been too often told through the mouths of (unintentional?) oppressors.

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