In an era when anybody can self-publish online, does it matter if one’s name ever appears in print? Janet Paskin of the Columbia Journalism Review seems to think the prestige still lies in the name of the publication one’s writing for.
Given the economics, writing for online outlets invites the assumption that you did it for free or for very little, which is only a half-skip from the conclusion that your work wasn’t all that good to begin with or you would have gotten paid more for it.
Sometimes that’s true. Low-paying, poorly edited, traffic-whoring sites don’t help the cause, and anyone can self-publish online. Meanwhile, print pubs, with layers of editing and shrinking feature wells, maintain the professional velvet rope.
But between the prestige and the big(ger) payoff, it’s hard to fault writers who still see a print byline as the gold standard for written stories. History is on their side. Newspapers and magazines would not exist without articles and essays. Online, though, written pieces have an optional feel, like movies that go straight to video.
The preference for seeing our names in print will persist as long as it’s more lucrative, but also as long as freelancers and staff writers think of stories as blocks of text. Think outside the blocks, on the other hand, to a time when interactive graphics, videos, and slideshows don’t just complement a story but supplant it, and a print byline suddenly carries much less weight.
As someone whose writing appears both online and in print, I find special significance in seeing my work on a tangible, semi-destructable, but vaguely permanent page. It conveys a sense of completion.