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Old December 7th, 2014, 10:48 PM   #1
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Subcontracting for the news media?

Anyone had experience with being a freelance video producer for the news media?
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Old December 11th, 2014, 06:10 PM   #2
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Re: Subcontracting for the news media?

I know someone who shot news on spec, and tried to make a living selling it a-la-carte
to the local stations. Kept him up nights for little reward.

If by producer you mean someone working in the station with their gear, they are by definition an employee. I see lots of "freelance" opportunities in local media which means they don't want to pay benefits but otherwise want someone to work as an employee would. Craigslist in my town is full of "opportunities" like this. And don't get me started on "interns."

A freelancer produces work on his/her own either on spec or by agreement (contract) and delivers a finished product. If you work in their space, use their gear, keep a regular schedule, you are entitled to employee benefits and protections. (I went through this whole exercise with the media company I retired from, trying to keep us legal.)

Bottom line, watch out for exploitation and check the labor laws in your state for information.
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Old December 11th, 2014, 06:36 PM   #3
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Re: Subcontracting for the news media?

Hi Battle,

Thanks for the response. Yeah, I was thinking of shooting on spec for different stories, events and dropping the footage to them for them to edit. I spoke to a few a year or so ago, and it seems stations are trimming down, so I was thinking I could find some extra contract work. I reached out to our newspaper and they didn't even respond lol. Oh well.
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Old December 12th, 2014, 11:53 PM   #4
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Re: Subcontracting for the news media?

Wasn't the technical term "stringers"? I know I used to see "freelance" guys and gals shooting stills around town, scribbling notes for the tiny local newspaper...

I'm guessing with every dog, chicken and parrot having a cell phone with a video and still camera that "market" is a lot tougher (cats of course restrict themselves to "onscreen talent" and have agents).

I see "local" (as in big city LA) news using more and more footage and stills, they even ask viewers to send stuff in, doubt they pay anything more that the "credits" when they name who took the shot... that and $5 will get you a cup of coffee...
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Old December 29th, 2014, 11:45 PM   #5
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Re: Subcontracting for the news media?

The term WAS stringer, I think it is now NIGHTCRAWLER. I was a stringer from 1991-2013. I worked in Los Angeles and at the time I was there in the early 2000's the going price per story per station was $165. 9 stations in that market, get a good exclusive fully engulfed structure fire and your looking at $1500 cash money.

The key to getting into that job is to have capabilities and talent that the local stations LACK. You go out and bring them stuff they cannot resist. This is what makes stringers popular, they operate on their own. If you want to know what the status of freelance content is in your town, call up the assignment desk of one of the bigger network affiliates and let them know of your interest in providing footage, and if they currently purchase and if there is anyone else in your area doing it.

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Old December 30th, 2014, 12:09 AM   #6
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Re: Subcontracting for the news media?

And remember you are competing with "citizen journalists" that will give it away to get their few seconds of local news fame.
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Old December 30th, 2014, 01:15 AM   #7
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Re: Subcontracting for the news media?

Many stations keep a guy around for when someone goes on extended leave or too many people call in sick. Get trained on the live truck and work a few days here or there, sometimes a week or two at a time. It's okay money when times are tight.

Stringing news is a tough business, sure if you catch the fireman getting the kitten out of the tree everybody will buy it, but many nights nothing happens, and often times you'll roll 2 or 3 times only to have the fire out by the time you're there. If you're young with no family it's a decent lifestyle, but if you want to be home at night it's rough.
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Old December 30th, 2014, 09:32 AM   #8
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Re: Subcontracting for the news media?

For some odd reason I thought I could offer my self/equipment and such and they'd call me saying, hey, go here and cover this. Thanks for the info. Interesting.
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Old December 30th, 2014, 09:57 AM   #9
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Re: Subcontracting for the news media?

Thats not how it works. To get into one of those calling trees you have to be a known quantity. Getting in takes some real luck. In my case it was from being one of the only people left in the area when all the main freelancers were out of town on a big story. Even with that I get just a handful of calls a year. With this year being an election year I got a few more calls than normal to cover political events.

In my opinion NEWS is going to continue to decline and I wouldn't make it any significant portion of the business plan.
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Old December 30th, 2014, 10:19 AM   #10
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Re: Subcontracting for the news media?

Thanks for the info Chris. I'll keep your words in mind. When I volunteered at the Redskins training camp, I was able to pick the brains of the local media guys there (while taking a mental inventory of their camera stuff lol). It seemed interesting, although, my niche is my studio I built, so I plan to invest most of my effort into utilizing it since you have a point about the news declining. Thanks again.
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Old December 30th, 2014, 10:44 AM   #11
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Re: Subcontracting for the news media?

Steven, if you have the gear and available time-frames, it wouldn't hurt to put yourself on a stations on call stringers list. In San Diego, they call up stringers on weekends or in the evenings when they get short staffed and a large story breaks out while their photogs are all tied up on prior engagements. As a career, on call wouldn't cut it. But as additional income, it's worth a shot.

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