November 22, 2019
When I started this website I was not going to write opinion pieces or editorials since this directly will harm me here is the first opinion piece:
TRENTON, NJ—I started in the “news business” around 1987 photographing for the now defunct Messenger Press in Allentown, NJ. I was in college at the time and brought some photographs into the Messenger Press to see if they would want to run them and they did, I was now “published” The editor told me to send them a bill for $15. Per photo for a total of $30.
For a college kid at the time that was pretty good money for photographs, I could get a tank of gas and a few rolls of film to keep me going. The editor liked my photographs enough to start sending me on assignments as a “freelance photographer” also known as “stringer” As I would find out this is how many entered into news organizations eventually working their way up to full time employment or a regular part time employee of the news organization.
On assignments I would meet others from different media organizations and was offered additional jobs as a stringer at the time and ended up working for around 13 newspapers and magazines. As a stringer I owned the rights to my work so when a magazine such as Sports Illustrated called looking for a photograph of a football player, I would then sell my photo directly to SI.
Over the years I would generate enough income to have 1099 forms sent to me at the end of the year for non-employee compensation also known as a “independent contractor” I had to do lot of things they did not teach you in high school or college such as, register as a business, learn accounting, learn to file taxes, open checking accounts, sales negotiations, contracts, inventory, equipment purchases, collect and pay sales taxes and many other things that it takes to run a small business.
A good majority of people working in the news business are also stringers or freelancers. Photographers, writers, editors, delivery persons, and the list goes on and on of all who are employed to bring you the news.
Over the past few years the news business has taken a massive hit from online publishing and the recession of 2007, and has never really recovered. Many newspapers are no longer published, some larger organizations merged, laying off and consolidating staff, many news organizations no longer send reporters or photographers out for a story, they rarely even use stringers as much anymore. Everyone has a phone with a camera so why not get the photographs for free though social media, and of course used with permission for a “photo credit” that pays nothing.
The news still needs to be reported but, larger traditional news organizations can afford to have several full time and part time regular employees. News gathering, editing and publishing takes a lot of time and most have staff large enough to cover the daily operation. When multiple events happen and there are not enough employees to cover everything, so editors reach out to the stringers. Not to mention stringers usually cover regular employees while they are on FMLA, out sick, on vacation, regular time off or a host of other issues when a regular employee would not be able to make an assignment. Other times stringers are useful are during “spot news” events a stringer can sometimes get there faster and able to cover a breaking news story while a staff photographer is tied up on an assignment.
One of the dangers to our democracy is that as we lose newspapers, magazines and other media, we also lose the watch dog that keeps government and others in check. Losing more freelance journalists will just accelerate the process.
Fresh out of college, a fresh start switching careers, or maybe as a second job just trying to make ends meet, being an independent contractor is a great way to try and make it.
New Jersey State Senate President, Stephen M. Sweeney has proposed Senate Bill S-4204 that restricts the ability of employers to use legitimate services of independent contractors and it appears this bill has been “fast tracked” to rush it though the legislature. It is understandable the Senator is trying to stop misclassification of independent contractors that should be bona fide employees and that is understandable. The wording with the current bill pretty much eliminates most independent contractors and will put them out of business causing harm to this already sensitive economy.
It is time to call and write your legislators to have them modify NJ Senate Bill S-4204 to keep private contractor’s jobs alive.
This issue bleeds over to other industries but I am writing on my experiences as a private contractor since 1987.
The State is after UBER, Lyft, delivery services and private trucking companies by having current private contractors forced to become employees of the company. The current version of the bill applies to most all independent contractors, if they pass a certain level that would require them to become a regular employee rather than be an independent contractor. This could include coaches, referees, fitness trainers, sports trainers, artists, photographers, sales, writers, photographers, entertainment, and the list goes on.
Use this link to find and write your legislature to save “Independent Contractor” jobs and appose NJ Senate Bill S-4204 in its current form.
I have worked 32 years on and off as a stringer/private contractor for news organizations and support our freedoms as Americans to decide whom and when we want to work. Private individuals acting as contractors should not be forced to become an “employee” of the organization and should have the freedom to choose who they want to work for. NJ Senate Bill S-4204 is a classic government overreach in its current form and needs to be changed.
|DiMaso calls independent contractor bill ‘economically devastating’|
|TRENTON, N.J. – Assemblywoman Serena DiMaso (R-Monmouth) issued a statement in response to legislation that would severely impact the number of residents working as independent contractors:|
“I’ve had dozens of calls, emails, and text messages from people terrified about what will happen to their livelihood,” said DiMaso (R-Monmouth). “How can we even be considering placing these sorts of economic restrictions on the countless New Jerseyans who are independent contractors? It is further troubling that we are pushing this through the legislature so quickly when it would have economically devastating effects to so many independent contractors.”
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