How far downhill has freelance journalism gone in the last 120 years?

Very far. In 1891, Walter Hines Page writes the following letter of acceptance for an article for the Forum:

My dear Sir:

I thank you for submitting your interesting paper on “Europe’s Military Frankenstein,” which I shall be glad to use in an early number of The Forum. I shall ask you to accept our check for the sum we usually pay per article — $75, which is not a large sum, to-be-sure. We shall be able to give you, however, the most appreciative audience reached, we think, by any periodical.

$75—“not a large sum, to-be-sure”—is, wait for it… $1796.34 in 2010 dollars. The letter doesn’t say how long the article was, but I’d guess not more than 2 or 3 thousand words.

ETA: Page follows up with a check for $100 ($2395.12) instead of $75, because he “could not find a paragraph that [he] could suggest [the author] to leave out. What, after all, are a few pages more or less, when you have an interesting paper?”

Citation: MS Am 1090 (1039), Houghton Library, Harvard University


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