14 
Media Workers Get To Tell Their Own Story
Media workers often get to tell other peoples’ stories but rarely their own. For my
dissertation, I wanted to paint a picture of working in a migratory industry. I was inspired
by the compelling real life storytelling of Studs Terkel, author of Working (1974), and Nickel
and Dimed writer Barbara Ehrenreich (2001) who fearlessly served up poignant narratives
of working in America. I was also intrigued with the idea of reflections after reading media
theorist Holland Wilde’s Cultural Farming website that invites us to “retell media’s
unreflexive stories back to their makers and challenge their anonymous cultural production”
(http://www.culturalfarming.com/home/main.html).
There is limited literature revealing work biographies of media freelancers who have been in
the business for decades. The stories we read are generally about young techno-savvy
creative individuals making their mark as branders and developers of popular culture.
Surprisingly, there are few stories about seasoned creative individuals’ experiences of aging
and working relationships in a youth-focused culture in the U.S. I explore these stories in
the chapter “The Generative Years: Living What’s Next.”
The Dissertation: A Collaborative Process
The Participants
The migrant creative story is one of early adoption and adaptation of the freelance work
style. It is a story of media freelancers, many with 15 to 30+ years, who are improvising
and reinventing their lives both personally and professionally in the industry.
The eleven dissertation participants, ranging from a Guggenheim recipient to Emmy
winners, are the drivers of inventive projects across diverse disciplines including
documentary work, experimental film, the recording industry, journalism, the Internet,
advertising, reality television, game shows, screenwriting, radio, and comedy. As Marc
Jaffe, a project participant and former Seinfeld writer notes, “Everyone is a freelancer now
they just don’t know it.” It is in this changing work context, that I invited eleven colleagues
to discuss the shifting landscape of their freelance media work at the crossroads of
technological change.
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