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I should be getting work all the time. I have a lot of people coming to see me for
ideas but nothing is locking in. It’s a weird limbo I’m in.
The reality for journalists is that rates were radically reduced as Jimi mentions, “the market
in my opinion has devalued about 60 percent since 2003 or 2004.” Jimi is now working a
full-time job writing for a nonprofit organization in Washington, DC, continues freelancing,
and is seeking a teaching gig. Bill Cavanaugh, an audio engineer who reinvented portability
in the industry, chimes in with a similar price reduction of about half even though he is
working nonstop. It used to be primarily the journalists who took the heavy hit but now the
compression has extended to those in other freelance media venues. Everyone is looking
for a deal and the sustainability of working as a media freelancer is tenuous and driving the
new precarity while at the same time fostering career improvisation in the nonprofit and
entrepreneurial realm as demonstrated by these freelancers. There is clearly a shift
emerging driving freelancers to the nonprofit or entrepreneurial sector: Marc Jaffe creating
a philanthropic organization Shaking With Laughter (http://www.shakingwithlaughter.org/;
Steven Tatar starting a knitwear company Ohio Knitting Mills
(http://www.ohioknittingmills.com/); Jimi Izrael working at a nonprofit in Washington; or
Kate Farrell and Carol Beck both completing novels since our initial conversation.
Deuze, in MediaWork, notes the historical underpinnings of the new work culture precarity,
“The trend toward flexible work started in the 1970s and accelerated in the late 1990s,
coinciding with the rush of an increasingly information-based global economy to the
internet” (Deuze, 2007, p. 22). The portrait of the portfolio worker has changed with the
recession and the initial thrust of freedom is also eclipsed by an ever-present precarity:
Whereas for most workers in traditional temporary and contingent setting their
employment situation is far from ideal, many in the higher skilled knowledge-based
areas of the labor market seem to prefer such precarious working conditions,
associating this with greater autonomy, the acquisition of a wide variety of skills
and experiences, and a reduced dependence on a single employer (Kalleberg
2000). The portfolio of the self-employed information or ‘cultural’ entrepreneur
can thus be characterized by living in a state of constant change, while at the
same time seemingly enjoying a sense of control over one’s career. Bauman warns
against overtly optimistic readings of the relative freedom these prime
beneficiaries of inevitably unequitable globalization claim to enjoy: ‘We are called to
believe that security is disempowering, disabling, breeding the resented
‘dependency’ and altogether constraining the human agents’ freedom. What is
passed over in silence is the acrobatics and rope-walking without a safety net are
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