When Paul invited me to collaborate on OJB, I was determined to report what was going on with journalism in Spanish speaking countries. But living in Argentina inevitably means being submerged in the reality of one of many underdeveloped countries, a reality which doesn’t compare to what I have written about Spain (nonetheless suffering 25% unemployment).
The truth is that we in Argentina and throughout Latin America have been experiencing for a long time a process of precarization of labour in the newsrooms, with the complicity of power that big media corporations have to influence government policies.
That’s why many employers in the mainstream media try to have bloggers on their online sites without paying them, under the excuse that they offer the blogger “an outlet to show their work” (this happened in traditional newsrooms too and I suffered it personally in Clarín, the biggest media corporation of the country).
The latest example of this is what happened (English translation) to Alejandro Agostinelli’s blog, Magia Crítica, which was deleted without notice by the head of the digital edition of the Crítica de la Argentina journal.
What was the reason? Alejandro asked if they could pay him for writing the blog.
The journalist used to receive a salary for the work until September 2009, when he received an e-mail telling him that he would not receive it any more.
Agostinelli agreed to work for free but asked for independence to manage the blog and add his own advertising.
Obviously, that never happened. Critica’s banners continued to appear on his blog and his posts sometimes made it to the news site’s home page.
Two weeks ago, he decided to ask for his salary again, but it appears he was dismissed for merely asking.
171 posts were published in Magia Crítica over 14 months before it was closed, but luckily its content was saved and remains online in a WordPress.com domain.
I offered the right of reply to the head of the digital edition of Crítica de la Argentina, Nerina Sturgeon, and she said that the laboral conditions with Alejandro were clear from the beginning:
“He was paid monthly as long as the blog had good trafic, but that objective was never met. So I told him the blog would be closed but he could keep the space without pay and he agreed. He then sent me a pseudo-threatening email demanding his monthly payment, so he broke our agreement”.