Saturday, April 17, 2021
April 17, 2021

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From the Newsroom: Freelance assignments a win-win

By , Columbian Editor
Published:

I don’t know how often you read The New York Times, but if you were looking at its coverage of the Southern Oregon wildfires this month, you would have seen a familiar name on many of the stunning photos: Alisha Jucevic.

Alisha is a staff photojournalist for The Columbian, and a recent winner of the Cowles Cup, The Associated Press’ award for the regional news photographer of the year.

Her work for The New York Times came as a freelance opportunity, and the Times couldn’t have chosen a better photojournalist for the assignment. Not only is Alisha extremely talented, her hometown is Ashland, Ore., giving her a depth of knowledge and a sense of place that are evident in her heartbreaking photos of the devastation caused by the fires.

It’s not unusual to see bylines of Columbian journalists on work that appears in other publications.

First of all, our stories and photos are routinely shared with The Associated Press and other services. They have the right to distribute our content to their members and subscribers, just as we use theirs. It’s common, for example, to see stories from The Columbian in The Oregonian, and vice versa.

We don’t have any such agreement with The New York Times. Instead, they employed Alicia as a freelancer and, I presume, will pay her whatever price they negotiated for her work.

Freelancing is a longtime tradition in the news business. When I was new to this area in the late 1980s, I worked as a freelancer for The Columbian while I was looking for a full-time journalism position. In fact, it was 10 years later when I finally joined the staff.

We don’t use too many freelancers these days, except for some regulars, most of whom have expertise in a certain subject. Foodie Rachel Pinsky writes about the local food and dining scene, and weather observer Patrick Timm has been freelancing his weather column for longer than I’ve been reading The Columbian. Most years, we engage James Bash to write about the Vancouver Symphony because he understands and appreciates classical music. And we have employed freelance restaurant reviewers over the years; most recently, it was cookbook author and barbecue personality Rick Browne.

Freelance policies

Because freelancing is so common, we have a policy that guides us. Essentially, our employees are allowed to freelance on stories that we are not covering with our staff, such as the Southern Oregon wildfires or the continuing downtown Portland protests. (Alisha also has sold several Portland protest photos to AFP, the French-based news service.)

Staffers are required to let their editor know before accepting an assignment. Sometimes, we’ve granted vacation days to employees to cover freelance stories. A few years ago, our state government reporter took several days off to cover the standoff at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Eastern Oregon. One of our previous photo editors used to take extended vacations to cover the Olympic Games for various publications from around the world.

And our former environment reporter, the late Kathie Durbin, wrote several books, including volumes about Alaska’s Tongass National Forest and the Columbia River Gorge, both of which are still available on Amazon.

Our journalists are not permitted to use The Columbian’s facilities or equipment, including our cameras, computers or photo studio, while employed as freelancers, nor should they identify themselves as our employees. It’s a straightforward policy, and we haven’t had any problems with it.

Using freelancers is a great way to bring stories to readers that otherwise would not be accomplished as quickly or as well. Even The New York Times can’t have a reporter in every town. With talented local journalists like Alisha available, they don’t need to.

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