writers, writers, an ungovernable bunch …

Megan McArdle has a column up about the meltdown at The New Republic.

It’s an interesting read in general for anyone in the writing or publishing business.

But in particular, I chuckled to myself when she began describing some of the reasons running media companies presents special challenges. “You’re not running a normal type of organization,” she writes. “You’re running a professional group.”

And so you encounter a number of problems:

… the difficulty of getting creative types to produce great stuff on demand; the astonishing amount of autonomy that journalists need, because it’s impossible to write hard guidelines, and too expensive to supervise long hours of reporting and typing; the fact that great writers are frequently terrible managers and editors, which screws up the normal management pyramid; the simultaneous need for speed and accuracy; the fact that media employment selects for a cluster of personality traits that resists closer management; the professional ethic that will stymie you when you decide to make a different set of trade-offs between competing priorities such as speed, accuracy, and the need to monetize your content; the fact that writers, especially in the digital age, frequently take their audience with them if they leave, making it even harder to impose discipline …

As someone who has earned a living as a professional writer for many, many years: yep. That pretty much sums us up :)

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