The Buggles wrote a little ditty back in 1979 called “Video Killed the Radio Star”. It bemoaned the coming age of music videos, portending a career death to all those singers and groups who had once made their living from the radio.
Stupid song, really. The singers and groups all inevitably ended up making music videos, and radio is still going strong today. No one suffered from video. It’s the internet that screwed the music industry with all the file sharing and disc-copying that goes on.
I think there’s a great parallel to be drawn here with what’s happened to freelance writing. The evil Dr Internet stopped aimlessly swivelling around in his high-backed leather chair and stroking his albino pussy and set about world domination, and now every bugger on the planet is a potential freelance writer.
Pre-internet freelance writers had to write very well-written letters to get work, and accompany those letters with very well-written samples of their work. It was a genuine profession, because there wasn’t really any way for wannabees to gate-crash if they didn’t have some genuine talent and a decent portfolio.
You didn’t lightly embark on the task of writing a novel because you knew there was but one way for it to see the light of day: by being published in paper form. Some editor had to believe in you and push a wad of his company’s cash behind you. You knew it was an achievement. You had the belief, you had the talent, you put in the time and effort, and you were rewarded.
That’s all gone now. That ethos has been swamped by the gazillions of “freelance writers” plying their woeful wares across the World Wide Web. They are the evil Dr Internet’s eminently dispensable and easily replaceable minions, swarming the once-impregnable strongholds of the genuinely professional writer.
I think they’ve largely killed ambition as well. Why struggle to find a publisher when you can self-publish online, with the only arbiter of the quality of your work being your own ego? Why go through the rigmarole of rewriting several times to please an editor when you can put your first draft online and get straight on with a sequel?
It’s sad. Writing should be a skilled profession, but it’s taken the greatest brunt of Dr Internet’s mediocritizing swathe across the globe, simply because the written word is the means by which the majority of information is conveyed online.
Having said all that, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Would I have my current job if not for the internet? No. I may have to battle to be heard at times, but at least I have a voice.
I surrender to the truth: I am one of evil Dr Internet’s minions. I just happen to believe that my jumpsuit and peaked cap are a shade or two brighter than the standard-issue beige.