Using New Media to Solve Old Workplace Problems

Job instability concerns many people seeking careers in the creative industries. Creative workers must adapt quickly to changing markets. As new media disrupts traditional workplaces, new problems arise, as well as new solutions. An overview of the creative industries shows that unionization has a stronger influence in some spheres than others– the Screen Actor’s Guild being a prime example.

But as new media continues to present labor issues, unionization has become an attractive option for digital journalists. Recently, workers at Gawker Media, a parent company that also owns Jezebel, Deadspin, Gizmodo and Defamer, voted to unionize. This was a critical and fascinating moment for new media workplaces for many reasons. First, Gawker covered the process of unionization on its website, allowing readers a unique glance into a historical process. Readers were introduced into a new media workplace, and why a union may benefit the writers there. Gawker reaches a mostly millennial audience, one that is accustomed to expecting precarity in their career trajectory. The continued coverage of the unionization process at Gawker introduced readers to union protections if they were unaware, and also provided a blueprint for others to follow if they were interested in unionizing as well.

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Unionization has expanded to meet the needs of freelancers in the new economy as well. The Freelancers Union provides dental and health benefits to freelancers, temps, part time workers and consultants. As the idea of a life long career becomes increasingly anachronistic, a union for freelancers is a win for workers. The Freelancers Union also helps connect freelancers to each other, to facilitate skill sharing and support networks.

Unions aren’t the only way that non-traditional workers are protecting themselves though. Freelancing can involve chasing down checks, which eats up a worker’s time to produce new material. The site Pay Me Please allows freelancers to publicly shame organizations that owe them money. This shifts the power back into workers’ hands, and allows them to also be agents in the economy. If a news organization earns a reputation for not paying their freelancers on time, it will be harder for them to contract freelance labor. The site allows you to see how many days overdue the payment is, and when (if ever) the payment is settled.

Photo courtesy of nerdwallet.com

Photo courtesy of nerdwallet.com

These examples are indicative of the creative industries themselves–they identified a need and found an innovative way to meet it. There is an increased awareness of abuse of freelancers and its given workers in the creative industry the power to demand their rights.

Additionally, new media has given people the opportunity to call out the lack of diversity in the creative industries. A campaign called #ILookLikeanEngineer aims to change the face of the tech industries. After completing a successful crowd-funding campaign, they’ll be able to put up billboards in Silicon Valley.  This campaign illustrates the power of using new media to address issues in creative industries. VIDA: Women in Literary Arts is an organization that aims to increase opportunities for women in the arts, publishes a yearly count of women’s work in literary fields. This data serves as a reminder that the creative industries have a long way to go in terms of representation.

Isis Wegner appeared in an ad for her current company OneLogin and was met with vitriolic comments that claimed she "didn't look like an engineer," sparking the #ILookLikeAnEngineer campaign, and eventually billboards.

Isis Wegner appeared in an ad for her current company OneLogin and was met with vitriolic comments that claimed she “didn’t look like an engineer,” sparking the #ILookLikeAnEngineer campaign, and eventually billboards.

As the economy and market continue to change, new issues will arise in the creative industries. Approaching these issues with new media tools gives workers the potential to advocate for real changes.

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