Monday, August 25, 2008

reality on film

I've been watching Quarterlife, an online tv series about the usual angsty 20-somethings trying to find themselves, love and the meaning of life. The lead character, Dylan, is an associate editor at a women's magazine and has moral objection to the consumerism-based content. When she proposes an alternative good-cause activist section, her boss first rejects it (part 1, at the 4:30 min mark) then steals Dylan's idea, presenting it as her own (part 2, at the 2:40 min mark). This vicious, back-stabbing strategy seems to be a staple of hollywood, but I'm curious as to how many of you have experienced something similar yourselves? (Please leave names and identifying specifics out of your accounts.)


Anonymous said...

I interned at a consumer magazine and trade magazine simultaneously one summer, and we were also encouraged to pitch to the company's other pubs, which included a home and garden mag.

I'd written something for them before, and had been told the departments they take pitches for. I spent the day in a remote location researching a pitch for one of the mag's sections, and did all the research and note-taking necessary.

I pitched it to the editor and she loved it. Right when I thought she was about to assign it to me, she said, "Oh, I have a freelance writer who lives there, so it would look bad if we gave it to someone else." And she gave the idea for the pitch to her!

I didn't read the pub regularly, so I don't know if they ever followed up on the story, but the idea that they could just take an intern's idea and give it to someone else still pisses me off to this day. Thank goodness I wasn't interning for her.

Corinna vanGerwen said...

That's definitely annoying, but consider this: Perhaps she felt that as an intern, you didn't have the experience to write the piece. She may have felt more comfortable having a seasoned journalist tackle the story. If this was the case, the ideal thing would have been to either have you work with the writer or have you write an accompanying sidebar.

Standard practice, if an editor decides to assign a story to a writer other than the one who pitched it, is to pay a small idea fee. However, there is no fee paid to staff members who generate ideas, since that is part of their jobs. As an intern for the company, you may have been considered part of the team.

My point is, you can't feel entitled to write a story as an intern – that choice is at the discretion of the editor. Regardless, though, it sounds like the editor in this case could have explained her reasoning a little better and been more clear about the situation (i.e. how intern pitches would be handled).