The man in the thumbnail picture is not me. The two images below are not me either. You already knew this (you think). But this week, I found my writing passed off under the names of all three…
pictures probably copyright my bullshit job or something.
Okay, boring background info. My oft-mentioned job is split in two parts these days; half working for my original employer typing product descriptions, and half writing mini-articles for a website dealing in employment services for teachers, or…something. This half is new, I only started two weeks ago.
Now the articles I’m meant to write can basically say anything; they’re not there to be read. They’re just there as SEO—‘Search Engine Optimisation’. I have to pack them with keywords which people who might buy the site’s services are likely to search for, so that traffic gets directed to the site. Basic advertising strategy. So I did a week of this, got paid, and did my second week’s worth. Once I’d written my articles for week 2—last week—I went online to upload them, and it occurred to me in passing to check if the previous week’s had been subbed and put on the homepage.
They had; complete with author name, picture, and bio.
Not my name.
Not my picture.
And not my fucking bio.
To clarify, I really didn’t want my name to appear on these articles. I’m not ashamed of them—I actually put a lot more work than strictly necessary into making sure that they’re at least well-written and truthful, out of professional ethics and all that—but they’re not the first piece of writing I want to appear when you Google my name. They’re not gonna make my journalism portfolio. So I’m quite happy for them to be published pseudonymously. The problem was the bio: “Rod Martini works as a Vice-Principal for a major Queensland school”, ran one byline. “Freda McClune retired from teaching to write about teaching services online”, ran another.
Now I do not possess this level of authority. I do my best on these little marketing articles, but at the end of the day they’re written by a literature and linguistics student whose teaching credentials consist entirely of trying to teach people the chords to “House of the Rising Sun” every so often. And yes, it’s true that nobody’s gonna base major life decisions on a 400-word spiel they find online. But that’s not the fucking point. My writing was being published with a duplicitous authority attached to it which I neither possessed nor sanctioned. You could say I was unhappy—an unhappiness which only grew as I thought the situation over.
But I took my time. I went to my Unearthed night, chatted the situation over with friends, and sent a civil email the next morning to my boss asking who these characters were, and asking that my work not be uploaded until we had talked things over. In the evening, he called me, and I said my piece.
I went for it, I really did. I used phrases like ‘unethical policy’ and ‘duplicitous attribution of authority’, and told the dude flat out that if he wanted to continue this publishing policy, he would have to find himself another writer. By my pathologically polite standards, it was fire and brimstone. I reckoned they’d be hiring another copy writer in the morning—I had, I thought, got myself good and honourably fired.
And then that just…didn’t happen. My boss made a complete and instant about face, apologised, said I’d given him some things to think about, and promised that the offending bios would be removed within a couple of days—they were.
So that’s the story of how I didn’t get fired for standing up for myself…I guess. It was a bit of an eye opener—as the little student scribble-monkey that I am, I never really perceived myself as having the power in any of my jobs to do anything other than either work or quit. It’s hardly a massive victory, but it was an unexpected amount of respect shown to my…ability? Opinions? Something. Maybe it’s just easier to appease the grumbly scribble-monkey than go find a new one.
AND NOW SOME COMPLETELY UNRELATED PICTURES I DREW IN LECTURES THIS WEEK!