By Juliann Guiffre
Before writing this article, I briefly considered simply having these words under the headline: I’m on strike. It’s a strong statement to be sure and shows support for my fellow writers in Hollywood. Alas, three words would have been quite a disappointment to my editors in need of copy. (Yes, it would have, but don’t be too sure–Ed).
So, because I doubt I could, in the last grueling week before finals, take some time off to join the protesting picket line. I join the fight in spirit instead of action.
Let’s first look at the facts. The last strike by the Writer’s Guild of America took place the year I was born, good old 1988. It lasted 22 weeks and cost the American entertainment industry an estimated total of $500 million.
This time around, the fight centers around the booming Internet craze, where writers want royalties for TV shows released on network websites. Look at it this way; in these days if you’re a TV nut like me you no longer have to plan your schedule around airings of your favorite shows. You can simply catch them the next day online, at your own convenience, of course.
Is it really so much for writers to ask to get a cut of this flourishing new business?
I can understand why there is hesitation, as any deals made with writers for shows on the Internet will ultimately set the precedent for future deals with actors, directors, and the like.
Yet, seriously, they must concede that what the writers are asking isn’t inconceivable. In fact, making amends for Internet proceeds seems like a natural progression with that of technology.
Now, I might be a tiny bit biased, but the writer’s role in production of both television and film is gravely underappreciated. Maybe not in Hollywood itself, but if you think about it, not even avid viewers would know the name of the writer of their favorite program. The actors, yes, maybe the directors and producer at the most—but I can only boast of knowing a few writers’ names in the entertainment industry. And I myself am a writer!
So what does this strike mean for the average TV viewer? Here, my limited knowledge must surrender to McDaniel’s own “vet” in the entertainment industry, Jonathan Slade (he received four Emmy Awards for the educational “Vid Kid” series during his 11 year run at Maryland Public Television). Slade, assistant professor of communication, sees the fringe benefits of this strike.
“Since the writer’s strike began, I haven’t once tuned into the reruns of The Daily Show or The Colbert Report on cable TV,” he said. “I’ve instead been picking my way through the Comedy Central archives, strategically catching up only on those segments I’ve missed. Never would’ve made this leap if there were fresh episodes available on cable.”
However, not all feel the same way. I know I have become extremely agitated as program after program play their last new show of the season, and I find myself wondering what I will watch when all are gone. It’s my love for entertainment fighting against the writer in me who knows that these shows go off the air for a good cause.
For those like me who sometimes feel slave driven by television culture, Slade’s “remedy” may in the end prove to be a welcome diversion. Yet he has his doubts.
“The two big questions, of course: How many other TV viewers have migrated to the web like me? And how many of us will actually go back to watching as much TV once the strike is over?” Slade asked.
Unfortunately, my hand rises embarrassingly in the air in answer to his final question.