How Media Bias Twists Public Perception of the Writers’ Strike

by | May 22, 2023 | News

Outside of the corporate offices and backlots of Netflix, Disney, NBC, Universal, and Warner Brothers, masses of protestors stand with signs that range from serious to hilarious, all with the same message: writers need to be fairly paid for their work.

Corporate media continues to twist public perception of the strike as members of the Writer’s Guild of America (WGA) enter their fourth week of acting against the strenuous conditions imposed upon them by the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP). The strike is in response to the stagnant wages and the dismantling of stable pay structures within the industry, among many other issues.

Writing for the New Yorker, Michael Schulman explained the WGA’s grievances:

“Streamers are ordering shorter seasons, and the residuals model that used to give network writers a reliable income is out the window. The ladder from junior writer to showrunner has become murkier, with some people repeating steps like repeating grades, and others being flung to the top without the requisite experience, in order to meet demand for new content. Studios are cutting writing budgets to the bone by hiring fewer people for shorter time periods, often without paying for lower-level writers to be on set during production, which makes it all but impossible to learn the skills necessary to run a show.”

In short, the same amount of television is still being produced, but the time writers are being given and subsequently being paid to work on these shows has been cut severely, resulting in overworked, underpaid people.

Famous actors Bob Odenkirk and Mandy Patinkin show their solidarity with the WGA. (Mandy Patinkin via Twitter)

With the problem extending further than TV, it has become clear that writers of your favorite entertainment media can barely afford to make ends meet.

Many working writers living in Los Angeles are not living the imagined lifestyle of the “Hollywood Elite.” The strike has elicited a flood of writers sharing their stories of financial struggle — something that has become more common among those working in the film industry, as the average writer’s pay has fallen dramatically in the past decade.

“I’m currently walking two dogs for $30 per day on a route that takes me through Hollywood and past a billboard for the hit comedy I most recently wrote on,” wrote Jeanie Bergen, executive story editor on the hit TV show “Dave.”

The major Hollywood trades such as Variety, Deadline, and The Hollywood Reporter — all corporate-owned news outlets — have received a barrage of criticism from writers due to their biased headlines and reporting, which place blame on the writers and the WGA for the strike and halted productions. This is not surprising, as the parent companies of these highly popular news outlets have stakes in the production companies that are affected by the strike.

Strikers encourage passersby to honk ti disrupt film shoots and corporate meetings. (Travis Helwig via Twitter)

Accurate framing is crucial to dispel the  perception of the striking writers as elites demanding more money for less work, and to illustrate that these writers aren’t suffering at the hands of supposedly unjust union leaders.

The writers’ strike happening right now matters in a larger context. Members of the WGA are fighting for their rights as unionized workers. They are fighting for issues that affect the majority of working Americans, such as the right to a living wage.

As more and more union efforts across the United States are thwarted by the rich and powerful, it is vital for American citizen to the see the power that comes from organizing. Labor action in one industry means labor action is possible in every industry.

On the writers’ strike, Richard D. Wolff, founder of Democracy at Work, commented, “When unions band together and with their allies across society, political power from below becomes real.”



Header Image via David McNew—Getty Images


More from The Edge

On the Tragic Inevitability of Stacking Corpses

War. Genocide. Pandemics. Heat. Famine. Racism. Misogyny. Hunger. Violence. There are so many ways for mortal beings to die, especially the most vulnerable, and too often these deaths are state sponsored, sped by capitalism, and/or preventable. We — humans and...

“Barbie”: An Anti-Racist Socialist Feminist Meditation

I started writing this the day “Barbie” was opening in the theatres. I had not seen it yet, because I am writing less about the film and more about the cultural and political moment we inhabit as it opens. I went as soon as I finished an early draft, exactly one week...

Supreme Court Ruling in Stalking Case Hurts Victims

Stalking is a social and public health emergency. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court’s ruling in Counterman v. Colorado makes things easier for abusers and harder for victims. A form of gender-based violence, stalking affects more than 13 million people annually in the...

The Rogue Court’s Reactionary Radicalism

This Is a Catastrophe. I am finishing the writing of this piece shortly after the July 4 holiday. This is significant — to wonder who this country is now, and before. I began writing it while riding the bus into NYC from Ithaca, NY, on Friday, June 30, while the last...

Held vs. Montana: The Future of the Climate Crisis Fight

As the courtroom seats began filling in the first judicial court in Helena, the capital city of Montana, local community members and officials prepared to hear the long-awaited testimonies from plaintiffs who allege state officials have violated their constitutional...

The Radical Restorative Justice of The People’s CDC

The Pandemic is Not Over Four days before the 2022 State of the Union address, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (the CDC) made a change to the risk-prevention pandemic map of the United States that changed the color of the map from red to green....