Many of you have recently read stories about various media publications denying payment to their freelance and contracted workers as the economy worsens and the entire industry begins its shift to an electronic platform.Here is another one.
Last year I was contracted to write a New York City shopping guide for BlackBook Magazine at a rate of $20 per item, for a total of 200 listings. My deadline was August 1, 2008. After some administrative issues with the website ensued, I was unable to upload my items onto the BlackBook website until early September.
My editor over this time was unresponsive, and took his time editing and placing my work on the site. In the end, 172 of 200 listings were completed by December, and before I could upload the final 28, my login was disabled and my contract was terminated.
During three months of inquiries about when my final payment of $1,440 might go out, I was told the following:
First, BlackBook tried to low ball me on what I was owed.
I corrected them.
My correction was noted.
Then the punting ensued.
I figured this is standard procedure, especially for BlackBook, who isn’t known for it’s timely payments. But then after following up again last week, I was told that the matter was out of the hands of Chris Mohney, and into the hands of Joe Friedman, the controller of the company. After a leaving a voicemail and sending two emails, I received a response from Joe, who is now refusing to pay me at all, citing my alleged breach of contract. According to him I had not completed my work by August 1, 2008 – despite the fact that this is their own fault – and therefore I would not be paid the outstanding balance of $1,440 at all.
Joe even implied later in the email that he could take back some of the money I’ve already been paid.
Now, I could go into the specifics of an absentee editor; the irony of a luxury publication built on the backs of low wage writer slaves; the fact that writing a shopping guide is valued more than actual journalism by virtue of the price it commands for a writer, should they actually get paid; and even my previous experience of waiting eight months for a BlackBook check. But really, like every other human in the working world, I just want to get paid for my work.