Friday, January 25, 2008

Writers and Paychecks

Every freelancer has probably been stiffed for work delivered, and even published. I recall two small magazines that went out of business right after September 11th. Neither was in New York, but the problem was advertisers. They pulled out and cut back, so magazines that had been on precarious footing just crumbled.

Writers and other creditors went unpaid. Does this happen so regularly in other industries? I think not.

These were small operations--one person, the owner, put in 16 hour days editing (badly), schmoozing, selling ads, and distributing the magazine. That person probably lost their proverbial shirt when forced to fold, so the $50 or $75 owed to little ol' me seems too trite to complain about.

I'm less sympathetic when I read about the woes of OverTime, a glossy that, as far as I can tell, is still soliciting work from writers even though it owes over $100,000 in unpaid fees to freelancers and others who've rendered services. This publication's fiscal woes are documented in a MediaBistro article here.

Do owners of magazines assume that freelancers must have day jobs, and therefore don't need the money? Or are all freelancers pictured as vagabonds with no strings, crashing on friends' sofas between gigs?
We need a real union. It's disgusting, ridiculous, and entirely inappropriate that people of real talent are abused this way. Most of us would make more money if we joined the line of men loitering outside the lawnmower-rental shop, hoping for day jobs.

I root for the WGA, even though I've never had the slightest inclination to pen a screenplay. At least some writers are getting respect. They have had and will eventually get a fair deal and a decent paycheck. The rest of us cling to the hope that--in our long-range plans--a miracle will occur.

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