Ebony Magazine STILL owes writers and I’m done being silent. For nearly two years I’ve sat and watched freelance reporters express their frustration and disappointment, understanding their pain firsthand, but still saying nothing.
I’ll admit, I had my reasons, but after learning that Ebony – the magazine that had a special place in my childhood living room, and in my heart, was still doing writers bogus – I became fed up.
I was one of those writers who was owed a few thousand dollars. I waited well over a year before the National Writers Union finally got me my long overdue check (THANK YOU!). I was grateful, relieved, could finally move on. I did, for a while. I put that nightmare behind me. I buried it in the crevices of my past and lived my life, that is until I saw the daily emails from black freelance journalists ready to revolt because they still haven’t received a dime. Damn.
It started with me simply shaking my head, but as the days went on and the email thread grew longer, I felt something stirring inside of me. My anger and disappointment with this iconic black magazine that I had formerly respected, returned, but even stronger this time. Like, how dare they? It was one thing when we were all in it together, mad and demanding our money, but this? This is much worse. They just paid half of us and then ghosted the other half. But should we be surprised? They’ve shown before that contracts and agreements mean absolutely nothing in their eyes.
According to a media advisory shared Tuesday by NWU, Ebony and its parent Clear View Group (CVG) broke the agreement made in February with the National Writers Union and 44 freelance writers for nearly $80,000. All of that work was contracted AND published.
The union filed a case in Cook County Court against EMO and CVG in September, 2017. In February, 2018, EMO and CVG signed an agreement to make four quarterly payments, with the final installment due on or before December 31, 2018. According to the terms of the agreement, Ebony agreed to pay all of the freelancers 100 percent of their unpaid invoices in four quarterly payments, starting with the oldest invoices first. Almost half of the invoices go back to 2016. The payments are guaranteed by Ebony’s ownership group, CVG, who also signed the payment agreement.
NWU President Larry Goldbetter says the union is prepared to file in court to have the agreement enforced if the September payment is not made this week. If it has to be court enforced, it will be more costly for EMO and CVG and will include court costs and attorney fees.
“This is just a huge disappointment,” said Goldbetter. “Some of the Ebony freelancers have been waiting nearly two years to receive the money they’re owed and others have experienced significant financial hardship as a result of the non-payment. For Ebony to stop paying and stop communicating at the same time, is not the sign of someone acting in good faith. However, we aren’t going away until every writer is paid what they are owed.” (Full media advisory here)
So no, I can no longer continue to stay on my island and not say a word. My silence is over. This is wrong. I’m sorry. Even though I should be able to brush it off and move on, I feel just as upset as if I didn’t get a dime. I can’t be happy when this is still a huge issue that I fear many on the outside have forgotten about. The news media came in and covered while the hashtag #EbonyOwes was trending, but this shouldn’t be something that’s highlighted and forgotten.
For many, the life of a freelancer is a struggle. I’m grateful for where I am now in my career, but I remember extremely too well how every dollar matters. Getting a check a week or two late hurts, a lot. It’s exhausting and painful to chase people down for that $150, so imagine being owed hundreds, thousands? The folks still waiting are owed A LOT and they’ve been waiting for almost two years. This is beyond ridiculous. Let’s continue to put the pressure on Ebony and let’s make sure the world is reminded of just how selfish they are acting.
Ebony freelancers have revived the hashtag and have added #EbonyStillOwes.