June 15, 2017
By Steven Wishnia and Neal Tepel
Chicago, IL – As Ebony magazine was developing plans to lay off almost one-third of its 35 editorial staffers in May, 14 freelance writers were asking the National Writers Union to help them recover $30,000 it owes them for articles.
“We’re going to get them paid,” NWU President Larry Goldbetter told the Columbia Journalism Review. “But the biggest thing really isn’t so much what can we do for them. It’s what they’re doing—standing up together. It’s very easy for a publisher or company to blow people off individually, but it’s a whole different dynamic when they stand up together.” He said June 5 that management had said it intended to pay everybody within the month, but “it was very vague, and there was no date for the first check.” Willard Jackson of Clear View Group, the black-owned private equity firm that bought Ebony from Johnson Publications last year, told CJR that the writers would be paid “in short order” but that income had to be prioritized to cover expenses. Writer Adeshina Emmanuel said many found the situation “distinctly painful,” because they’d grown up revering Ebony, the nation’s leading Afro-American publication for much of the 20th century. Freelance editor Adrienne Gibbs said that when she brought writers and editors in to work on a special issue honoring outgoing President Barack Obama and others on women and music, “people stopped everything they were doing. Because it was Ebony.” But the magazine has paid her only 40% of wages that were due in February, and still owes her $10,500. Read more