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  • Writer's pictureArchuleta A. Chisolm

Ebony, Writers Deserve To Be Paid!

Over the last several years, many print magazine publications have found their demise. Many found new life online, while others reinvented themselves into new business models.

Ebony magazine has been at the pinnacle of black culture for nearly 75 years. An absolute required read in beauty shops, as well as any family member’s house. The stacks of copies on the coffee table are a glorious memory that most of us have.

A few years, there was an outcry of #EbonyOwes on social media – a campaign started by unpaid freelance writers. The magazine refused to address the issue but the rumors spread about their financial problems.

Last week, The Root published an exclusive article about Ebony firing its online editorial staff – comprised of three writers, one videographer and Joshua David, the social media editor. They were terminated by a phone call from human resources.

On May 30, David was informed by email about a “delay in payroll” the day before he was to received his paycheck. He stated, “There was no confirmation as to when [we would be paid],” David said. “Only that they don’t have the capital to pay us.” Then on June 6, he was terminated.

Come on Ebony. Pay your writers! And if you couldn’t do so, at least address the issue. Look, times are hard. Businesses are failing all over the U.S., including those that have been long-standing pillars in their industry. It’s just a right and wrong way of doing things.

The #EbonyOwes went on for nearly two years and finally, in February 2018, Ebony agreed to pay 44 freelance writers nearly $80,000 to settle a lawsuit. Under the settlement terms, Ebony Media and its owner, CVG Group, was ordered to pay out the full amount in quarterly installments over the course of a year. Well, as of October 2018, they have failed to honor the agreement. These writers were “regular contributors” to the magazine – some also for the co-owned Jet magazine.

The struggle is real for writers, particularly black writers in this political climate. The media is being attacked on a daily basis by the current president, and black freelancers have fewer outlets to publish articles that challenge the narrative of this current administration. Ebony has a commitment to this charge and has miserably failed.

The lack of money being made is another conversation that writers have on a large scale. Writers write; we explain things. It’s what we’re supposed to do. The reality is that we live in a world where the idea is that artists should be starving as a sacrifice to our craft. That idea is outdated and completely ignorant.

Most writers have several streams of income, including ones that have nothing to do with writing. We have to live, and eat, and make our way from point A to point B.

Writing is a job, even when it doesn’t pay well. The attitude that writing is a hobby allows writers to be exploited. Writing is hard. It’s hard to do, hard to sell if you do it, hard to find readers if you do sell, and hard to earn a living wage off of even if you find readers. But make no mistake that writing is work. Work deserves pay.

Not sure what the future of Ebony magazine is but they are trash to me. Done. Canceled. Period.


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