Out magazine contributors are trying to gather strength in numbers.
A group of more than 40 contributors to the magazine wrote an open letter to management of Out magazine, it’s parent company Pride Media and Oreva Capital, its operating entity, as well as its former editorial management partners Grand Editorial and McCarthy LLC, demanding that they be paid in full for past work by Feb. 22.
The group of writers, stylists, copy editors and other editorial professionals wrote of their “anger and dismay” over nonpayment for contracted work and a “failure to honestly and transparently communicate the reasons for the delay and your gall to commission more work from some of us and then fail to pay for this, too.”
While the group alleging long-standing nonpayment includes several people who contributed to Out during a time wherein an odd production outsourcing arrangement was still in place, as first reported by WWD in October, it includes several contributors who are understood to have only contracted directly with Pride as the owner and operator of the magazine. Nathan Coyle, the relatively new chief executive officer of Pride, and other executives have maintained that the problem of nonpayment stems solely from the the production outsourcing arrangement that ended in September.
Last week, Pride also laid off five staffers, according to a company spokesman, and employees who were not laid off accepted salary reductions, which the spokesman characterized as “temporary.” The reduction is thought to be around 8 percent and is said to include Out’s new editor in chief Phillip Picardi.
“As the company finalizes its 2019 plans they needed to exercise a creative approach to minimize staff reductions,” the spokesman added. “The salary reductions were put in place to saves jobs that were critical to keeping the publication moving forward.”
The company declined to address the open letter.
As WWD first reported at the end of January, there is a circle of finger-pointing regarding ongoing payment issues. Coyle says McCarthy, which is owned by Evanly Schindler, is the one that failed to pay contributors, and Schindler claims that nonpayment was actually started by Pride. Aaron Hicklin, former longtime editor of Out and the former owner of Grand Editorial, claims to have sold the company to McCarthy more than a year ago and that it’s since been dissolved. But Coyle also maintained to WWD that, despite the issue with McCarthy, Out was performing very well financially and on a path of growth, saying the brand’s momentum was “out of control.”
At any rate, contributors are fed up. Should they fail to receive payment by their Feb. 22 deadline, the group is working on an official group nonpayment grievance with the National Writers Union. They are also asking for a public apology by all management parties for such “shabby treatment of colleagues,” alleging that the mission of Out as an LGTBQ publication was even used to “lowball our pay.”
As for the circle of blame among executive leadership, the group’s position is simple: “This is not our responsibility.” They also are of a mind that as the owner of Out for more than a year, responsibility for payment ultimately lies with Pride.
“We were contracted to create content for Out magazine and Pride Media, which now owns Out magazine, owes us payment for professional labor from which they have profited,” the group wrote.
While the letter states a hope to “avoid legal action,” with new layoffs and pay cuts, it is in question that Pride will make payments by the end of next week. The company is said to have sent out a few e-mails to some former contributors who have gone public with claims of nonpayment since WWD’s reporting, claiming that checks were being sent out, but it’s understood that none have been received. Beyond that, there’s been no specification of the dollar amounts of the payments purportedly being sent, or which invoices they’re meant to reconcile. Inquiries as to these specifics have allegedly gone ignored. However, most unpaid contributors have received no communication from Pride at all, at least not since the fall when a number received e-mails in response to past-due invoices, typically claiming that the company was working to resolve the issue and blaming it on the previous outsourcing arrangement.
Picardi, the new face of the magazine, has claimed on Twitter to have been unaware “of the full extent of this situation” and that the day of the most recent WWD article covering ongoing nonpayment came out, he and his staff sent a letter to Pride leadership demanding “action, transparency and a timeline” to address the nonpayment issue.
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