Crusader staff report
The check wasn’t in the mail after all.
A handful of fed up freelance writers for Ebony magazine are going public with their frustrations, saying the iconic Black publication still has not paid them months after their stories were published.
It’s an embarrassing problem that’s making headlines after an article about Ebony’s alleged payroll problems appeared in an online publication, The Establishment. The article, “Why Isn’t Ebony Paying its Black Writers?” chronicled the frustrations of independent writers who failed to get paid after repeated attempts to speak to Ebony’s payroll department. Soon after, freelance writers took to twitter with the hashtag #Ebonyowes. Media outlets the Chicago Tribune, DNA Info Chicago and The Root have picked up the story as more freelance writers come forward with their frustrations in not getting paid.
Prominent TV critic Eric Deggans at NPR, who once wrote for Ebony said, Ebony still owes him $1,200 for a feature story on Obama as a pop-culture president. After the article was published Deggans said he sent Ebony the invoice for $1,200 Oct. 31.
“So far I’ve gotten no payment, despite repeated inquiries to the editor-in-chief and their accounts payable email,” Deegans said in a story in The Root.
“I was floored,” said Zerline Hughes, an Ebony freelancer based in Washington, D.C. “I really, really thought I was the only one — I don’t know why I thought that — that wasn’t getting paid.”
Hughes said Ebony owes her nearly $3,000, though representatives from the company have told her a check for part of that amount is in the mail.
Another Ebony freelance writer, AJ Springer said the publication owes him $1,775.
“I haven’t gotten a dime,” he said in article in the Chicago Tribune. “In the 12 years I’ve been (freelancing) … I haven’t really had to chase anybody down for payment.”
A family-owned business founded by John H. Johnson, Ebony was sold to the CVG Group in 2016 along with the online Jet publication. Michael Gibson, chairman of Ebony Media and co-founder and chairman of CVG Group, told the Tribune that a lag was created in payment to some freelancers when his firm purchased Ebony.
According to the Tribune, Gibson declined to comment on how much Ebony owes to freelancers or how many writers have not been paid. He also told the newspaper that there is no timeline on when freelancers will get their money, but he said the company is working on revamping its freelancing budget.
“We’re obviously deeply sorry it has reached this point,” he told the Tribune. He said Ebony “made a pretty large payment this week” to freelancers.