FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE — About 60 writers and other editorial contributors are owed more than $200,000 for their published work in Heart & Soul magazine, the only national magazine focused primarily on black women’s health issues. A group representing the writers has conferred with attorneys about a possible lawsuit.
Its representatives are also meeting week with leaders of the National Writers Union/UAW Local 1981. NWU represented 30 out of 60 freelancers who were bilked out of $360,000 in 2009 by a New York City publisher and recently won a judgment for the full amount owed. The union is also suing Natural Solutions in Minneapolis on behalf of 13 unpaid freelancers.
Heart & Soul is in the process of being sold and current owner, Edwin Avent, plans on spending $10 million setting up his “Soul of the South” TV network, which launches in 2012, targeting African Americans in 50 cities, according to the Hollywood Reporter. (Yet, as of today, he has not told the writers, photographers and other editorial contributors when they will be paid.
Some of the Heart & Soul payments have been owed since last January. Beginning in July, several contributors were told payments were temporarily delayed because the 16-year-old magazine was changing owners.
The new owners are led by journalist George Curry, who’s listed as the magazine’s editorial director and is already running the editorial operations. Curry and his partners, Clarence Brown, Patrick Detry, and Pam Taylor, were to ensure that Avent had enough funds to pay his debts to writers, editors and other vendors. But according to recent updates on the deal, while the new owners are acquiring the magazine’s title and subscription list, the debts would remain on Avent’s balance sheet.
Contrary to a claim in Journal-isms.org, no deal has been finalized and the writers and editors have received no word on when they will be paid. Meanwhile, salaries for the magazine’s advertising sales staff have continued without interruption.
“We’ve been told to hold on for two weeks, and then two more weeks, and then two more weeks since late July,” one writer said. “At this point, I don’t believe they intend to pay at all. They’re stalling. If they can just keep telling us ‘two more weeks, the deal hasn’t been finalized,’ they figure we’ll simply shut up about this.”
Said another writer, “In a time when freelance fees have fallen way off and contracts are harder to come by, many of us are struggling to pay a mortgage or rent or child-care and put food on the table. Many of us could transfer our skills elsewhere. Yet, we do this work because we love this work. How would the publishing world function if those of who are proven at this craft could no longer afford to do this craft?”
NWU President Larry Goldbetter said, “We support the Heart & Soul writers and editors and we are eager to join the fight. Here are 60 more reasons—$200,000 worth—why freelance journalists should join NWU and build the campaign to ‘Pay the Writer.’”
For more information: Contact A.P. Johnson at 855-315-3334.