#OUTOwes: Open Letter to OUT Magazine
February 7, 2019
◊ Pride Media, Inc., including CEO Nathan Coyle, EVP Bernard Rook, CFO Janelle Mitchell, OUT Magazine Editor-In-Chief Phillip Picardi, and the Pride Media accounts payable department;
◊ Oreva Capital Corp. including Founders Adam Levin and Maxx Abramowitz;
◊ Grand Editorial LLC and former OUT Editor-In-Chief Aaron Hicklin;
◊ McCarthy LLC and BlackBook owner Evanly Schindler;
◊ Here Media (former OUT publisher) and owner Paul Colichman.
We, the undersigned, represent unpaid freelance contributors (as of 2/7/19) to OUT Magazine and other publications by Pride Media — writers, copywriters, photographers, stylists, et. al. — who are writing this Open Letter to communicate, with one voice, our urgent concerns and demands regarding outstanding invoices for our work.
We collectively express our anger and dismay at your failure to pay us per contracts and/or in accordance with New York City’s “Freelance Isn’t Free” Act, your 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.
Our position as a group of freelancers is simple: Pay us, and pay us now.
We are demanding:
1. An immediate open written communication by Pride Media (Nathan Coyle, Bernard Rook, et al.), Oreva Capital, Evanly Schindler, and Aaron Hicklin (sole owner of Grand LLC and assigning editor of OUT through the September 2018 issue) regarding your plan to resolve this matter.
2. An immediate written commitment by Pride Media to fully pay ALL outstanding invoices to the undersigned by Friday, February 22nd. Failure to respond or reply to our demands will compel us to move forward in our plan to take all necessary legal steps to assure all contributors are paid. We are in contact with the National Writers Union regarding a potential action as aggrieved parties, but hope to avoid legal action. Pay us by February 22nd.
3. Cessation of any planned harassment, retaliation, or threats against contributors or staffers who have made their dismay and concerns known publicly via their own private social media or to inquiring reporters. Warning individuals they may be in breach of contract for speaking out when our contractors are in complete breach of contract for their failure to pay is absurd. Clean up your act now and become a responsible corporate publishing company. The LGBTQ movement deserves better.
4. A public apology by all parties for this shabby treatment of colleagues committed to the cause of LGBTQ rights, who supported OUT and often agreed to work for lower wages with an understanding that OUT had smaller editorial budgets. Your failure to pay has jeopardized some of our livelihoods. That is inexcusable, especially after you asked many of us to work for lower fees, citing solidarity with OUT’s mission as a reason to lowball our pay.
It is also hurting the new editorial team and the prospect of new ad revenue for the brand. How are OUT editors expected to commission freelance work based on this track record? We are talented contributors. We want to work. We deserve to be respected and paid. We’re heartened that the new editorial staff has condemned the failure to pay us and expressed solidarity with the freelance talent pool; we in turn feel solidarity with their position.
Below is an explanation for our demands, which are likely very known and clear to all of you.
A. Financial responsibility to pay: We understand from myriad communications by OUT’s current fiscal administrators and two recent Women’s Wear Daily media stories that the current and prior owners of OUT Magazine and its brand are in dispute about who is financially responsible to pay us for our labor.
Our position: This is NOT our responsibility. 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.
Let Pride Media work out its past negotiations with Evanly Schindler, McCarthy LLC, Aaron Hicklin, and Grand Editorial LLC. We are professionals who have made repeated efforts to be paid, and we have been purposely kept in the dark by the Pride Media/OUT team about this situation. Recently Pride Media’s executive vice president for digital media sent a mass e-mail to many of us, apologizing for the continued delay in payment and stating that the problem is “by no means [our] responsibility.” We strongly agree.
B. The money picture: OUT.com saw a spike in traffic from 691,000 unique views in September to about 1.5 million in December 2018. OUT’s digital ad revenue has grown 48% year over year. All revenue for Pride Media was estimated to be at just under $5.8 million for 2018, and projected to increase 26% this year. Pride Media and its investors have plenty of money to pay the outstanding sum of invoices — a drop in the bucket compared to the projected $7.2 million in ad revenue Pride Media is projected to earn this year, according to the WWD story. Clearly profits were and are being made.
Finally, we urge you — each of you, all of you — to stop hurting the cause of great journalism and LGBTQ rights. OUT has been a critical and positive national voice for LGBTQ individuals and allies for over 20 years. Get back to the mission.
Ricardo Horatio Nelson
Tamir Amar Pettet
Dusty St. Amand