From Bad to Worse
December 2009

As we were closing this issue, two stories have come across the wire that underline how profoundly deep the crisis is today for journalism and photojournalists.

Dallas Observer blogger Robert Wilonsky reveals "a memo Dallas Morning News editor Bob Mong and senior vice president of sales Cyndy Carr sent to everyone at A.H. Belo Corp. … outlining what they call a 'business/news integration.' Which means … some section editors at all of the company's papers, including The News, will now report directly to Carr's team of sales managers, now referred to as general managers. In short, those who sell ads for A.H. Belo's products will now dictate content within A.H. Belo's products, which is a radical departure from the way newspapers have been run since, oh, forever."


Thus, the crucial line that has always separated "church and state" for newspapers has finally crumbled.

This is a fundamental breach of faith between the newspaper and its readers. It comes at a low point of the public's confidence in our crucial institutions. This is as painful to us to report as it must be for the many fine journalists who today are hanging their heads in shame.

On the same day we learned of the Belo Corp. announcement, Gawker.com revealed that Time Inc. has informed its freelancers that it has a great new idea for them. If you want to get paid, give Time a cut of your invoices. J.P. Morgan, which administers the company's invoices, has sent out a letter to all its freelancers under the jaunty heading "Accelerate payments at year end!"


The deal is if you want to get paid in a TIMEly fashion, you can choose options for payment (once, of course, the invoices have been approved by editorial) by taking advantage of a "Pay Me Now" plan). If you want to get paid in 25 days, Time will only charge you a fee of 0.5%. On the other hand, if you really need the money, for 4 percent of the invoice you can get paid in three days. Again, once the invoices have been approved in the first case, which generally takes a month or so.

So, now, already beleaguered freelancers who have seen their assignment work plummet are actually being offered the opportunity to give back some of their money to simply get paid.

This practice is called "factoring." In organized crime it is called a "shakedown." It has nothing whatsoever to do with journalism, and everything to do with Time's bottom line.

Season's greetings from the A.H. Belo Corp. and Time Inc.

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