Friday, January 22, 2010

True/Slant abuses writers

So it turns out that True/Slant is not a very good place to be a blogger/writer after all.

After we both signed a contract in late November paying me a base rate of $200/mth, they cut me a check for December blogging for $150. When I asked about the remaining $50, things started to get interesting:
1) True/Slant's Leonard Dworkin ignored my inquiry
2) I was unable to log in to True/Slant's site for 8 days -- all inquiries to T/S tech support went unanswered
3) My contact at True/Slant, Katie Drummond, failed to tell me she has quit T/S and that I should inquire elsewhere, and
4) Coates Bates terminated my contract when I asked that the missing $50 be paid now instead of carried over to next month.
If you're a blogger with the opportunity to write for True/Slant, my advice is: proceed very carefully -- they're a pretty slimy organization. At this rate I can't imagine they're going to be around for long.

1/25, 7:45 am PST: By popular demand, here are a few more details:

I started blogging for True/Slant in late November '09. Everything was fine and by early January I was up to 700+ post views/5 days, up 130% from my first month. That's hardly gangbusters, but I was finding my legs and no one from T/S ever said a word.

Then in mid-January they had server problems and I was unable to log in for 8 days. My readership crashed during that time (to about 100 PV/5 days). At the same time they sent me my first payment, for Dec blogging, and it was only 3/4ths of the base rate that my contract called for. Lewis Dworkin ignored my question about it, and I learned that my "boss" at T/S had left without telling me. Then Coates Bateman wrote that what I was paid was what we agreed on. My contract clearly stated otherwise, which he agreed when I sent it to him. He asked if the other 1/4th could be included in next month's payment, because it was "more efficient." I wrote that I'd prefer it be paid now, as per my contract. Bateman wrote back that they would be reviewing my account to see that it "worked for both parties."

The extra payment went through, but shortly after that Bateman said they would be terminating my contract in 30 days (the contract does give them that option).


blist said...

It's Lewis DVorkin

ttestblogg1 said...

Sorry your experience hasn't been positive. Mine has been quite different. I think the word rate is ridiculously low, which is why I only post when I have nothing else to work on or I am really pissed off about something; other hand it's more than HuffPo pays, they've promised more when their revenue ramps up, and I get more hits there than I was getting on my own blog. They actually paid me one month when I didn't meet my contractual obligation.

Rick Ungar said...

Maybe Leonard Dworkin did not return your emails because there is no such person. It's Lewis DVorkin. Your experience may have been better had you known the name of the Founder and Editor in Chief.
I've had a great experience writing for True/Slant and hope to do so for a very long time.

Todd Essig said...

Not only have I received all the payments promised in a timely fashion, when I changed my email of record for payments through PayPal they contacted me to let me know there was a problem. They chased me down to pay me!

Accusing someone of abusing YOU is a serious allegation. Even if the events you recounted happened exactly as you said, to my ear it does not rise anywhere near a level to justify and allegation of abuse. But you said T/S abuses writers, plural. I challenge you to present other writers who can claim abuse, and in the absence of that I humbly request that you offer an apology.

Bill Barol said...

I'm a T/S contributor and yours is the first complaint like this I've ever heard. My own experience with the site has been uniformly positive. So while I don't have any first-hand knowledge of what happened between you and T/S, it doesn't sync up with what I know about the site and the people who run it. And the blanket accusation that "True/Slant abuses writers" is, frankly, silly.

Mike Melanes said...

I think it's crazy that any T/S "blogger" or "writer" would consider writing fora site that pays you pennies.

Come on, you're worth more than that.


True/Slant is what it is. It's never promised anything but the opportunity to have an extraordinarily supportive and productive community to be a part of. I'm twenty-five years old and write/blog for free for other pubs all the time. No, TrueSlant does not pay the rent, but it pays me enough to keep caring about my art and to defend it in all terminals, spheres, and petty blogspot forums like David Appell's. Our industry is going through some SERIOUS changes right now-- both on the technology and art side. Is True/Slant the answer? I don't know. But it's working in so many ways, and in one way that seems to make people care enough to rant about... and hey, isn't that where blogging/writing/journalism gets off?

Justin Gardner said...

My experience is similar to Paul's, but I've been able to get a fair amount of traffic to my T/S blog so I've been able to make more.

One thing you have to consider is that T/S is a start up and sometimes things can fall through the cracks. That's not an excuse for you not being paid the amount that was agreed upon and in a timely fashion, but I think they have over 250 writers now and all checks are still hand written. If anything, they need to figure out a way to streamline that process.

Last, I hope you'll take more care in the future when accusing somebody of "abusing" writers. They didn't pay you on time, but unless you can point to others who had a similar experience, please don't paint with the broad brush.

P.J. Tobia said...

I have been screwed in so many ways by so many media organizations that I have lost count. My experience with T/S has been the complete opposite. They have treated me with a tremendous amount of respect and clearly care about the work that I do for them. Sure, it's not a lot of money, but it IS enough to keep me in Scotch every month, and that means a lot.

Barrett Brown said...

I've been with T/S for a few months now and have rarely been happier with a gig. For one thing, they pay via Paypal, automatically, without requiring invoices and contracts and all that obsolete 19th century bullshit that Conde Nast pulls on you. I haven't had any problems getting paid from T/S. And, frankly, based on the rather irresponsible and sensationalist manner in which you've tried to express your particular grievance as somehow endemic to the outlet without having any evidence of that whatsoever other than the anecdotal, single-serve sort, you should be happy to have had the chance to write for them to begin with.

Barrett Brown said...

And the guy's name is Coates Bateman. So in addition to publicly accusing a company of abuse based on the fact that you yourself had trouble getting $50 from them and had your contract terminated after God knows what sort of bitchy e-mail you addressed to Coatamon Dvorkinbate Katerson the Impaler or whatever, you've managed to flub two different names in the space of, like, two hundred words.

Anonymous said...

I've been writing for True/Slant for about 6 months and have had a thoroughly positive experience. The staff are courteous, responsive and professional and a pleasure to work with. The organization is top-notch in my book, especially for a start-up. Your allegation of "abuses writers" is offensive because you're claiming to speak for other writers, most of whom it seems have had experiences nothing like yours. You're certainly not speaking for me. If you’re going to make serious allegations like that, you should be careful not to generalize—and get the facts straight.

brewbart said...

Being a Dutch journalist, T/S not only gave me an opportunity I would never have had without, it also always paid me generously and on time. It's great writing for them.

Nick Obourn said...

Just to add to the commentary here. Mr. Appell, my experience with True/Slant has been nothing but smooth sailing. My traffic has gone up, I get paid on time, I always get immediate and practical technical advice when something is weird with the site. Like someone pointed out, this is a start up doing it's best and doing well at that. I am not sure why you are trying to start a firestorm over 50 bucks, especially when they offered to pay you the following month.

Anonymous said...

Try submitting an expense report for $50 worth of Thanksgiving supplies. That might get his attention.

Justin Gardner said...

In your original post you said that T/S terminated you because you asked them to pay you correctly. But you never included the fact that they did pay you the remainder. So there could be a whole host of reasons why they decided to terminate your contract...none of which appear to be "slimy."

Do know I appreciate you for putting the rest of the information out there, especially since it makes you look bad. That's brave. But you really should have thought more before publishing this post.

And, again, using the word "abuse" is now even less appropriate given the circumstances.

Best of luck to you.

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Anonymous said...

Perhaps this thread's self-appointed scold, Barrett "Leo Rooster" Brown, would like to ask Lvewis about Thanksgiving expenses.

Not everything, perhaps, but much would be, as they say, illuminated.

akarlin said...

Does the contract also involve having to savage a certain number of T/S critics and heretics every month?