"If you put your hand in my pocket, Believe, City Pages, Citypages.com, Creative theft, Finish, Harlan Ellison, Learning, Never Giving Up, Overcoming Obstacles, Perseverance, Stand up for yourself!, Struggles, Struggling Writer, Surviving Life, Village Voice Media, Writing, you’ll drag back six inches of bloody stump."
Two Weeks ago.
I try to never work on the blog during the weekends. My house is way too chaotic to write in when Barb or the kids are around, so I generally consider Saturdays and Sundays as dead zones of creativity.
This is the weekend the Twin Cities hosts the 25th annual Spring-Con Comic Book convention at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds by the MCBA (Midwest Comic Book Association).
Last year was my first year to attend and although I knew what to expect from the geekshow; what was unexpected and priceless is the bond I formed with my daughter as a result of our adventuring together in a nerd’s paradise.
We have bonded over the coloured page she and I.
The sights, sounds, costumes, toys & comics, these are all now shared treasures. That which is shiny & new for her have been reliable, trustworthy friends to me for so long that I can not remember a time without them in it. Our monthly trips to the comic shop since that first convention have proven to be a special time for the two of us that I hope will last for many years.
This year; as I walked slowly past the mylar bagged treasures, mint condition toys, and scantily dressed cosplayers, I found my mind wondering to a dark place. I tried to exude some semblance of joy for my daughter as she frolicked her way from artist to artist and booth to booth; but for anyone who really knew me they could have told you I had something else on my mind just by looking in my cold dark blue eyes.
My mind was on this time last year when I was fired from my job as a freelance employee with the Village Voice Media outlet City Pages MN, (See Blog Post Recovering…Slowly).
I have avoided talking about this subject in public for a year now; for a variety of different reasons, both professional and personal…But mostly because of the embarrassment at expecting more out of life when I should have known better.
Given the fact that I was canned after requesting payment for over thirty photographs I took specifically to be used as content for City Pages website coverage of ComicCon 2011; I’m not at all surprised that the convention environment brought all those nasty memories back to the top.
Officially I was never given a “real” reason why I was let go. No examples of things I had done wrong…No hint in the office that I was doing a bad job. My everyday work was completed correctly and I was getting the hang of the new “social networking” part of the job, (I.e. spamming the hell out of other websites in the hope that they might share one of our stories).
I had been given my first opportunity to write an article on pirate movies for the Culture section at the last staff meeting; which coincidentally, was the same day I turned in my invoice for the pictures in question. Everything seemed to be going good for me at City Pages MN, except for the disagreement about these photos that arose Wednesday night.
On May 26th I wrote this email concerning the denial of payment on the photos,
“I have spent all night stressing out over how to write this letter and in doing so have given myself a massive stress migraine in the process. To put it as simply as I possible can, the position you have put me in with your response to my invoice is unenviable to say the least.
When I took this job I understood that my number one duty was to support you and your endeavor to be the best web editor City Pages could ever want, and I do believe that no argument can be made against my work ethic as well as effort I have put into this task. It is obvious that I am doing a good job as the number of responsibilities seem to expand with every passing week.
However it was also my understanding; explained to me by you, that the harder I worked the more opportunities I would be given to reach my real goal which is to be a published professional writer and photographer. You email nullifies that by stating that unless I get a story accept into the print edition or it is considered an “investigative blog post”, anything I do to further myself as an artist for city pages is not going to be compensated for. This was not our agreement.
It was never my understanding that I was doing this assignment for free, I took this job to become a professional in my art and in my opinion the only path to becoming a pro is to get compensated for your work. If I were a salaried employee of City Pages making a real “living” wage and was asked to do an assignment, then I could understand your viewpoint. However I am not, as I am only a freelancer and like all the other freelancers I expect to be compensated for every piece of my work.
Please don’t take this the wrong way. I love my job, I love working with you and for City Pages but because of this migraine the glare from my screen is excruciating and to be completely honest I have to wrap my head around where to go from here.
If there is any emergency or you need to me to cover please text me and I will jump online. Like always I have your back.
Web Assistant, CITYPAGES.COM
401 N 3rd Street | Suite 550 | Minneapolis, MN 55401
I woke up the morning after sending this letter completely prepared to do my job; having thought about it long and hard, willing to let the whole thing go in the interest of the bigger picture. How was I repaid for this sudden streak of optimism and compromise? I went to log in and found I had been completely locked out of the system.
It was apparent what had happened; I had gotten fired for standing up for myself, but I waited patiently to hear from anyone in charge with official word on the situation.
When I finally did hear from my “boss”; twenty four hours later, all I was given as an excuse for my surprise termination was this:
“I’m grateful for the work you’ve done for us, but as time has gone on ***** and I have realized that we weren’t going to be able to help you achieve the goals you had set for yourself, and the less interesting work was always going to be there and need the most attention. It’s fair for all involved to realize that and wish each other luck.“
A few hours after that I received this email from her boss:
“Hey man. Sorry it didn’t work out. *** sent you an email this morning–not sure why you didn’t get it. It just became apparent from your email that we weren’t going to be able to give you what you were looking for–the job is really for someone who wants to do social networking rather than writing or photography. There’s a lot of other places out there that might be a better conduit to help you get where you want to go. It was good working with you. Good luck.”
The only goal I ever had when I started the job was to do it right and in return be treated right by being given a chance to showcase my talents. Why would I have taken a job as Freelance assistant web editor making $75.00 a week (freelance pay, which means no taxes taken out but the I.R.S. sure does want it’s money at the end of the year) if I weren’t implicitly promised I would get my shot?
I expected at one of the bastions of free thought like Village Voice Media to be treated with respect…Instead, I was fired over twenty five dollars and dismissed like they were doing me a favour. (My pictures are still available at citypages.com, just click on the picture below if you would like to view them)
The indignity of being bounced from a job you have worked so hard at because of something as petty as pocket cash spread like Kudzu vine though my sub-conscious mind. Was this what journalism has become in America? Stealing from your content producers just because you can?
I had already discussed this in my blog post, “The Data Age”: Writer Sweatshops and the Death of Journalism?” weeks before this incident. It is becoming apparent that the creators of this world are being marginalised out of the creative process by an over abundance of people willing to be stepped on in order to just get their foot in the door.
How many people do you know that have stayed on their jobs after years of putting up with levels of harassment, (sexual and otherwise) because they are afraid if they stand up for themselves they will find themselves out of the loop?
There are photographers in this town that have had their works stolen from the internet, used without permission or payment and never once do they speak up for themselves from the fear of being out of the loop.
Local freelance writers wait for weeks at a time without being paid; while the articles they wrote are read and forgotten about long before they see a check for their hard labor.
Do they say anything?
Out of the loop and you don’t get paid.
So I ran away from my brief flirtation with capitalism disguised as journalism. I am out of the loop, and happier for it in the long run. I have roared through two hundred pages of fiction for my new book in six months and haven’t looked back…till two weeks ago.
It has taken me a year to put my feeling into words and now that I have had my say I can move on…after this last thought.
Beware young creator out there. No matter what your medium is, someone out there wants to make money off it and they don’t care how they get it. They have to feed the twenty four hour media machine and it doesn’t matter to them how they get the grease that keeps the gears grinding.
Only you can make them pay for it.
“If you put your hand in my pocket, you’ll drag back six inches of bloody stump.” Harlan Ellison