It’s been a bad, bad week for media. BuzzFeed laid off over 200 people, and initially refused to pay them for accrued paid time off. HuffPost and Gannett also chopped employees. Things are bleak out there. But even for those who aren’t losing their jobs, working in media is still hell.
Out Magazine is currently going through a bit of a renaissance, according to WWD. Oreva Capital acquired Out, The Advocate, and associated brands at the end of 2017, renaming the company that managed them Pride Media. In November, they hired former Teen Vogue editor Phillip Picardi as editor-in-chief. This has been great for Out: they increased their unique page views from 691,000 to 1.5 million in the month since Picardi’s hiring. Their revenue for 2018 was $5.8 million and is expected to rise substantially this year.
And yet, many Out contributors, hair and makeup stylists, photographers and other former contractors are waiting for paychecks from the magazine dating back to 2018 or even earlier.
Nathan Coyle, the CEO of Pride Media, claims that this isn’t his responsibility. Instead, he blames McCarthy LLC, owned by Evanly Schindler, and Grand Editorial, companies with which Pride had a production deal.
“The magnitude of fraud that was committed by McCarthy is much greater than I understood a few months ago,” Coyle told WWD.
The background here is confusing—Coyle and Schindler are feuding, and each say the other is to blame.
According to Coyle, (who admitted he’s had no access to McCarthy’s invoices or accounts, but claims to have made such requests and claims to have copies of checks or money transfers that were paid to McCarthy to service Out) the allegation of fraud is feasible because of the odd system Out had been operating under for years, wherein Hicklin’s Grand Editorial created and ran Out magazine for a flat fee paid by its previous parent company, Here Publishing, owned by Paul Colichman — essentially an outsourcing arrangement. Before Oreva Capital acquired Here and renamed it Pride Media, Hicklin made a deal with Schindler/McCarthy for Grand Editorial, complete with its agreement to operate Out. Grand Editorial was subsequently dissolved, according to Hicklin, and the production arrangement became one between McCarthy and Pride.
Schindler tells a different story:
But Schindler, who is CEO and editorial director of BlackBook, is also clearly frustrated and said any implication that he or McCarthy is responsible for nonpayment is “ridiculous.” He in turn claimed it was in fact Pride that started making incomplete payment to McCarthy early last year, eventually stopping altogether, making it impossible for Out contributors to be paid. Schindler also claimed that he’s owed more than $270,000 by Pride to this day and characterized McCarthy as little more than another unpaid vendor of Pride.
“This is just a tactic,” Schindler said of Coyle and Pride’s implication. “It’s a tactic to not accept responsibility, a diversionary tactic to not pay people and place blame elsewhere. Everybody knows it’s false and ridiculous.”
Meanwhile, contributors waiting for their money are caught in the middle and left with little recourse.
Bernard Rook, executive vice president of digital media at Pride, sent a message to those waiting for their invoices in October.
“We are committed to making sure your invoices are remedied. To be clear, this effectively means we are paying for your services twice (because we already remitted funds to McCarthy to pay you!),” Rook wrote. “We fully acknowledge this is a problem created by McCarthy and by no means your responsibility, however, as a company that runs on tight margins, having to pay so many people again is a real financial burden for us.”
Pride has so far not taken any legal action against McCarthy, and Schindler, who claims he paid out $100,000 of BlackBook’s money to contributors, hasn’t either.
But contributors are starting to take action on their own. Two photographers have filed a claim against Out in Manhattan Small Claims Court, seeking full payment. Coyle argued that Pride Media is not the right defendant, and the judge apparently asked the photographers to refile their claim against McCarthy and Grand.
Other contributors are looking for alternative routes to put pressure on the magazine. On Twitter, one former contributor, Austin Dale, outlined how he worked directly with Coyle in 2018 to get paid. Dale started contributing to Out after the deal with McCarthy had dissolved, so the fact that his invoices were also ignored doesn’t look good.
Dale was contacted by the National Writers Union, and indicated that he’s interested in working with them to create a group non-payment grievance, alongside other unpaid contributors.
Time to say it again: organize your workplace before its too late.
Update, 1/30/2019, 11:567 a.m. ET: This post has been updated to remove a potentially confusing sentence about Out’s current reported revenue.