At this year’s annual convention of the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ), Ebony Magazine freelancers represented by the National Writer’s Union gathered to discuss the $200,000 lawsuit currently under way. The lawsuit is a result of unpaid invoices that Ebony Magazine’s new owner, CVG Group, purportedly owes to nearly 50 writers.
Michael Gibson, co-founder and chairman of CVG Group, disputes the amount that is owed, but pledged to pay off the freelancers, many whom have been waiting as long as a year to get compensated for work already published.
“We are committed to paying everyone 100 percent of what we owe and over the next few weeks,” Gibson said. “We will have all payments completed by (the) first week in July, which is consistent with our commitment.” He said an accounting error is to blame for the unpaid invoices.
Freelancers became more vocal last spring when they began tweeting #EbonyOwes/#paythewriter threads. Zerline Hughes Spruill, an Ebony freelancer and co-principal of Media Mingle consulting group, began campaigning on her own behalf in the spring. She has since been compensated, but continues to work on behalf of freelancers. She discussed the lawsuit on a recent episode of News One Now with Roland Martin.
The union currently represents 38 writers who are owed more than $68,000. According to the NWU, 11 writers have received payments totaling $18,000.
Held at the 2017 NABJ conference in New Orleans, the informal forum included a discussion about ways to protect yourself as a freelance writer.
Johnson Publishing sold Ebony to Texas-based CVG Group, a private equity firm, in May of 2016.