‘Ebony’ Magazine Responds to #EbonyOwes Hashtag amid Allegations of Failing to Pay Their Writers

This week, the well-known black publication Ebony was under fire due to allegations that they do not pay their writers. Unfortunately, that is not anything extremely rare in the freelance industry. However, what added more fuel to the flames was the fact that all of the women who came forward were said to be under contract with the publication and had invoices that were left unpaid for several months at a time, leaving many writers without so much as a response to their inquiries. This all culminated to the iconic magazine becoming a trending topic on Twitter yesterday (April 26) with the hashtag #EbonyOwes.

The controversy began after The Establishment published the story “Why Isn’t ‘Ebony’ Paying Its Black Writers?” penned by Jagger Blaec. The story detailed the long history Ebony seems to have of repeatedly failing to pay their freelance writers. Current and former freelance writers of the site were quoted with past due invoices that ranged from $75 to upwards of $2,000. After the story went live, even more writers came forward on Twitter with their #EbonyOwes experiences.

One user, @zerlinehughes shared, “I’m ready to come out @BasicBlaecGirl. I, too, am a victim. #EbonyOwes me. I’ve been waiting for 7 mos and @EBONYMAG owes me $3K #freelance”

After the social media backlash, Ebony issued a statement Wednesday (April 26):

“Ebony magazine values the work of our freelancers and writers. We understand their concerns and we know that their unique talent and dedication to telling our stories have been an integral part of our success. As a part of our strategic growth plan, EBONY Media is working diligently to streamline and improve efficiencies throughout our operations and we will honor our commitment to our partners.”

Some editors working for the publication have spoken out and pointed the finger to their parent company, that has obtained them, ebony.com, and jetmag.com. The private-equity firm, Clear View Group LLC, acquired Ebony in a public buyout in June 2016. According to some of the editors, they’ve received invoices that they’ve approved and sent to higher ups, but the trail runs cold from there.

When looking to speak to the owner of Clear View to inquire about the issues of past due invoices, Blaec was met with no response. After her story went live, however, this was Willard Jackson’s response:

Hopefully these past due invoices will be paid up soon. Ebony is a magazine that has its roots in the community and a lot of writers probably aspire to have a byline with them for that very reason. However, if contractual agreements are put in place, balances owed should be paid in a timely fashion. Instances like this make it harder for writers to navigate through an already uncertain climate.

Freelancing ain’t free.

Photo Credit: iStock

Sheriden Chanel is a twenty-something writer, Beyoncé enthusiast, and lover of all things visual art. Keep up with her and her musings on social via @indiebyline.