Short end of Jazz Times’ good news

The quick revival of magazine Jazz Times by Madavor Media is a good thing, but freelance contributors whose work has already been published are being told that they’ll be paid only 50% of amounts due.

“Those checks are going out this week,” according to an email sent by Lee Mergener, JT’s editor-in-chief who is being retained during the transition in ownership, along with managing editor Evan Haga and two ad representatives. Mergner’s memo continues, “Madavor only acquired the assets, not the liabilities, of the company, leaving JazzTimes‘ previous ownership to settle its debts as best it can.”

So content providers — jazz journalists, writers and photographers — featured in JT’s April and May issues (at which time Glenn Sabin, son of JT’s founder Ira Sabin, was publisher and CEO of JazzTimes, Inc.) are considering their positions. They’ve been asked to pitch new story ideas and requests for review assignments, and evidently to stand for unanticipated cuts in pay for completed projects. Would carpenters, plumbers, lawyers or accountants accept such a deal and keep laboring — without contracts — on what is arguably the same project? There’s no news that JazzTimes, Inc. is in bankruptcy . . .maybe the 50% payments are only the ex-owners’ first installments on clearing their editorial debts? Maybe the new owners will pony up to cover the rest of those IOUs, as a sign of good faith with the freelancers they want to continue to employ? What a nice gesture that would be.

According to Mergner, Madavor Media will pay full fees for pieces originally scheduled for JT’s June issue, which is being printed “likely as our August issue.” The difficult period for Jazz Times contributors isn’t over yet, The magazine’s pages evidently won’t show until September and October just how the editorial package has survived.
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  1. says

    At the risk of killing any chances to contribute to the “new” JazzTimes… OK, nice that someone is “saving” JazzTimes. But let’s not forget that somebody is making money on this deal, or it wouldn’t have happened… and my guess is that it wasn’t exactly a philanthropic, altruistic move on anyone’s part. The new residents of JazzTimes’ Mt. Olympus seem to have forgotten — or perhaps never knew — that any publication is only as good as its content. When so much of the content is provided by freelance writers with a passion for the subject matter, I don’t think that a vague promise to pay 50% of their fees for work already done (for an agreed-upon sum)is the way feed that passion. And without that passion, the magazine will dry up and blow away in the wind.
    Freelancers worked hard in exchange for small checks already. They plan a good part of their lives around what little pay they expect, with good reason, to get for the work they do.
    Were they asked if they would be willing to take, in effect, a 50% pay cut to save the magazine? Or was it a unilateral, backroom decision by the new backers? My instincts tend to the latter.
    We all know that being freelance jazz journalists is no road to riches, but shortchanging existing contracts, and leaving freelancers with about enough pocket money to pay for a cab to the poorhouse is not the way to build a following or a stable of intelligent, creative, reliable contributors.
    What does this say about the kind of talent (and for that matter, the kind of content) that JazzTimes will be looking for now? Cover-to-cover 100-word CD reviews? Never-ending columns from editors and publishers telling how hard it is for a jazz magazine to turn a profit, “but we’re doing everything we can for our loyal fans, readers, and contributors — and we think you’ll be surprised and happy with the results.”
    Will the magazine’s new masthead now read, “JazzBehindTheTimes”?
    50%. On existing contracts, no less. Shame on them.
    – Bill

  2. Steve says

    I’m not seeing the supposed August issue either. Website is not up to date and editors, not that they ever did, are not answering questions about it all. F ’em if they can’t cut it and lets move on.
    HM: Patience, please — I’ve heard from former contributors, some of whom have been paid what they’re owed, and I expect the transition to the new publishers requires quite a bit of work from a small and burdened staff. But I’m keeping check on the situation.