By Matthew Vann
Writers and editors at Heart & Soul, a health-and-wellness magazine targeting women of color, are still waiting on their employment checks for work they produced more than a year ago.
Nearly a dozen editors and contributors, most of whom are freelancers, have gone unpaid. Heart & Soul magazine publishes six times a year and has a circulation of roughly 300,000. The magazine hasn’t put out an issue since April and owes more than $135,000 to writers and editors who have since joined the National Writers Union to pressure the publication into paying them. That’s according to Clarence I. Brown, president and CEO of Brown Curry Detry Taylor & Associates (BCDT) a media content company, which purchased Heart & Soul Enterprises, LLC, in January.
“It’s such a tough market.” said Pamela Johnson, a writer for the health and sciences section of the magazine who was paid after she threatened to sue. “This is the first time I’ve had to hunt for my money. The fact that many writers and editors haven’t been paid is the height of hypocrisy.”
“We let people know when we were behind with payment,” said Yanick Rice Lamb, a former editorial director at the magazine. “At some point, we had to stop saying that because we couldn’t keep up with the information we were giving to people.”
Former president and CEO Edwin Avent, who has since left the magazine to launch a new television network, “Soul of the South,” declined to comment.
“My understanding is that some writers have been paid since the new management came in and that they’re working to pay the others,” said Flo McAfee, a spokeswoman for Heart & Soul magazine.
The new owners tried broadening the publication’s focus by naming Sandra Guzman, former editor of Latina magazine, as editor-in-chief in an appeal to other ethnic groups. Guzman has since left the publication.
“We are trying to juggle in paying down our debt,” said Brown. “We anticipate being able to catch-up with payments by the fourth quarter of this year.”
Larry Goldbetter, president of the National Writers Union, said that his group was trying to work with the company to get the writers paid.
“People are initially afraid to step out,” Goldbetter said. “And it’s tougher still for black female freelancers.”
Richard Prince who writes a popular industry blog published by the Maynard Institute occasionally writes about the challenges facing Heart & Soul for The Root.
“Practically all the editors and writers at Heart & Soul are freelancers,” Prince said. “ I’ve never heard of that before.”
Longtime writers said that the magazine’s reputation is in trouble and will be further damaged if the magazine doesn’t pay them for their work.
“This, to me, feels like a very exploitative situation,” said Sheree Crute, the magazine’s first health editor who now writes for The Root. “You can’t run an organization on the backs of people who think you can pay and then you don’t.”