Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Mess Gazette

I post this note with some reservations as it involves whingeing. Worst of all, it is a whinge about money, but sometimes certain things need to be said. Better out than in, as they say.

Press Gazette magazine survives for another week, financed by the Administrator, Mr Robert Allen. Like a leaking life-raft on a stormy ocean, it continues to float, with all loyal hands clinging on. Who knows, it could yet be rescued.

The bad news, that falls upon me to report, is that all those freelancers who provided some bright flags of creativity aboard HMS PG during the past year have been unceremoniously chucked over board, without so much as a rubber ring, and told to whistle for their money in the choppy waters.

I speak on behalf of the acerbic columnist The Grey Cardigan, the scurrilous Axe Grinder diarist, the inexhaustible photographer Phil Adams and me, the Press Conference bloke. In many respects, we have been like staff; when ideas or copy were needed, always at a rapacious rate with difficult deadlines, we came up with the goods. And we always waited patiently, stoically, for our money to be squeezed through the constipated accounting system. When we got paid, it was what could be regarded as a “Creative’s Rate” for our efforts. But it was our choice, we're grown ups and we were happy to throw our lot in. Maybe other things, beyond money, helped motivate our productivity.

As soon as the financial plug was pulled on 3rd November, we ceased to exist and so did our back-pay. The staff continued to be paid - quite rightly - but not us. We are now getting to grips with the water-tight legal-speak of liquidation, but surely there is a moral obligation somewhere here, a point of principal? Afterall, this magazine is still trading. Naturally, there is not.

I spoke with Mr Allen this morning. He was startled and a little miffed I managed to get him on the phone. He bluntly [but not unkindly] informed me: “You are all basically sub-contractors with no employment rights.” Nice. So we are now in the long soup kitchen queue with the Post Office, a telecoms company, printers and many more. The chances of getting paid for those witty columns, gossip stories and photographs, or even that three page monster interview with Kelvin MacKenzie, with a splash thrown in, are zero. Even if the “Consortium” [FYI that is Associated Newspapers and the Telegraph Group] take over the magazine, I am reliably told there is no plan to pay the freelancers. Can you all please, very quietly Fuck Off, thank you.

We have no issue with editor Ian Reeves. He is a decent guy, in a deplorable situation. And we have no personal gripe with Mr Freud or Piers Morgan. Sympathies to them for the money they lost. They had the best intentions for PG, but theirs was a business venture, a punt, with all risks visible on the table. We, however, were hired to deliver and that we did, and more. So, our beef is with the Adminsitration process, the cut-off point that lumps us in with the paperclip suppliers.

Now, we know that ours is just a little sorrow. We will survive and these things can be quickly forgotten. African poverty, this ain't. Really, no need for Bono to get busy. There will still be turkey for Christmas, but when we are in the zone £3,000 per "sub-contractor", it does make you think that there are better things to do with your hard-earned dosh than have someone lob it in a big pot with a tight lid. I quite fancied a little trip to the Caribbean this winter with the Artist, or some new clothes, a couple of nifty suits. I'd quite like to give three grand to my mum. Maybe not.

I can't help thinking of Tommy Cooper who once quipped: “It’s not the principle. It’s the money.”


Ps: Since this post, PG Editor Ian Reeves has asked me to state that he is fighting for payment to all journalists if PG is sold. I have suggested he post a comment here...

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Journalist, founder of Access Interviews.com, creator of The Definite Article interview column in Daily Mail's Weekend magazine.