Yeah, That Turned Out Not to Be Such a Good Idea

ComicsCover.jpg
I wanted to have a big special comics issue, but I had a limited budget. So in a well-meaning effort to make this work, I asked some cartoonists to provide work without compensation. In the last couple of days, it's been pointed out to me quite clearly that this was not the best way to help out the cartooning industry. The thing is, we're not a company that expects people to work for free for the exposure. And I'm making this right: I'm paying all of the artists in the special issue.

And hopefully buying them beers and working with them again soon.

Tony Ortega
Editor
The Village Voice


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44 comments
Kirt Wren
Kirt Wren

Maybe and just maybe...all artist should form a coalition or union of some sorts.Musicians have them.  I don't believe in free art.There was a story about a couple that was on a beach, and seen Picasso sunbathing.They wanted a drawing and used their little boy to seal the deal ( who could turn down a little boy?) Picasso gave them their drawing, a cubist design on the boys back!

Jonathan David Lim
Jonathan David Lim

Good on ya, Mr Ortega. Glad to see public outcry still holds some bearing on the higherups, as opposed to it being swept under the rug.

Honore Daumier
Honore Daumier

The VOICE used to be a beautiful expression of downtown NYC culture. It's now - thanks to Cato Institute stooges like Nat Hentoff - a disgusting co-opted lapdog, garbage pail. Let's hope you're ignored out of existence. (Who do you think you're talking to, Tony? Go back to Phoenix, where the IQ is sufficiently low to swallow your bullshit.)

Surt58
Surt58

I just picked up this issue of the Voice yesterday and I do see credit and contact info next to the illustrations.

- Yeah, a publication of this renown shouldn't be trying to hustle art for exposure but they did list credits and contact info.

Norman Mailer
Norman Mailer

Cut him some slack? That "mea culpa" may has well have been written by a lawyer. What an absurd gesture. Like admitting to having an affair after being caught in bed with one's mistress. You want to make this right, Orega? Credit and pay the artists. Have you no conscience? You defecate on all artists with your disingenuous nonsense. (Are you so obtuse as to need it pointed out to you that paying them would be the best way to exploit - "help out" - the cartooning industry.) "And I'm making this right." Sounds pretty self-aggrandizing to me. Not only are you an enemy of the industry, you're a laughing-stock. Schmuck.

Ice
Ice

Cut him some slack. He's trying to do the right thing.

Mailer
Mailer

Pathetic, Ortega.

Guy W. Staats
Guy W. Staats

Gee, how many big-city editors of nationally distributed publications would be willing to work "on spec". This alleged attempt at "making this right" is more like putting a smiley face Band-Aid on a cancerous lesion.

Jason
Jason

I like the "well-meaning" line. Since nothing about you act was well meaning, it renders that which follows as BS.

(O_O)x
(O_O)x

I'm a Creative Director that buys art. Can you please post the names of the artists that contributed to this cover and issue as well as their contact info? Thank you.

Guest
Guest

I'm not entirely sure you've thought THIS through. Making the dig at "a company that" does what you were doing until it became an issue really begs the snark. You're begging the snark.

So your regular policy, unlike that of the Huffington Post, involves paying artists and writers for work which you then sell, hopefully for a profit. But when you want to do something you can't afford to do you think that the Huffington way is sort of okay.

See, that's worse. That creates a situation where rather than simply being embarrassed as a professional acting with careless disrespect for other professionals, you are now, in addition, pointing fingers and coming across as self-righteous. That doesn't help you look better.

I think it's good that the artists and writers were paid. I've worked for free for the exposure and I've found that when you give something away once it is really hard to ever get paid by that person again, so you'll have to follow through on that last bit and continue to hire these artists from time to time if you want to balance out some karma.

Particularly Irritated
Particularly Irritated

Congratulations, you took advantage of a bunch of artists to push your glorified tripe. Clearly your apology and your attempt at reconciliation are clearly a result of your belief in fair treatment, rather than a response to the outrageous hypocrisy you've displayed. I think Runnin' Scared is an appropriate descriptor for your blog, for more than one reason.

Jpburns
Jpburns

It's good that people can still be shamed into paying artists something.

Beaner
Beaner

Paying professional artists for weekly contributions is a practice that readers, advertisers, publishers, owners, editors (and hell maybe even shareholders) should be advocating. Not only does it make a publication look more intelligent, but it makes the content better. If the content is better - people will read the content. If people are reading the content, then advertisers ads are being put to work.

The Voice (and any other pub for that matter) are lying if they say they don't have enough money to pay artists for their contributions. Advertisers should demand better content - because if there are several advertisers paying upwards of 10K for full page ads, we can at least expect that the publication can at least put one tenth of that money into their cover and artistic contributors.

When the bottom line is the main interest - it shows in the final product. The funny part is that when people think you look cheap (because you are) and they can tell when you aren't properly investing in your product in order to give your shareholders or owners a better return - then your publication will suffer financially. So please, help yourself so we can help you.

What we hope to see is instead of beers (which is very generous) and payment to these artists (which is the right thing to do) would be for Mr. Ortega to demand his superiors to loosen their tight little puckered up change purses, increase budgets, and pay for WEEKLY comics, WEEKLY illustration, WEEKLY original photographic spots, puzzles, and other editorial tidbits. This will no doubt increase readership and not only make people feel like they are reading a real newspaper, but also increase your revenue.

It may not benefit you immediately, but long term it will restore credibility and transform that 50 million dollar investment into a fiscally good decision. Its called a business plan. Get one.

P.S. Bring Wartella back. Please.

Genevieve
Genevieve

It's easy to sound magnanimous after you've been censured.

Jon
Jon

First point- So, you refused to pay your artists anything because of your "limited budget" - but now, after being roundly criticized, mocked, and made a fool of, you are back tracking, tapping into that 'limited budget' of yours, and managing to pay them? How did this happen exactly?

Why didn't you just do this in the first place if your budget was so 'limited?' -did you magic up some money in the mean time? It strikes me as very odd that you thought you were helping these artists, and making people take artists more seriously as a valuable comodity by giving them ... nothing? By giving an artist no money, you are literally telling them 'well, your picture is nice, but since you're 'just an artist,' it's not even really worth the paper I'm going to print it on, so don't expect any sort of reward for your time, your trouble, or your talent. PS- I'm doing you [the artist] a FAVOR, so don't forget it."

Second point- in agreement with bower boy- you did not give your artists credit, so where exactly is the 'exposure' supposed to come from? Do you just hope that people will know who drew what and figure it out on our own? It seems to me that you are just a cheap hustler who got your hand caught in the cookie jar... and when you realized that NO ONE was going to take a "comic issue" seriously when you DIDN'T EVEN BOTHER TO PAY YOUR ARTISTS- you managed to squirrel up some extra money to try and keep yourself from looking like a complete fool.

Woops, you FAILED. Next time, try paying your talent, because working for 'exposure' never put food on anyone's table, never paid their bills, and gives the artist jack-shit- whereas YOU get all the free art you want to fill your magazine. The only person you were doing a favor for was yourself.

Roxy
Roxy

You might not be a company that "expects people to work for free for the exposure"; how about expecting people to work for free for the "experience"? Your arts and photo internships are unpaid. Kind of hypocritical.

Mark Anderson
Mark Anderson

Uh, kudos I guess for making it right eventually after being roundly mocked? Seriously, what were you thinking?!

Roxy
Roxy

I'm hesitant to congratulate you for doing something that honest business practices and basic decency suggests you should have done in the first place.

Sweetiechili
Sweetiechili

And maybe not do that "firing comickers when they don't accept paycuts thing". Yeah.

Mimi Pond
Mimi Pond

I would be happy to contribute to a paying Village Voice. And thank you.

dougtron
dougtron

Good for you, glad to hear you are making it right

Electro_Jones
Electro_Jones

You know, an artist is sometimes willing to work for exposure, but it's the exposure that opens doors on the way UP. FFS, one would think that the Village Voice would be "UP", up near the top of the heap. What advantage is exposure leading to more non paying gigs?

Danny Hellman
Danny Hellman

My two cents: this is the classy move, but you get better illos when you pay up front.

Roxy
Roxy

Good move, but I hope it's more than a pittance. Altogether it's really sad that your first instinct was that you could save money by not paying contributors.

I doubt you would *ever* think of telling a writer they could get an article in the Village Voice solely for "the exposure".

This prevalent culture of getting something for nothing-- the widespread use of unpaid interns to perform essential tasks, which is actually illegal, y'know-- is toxic and terrible.

If you have any unpaid interns that the company is benefiting from, I hope you'll consider retroactively paying them as the Atlantic did: http://www.mediabistro.com/med...

If you don't, you are part of the problem.

Matthew Southworth
Matthew Southworth

Hell yeah, Tony! I've never met you but I'll buy YOU a beer if I do .

Seeing someone humbly address a mistake--the best thing I've seen all day.

Dustin Harbin
Dustin Harbin

Kudos for handling this in this way, and especially for handling it publicly. Excellent precedent and hopefully a good sign for the future of cartooning in a weird old world!

Bowery Boy
Bowery Boy

How about crediting the artists who's work you are showing everytime you show it???

Carl
Carl

"Pay the artists" and "paying them would be the best way to exploit...the cartooning industry"

???

Mailer, hand over that name!

ClaremontWhistleBlower
ClaremontWhistleBlower

After he was blasted in the national media."...in a well-meaning effort to make this work, I asked some cartoonists to provide work without compensation."When the VOICE management asks him to work for free "in a well-meaning effort", then I'd believe the mea culpa.

gregory
gregory

One artist, Ward Sutton, did the cover. A mash-up homage to some of the greats.

Next "Comics Issue", how about some comics....

Particularly Irritated
Particularly Irritated

Whoops, meant to say in response to the outrageous hypocrisy that everybody else has pointed out. Isn't it great when somebody owns up to a mistake on their own, rather than at the behest of a group?

Jon
Jon

Even the picture at the TOP OF THIS PAGE - is UNCREDITED- WTF

Margaret Trauth
Margaret Trauth

I think they are now thinking "well, we learnt our lesson and hope not to repeat that mistake." A serious public apology is a good thing; how many people might now *not* ask an artist to do work "for the exposure" after seeing this?

Cojo Art Juggernaut
Cojo Art Juggernaut

I resent the bad illustration jabs Danny. I know your heart is in the right place, but I'm pretty sure the other artists involved in this project don't like being hit over the head by Danny Hellman over and over about how the art in the issue sucks, when they are the ones who made it. Does that mean you do a shitty job for Royal Flush Magazine or is that different? -Cojo

VeronicaGuzzardi
VeronicaGuzzardi

Seconding this, particularly because the original offer was for "exposure." How are you even making good on THAT without giving credit?

But good on you for doing the right thing and paying your contributors.

Electro_Jones
Electro_Jones

Heh. It wasn't a "mistake" until people complained.

Danny Hellman
Danny Hellman

Cojo, I like you and I like your work. If I were to assess each of the unpaid illos individually, I'd have to admit that a few of them are professional quality, including yours. I even understand that someone who'd never been printed in the Voice might be lured by the intangible promise of "exposure," (a trick that works better on bright-eyed youngsters than it does on ye olde crustaceans like myself).

That said, here's the lens through which I view this episode: it's a threat against everyone who draws for a living. If a corporate entity like the Voice is going to cry poverty and solicit free art in exchange for "exposure," what precedent does that set in the commercial art marketplace? Will the art director of Time magazine think, "hey, my circulation's even bigger! Maybe I can get me some free illos!" Maybe ad agencies will start asking storyboard artists to work for free. Maybe Yahoo or some other huge web entity will barter free illos for quadrillions of pages views worth of exposure.

It's a slippery slope upon which no artist should set foot. As Roy Edroso pointed out in his piece, artists are already getting banged in every hole, and we shouldn't give anyone an opportunity to tear us a new one.

Beaner
Beaner

Its a valid opinion, cojo... Danny, how many times have you been commissioned (and paid) to illustrate a spot in the Voice? Cojo - you?

Cojo Art Juggernaut
Cojo Art Juggernaut

No spots, just covers (2). But technically they were Voice owned papers- not the New York Village Voice: Miami New Times, and The Cleveland Scene- all part of Village Voice Media. I take it back, the Miami New Times had 4 accompanying spots, and the Cleveland scene piece was used as header art for the Music Section as well as the cover. Why am I justifying myself to a generic troll? I'm pretty sure Danny can speak for himself.-Cojohttp://www.artsucks.com/blog/2...

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