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Raw Story (Media Internet Site)Termination of Freelance Work

I sent a freelance story to Raw Story. This was my first contact to them. It was rejected, but ultimately used by and based on its travels on Internet sites including foreign ones, it was a great success. I explain this only to show that the story was all there. After it was published, I showed it to Raw Story again and they were congratulatory. This just shows you the story was competent and valid. But, obviously, it is totally in Raw Story editors' discretion to accept or refuse freelance stories. I offer this to give you a complete picture and context of the entire relationship.

I preface my complaint with this explanation of why I am complaining. This Raw Story site is a media operation. What one of its editors did to me is totally inappropriate, not only because I was mistreated, but because it reflects on the site's lack of sensitivity and morality. It is after all part of the "Fourth Estate, " and as such needs to treat its sources, its readers, its investigative targets and its writers FAIRLY!

Because an editor or editors liked my resume, they wanted me to submit some story ideas. I did. I was dealing entirely with Managing Editor/Investigative News Larisa Alexandrovna -via email, and I often copied John Byrne, the editor. That must ultimately have annoyed Ms. Alexandrovna, as you will see.

Larisa asked me for some story ideas. I offered a number of them in a list with details, but she ultimately rejected them. She instead suggested a subject she wanted me to opine on whether I thought deserved a story. She wanted me to explain why if I did. I researched for a good while and came up with a proposal because I believed there is a very significant national story, matching her suggestion.

Here is my proposal to Ms. Alexandrovna:

A critical U.S. Supreme Court case, to be argued just before the presidential election, is but one of scores of President George W. Bush administration policy making decisions which have created threats to consumers, including those with serious or even fatal medical conditions.

In the past seven years, the president and his advisers have, through federal agency and court action, eroded the abilities of a wide variety of purchasers to sue corporations and professionals. The case at hand, Wyeth v. Levine, if won by the corporations, will inhibit victims of poorly labeled prescription drugs and allegedly “light” cigarettes from suing for damages for their injuries.

Consumer lawyers have become concerned enough to raise money to help fight that court case, as well as others, and to support political candidates they believe will reverse the federal trend to eliminate protective action for potentially helpless victims and socially conscious organizations assisting them.

Much of the consumer rights erosion stems from the Bush administration’s preemption of state laws through executive, federal agency or court action. These policies directly conflict with Bush’s continuously expressed philosophy of state’s rights and opposition of federal government intervention in the lives of citizens.

In January 2001, before his inauguration, President Bush summarized his thoughts about the principle of states’ rights. “While I believe there's a role for the federal government, it's not to impose its will on states and local communities.” The quote is in part of the writings of Edmund Mierzwinski Consumer Program Director, United States Public Interest Research Group.

Now the story will discuss the primary areas in which the Bush administration has pushed its federalist agenda to stop consumers from obtaining damages for their injuries caused by corporate or professional negligence.

I sent this proposal to Larisa and received no answer to several emails so I sent about three or four asking her to please answer me. All the emails I sent were civil, but did ask her to please get back to me.

Here is her only answer after an inordinate delay, and please keep in mind, I never spoke with her and none of my emails were rude.
Ms. Alexandrovna:

"Dennie, I have been on the road for the past 10 days– as noted by my recent article and I have had issues with email while on the road.

That said, I sent you that tip for that story to ask you to investigate it and see if there was a story there and then get back to me. I did not request a proposal and I did not ask you to put a great deal of time into letting me know very simply that there was either a). A story there or b). No story there. In addition, the level of urgency – me getting three emails in one week, plus my editor getting copied on these emails is not appropriate. We have no working relationship. We have no contract. We have no established deadline. We don’t even have a story yet. We are in the pre-story phase, if that. There is no reason for this type of aggressive pushing. As is customary and depending on the time-frame of the story (breaking news/urgency), this proposal did not require my immediate attention. I was planning on responding to you later in the week, after I had handled more urgent and time constrained issues (breaking news/urgent).

At this point, I think it best that we both re-consider you freelancing for us. While I find you to be a highly capable reporter and an excellent writer, I am not comfortable with the amount of pressure being put on me for a story that is not even a story yet and the amount of work you are putting into a proposal that I did not request. What I wanted was a simple yes, there is something here or no, there is nothing here. After which, we would schedule to follow up and discuss and see how to proceed, discuss payment, etc. Again, given that this was not urgent and given that I have already noted that I travel and as such, may take some time to get back to you, but will do so as soon as I can, I find this level of pressure unusual. You should look for an editor you would be more comfortable with in the pre-story phase. I don’t think I am a good match for you and the attention you are requiring at this time.

Best of luck to you,

I wrote complaints to Larisa and her boss John Byrne and left telephone messages for him, but neither of them ever answered.

Here is my question? Is this a professional way of dealing with a freelancer who was encouraged to work for this Internet site, did the necessary research and then got terminated?

What can I do about this? It upsets me that a media site is so insensitive to freelancers. What does that mean for the subjects of its own investigations?


Dennie Williams

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