When The New York Post doesn’t pay – warning to freelancers.

How the New York Post used a copyrighted photo  and the extraordinary battle to get paid.ethics

Unacceptable delay over payment 

Forced to email them over a dozen times – the story of Invoice 2942.

When the New York Post emailed me desperate for a photo in what was the middle of the night in the UK, I did not complain.

Trusting that I was dealing with an excellent bona fide and professional US newspaper, and happy to provide an excellent service on deadline, I duly emailed the photo plus copy straightaway.

The New York Post used the photo, properly credited with Featureworld and my byline. I thought all was well and was glad I had been able to provide the New York Post with such a swift service.

In the beginning of June I sold this photo all over the world.
I trusted that I would be paid and indeed everyone has paid.

Except for one paper.
Step forward the New York Post.

For despite sending an invoice to them over two months ago now, stipulating payment terms of 30 days within receipt of an invoice, they have repeatedly delayed payment.

First, although I sent all the US forms (W-8 tax form plus invoice) for payment to them at the beginning of June, no payment appeared.

I complained – no one emailed back – no payment.

Eventually they apologised and after sending the forms yet again, naively I thought that was the end of the matter.

But no. As I expected to be paid yet another delay as a compliance form they never originally needed must now be filled in – and they are not happy to accept it on email, it must be posted to them.

For me, this means a car trip to the post office to stand in a queue for a stamp to send a letter to the US. All very bizarre frankly – I cannot recall the last time I sent any invoice by post but it was a very long time ago.

Then, the newspaper informs me, once they have received the posted forms, I will have to wait at least another 30 days to be paid.

By which time this payment will be more than four months overdue.

I am writing this blog to warn any other writers and photographers about the way the New York Post deals with payments because in my vast experience selling stories and photos all over the world, they are thankfully rare.

Most papers are keen that contributors are paid on time, if only because they might want that contributor to send them another story or photo. At Featureworld where there are outstanding invoices we do not continue to sell stories or photos to the publication that is in debt.

Regarding the New York Post, this has been such a terrible experience – and even now I am not sure I will be paid. If I am not I will be asking the New York Post to remove the photo and quotes from their website as they will be in breach of copyright as obviously a licence to run a photo is only granted if it is paid for.

Rick Homan, emailing on behalf of the New York Post, says my original invoice was not paid as the woman who was dealing with it suddenly left.

He says: “We have every intention of paying you. If you sent the W-8 back in June it was likely lost in the thousand or more of emails we get every day. Which is why we always ask for regular mail.”

He adds: “We now need the compliance form, I’m sorry to say. Again, this is new policy coming from the top.”

There does not appear, however, to be any sense of shame or any urgency to pay and in my opinion the paper is doing all it can to ensure I will not be. Certainly I feel I am being made to beg and jump through hoops just to get paid. Maybe other organisations would have given up and perhaps that is what this is all about…

I will post back here with an update. But I believe it is in the interest of all agencies, writers and photographers to be made aware of any paper where there is an issue over getting paid as in my view, it is usually best not to supply that publication with any more stories.

UPDATE 23rd September 2015: There is still no payment but there is an update of sorts (below) and I feel it is only fair and reasonable to add it to this blog.

Michael Racano, the Chief Financial Officer of the New York Post has now stepped in to add his reassurance I will be paid. He says: ‘This morning, David Boyle stopped by my office and dropped off the documents that you have sent to us in order to secure payment.  I will see to it personally that this is handled expeditiously.  Please accept my personal apologies as it has not been our intent to delay payment in any way.  We pride ourselves in paying our suppliers promptly.’

Mysteriously, although the Post’s rival papers all paid up within a few weeks (as did other papers and broadcasters in the US, UK, Australia, South Africa, Germany, France, New Zealand, Sweden, Denmark, Norway and many others) the New York Post are apparently not able to pay as everyone else in the world does. Mr Racano puts the delay down to the New York Post’s ‘stringent internal controls’ and ‘strong compliance procedures’.

It seems the New York Post’s procedures are so stringent they do not allow them to pay as legally they should do, as he did not actually give a date for payment. I have since discovered the Post has been the subject of non payments before. And I am sorry to say despite all this stuff about how sorry he is, the fact is I am still waiting…

UPDATE: 3rd October 2015: The invoice is finally settled in full. Thank you. I do hope it was not just because google loves this blog and brings it up highly that the New York Post paid!

Alison Smith-Squire

Alison Smith-Squire is a writer, journalist and media agent selling exclusive real life stories to newspapers, magazines and TV. She owns the sell my story website Featureworld.co.uk, which was set up to help ordinary people sell their stories to the press.

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