Lockwood Publications Is Not Paying Its Freelancers

tobacco08102010.jpgFreelancers beware: Lockwood Publications, publisher of Tobacco International and other nicotine– and caffeine-related trade magazines, can’t seem to find the means to pay its freelancers, according to emails obtained by FishbowlNY.

Cindy-Lou Dale, a writer and photojournalist who’s written multiple stories for Lockwood Publications, says the company owes her $2,460.34 for five stories dating back to a 2008 piece on smoking in Estonia. An email exchange between her, her editor, and managers at Lockwood reveals that the company faces significant financial turmoil that has prevented it from paying up. Despite this, it continues to run pieces, as evidenced by the May/June issue of Tobacco International, part of which is available online.

Dale’s nonpayment fiasco goes back more than a year. On August 4, 2009, she wrote to Tobacco International editor Evan Dashevsky to ask when she could expect payment. After some back-and-forth, Dashevsky wrote on Sept. 8:

I just got into a row of fights with the CFO about payments. The president has asked me for my priorities and you are on that list.

On Sept. 22, Lockwood chief financial officer Sam Kowalski replied to an inquiry by Dale, instructing her to “send us the articles you show as unpaid so we can at least reconcile our account with you.” Kowalski also said that payment would probably not be forthcoming until the first quarter of 2010 (even that postponed deadline has apparently not been met):

This may not be the news that you want to hear but as of today that is the best that I can share with you. […] If our circumstances improve sooner than this we will make every effort to begin to pay you. We value the contribution that you have made to Lockwood and we want to pay you.

On Dec. 8, 2009, Dale again requested an update on when she would get paid. Kowalski replied the next day:

We are deeply disappointed that we are still in a precarious position. As you probably know most of media is still hurting. Even tradeshows, which is a big part of our business has been challenging. We have 2 shows in April and we are hopeful that the business from these shows during the 1st qtr of 2010 will generate free cash flow to allow us to begin to make payments to you and many others.

We appreciate your contribution to Lockwood over the years and your patience during this very turbulent time.

Most recently, in a July 15 email to Kowalski, Dashevsky, and owners Fred and Rob Lockwood, Dale wrote:

Sam, I’ve yet to receive the courtesy of a reply regards the outstanding payment for the five articles I’ve written for you dating back to 2009 [ed. note: Dale says she erroneously typed 2009 instead of 2008 here] and totalling some $2.052.53 (add 15% onto that to pay for the overdraft I was forced into, due to your non-payment). You told me (in 2009) that you’ll ‘begin’ paying me in the first quarter of 2010. No payment has been forthcoming. I see Lockwood is still publishing and I presume you’re still being paid so ask that you pay me at once.

Sam Kowalski did not immediately return a call for comment.

It’s not just small trade mags that are having trouble paying their stringers. Just a few days ago, Chris Mohney, online editor at BlackBook, recently wrote of the woes befalling not just freelance writers, but the editors whose publications are in turn owed advertising money.