In a first-hand story published by Columbia Journalism Review, a former Vice News freelancer describes Vice News as a news organization that taps the experience of veteran broadcast freelancers—but often makes it difficult or impossible for those journalists to get paid for their work.
“In an era of journalism in which freelancers have grown accustomed to being treated like disposable cogs of news production, Vice appears to be in a league of its own,” writes Yardena Schwartz, who has freelanced for CBS News, NBC News and MSNBC, and worked as a producer at NBC News in New York.
“Not once have I experienced this kind of treatment. Like any freelancer, I’m used to waiting a month or two to get paid, or having to hound editors until my check arrives, but never had I felt this utterly taken advantage of.”
Schwartz interviewed more than a dozen freelancers who have worked with Vice, many describing experiences like those of Maya Vidon and Karine Barzegar, veteran freelancers who regularly work with networks like BBC, CBS News and CNN. In preparation for a 2015 report on Islamic terror and France, CJR reports Vice producers turned to the freelancers for extensive help setting up shoots:
Vidon was ready and willing to do the work, but every time she asked about Vice’s budget, or about the day rate they planned to pay her, the producer either ignored the question or told her he would get back to her later.
“He kept picking my brain with a sense of urgency but never addressed the matter of my fees,” Vidon wrote. “My alarm bells rang very quickly.”
Had not realised, Karine Barzegar, a fantastic journo I’ve had the privilege of working with, was also duped by VICE https://t.co/Cy4YfCMr7k
— Clarissa Ward (@clarissaward) August 31, 2016
“We’re constantly taking steps to improve the experience for our freelancers, and we regret if the journalist writing this story didn’t experience the high expectations that we set and strive towards,” Vice head of content Ciel Hunter said in a statement to CJR.