A fight at the Food Magazine
Culinary smackdowns are regular fodder for food magazines. But the vicious battle taking place at the Food Magazine isn't between star chefs. It's the publication's editor vs. some of its contributors.
The Food Magazine, which showcases celebrity chefs and their recipes, launched last winter, and its third issue will hit newsstands March 3. Editor-in-Chief and Publisher Candus Jane Zanghi says the magazine is profitable and moving forward. But two writers and one photographer complain that the magazine collectively owes them $16,500 for work done last spring. And they say they have not received timely or satisfactory explanations for the delay in payment.
On Feb. 18, one contributor took the fight public, launching a page on Facebook titled The Food Magazine Often Does Not Pay Their Contributors to air the grievances. So far, the group has 27 fans.
"My question is: Where is [Zanghi] getting the money for a third issue if there was no money to pay contributors to the second?" said Washington area photographer John Spaulding, who launched the Facebook page. Spaulding said the Food Magazine owes him $10,000, including $2,000 for travel expenses that he paid out of his own pocket.
Zanghi said she was shocked and saddened that in such difficult economic times the contributors would go "out of their way to harm me and my publication."
Zanghi, whose Twitter account lists her home as Arlington, Va., launched the Food Magazine in one of the toughest media environments in history. (Zanghi said she now is a resident of Washington state and that her company is based in Delaware.) Magazine ad pages in all categories have seen catastrophic plunges, and publications have purged staff. In October, Conde Nast shocked the food world when it shuttered the 68-year-old Gourmet magazine.
Zanghi, who formerly worked as creative director at the Washington news bureau of Scripps, nevertheless decided to push ahead with a new, independent publication. Her plan: to create a magazine that focused on a broad range of celebrity chefs, not just ones associated with a particular television network. In her first issues, she wrangled a number of brand-name chefs. An orange-clogged Mario Batali graced the cover of the premiere issue; Le Bernadin's Eric Ripert and Los Angeles star Wolfgang Puck have followed. Zanghi said she did not commit to a strict publication schedule. But she did secure a four-year national distribution deal that puts the magazine in 40,000 stores, including Barnes & Noble, Borders and Costco.
"I have to say that our secret is we aren't owned by a major media conglomerate. Just me," Zanghi commented on a February 2009 post on Endless Simmer about rumors that Gourmet would close. "We don't have all the expenses that other publications have."
Independence has its own pitfalls, however. Several deals with different investors have fallen through, Zanghi confirmed. She said the lineup of current investors is confidential.
Contributors had no complaints about the production of the first issue. They were paid for their work, and several agreed to work on the next issue, slated to be released in June 2009. But the magazine did not arrive at newsstands on schedule. When, over the summer, contributors contacted Zanghi about payment, they say they initially got a variety of excuses: a problem with the ad reps, a change of investors, for example. Then, they say, Zanghi stopped returning phone calls and e-mails entirely.
Lisa Cherkasky, a writer and food stylist (who has also worked for The Washington Post), said she is owed $4,000. Arnie Cooper, a freelance writer based in California who wrote a story about olive oil for the second issue, said he is owed $1,500.
"I called many times. Her phone voice mail was full and not taking messages," Cooper said. "This whole thing could have been avoided had she simply made the effort of contacting her writers. Instead she chose to ignore people, and I suppose it never occurred to her that when writers are owed money they may start writing about the situation."
None of the contributors signed a contract with Zanghi.
Zanghi acknowledges that some contributors have not been paid, and she had several explanations. She insisted that the magazine is profitable. But she added that the payment "process is complicated" and that "any outstanding invoices will be paid."
However, she also suggested that Spaulding and Cherkasky had not been paid because their work had been subpar. Cherkasky's articles, Zanghi said, had to be completely rewritten. She said Spaulding's travel expenses, including a stay at the Hilton in New York, were excessive. Zanghi said that for the most part she did not convey this information to most contributors, however, because she did not want to hurt anyone's feelings.
Both contributors dispute Zanghi's allegations. Cherkasky said her pieces were printed "verbatim." "To be perfectly honest, I was horrified that my stories were not edited," she said.
Spaulding said that Zanghi did complain about the quality of his work, but only when she was three or four months late in payment. "We are all great friends when she needed the work done quickly," he said. "As soon as she owed people money, there was a problem."
-- Jane Black
Posted by: jtr1030 | February 24, 2010 11:04 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: efstewart | February 24, 2010 12:11 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: jiji1 | February 24, 2010 12:31 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: spauldij1 | February 24, 2010 1:32 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: northgs | February 24, 2010 2:56 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: wped07 | February 24, 2010 3:51 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: LizArndt | February 24, 2010 8:02 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: member8 | February 24, 2010 10:22 PM | Report abuse
The comments to this entry are closed.