Venture Publishing Inc. of Edmonton and its CEO Ruth Kelly have developed a disturbing business model when it comes to paying the freelance contributors hired to create articles, photos, and illustrations for the various magazines it produces, such as Alberta Venture, Alberta Oil, and Heroes on behalf of the Stollery Children’s Hospital Foundation.
For several years, Venture Publishing has contracted freelance writers, photographers, graphic designers and illustrators to produce content, and then fails to pay them in a timely manner or at all.
Venture Publishing currently owes tens of thousands of dollars to these freelancers, and has failed to make good on constant promises to pay them for their work. For those freelancers who do get paid, Venture takes months, or even years, to fulfil its financial obligations.
“Many of the people we’re representing have told me how frustrated they have been, and how some have had their credit ratings ruined because they couldn’t pay bills they were counting on covering with income owed from Venture,” said Don Genova, president of the Canadian Media Guild (CMG) Freelance branch. “It’s shocking that Ruth Kelly feels she can commission people to fill their magazines with high quality photos, stories and illustrations, then not bother to pay them for months and months, leaving her editors, art directors, and financial people to make excuses about why the cheques haven’t been sent. I wonder how the Alberta Congress Board feels now about selecting her as the recipient of the 2014 Distinguished Workplace Leader award, when she treats her content providers like this.”
In 2016, a CMG Freelance Branch member approached Genova for help in getting the pay she was owed. Genova soon discovered other freelancers with the same problem. Some reported they had been paid, but only after months or sometimes years of waiting. Others said they were still owed money, and provided contracts, invoices, and email threads to substantiate their claims.
In November 2016, the CMG’s legal counsel sent a demand letter to Venture Publishing’s President and CEO Ruth Kelly, detailing the claims and asking that 13 contractors be paid a total of nearly $40,000 they were owed.
“We know times have been tough for the publishing industry,” said Genova, “but that’s no excuse to use people for their talents without giving them a reasonable expectation of being paid in a timely manner. Venture Publishing, pay your people.”
CMG Freelance first learned of Venture Publishing’s modus operandi in 2013, and warned writers about Venture Publishing’s tactics back then in a post on its Story Board blog. Since then, these same tactics have continued.
For more information, or to talk to some of the freelancers who are still waiting for payment, contact Don Genova at firstname.lastname@example.org or 778-991-4439.
CMG Freelance represents freelance contractors at the CBC and self-employed media workers across the country. It’s part of the Canadian Media Guild, Local 30213 of CWA Canada, the country’s only all-media union.