Yesterday, news broke that the Josh Topolsky-founded media company The Outline laid off its two remaining full-time staff writers. Though the company had raised a sizable chunk of money only a few months before, giving it a $21.15 million valuation, that didn’t protect the writing staff it had employed. The message was clear: The Outline will use only freelance talent from now on.
Freelancers, however, are saying no. Dozens of members of Study Hall—a professional support network for freelance media—have signed a letter pledging to no longer write for the website.
“[W]e cannot allow Josh Topolsky and his investors to rely on our loyalty to The Outline‘s vision when they choose to devalue writers’ work and treat our ability to survive as externalities,” the open letter writes. “The Outline started with a focus on power, culture, and the future; they’ve since created a workplace culture that doesn’t seem to value the labor that makes the site function, have fallen back on typical power structures, and are building a future we want no part of.”
— Study Hall (@studyhallxyz) September 5, 2018
This is a bold step, one that will hopefully send a message to other outlets with similar labor structures. Being a professional writer is rough–layoffs abound, and there seem to be fewer and fewer staff positions–and media companies are expecting more of their talent roster while paying less. Study Hall’s open letter shows how it may be possible for the industry to band together and advocate for better conditions.
I reached out to Topolsky for comment and will update if he responds. In the meantime, if you have worked for the website, or have knowledge about what’s going on, I would love to chat with you–anonymity guaranteed.
You can read Study Hall’s full letter here.