(See update below)
How pleased I was, during Sunset Junction week in late August, when the L.A. Alternative published an issue of their free weekly featuring my three-page pull-out crime map detailing the historic oddities and horrors of the Sunset Junction neighborhood. I heard from folks who attended the street fair that it was a big hit, with people walking around checking addresses and shuddering. (The Sunset Junction story can now only be seen right here at 1947project.)
A month after my story came out, publisher Martin Albornoz announced the paper was folding, but that he hoped to continue publishing online. Although at this point I was wondering where my payment was, I still dashed off a friendly email telling Martin that my husband Richard and I would be happy to meet with him and give him some ideas about how to pull this off, as we believed he and his writers had a lot to offer the community. He never replied.
Nor did Martin reply to my repeated emails, as the weeks ticked away with no sign of the $250 payment for the feature. I sent a certified letter demanding the money, which went uncollected. So I finally phoned and left a message, which resulted in the following email on November 27:
Yes, I am aware that you stopped publishing. In fact, you may recall
that I emailed you offering to advise you about your online options,
but received no reply.
Nonetheless, I wrote a story several months prior to the LAA closing,
and am owed $250 for it. I would appreciate your putting me high on
the list of people to be paid. I will extend the courtesy of
additional three weeks to you before pursuing other options. Please
ensure I receive payment by December 18.
I heard from Michele that Lesley thinks she remembers sending me a
check. So it is possible that you have already tried to pay me and the
check was lost in the mail. I would appreciate your checking on this,
and recutting the check if that is the case.
I would also appreciate it if you would mail me a stack of copies of
the issue with my cover story. Bulk rate is fine.
Thanks, and best regards,
It has been three weeks since I last heard that "in a few weeks" you
would be writing checks, and there has been no sign of payment for my
cover story, nor of the copies of that issue that I asked for.
Are you prepared to make good on this debt now, or must I go forward
with the plan for publicizing the non-payment and filing in small
claims court that I spelled out previously [in the certified letter that I later emailed to Martin]?
Please spare us both any additional bother and awkwardness and send me
$250 now, or let me know exactly when you will be doing so. I am
willing to work with you, but not to wait indefinitely for payment,
especially if you don’t keep me informed of the situation.
Why is it that the only way I can get you to communicate with me is to
send out a mass email and post on my blog? You have had several weeks
in which to respond to my polite request for information on when I
would be paid, and you’ve ignored me. You never mentioned bankruptcy.
You actually said you would be sending checks out within several
weeks, which did not happen, so I emailed you again, waited two days,
and then went public.
I’m very appreciative of the support of the local press for the
1947project, and am always willing to give time and assistance to
reporters who have questions. But I worked for two weeks writing and
researching a huge story for your paper, which is something very
I wish you only the best, and hope that you will see fit to honor your
promise to pay for this story. And it would be quite a nice gesture of
goodwill if you were to send me those extra copies of my feature that
I have asked you for several times.
I will update the blog entry with any good news you can send, which
should be an added incentive to you to do the right thing.