Note: this piece is cross-posted in the Chic blog. 
So the news of the day is that the little article I wrote for a Canadian home magazine - the back in the winter has finally been published. This should have been a good thing, but frankly, it's more irritating than anything else. 

Here's the cover of the issue I'm in:
Here's a cover I made as a joke that I think better describes the nature of this magazine:
Let me explain.


I was invited to be featured in the magazine's spring issue back in January. The mag wanted to re-show my home as it had recently been featured on the Apartment Therapy website. I had to provide the photos and write the copy (a 500  word article). I would not be paid. 

Usually, I would not agree to this. Having been a professional writer, I don't take particularly kindly to offers to work for free. (I mean, what am I supposed to say to that? Goody!? No money makes me feel respected and successful!?) Furthermore, I did not own the photographs, which were taken by Abby Cook for Apartment Therapy. 

However, I had just launched my shop -- Will & Bequeath -- and I decided to make an exception to the "no work for free" rule in order to get the shop a bit of publicity. That publicity would be my payment. I contacted Abby and through her, Apartment Therapy, to gain proper permission to use the existing photos (which they granted) with some simple caveats/restrictions. Here's part of the email I wrote in which these caveats were explained and subsequently agreed to by the magazine:

"Abby Cook, the photographer, retains the rights to those original photos, and if she agrees (which I believe she will) they can be published elsewhere, as long as it's more than 3 months after their initial appearance in Apartment Therapy. Your next issue is set to
come out in April, so I believe that will be fine. They just ask that she is credited by name as the photographer and that Apartment Therapy is credited as well."


As I said, the magazine agreed and we moved forward. Before beginning work on the text for the article, I asked my contact at the magazine for previous issues/similar pieces, so that I could become familiar with the publication's style. I was directed to past issues, where I noted that authors were appropriately credited with listings of their website(s) URLs, etc. Seemed straight forward enough.

I wrote the 500 words, I included a proper byline and a SINGLE reference to my shop, complete with URL. The piece went out into the void and I didn't hear from the magazine again for months.

The piece was bumped from the Spring issue to the Summer issue (not that I was informed of the change) and was only just released. Finally, someone from the production department got in touch, sending along a PDF of my piece.

Guess what? The text was butchered - cut down from 500 words to about 285. That happens, but much more importantly, reference to my store and the shop's url were removed. No url for my personal website appeared. And ALL references to Abby Cook and Apartment Therapy were omitted as well.

I'm disgusted.

I wanted to stop being a journalist for a lot of reasons, not the least of which being that it seems to be a business largely populated by people who are completely unethical. I know many fine writers who try to do good, fair work, but who are regularly cut down and limited by publishers and members of middle management who just DON'T CARE. The result is magazine and newspaper copy that is banal, badly written, and filled with egregious errors (grammatical and factual). 
Not that this is anything new. Scott Adams (Dilbert cartoonist) created the above comic almost 15 years ago.

But okay, to be fair, I read good pieces every once in awhile. Some better magazines still manage to produce readable, well-designed content. Some newspapers still manage to publish fair, balanced pieces filled with facts. Some. Not all. Not even a majority. I should have remembered this when I agreed to work for free. 

Anyway. I'm going to try to milk the piece for as much as it's worth. Maybe SOMEONE will read it and Google my name. Maybe it will bring some limited traffic to my store after all. But I'm still disgusted. I wrote the following email to the "Editor-in-Chief' after seeing the PDF, and let me tell  you, it took a lot of restraint to stay on topic and keep from mentioning the smaller issues related to the piece (the terrible layout, the lack-luster editing, the magical removal of all my carefully-placed paragraph breaks, etc.). 

Marc, 

I  just received a PDF of my little article as it appears in your summer issue from your production department.
 I notice that the single reference to my store (Will & Bequeath -- www.willandbequeath.com) was removed from the piece. Considering that I provided the photos and wrote the accompanying text FOR FREE, this is pretty insulting. I was a professional journalist working and writing for national newspapers and magazines for ten years and I can tell you that this is extremely shoddy, unethical behavior. At the very least, a url to my personal website -- www.jenselk.com -- should have appeared next to my byline. 

I understand that small magazines have come to worship the almighty advertising dollar at the expense of almost everything else, but I don't appreciate being mislead into working for free. Our agreement was that I would provide you with content, and that the quid pro quo would be proper crediting at the very least. Ostensibly, since your magazine didn't offer real payment for the content I gave you, the benefit to me would be publicity/exposure -- which I will not be getting, thanks to your editorial omissions. What's done is done, but for the record, I'm annoyed and insulted, both personally and professionally. 
 
Will such an email matter? I doubt it. I doubt anyone responsible will feel even the slightest bit of shame, but at least I said something, right?

As far as I'm concerned, this piece constitutes theft, from me, from Abby, and from Apartment Therapy. But so what, right? Such is the way of the world.

Sigh.

Here's the piece in PDF form, in case your interested. I certainly wouldn't encourage you to purchase the print version of the magazine after this charming business.

I say again: SIGH.
UPDATE: On July 18, 2012, I received a response to my complaint email from Marc Atiyolil, the "Editor-in-chief" and self-described "celebrity designer" responsible for Canadian Home Trends magazine. Here's what happened next.

Marc apologized for not getting back to me sooner, citing a business trip as the reason for his delayed response. (Note to the discerning reader: the email in question was sent from a Blackberry. ) Marc did NOT acknowledge or apologize for his magazine's errors/decisions and instead cited "editorial versus advertorial" guidelines and a "strict editorial mandate" for published content to be "pro industry" as the reasons for the changes to my piece. He did say the magazine would publish a "retraction" in regards to the theft of images from Apartment Therapy. However, again, no explanation for the missing credits was given. Instead, Marc's position seemed to be that my credits had been removed deliberately, in order to keep the piece from being "advertorial." 

So to sum up, this charming email contained:
  • no apology
  • no admission of error

In my opinion, it was rude, dismissive, vague and completely unsatisfactory.

Hence, this updated blog post.

Now, I've already said that when I asked to see past issues, I noted that writers in the section where I would be appearing were credited with their names and business names, and I wanted to give you an idea of what that looked like, so I made up another faux-page, demonstrating Canadian Home Trends usual crediting style.
Articles may have been badly written, pages may have featured silly designs and terrible headlines, but credits appeared. That's all I wanted for myself. 

Now, just to make everything very explicit, let's look at the emails sent leading up to and following my submission.
On Fri, Jan 20, 2012 at 12:25 PM,  <marc@canadianhometrends.ca> wrote:

Hi Jen,

I saw your home featured on Apartment Therapy! It looks great! Congrats!
Would you be interested in featuring it in an upcoming issue of Canadian
Home Trends - Canada's Home Decor & Lifestyle Magazine?

Please advise.

Many thanks,

Marc Atiyolil
Editor-in-Chief
Canadian Home Trends Magazine
1.866.984.0940 X204
www.CanadianHomeTrends.com


On Fri, Jan 20, 2012 at 12:49 PM,  <jenselk@jenselk.com> wrote:

Hi Marc,

Thanks for getting in touch and for your kind words on the AT feature.

I'd be interested in being shown in Canadian Home Trends, but if you
were thinking of re-using the AT photos, I don't think that would
work, since AT owns the copyright on those.

But let me know what you were thinking.

Thanks again for your interest,

Jen Selk


On Mon, Jan 30, 2012 at 12:41 PM Canadian Home Trends Mag <amanda@canadianhometrends.ca> wrote:

Hi Jen,

I apologize for the delay in response! We would love to feature a space that you have designed to feature in our Spring (April) issue. We understand the copyright issues for using the AT photos, but would still like to feature your own work apart from that.

What we need is a 500 word article on a space you have designed, 2-4 high resolution images as well as sourcing information.

If you have any questions or concerns, please don't hesitate to contact me either through email or my phone (both listed below).

Hope you are having a great Monday and I am looking forward to hearing back from you and working with you on this issue!

Cheers,

Amanda

Canadian Home Trends Magazine
1-866-984-0940 x205
pr@CanadianHomeTrends.ca
www.CanadianHomeTrends.com


On Mon, Jan 30, 2012 at 4:16 PM,  <jenselk@jenselk.com> wrote:

Hi Amanda,

No worries about the delay. I'm happy to hear from you.

What you're proposing sounds fine. I'm a former journalist, so the 500
words will be no problem, but I did want to ask if you would mind
sending me some samples of similar pieces from past issues? Just via
email would be fine. I admit I wasn't familiar with the magazine
before Marc got in touch, and I'd like to get a sense of the style  of
your prose so I can write something in keeping with that.

Anyway, do let me know.  And let me know what your deadline is.

Thanks again for your interest!


On Mon, Jan 30, 2012 at 4:24 PM Canadian Home Trends Mag <amanda@canadianhometrends.ca> wrote:

Hi Jen,

Glad to hear you'll be working with us on this issue!

As for samples of previous articles, your best route would be to go to www.canadianhometrends.com and in the upper right hand corner click on the Digital Copy link and then fill in the information Username: [xxxxxx] Password: [xxxxxxxxxx]

It will bring up our most recent issue.

Our deadline for articles, images and sourcing information will be Feb. 10th

Thank you for your quick reply!

Cheers,

Amanda

Canadian Home Trends Magazine
1-866-984-0940 x205
pr@CanadianHomeTrends.ca
www.CanadianHomeTrends.com


On Tues, Jan 31, 2012 at 6:51 PM,  <jenselk@jenselk.com> wrote:

Hi Amanda,

As I'm not much of a photographer (and I have a very old and
not-very-good camera) I looked into the possibility of using the a few
of the Apartment Therapy photos in your magazine. Here's what they
said:

Abby Cook, the photographer, retains the rights to those original
photos, and if she agrees (which I believe she will) they can be
published elsewhere, as long as it's more than 3 months after their
initial appearance in Apartment Therapy. Your next issue is set to
come out in April, so I believe that will be fine. They just ask that
she is credited by name as the photographer and that Apartment Therapy
is credited as well.

With all that in mind, would it be okay if I got her permission and
sent along some of the photos that she took? Are you okay with
bylining her as the photographer and crediting Apartment Therapy? She
took some great shots and that would make this much easier to manage.

Let me know what you think and thanks again.
Jen


On Feb 1, 2012 at 10:48 AM Canadian Home Trends Mag <amanda@canadianhometrends.ca> wrote:

Hi Jen,

That sounds great! We have no problem crediting Abby for her work and Apartment Therapy as well, just please include all pertinent information for the article.

Looking forward to seeing your feature!

Have a great day.

Cheers,

Amanda

Canadian Home Trends Magazine
1-866-984-0940 x205
pr@CanadianHomeTrends.ca
www.CanadianHomeTrends.com


On Thurs Feb 9 at 1:27 PM <jenselk@jenselk.com> wrote:

Hi Amanda,

I've attached several pictures as well as a 500 word article. Hope
it's what you were looking for. Let me know if you need anything else.
Please don't forget to credit Abby Cook and Apartment Therapy as well.

Best,
Jen Selk


On Thurs Jul 12 at 10:28 AM <Canadian Home Trends Mag <production@canadianhometrends.ca> wrote:

Hi Jen

Attached is a PDF copy of your feature as seen in our summer issue. Along with that is badge which can be used as you see fit. Thank you so much once again for your contribution and we most definitely look forward to working with you again in the future.

Thanks,

Brad
Canadian Home Trends Magazine
1-866-984-0940 Ext:201
production@canadianhometrends.ca
www.canadianhometrends.ca
www.MarcAtiyolil.com


On Thurs Jul 12 at 10:34 PM <shop@willandbequeath.com> (Owned by Jen Selk) wrote:

Hi Brad,
Thanks so much for sending that along. Cheers.
Jen Selk

-End of First String of Emails-

So, as you can see, it's true that the issue of my credit/mention of my store was not directly addressed. Regardless, I hope it's clear that the information I was working with (which is to say, previous articles in the magazine that DID credit business owners) gave me a certain impression. Beyond that, I think it's clear that the Apartment Therapy copyright issue was put in no uncertain terms. 

Anyway. Where were we? Oh yes. The piece came out, 3 months late. As soon as I saw it, I complained about the lack of crediting. Marc, the "Editor-In-Chief" sent me a completely dismissive email in response. I blogged about the whole fiasco.

What happened next? Back-pedalling and threats. Angry about my blog post, the folks at Canadian Home Trends responded on July 19 with a couple of emails filled with silly legalese, and a sudden admission that they'd simply made a mistake. (These emails came from anonymous sources at the magazine's "Legal Department" and "PR Department" respectively. No contact names were provided.) The mysterious writer(s) of these emails said that all pieces submitted to Canadian Home Trends are subject to an "intensive copy-editing process" but hey, sometimes things happen and credits are omitted. Oopsie daisy!  Next, they decided to condescend to me, saying that all their writers are subject to editing (read: get over it) and that they are a BIG NATIONAL PUBLICATION and MUST conform to pro-industry guidelines, which, in their words means, they simply "cannot publish content that reflects negatively on businesses or publications." Finally, they implied that it was "unprofessional" for me to have discussed the matter in public (online).  Let's look at those emails, shall we?

On Thurs July 12 at 11:34 AM <jenselk@jenselk.com> wrote:

Marc,

I just received a PDF of my little article as it appears in your summer issue from your production department. I notice that the single reference to my store (Will & Bequeath -- www.willandbequeath.com) was removed from the piece. Considering that I provided the photos and wrote the accompanying text FOR FREE, this is pretty insulting. I was a professional journalist working and writing for national newspapers and magazines for ten years and I can tell you that this is extremely shoddy, unethical behavior. At the very least, a url to my personal website -- www.jenselk.com -- should have appeared next to my byline. 

I understand that small magazines have come to worship the almighty advertising dollar at the expense of almost everything else, but I don't appreciate being mislead into working for free. Our agreement was that I would provide you with content, and that the quid pro quo would be proper crediting at the very least. Ostensibly, since your magazine didn't offer real payment for the content I gave you, the benefit to me would be publicity/exposure -- which I will not be getting, thanks to your editorial omissions. What's done is done, but for the record, I'm annoyed and insulted, both personally and professionally.

Jen Selk


On Wed July 18, 2012 at 6:06 PM, < marc@canadianhometrends.ca> wrote:

Jen,

I apologize for the delay in getting back to you. I've just returned from a business trip.

Due to our strict editorial mandate for all published content to be pro industry and the editorial vs. advertorial guidelines we must adhere to as a national magazine, we were not able to publish your article as submitted.

As per our corporate policy, we will however publish a retraction in our upcoming issue crediting Apartment Therapy and their photographer.

Regards,
Marc


On Wed, Jul 18, 2012 at 6:07 PM <jenselk@jenselk.com> wrote:

Marc,

Your email doesn't address any of the issues I brought up in my message to you in a satisfactory way. You should be ashamed of yourself.

Jen Selk


On Thu, Jul 19, 2012 at 6:34 PM <legal@canadianhometrends.ca> wrote:

Marc, our Editor-In-Chief, received an email from you on July 12th with regards to your article in our Summer issue. Generally, any complaints are handled through our Public Relations department, but we value the writers/designers that contribute to each issue of the magazine and so our editor chose to respond personally. Your issue has been brought to the Public Relations department's attention and you will receive an official response from them shortly.

In the meantime, we request that you immediately remove from your website any emails you received from our staff and any Canadian Home Trends covers/articles/bylines. Emails and magazine content are covered under Canadian Copyright Laws and cannot be displayed without permission.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Legal Department
Canadian Home Trends
legal@canadianhometrends.ca


On Thu, Jul 19, 2012 at 6:52 PM <jenselk@jenselk.com> wrote:

Dear Legal Department With No Contact Person's Name Included,

Your magazine SENT me the cover to use on my website, granting me permission. Here's the email:

> On Thu, Jul 12, 2012 at 10:28 AM, Canadian Home Trends Magazine <production@canadianhometrends.ca> wrote:
> Hi Jen
> Attached is a PDF copy of your feature as seen in our summer issue. Along with that is badge which can be used as you 
> see fit. Thank you so much once again for your contribution and we most definitely look forward to working with you 
> again in the future.
> Thanks,
> Brad
> Canadian Home Trends Magazine
> 1-866-984-0940 Ext:201
> production@canadianhometrends.ca
> www.canadianhometrends.ca
> www.MarcAtiyolil.com


So, as you can see, I've used the cover image sent to me and article sent to me as I saw fit, which in precisely in keeping with the permission you already granted me.

Furthermore, as is listed on my website, when Marc chose to email me though the "contact" form on my website, he chose to submit to the following rules, as clearly laid out in my own legal section and in my site's footer, which is here produced in part:

Any text, images, or other media/communication sent to Jennifer Selk via comments on JS/W&B, via email, via text, or via phone shall be considered the property of Jennifer Selk and may be reproduced in full or part on JS/W&B or another website operated by Jennifer Selk. If you choose to comment on JS/W&B, or to comment on JS/W&B content to the site owner, your identity (which includes your full name and IP address) may be revealed to third parties via the Internet.

So, thanks for your message. Hope this clears things up.

Jen Selk


On Thu, Jul 19, 2012 at 6:51 PM <public.relations@canadianhometrends.ca> wrote:

Hello Jen,

Thank you for bringing your concerns to our attention. We value every individual that contributes to our magazine - writers, designers, subscribers and advertisers alike - and we would like to see this issue resolved as professionally as possible.

We apologize for omitting the photographer's credit and your business name. Each issue of the magazine goes through an intensive copy-editing process prior to print but unfortunately, omissions do happen from time to time. When omissions happen, our corporate policy is to print a correction notice in the next issue. In this case, it will appear in our Fall issue. We will also correct the omission in the digital version of the magazine immediately.

Earlier this week, you received a personal response from our Editor-In-Chief explaining the editorial changes made to the article itself. As an established national magazine, we must adhere to strict pro-industry editorial guidelines. Our editorial team reserves the right to make adjustments to submissions as needed. Even our most well-known design contributors have had their content edited.

To clarify for you, pro-industry means we cannot publish content that reflects negatively on businesses or publications. That includes negative references to businesses and statements that reflect negatively on the magazine industry in general. This can also include comments that would encourage readers not to support our designers and advertisers.

We hope this answers your concerns. If you have further concerns, we trust you will handle it in a professional manner and contact us first for resolution prior to posting elsewhere.

Public Relations Department
Canadian Home Trends
public.relations@canadianhometrends.ca
Phone: 866-984-0940


On Thurs July 19 at 6:53 PM <jenselk@jenselk.com> wrote:

Actually, no, this does not address my concerns.

Jen Selk

-End of Second String of Emails-

The magazine's response to the issue was completely unsatisfactory. However, wrongs were admitted this time around, and as you can see, I was told the online version of the issue in question would be corrected immediately and a correction would also be printed in the Fall issue. Hurray. (Except, why wasn't this done in the first place?)

Now, what about the whole bit about my piece having been advertorial and anti industry? It wasn't advertorial, as Marc initially suggested, but anti industry? Okay, let's say suppose it was. In my original text, I advocated spending less, using recycled and DIYed items in your decor, etc. The piece was called "Decorating on the Cheap" after all. 

But ask yourself this: If the magazine had a problem with the text I'd submitted, why didn't they CONTACT ME TO TALK ABOUT IT AT ANY TIME IN THE PAST 6 MONTHS?

Now let's talk about the real issue: The folks at Canadian Home Trends (let's say Marc) did not like the article I submitted.  I COMPLETELY understand that. Since CHT didn't bother providing any useful guidance, I wrote an article that accurately represented my design philosophy. It was about buying less, DIYing, recycling, and generally avoiding consumer culture, without sacrificing style. And the mag just wasn't down with that. Again, I understand completely. Different strokes for different folks. What I don't understand is why they weren't upfront about it. I am always an email or a phone call away and could easily and quickly have rewritten the piece to be more in keeping with what they wanted. We also could have collectively decided that I wasn't a good fit for the magazine and the piece could have been scrapped. Such scenarios are normal and to be expected in this business. But why cut the credits, lay out a hideous page, and FAIL TO GET IN TOUCH ABOUT ANY OF IT? And then, when I first shared my concern and disappointment with the end result, WHY NOT JUST ADMIT THE FUCK UP, APOLOGIZE, STICK IN THE CREDITS, PUBLISH THE CORRECTION and MOVE ON? Why the runaround? Why the rigamarole?

I'll tell you why: because I believe the magazine is now trying to divert attention away from the real issue, which is that they failed to credit properly, effectively stealing from Apartment Therapy, and from me. Was this an error or a deliberate decision? Who knows.

But now let's just be clear about another thing: I NEVER complained about the piece being cut or changed. The editing was sub-par to say the least, but I never brought that up in my messages to the magazine. THE ONLY ISSUE I brought up was the lack of proper crediting. I didn't actually care about my piece being butchered. I'm sooooo used to that. You know, owing to the fact that I've been a professional writer for, like, a decade now.  I would never never never get up in arms about such a thing. I complained ONLY about the crediting issue, as you can clearly see from the very first complaint email I sent to Marc, reproduced early on in this post. So why did the magazine respond with condescending remarks about even their most-well-known contributors submitting to being edited? You're smart readers. I invite you to come to your own conclusions.

So... why does any of this matter? Because IT DOES. Because it's just not okay for magazines to work like this. Credits don't just magically disappear, they are deleted, either on purpose or by accident, but professional publications shouldn't make that sort of mistake. And if and when they do, they should simply own up to it. 

Marc: On a personal note, I'm still disgusted with you. I'm totally grossed out by the way you've dealt with this. And as I said in my last email to you: you should be ashamed. Send me all the legalese-filled emails you want, send your PR department to try to shame me and shut me up, but know this: This happened. It shouldn't have happened. You should have apologised and owned up to your "error." And no, I'm NOT going to shut up about it. Despite your self-proclaimed "celebrity" status, I'm not afraid of you. I'm slightly embarrassed for you, because you're a bit of a joke, but I'm not actually intimidated. Get. Over. Yourself.
 


Comments

07/12/2012 10:16

Looking at the pdf, what strikes me as the most absurd detail is this - they omitted the photo credits, your website, and cut 200 words, but there is a BIG WHITE SPACE that could easily accomodate 100 more words. AND all that space beside your name. (Not to mention all that space around the floating list of furniture and decor, which makes the ostensible symmetry of the layout look decidedly asymmetrical.) I suppose the only explanation that makes sense, though, is that they just don't care.

Reply
07/12/2012 10:33

Neil - RIGHT?! That layout is absurd, to say the least.

Reply
07/14/2012 16:11

Jen, I am absolutely disgusted by the magazine. What they did was absolutely underhanded and unethical. My goodness we bloggers try to credit and link as best as we can to maintain integrity and validity in the online world but a magazine in print to be so blatantly ignorant is so insulting to you, the photographer and Apartment Therapy, who all worked in good faith.

Shame on you Canadian Home Trends :(

Reply
Mark M.
07/18/2012 16:26

Hahahahahaha. Do you suppose by "retraction" he meant "correction?" The guy's an idiot. (Buy a dictionary before you start a magazine, buddy.)

Reply
Anonymous
07/26/2012 14:50

Jen, I am so sorry...this is NOT right on SOOOOO many levels!!! Disgusting, dispicable, and the layout is unfortunately sub-par. Kudos to you for speaking up!

Reply
Jan
04/06/2014 14:54

Why don't you report this to authorities? This kind of business taking advantage on others is no good.

Reply
Harry S.
04/09/2014 11:30

I would agree with Jan. I am disgusted at how you have been treated. It appears that you are not the first to be treated like this...

Reply



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