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Somewhat OT -- Did I do the right thing?
Jeff Brehm, Photographer, Photo Editor
Lancaster | OH | USA | Posted: 9:32 PM on 01.06.07
->> This is one of those ethical dilemmas which make you feel there is no right answer. The daily newspaper I work for as a part-timer recently fouled up and didn't issue my a paycheck (we're paid every two weeks on a Friday). This happens a couple of times a year and I usually make it known I'm unhappy but don't do more than that.

This time the editor told me on Friday the new publisher's assistant had screwed up and I'd get my check Tuesday. On Tuesday she said it was a mistake in the finance department and I'd get my check in 18 days. When I complained, she switched to blaming me for not knowing there was an early deadline for turning in timecards before the holidays -- although this was an issue she didn't raise the first two times.

I decided I'd had enough and e-mailed her a message saying that I would not cover any assignments until I was paid. She sent back en e-mail telling me, in essence, that if I didn't like it I could quit and that I was still expected to cover my assignments (I haven't).

Did I act appropriately? If not, what should I have done?
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Christina Barany, Photographer
Arlington | TX | United States | Posted: 11:23 PM on 01.06.07
->> You are in a frustrating situation, but if I were you I wouldn't lose the business by withholding your services. You seem to have steady work and money from them. While it sucks that they messed up and aren't paying you quickly they do plan to pay you. In my opinion 18 days isn't outrageous.
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David Harpe, Photographer
Louisville | KY | USA | Posted: 12:09 AM on 01.07.07
->> I think you handled it poorly. It would be different if you had a vibe that they were determined not to pay you for your services. This doesn't seem to be the case here. It seems like a simple clerical/procedural issue. Screw ups happen.

I would consider taking the assistant you argued with something nice - like a flower/doughnuts or something - and tell her you're sorry for being a jerk...blame it on a bad day or something. You will get much more out of this approach than your current one.
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Louis Lopez, Photographer
Fontana | CA | USA | Posted: 12:23 AM on 01.07.07
->> Cover your assignments, but do not turn them in for 18 days. See how they like that.

It sure is nice to be a freelancer and not have to take that kind of attitude.
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Jeff Brehm, Photographer, Photo Editor
Lancaster | OH | USA | Posted: 12:25 AM on 01.07.07
->> Hmmm ... I can see that, for a communicator, I did a bad job of communicating. It is the editor who keeps changing stories, not the publisher's assistant. I would never give a hard time to someone who's new.

Sorry I created confusion.
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Nick Doan, Photographer
Scottsdale Phoenix Tempe | AZ | USA | Posted: 12:39 AM on 01.07.07
->> No,

You should have asked the editor who you could talk to, and see if there was any way that you could help expidite things. The editor has enough things to worry about, having the added responsibility of worrying about your paycheck isn't going to help.

You can protest, whine, moan, and give notice. But, if you deliberately do not cover your assignments, then nobody is going to trust you ever again.

If you feel you cannot work with these people ever again, than resign. Give them enough notice that they can find somebody else to cover the job if necessary. Or, quit and walk out on the spot. Just understand what type of reputation that you are giving yourself, and that you are burning bridges.

Let me just say this, if you are given an assignment, and you accept it. Then, you do not do it as a form of protest... that is reprehensible.
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Chris Peterson, Photographer, Photo Editor
Columbia Falls | MT | USA | Posted: 1:05 AM on 01.07.07
->> Look at it this way ... in the regular business world, net is 30 to 90 days so waiting 18 days for a check isn't unreasonable, no matter who screwed up. You're a part-timer and as such, don't get the same rights under law that a full timer would. I'd suck it up and apologize. Just my two cents.

Good luck.
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Jody Gomez, Photographer
Murrieta | CA | USA | Posted: 1:55 AM on 01.07.07
->> Jeff, don't beat yourself up. It seems to me that you didn't breathe... Stepping back and taking a deep breath (a real one) is so important that I have "Breathe Baby" as the banner on my cell phone.

In my opinion you handled it wrong. Always remember to keep emotions out of business! It's hard, but you have to do it if you want to be successful in any business.

Okay, so how do you spin this? Simple - apologize for overreacting - in person if you can. No, not on the phone and not through email - that's chicken. Say something like "I wanted to apologize for overreacting the other day" You don't have to explain yourself or agree with her - just apologize for your reaction. Everyone reacts in ways they shouldn't sometimes, and you're not a bad person, or immature, or any of those things. You just overreacted so apologize and cover your assignments.

Also, if you can, ask what you can do to help prevent this from happening in the future. Trust me on this - your editor is female right? I'll bet she's not had too many men apologize without some sort of attitude and you'll score major points for being a decent human being (and having some character, which is sorely lacking in the "me-focused" world). I don't know one successful woman who didn't have to fight and scratch her way to the top, and most successful women won't hesitate to draw her line in the sand and defend it at all costs. So when/if you apologize, be sincere because we women can spot attitude and insincerity a mile away, and we'll pounce.

Important note for all of you who find it hard to say "I'm sorry": You don't have to apologize for feeling angry or frustrated because you have every right to feel anyway you choose. Yes, believe it or not, we choose our feelings and our reactions! You also don't have to agree with someone, and they don't have to agree with you. You have your side, they have theirs, and the truth lies somewhere in the middle. So the point in apologizing to someone isn't to be agreeable or to make them feel like they won some battle (but if you realized that they were right, by all means, tell them!). If your behavior is out of line, and you apologize for it you're not relinquishing your beliefs, you're diffusing a conflict, and I guarantee they'll respect you more in the long run than if you "won" but being closed minded and stubborn.

Okay, I'm stepping off my soapbox now.


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David Honl, Photographer
Istanbul | TR | Turkey | Posted: 1:59 AM on 01.07.07
->> Jody Gomez for President!
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Jody Gomez, Photographer
Murrieta | CA | USA | Posted: 2:56 AM on 01.07.07
->> Yeah, right! I believe that being politically correct is a disgrace and a dishonor to those who died for my right to have an opinion and your right to be offended by it, so how long do you think I'd last if my foreign policy included phrases like "you need to pull your head out and take responsibility for your actions" or "try acting like you're thinking about someone other than yourself for a change"?

True story, I had a tee-shirt made that said "Everyone is not a winner and everybody doesn't get a prize" and have actually worn it to those annoying parent meetings we have to go to for our kids' various activities. That was a lot of fun! Ha Ha.

Dave, I understand if you withdraw my nomination for president! Giggle
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Jason Palmer, Photographer
Wichita Falls | TX | USA | Posted: 3:07 AM on 01.07.07
->> Part-time photographer help isn't difficult to come by from their perspective.

If they need to make any budgetary're the one being let go.

I'd play nice.
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Michael Fischer, Photographer
Spencer | Ia | USA | Posted: 10:22 AM on 01.07.07
->> Jeff
Jody has nailed this dead to rights. You overacted and potentially did yourself in.
Jody is also correct when she advises you apologize in person. In fact, all the posters to this thread have given you a lot of good input.

Here's a hint in life: When most people start to assign blame, like the editor did, it's a sure sign they've reached the end of their rope: In other words, you were frustrating her. Editors can't make the accounting department do anything on the spur of the moment. It's all computerized and if they did cut you a check on the spot it would be because they wanted your butt out the door and never wanted to see you again

Learn from this Jeff. If you can take the lessons that happened here and apply them throughout your life you will be so much further ahead you won't believe it.

Jody, Barrack Obama may be looking for a VP if you're unwilling to go for the President thing . (grin)
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Jeff Brehm, Photographer, Photo Editor
Lancaster | OH | USA | Posted: 3:38 PM on 01.07.07
->> Perhaps, as Jody probably would say, my male ego is getting in the way here. But I'm having a little trouble swallowing some of this advice.

The two biggest things giving me trouble with this situation are:

A.) The editor is an incompetent jerk who has driven two other SS members from this same paper, as well as several reporters and editors, because they can't stand her. Because I have only limited contact with her, and because I live here in the same town and working there is very convenient, I have not also quit for the same reasons. But in this case, I believe she knew that because she hadn't told me about early timecard deadlines for the holidays, she knew in advance I wasn't going to get paid on time and just didn't want to admit she was the problem. So instead of telling me up front, she gave me excuses she thought I would accept.

B.) I cannot believe that if the same thing happened to a full-timer, the paper wouldn't have been willing to do something more than just shrug and say "Oops." For what the paper pays, those folks can't afford to go three extra weeks without paying their bills. This also leads me to believe the editor is the problem.

FYI, I agree with Nick. I would never just not show up for an assignment. When I made my decision not to work again until I was paid, it was two days in advance of my next assignment and I made sure they did not go uncovered.

And I disagree with Chris to an extent; when an employer expects you to turn in work on a deadline, and the agreement is to pay you on specific dates, then I expect the employer to act in the same professional manner expected of me. In this case, I'm not a contract employee who invoices the customer. I'm a regular part-time employee who has been there 10 years, far longer than all but a few employees, and has gone way above and beyond the call numerous times, including several to fill in when others got tired of the monkey business and left.

Yes, it probably would be to my benefit to apologize. But I don't think a hypocritical apology is better than none. And I am not sorry for my decision. I still believe that had I not done it, the same problem would reoccur again and again.

The editor and I are supposed to meet with the publisher sometime this week. I'm betting neither he nor anyone else in the chain of command knows all the details. If after the meeting he feels I have acted improperly under the circumstances, I will resign.
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Justin Sullivan, Photographer
San Francisco | CA | | Posted: 4:04 PM on 01.07.07
->> I think you don't really want this job if you are willing to call the editor an incompetent jerk on a public internet forum. I think you should be happy to have a regular. paying gig and maybe realize that the world doesn't always revolve around you. A reputation, regardless of how good or bad your photography is can be ruined in a blink of an eye with an episode like this. Good luck putting out the fire on this one.
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Clark Brooks, Photo Editor, Photographer
Urbana | IL | USA | Posted: 4:09 PM on 01.07.07
->> No, you didn't handle this correctly. While I understand your frustration, there was a better way.

Since you are an employee of a corporation and not a freelancer you have certain rights guaranteed under employement laws. The correct thing to was to make a polite trip to the company's HR department and explain the situation. A well-run company has a way to handle situations by either issuing a "special check" and will take measures to ensure it does not happen in the future to be compliant with both company policy and employment statutes of the state and any federal laws that may apply.

Question is did you turn in your time card on time? Did you supervisor receive and process it per the company's schedule? If yes, your HR representative should ensure that it will not happen again.

If you enjoy the job then come Monday you need to make that trip and then spread hugs, candy/cakes/goodies/iPods and apologies out the ying-yang to regain your face and honor. On the other hand, if it is not, may be it is time to look for meaningful employment elsewhere.
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Clark Brooks, Photo Editor, Photographer
Urbana | IL | USA | Posted: 4:19 PM on 01.07.07
->> Jeff: You posted while I was replying. Future Ms. Vice-president-elect Jody Gomez's post is a gem. Not only did she offer her opinion but the best advice you'll probably get on the situation.

In your meeting with the publisher, as Ms. Gomez suggested, if the job is something you want to continue to do, apologize sincerely and ask what can be done to see that the situation does not repeat. If you haven't shot yourself in the foot the company should be able to issue a check, depending on their size, in a few hours to a couple of days.

Just remember play nice and nice things will happen. Good luck and let us know how things turn out.
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Ken Ritchie, Photographer
Madison | IN | USA | Posted: 9:34 PM on 01.07.07
->> Jeff,

Knowing what I know about your (and all other newsroom employee's) daily trials at the paper, I would say that this issue was just the last straw. Different "Last Straws" have led to an endless revolving door of good journalists at that paper.

I would just let them know that you are not available anymore and see if one of the sister papers can use your efforts.

Everyone who has worked with the individual you are having trouble with knows where you are coming from. You will not have to over explain things, just leave without anymore blow ups and I think you will be fine.
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Jody Gomez, Photographer
Murrieta | CA | USA | Posted: 10:41 PM on 01.07.07
->> Jeff, I understand your frustration, it sucks not getting paid. However if you get a chance, read my post again. I suggested that you apologize for unprofessional behavior, not tell her she was right and you were wrong. I agree that doing that would be hypocritical!

It's important to stand by our beliefs. I won't apologize for saying something I believe is true and right (although I have been known to apologize for the way I said it). But unfortunately, despite our opinion of our editor's character, the truth is that we are subordinate to them, and they have power over us while we're employed there. We don't have to like them or be their friend, but we owe it ourselves (notice I didn't say to them) to act professionally and have respect for their position at all times in all situations. Although impulsively acting out usually feels good, often the long term effects aren't worth the outburst. Therefore, anytime we conduct ourselves in less than a professional manner, we are duty bound to apologize for that behavior.

If, as Ken suggested, the working atmosphere is difficult at that paper, then you have the power to remove yourself from that situation. But if you choose to remain there, don't cut off your nose to spite your face because you never know what contacts this person has. Don't allow yourself to fall victim to the mob mentality - just because there are difficult people at your workplace doesn't mean you have to be difficult as well. Besides, conducting yourself professionally despite the behavior of others is personally empowering. If you've ever been yelled at by someone who's completely lost it and you remained calm and in control, then you know what I mean.

Keep your chin up. I have faith that you will do the right thing!


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David A. Cantor, Photo Editor, Photographer
Toledo | OH | USA | Posted: 2:54 AM on 01.08.07
->> Point of reference...
Career path wise...NYT..Toledo Blade
Yankees to Mud Hens....

"The editor is an incompetent jerk "

Uh, dude, that editor works for Gannett

In "Forging Genius: The Making of Casey Stengel", the author, Steven Goldman,
points outs that Casey Stengel wouldn't take the Brooklyn Dodgers' manager job from Max Carey until Max approved it because Max picked him to be a coach on his staff, Casey said,"he rescued me from 'the shame of Toledo" ".

I suppose there might be a value lesson here...but if Gil Meche can get $55 million.....

Hey DRC...the "huh?" police will pile on this one....

Oh yeah, Mr Seale thanks for that on DC's xmas Santa note

Why do people expose private business issues on public boards????

What's up wit dat????
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Jeff Brehm, Photographer, Photo Editor
Lancaster | OH | USA | Posted: 9:04 AM on 01.08.07
->> David:

I'm sorry ... but I don't think I understand your post. Who is Gil Meche, what Santa note are you talking about, and you apparently assume no one else in our business has ever had the same problem and could offer advice?

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Colin Lenton, Student/Intern, Photographer
Philadelphia | PA | United States | Posted: 9:51 AM on 01.08.07
->> Jeff,
As someone who has learned this the hard way before, you're best to - whichever decision you make -- stop talking about it now online.
One thing I think you may already find out is how extremely QUICKLY word gets around on the internet. Good luck, and you may be in for a world of hurt digging yourself out of this one.
I hope you make out better than I did. Best of luck to you.
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Nathan Gray, Photographer
Anderson | SC | USA | Posted: 9:53 AM on 01.08.07
->> "The editor is an incompetent jerk"

Sometimes the people that run newspapers are incompetent and sometimes can be jerks. Thats just a part of working for newspapers. I see your point and I would be fustrated as well. If you love what you do all you can do is work hard and shoot the best pictures you can so you can build your portfolio and move on to bigger and better things. Look foward and when you are a full timer in a larger market you can look back on this and see how much further you've gotten in your career than that editor ever had.
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Jeff Brehm, Photographer, Photo Editor
Lancaster | OH | USA | Posted: 12:57 PM on 01.08.07
->> You know ... when I read Colin's post, it kind of gave me a chill. I thought to myself, "Listen to Colin. He's obviously the voice of some hard experience." But then the radioactive testosterone (Jody will love this part) kicks in again and I become the Incredible Bulk (not a typo, as those who know me will attest) and I can't help typing...

Gannett is an alleged news media organization. And if it can't handle my exercising my First Amendment rights to publicly state my opinion of the editor, then it has a lot bigger problems than trying to figure out how to pay me on time.

God, that felt good. Stupid, but good. Guess it's a guy thing, huh, Jody?
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Jody Gomez, Photographer
Murrieta | CA | USA | Posted: 2:18 PM on 01.08.07
->> Obviously I need to fly to Ohio. Anyone up to participating in an intervention? ;~)

Just because you can, doesn't mean you should. I am a firm believer in the First Amendment. In fact, it's one of my soapbox issues. But I also believe in CYA. There's a time and place for everything, and you must choose your battles wisely. There are other ways to make your point, and I mentioned one of them in my last post.

Here's a parabolic question: What does a suicide bomber really accomplish other than to blow himself up?

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Brad Mills, Photographer
Falls Church | VA | USA | Posted: 2:19 PM on 01.08.07
->> Jeff,

I would put the shovel away. Your hole is only getting deeper.
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Louis Lopez, Photographer
Fontana | CA | USA | Posted: 3:10 PM on 01.08.07
->> How small is the market in Lancaster, Ohio?
Most seem to have the attitude in their responses of backoff and say your sorry etc.. I say cut them loose, they definitely have a track record of not giving a about others who have worked there and they ran them off, you are all empowereing them with your responses.

The editor is probably reading these posts and laughing his/her ass off. Everyone talks on various threads about how one should get together and make a statement, well why don't you pro's that work in that area just don't apply for the position if Jeff leaves? don't accept any stringer work from them etc.. You all are aware of the issues there, stand up and be heard, when the quality of images drops and they start asking, whatever happened to all those good photographers we used to have, they will wake up.
In another thread someone asks, how did photographers get to the bottom of the pecking order? because they allowed themselves to be put there. You deserve to be treated with the same respect as your other coworkers fulltime or part time.
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Thread Title: Somewhat OT -- Did I do the right thing?
Thread Started By: Jeff Brehm
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