Regular readers of this site know about HudsonMOD publisher Shannon Steitz stiffing her freelance writers and photographers – and even making the luxury magazine’s Instagram account private so the journalists can’t plead for their money in the comments section. In this condensed letter, former HudsonMOD editorial consultant writes about his dealings with Steitz.
Letter to Romenesko
From TY SAWYER: I was the editorial consultant for HudsonMOD who hired Terry Ward [and others who are trying to get paid by publisher Shannon Steitz]. Early on during my tenure, I came across people who worked for the magazine before I took over who complained that Shannon didn’t pay them and still owed them money, including previous art directors and other freelancers. Not knowing this was a serial issue, I thought it was just complaints from disgruntled past employees.
However, it didn’t take long for this serial non-payment issue to impact me. About two issues in, I would get calls about payments and ask Shannon, who would tell some version of, “oh, that was just mailed,’ or “it was sent last week,” etc. Boldface lies, as I came to discover, but I would pass along the information to the freelancer, only to hear back a month or few weeks later about the lack of payment. Shannon was the only person who wrote checks while I was there and she always knew who was hired and for how much from our weekly meetings. She almost never responded to the emails or phone calls from any freelancer looking for payment, even to acknowledge the issue and seek a resolution.
In the case of a photographer who refused to issue hi-res images to HudsonMOD because she hadn’t been paid for 5+ months, Shannon’s response was indignation that the freelancer “dared to hold the magazine hostage” because she wanted to be paid! It was an extraordinary thing to witness.
I, too, have not been paid my last consulting fee or expenses, and have been lied to and told the “check was mailed” enough times to know better than to believe it will ever show up. She also tried to get me to sign a non-disparagement agreement to get the check (which would never have come, anyway), which, of course, I did not sign. I cannot even get her to respond to my request for a 1099 for my taxes.
Multiple calls to publisher Steitz’s office number (973.249.6157) and cell phone (201.207.4816) haven’t been returned. Her business partner, Jason Lembo (973.332.1828), hasn’t returned calls either.