Freelancers Unite to Battle Low Pay and Bad Contracts


Toronto – Members of five of Canada’s largest freelancer associations have banded together to fight against stagnant pay rates and contracts that demand the right to reuse their work for no further pay.

The Canadian Media Guild (CMG) Freelance Branch, the Professional Writers Association of Canada (PWAC), News Photographers Association of Canada (NPAC), Travel Media Association of Canada (TMAC), and the Urban Worker Project (UWP) are urging their members to work together to challenge pay rates that have remained stagnant for years, and to push back on contracts that not only demand copyright but also ask freelance journalists to indemnify the hiring publishers should they be sued because of the content the freelancer has contributed.

“Low wages and unfair contracts have become just par for the course, today,” says Don Genova, president of CMG Freelance. “More and more people in the Canadian workforce are self-employed, engaged on short-term contracts that offer no job security and no benefits. At the same time, employers demand ownership of the work they produce and the right to use it over and over again without additional compensation. Needless to say, this has significant ramifications for the workers’ livelihood.”

A contract is supposed to be an agreement between two parties, says Genova. “The expectation that you should just sign whatever is put in front of you without reading it thoroughly or negotiating is clearly unfair. Yet, this is what’s presented to freelancers, often as a take-it-or-leave-it proposition.”
Read the rest of this post »

Posted on September 19, 2018 at 7:00 am by editor · LEAVE A COMMENT · Tagged with: , , , , , ,

Toronto media mixer October 1: Covering Class

Toronto-area media workers, freelancers and journalism students are invited to a free networking event and panel discussion on Monday October 1 at Craft Kitchen (410 Adelaide Street West) from 6 to 9 p.m.

The theme of the event is Covering Class: Responsible reporting and barriers in journalism. It will feature a panel discussion with Sara Mojtehedzadeh (Toronto Star) and Alex Press (Jacobin), and will focus on how class and income inequality have become key issues in the field of journalism in Canada and around the world.

The event is free and snacks and drinks will be provided. If you’d like to attend, please register for your free ticket on this Eventbrite page

The event is sponsored by CWA Canada, the country’s only all media union, with 6,000 members at media companies and newspapers coast to coast. CWA Canada has a free membership for student, volunteer, precarious and emerging media workers through its Associate Member program. CWA Canada is the parent union of the Canadian Media Guild, which represents members at media outlets such as VICE Canada, CBC, and The Canadian Press, as well as freelancers through its voluntary membership program.

Posted on September 18, 2018 at 8:00 am by editor · LEAVE A COMMENT · Tagged with: , , ,

Off the Wire: News for the Canadian media freelancer Sep 11-17

Once a week, we gather stories about the media business, journalism, writing, communications, and freelancing—with a Canadian focus—and share them in Off the Wire. Who needs a water cooler?

MediaFreeLogo.2 SB

From Canada:

From The U.S. and beyond:

Recently on Story Board:

Spot a story you think we should include in next week’s Off the Wire? Email the link to or tweet us at @storyboard_ca.

Posted on September 16, 2018 at 9:04 pm by editor · LEAVE A COMMENT · Tagged with: ,

Level Up conference registration deadline extended to September 18

The deadline to register for Level Up: The Conference has been extended until end of day Tuesday, September 18. The conference will feature professional development sessions and networking opportunities in Toronto from September 20 to 22.

Speakers include: 

David Hayes: David is an award-winning journalist and author. In addition to having written three nonfiction books of his own, he is an in-demand ghostwriter in the book publishing industry. His articles, essays and reviews have appeared in major publications, among them Toronto Life, The Walrus, The New York Times Magazine, The Globe and Mail, Reader’s Digest, The Guardian, and Report on Business magazine.

Robyn Urback: Robyn Urback is an opinion columnist with CBC News and a producer with the CBC’s Opinion section. She previously worked as a columnist and editorial board member at the National Post.

Tanya Springer: Tanya is a Senior Producer with CBC Podcasts and is the creator of the Doc Project on CBC Radio. Her first feature-length radio documentary, which explored India’s unregulated surrogacy industry, won the Canadian Medical Association’s Award for Excellence in International Reporting.

Ann Douglas: Ann is the weekend parenting columnist for CBC Radio and a bestselling parenting book author. She is the author of numerous books about pregnancy and parenting and is the creator of The Mother of All Books series. The books in the series have sold over half a million copies in North America to date.

Don Genova: Don is the president of the Canadian Media Guild’s Freelance Branch, which represents independent and CBC-based freelance workers across Canada. He is also a BC-based award-winning freelance food journalist. His first book, Food Artisans of Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands, was published in April, 2014.

Alison Motluk: Alison is a freelance journalist who works in print and audio. Alison’s clients include CBC, Hazlitt, CMAJ News, The Economist, The Globe and Mail and others. She is the Toronto representative of the CMG Freelance executive.

Rita Silvan: Rita is a freelance financial journalist specializing in personal finance, investing and lifestyle content for women. She is the former editor-in-chief of ELLE Canada magazine and has over 20 years’ experience as a leader in women’s consumer magazine publishing.

Carolyn Camilleri: Carolyn has been an editor, writer, and copywriter since 1996. Her portfolio runs the gamut from magazine writing and editing, including launching several publications and a very long list of articles for consumer and trade magazines, to corporate copywriting, annual reports, proposals, whitepapers, promotional materials, ghostwriting, social media, and websites.

Level Up: The Conference is being co-presented by the Professional Writers Association of Canada and CMG Freelance.

CMG Freelance still has a couple of free conference passes (worth $375) to give away to new members who join the union. For details on how to take advantage of that offer check out this Story Board post.

And to see the full program and register to attend, check out the conference website.

Posted on September 16, 2018 at 9:00 am by editor · LEAVE A COMMENT · Tagged with: , ,

How to respond when a publication wants you to indemnify them

By Sara Tatelman

Congratulations — a new editor is really excited about your pitch, and you’re really excited to get paid to investigate something you care about. All that’s left is to sign the contract. But then you read it, all nine pages, and your heart sinks. The contract requires you to indemnify the publisher against all damages arising out of a breach of your responsibilities, which include ensuring the copy contains nothing libelous or defamatory.

If that’s a risk you’re not comfortable taking, the first step is to try and negotiate. “One thing I would say to any journalist is read your contract — it’s an offer,” says Alison Motluk, a freelance journalist based in Toronto. “You don’t have to take what they say.”

While it can be uncomfortable asking an editor to change a clause, there’s no harm in doing so, as long as you’re reasonable and polite. “Say ‘I’ve made myself a promise that I’m not going to indemnify. I was wondering if you’d consider scratching this out,’” Motluk suggests. “… Often, people are okay with that.” She also recommends reminding editors why it’s unfair to require freelancers to take on so much liability — the publisher has enormous control over the story, and if they’re willing to publish it, they should be willing to stand behind it — and forward them literature explaining that.

Third party representation helps

A Vancouver-based freelance journalist, who asked not to be named for fear of reprisal from her clients, suggests taking advantage of your right to independent advice. “In all these boilerplate contracts, there’s always a line that says we acknowledge that you are allowed to have your own legal advice on this contract,” she says. “You want to say I’m a member of the [Canadian] Media Guild…and I’m going to have their staff representative take a look at the contract.”
Read the rest of this post »

Posted on September 13, 2018 at 10:08 pm by editor · LEAVE A COMMENT · Tagged with: , , , ,

The rise of indemnification clauses in freelance contracts

By Sara Tatelman

When Toronto journalist Jesse Brown wanted to break the Jian Ghomeshi story, he knew couldn’t do so on his independent podcast Canadaland. At the time, he didn’t have any libel insurance, and several lawyers told him that while he could take steps to ensure he could win a libel lawsuit, provided he had the funds, there was nothing he could do to stop Ghomeshi from filing suit in the first place. So they advised he partner with a well-insured publication.

“I presented it to a few different partners, and the one I ultimately signed a contract with was the Toronto Star,” Brown says. “And my chief reason for doing so, and the thing I demanded be explicit in our contract, was that they would cover me from any legal consequences. … They understood that completely.”

The Star declined to comment on this story, citing the confidentiality of their freelancer contracts. Whether or not the Star always includes freelancers in their liability coverage, an analysis of freelance contracts offered to Canadian Media Guild members shows that publications are increasingly asking writers to take legal responsibility if their story leads to a libel lawsuit.

“I just think it’s unconscionable to deem a story fit for print, deem it worthy of being published under your masthead and meanwhile, declining to stand behind that story and declining to protect the freelancer,” Brown says.

Enormous financial risk

Alison Motluk, a freelance journalist based in Toronto, refuses to sign contracts with these indemnification clauses. First off, they impose an enormous financial risk on freelancers: defending a defamation suit can cost millions, as seen when Memorial University professor Ranjit Chandra lost a libel suit against the CBC and was ordered to pay $1.6 million in their legal fees.
Read the rest of this post »

Posted on September 12, 2018 at 9:29 pm by editor · LEAVE A COMMENT · Tagged with: , , ,

Off the Wire: News for the Canadian media freelancer Sep 5-10

Once a week, we gather stories about the media business, journalism, writing, communications, and freelancing—with a Canadian focus—and share them in Off the Wire. Who needs a water cooler?

MediaFreeLogo.2 SB

From Canada:

From The U.S. and beyond:

Recently on Story Board:

Spot a story you think we should include in next week’s Off the Wire? Email the link to or tweet us at @storyboard_ca.

Posted on September 10, 2018 at 6:00 am by editor · LEAVE A COMMENT · Tagged with: ,

Ottawa freelancer social night September 26

Freelancers in the Ottawa-Gatineau area are invited to a casual social evening on Wednesday, September 26th from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. at Union 613’s speakeasy room (315 Somerset St W, Ottawa).

CMG Freelance members and non-members are all welcome to drop by this get-together for drinks, snacks and conversation. Come and get to know some fellow freelancers in your area. CMG Freelance President Don Genova will be at the event to answer questions about membership in our union. And he’ll be buying the first round of drinks!

Come out for some freelance camaraderie and build your professional network. Please RSVP to or to Ottawa-area CMG Freelance representative JP Davidson at to let us know if you can make it.

Hope to see you there!


Posted on September 8, 2018 at 12:07 pm by editor · LEAVE A COMMENT · Tagged with: , ,

New opportunities for freelancers with CBC Radio Doc Makers

CBC Radio is offering new opportunities this fall for audio freelancers to develop their skills under the guidance of experienced CBC producers.

The Doc Mentorship Program, which has been running for the past few years, is open to CBC employees, temps, and experienced Canadian audio freelancers. They program is looking for sound-rich, unique stories that push boundaries and take risks. If your pitch is successful, you’ll be paired with a mentor who will help you put your documentary together. Mentors are associated with a variety of CBC programs, including The Sunday Edition, Ideas, and Now or Never.

In addition to the long-running mentorship program, there’s also a new Advanced Doc Maker Program, which is affiliated with CBC’s flagship current affairs program, The Current. This program is designed for audio producers who have original journalistic stories to tell.

Finally, the Emerging Indigenous Doc Maker Program aims to develop a new generation of Indigenous audio producers. It’s open to freelancers, recent broadcast and journalism graduates and CBC staff. Candidates should have some basic experience in broadcasting, and an idea for a documentary. This program is facilitated by Duncan McCue, award-winning journalist and host of Cross Country Checkup. Documentary pitches for this program should be suitable for Day 6, Out in the Open, Unreserved or Tapestry.

The next deadline for all three of these programs is October 1st. If you’d like to try pitching, CBC’s new Doc Makers website is filled with resources offering advice on a wide variety of audio documentary-related topics, including focusing a pitch, interviewing, and telling stories with sound.

For more information, you can email

Posted on September 5, 2018 at 9:59 pm by editor · One Comment · Tagged with: , , ,

Off the Wire: News for the Canadian media freelancer Aug 28-Sep 4

Once a week, we gather stories about the media business, journalism, writing, communications, and freelancing—with a Canadian focus—and share them in Off the Wire. Who needs a water cooler?

MediaFreeLogo.2 SB

From Canada:

From The U.S. and beyond:

Recently on Story Board:

  • CMG Freelance September update: Here are a few things CMG Freelance is working on this month, including the upcoming Level Up conference and the “Say No to Bad Contracts” campaign…
  • The state of the travel writing industry: Full-time freelance travel writers are few and far between. Travel writing, said Mike Fisher, a former newspaper reporter, “has always been an aristocratic hobby to a degree,” but it is becoming more so as technology disrupts traditional ways of reporting and presenting a story…
  • Join CMG Freelance and receive admission to Level Up conference in Toronto: CMG Freelance is offering full-conference admissions for the first eight new members who join our union for independent workers.  A one-year membership costs $150, while the cost of conference attendance starts at $375…

Spot a story you think we should include in next week’s Off the Wire? Email the link to or tweet us at @storyboard_ca.

Posted on September 3, 2018 at 3:04 pm by editor · LEAVE A COMMENT · Tagged with: ,