I once had the travel section editor of a fairly famous newspaper treat me rather poorly over a story she had agreed to purchase and publish, which led me to recognize the irrefutable fact that there simply was no bridge to burn.
By this I mean to say that when I talked to other freelance writer friends and said that I was very tired of being treated as I had been and that this person's extraordinary lack of professionalism should not go unnoticed they all said, "Don't burn a bridge." My response was, "What bridge, there is no bridge." The simple fact is that a bridge connotes a two-way passing of traffic, of discourse. However, in this instance promises had been made and contracts signed when for no reason this other person just disapeared from sight.
As publication time neared I became more and more nervous and sent a few emails, which went unanswered. I then tried calling, but my messages went unreturned. Then the day of publication arrived. The principles in the story were excited to get some notice for the very fine work they do and I was excited to see my byline in this very well respected newspaper. However, rather than my very good feature story (the story is on my website at: http://www.orchardwriting.com/sloughcreek.html) I saw yet another feature on traveling to Tuscany (I would LOVE to go to Tuscany, but come on...one story a month on the place in the same travel section is a bit much).
I was frustrated, diaspointed (even sad) and angry that my story had not been published, but I was under control and sent what was a rather mild email asking why the story hadn't ran and if it would run the following week. Again, no reply. Then I left a couple of mild phone messages. No reply. So then I wrote to say that it is frustrating to be ignored and that I deserved to be treated better. No reply.
So I began asking writerly friends of mine what i should do. This is when the "Don't burn your bridges" admonision began to be heard. But the problem is, what bridge, there was no bridge to burn. I would have to actually go back and build a bridge in order to actually burn a bridge. This editor wanted to skip out on a promise (and a contract) for whatever reason and didn't want to live up to her end of the deal. It's not like I would trust her enough again to send her another piece, sign a contract and then be ignored and have it never see the light of day.
As a former journalist I am not without connections and the ability to find the people who make decisions. Within an hour of deciding to do something I was on the phone with the managing editor of the newspaper explaining what had happened, the contract, the story, and how incredibly unprofessional the editor had been. He asked for evidence to be emailed to him in the form of her emails and the contract before he would do anything, which I sent.
The next day I received an email from the editor saying she would pay me and that the story would run at some future date. I thanked her and waited for my check, which did arrive. But I never heard back from her regarding when the story would run. And again she ignored emails and calls, so again I found myself talking to the managing editor fo the newspaper who promised that he would look into it and see that my story saw the light of day.
I am not sure what happened, but a few weeks later I hadn't heard back so I called only to be turned over to the new travel section editor. He seemed like a nice enough fellow, but when I asked about my story he said it wasn't his problem and he had no plans on running it. I haven't tried to publish anything with these people since.
I'm not exactly sure what the moral of the story is, but I do know that as a freelance writer I have had all sorts of things happen to me and this was the first time I stood up for myself because I finally realized that when these things occur there really isn't any bridge to be burned. I want to stess that I am not saying people should get mad and get even. What I am saying is that if we are treated unfairly we should stick up for ourselves and show that we are professionals who deserve to be treated as such.
Causes James Buchanan Supports
Expanding health care in the US, ending war as a viable tool of foreign policy, and issues related to social justice in general.