Over the past few months, we've been keeping you posted about the going's on with the USAVoice operation. We've listed the reasons why we feel its operation is shady. We've illustrated the connection the site has with an allege con artist. And all the while, the USAVoice website continues with its fascade of being a real news service while trying to convince new people to sign up and become part of the team.
Now that another supposed pay period has come and gone, and the people that were duped into thinking they were employees of a legitimate business have been taken advantage of once again, "employees" are starting to realize just how bogus this operation really is.
Case in point: The following article is written by Deborah Smith - A former Editor for USAVOICE from Colombus Ohio:
I never expected that returning to work as a journalist would be easy after being away from the newsroom while rearing my three children. But, armed with my undergraduate and graduate degrees in journalism and my past experience with The Associated Press, I decided to seek a paying job as an editor. What I did not expect was that 21st century job-hunting would include a new pitfall - the possibility of Internet fraud. My eye-opening introduction to the cyberspace equivalent of a shell game started when I signed on as the USAVoice editor for Columbus, Ohio.
I was thrilled when USAVoice’s offer arrived in my email inbox. My resume had been posted on several well-known online sites for months without much luck, other than commission-based sales and marketing jobs. My enthusiasm about a real editing job clouded any journalistic sixth sense that might otherwise have triggered doubts. The site’s raw appearance clearly meant they needed someone with my skills, The site’s delayed launch meant that I could wait until the kids returned to school in the fall. Perfect! Not.
My initial concerns with USAVoice centered on what I saw as slack adherence to basic journalistic standards for style and content. Spelling and grammar aside (what a comment for an editor to make!), I was bothered by the murky area of plagiarism as seen by the site’s lack of independent reporting and credible attribution. Photos appeared that had been copied from the web without regard to photo copyrights. There was work to be done! I purchased the latest edition of The Associated Press Stylebook and told my team of almost two dozen reporters to go forth and write!
At this posting, however, two paydays have come and gone without any checks in the mail for the website’s hundreds of staff members. While most were not expecting large paychecks, the lack of any income has been more than just disappointing. Upper management’s shifting position - revealed through its infrequent communication - has sparked even greater concerns, primarily about the site’s legitimacy. The resulting lack of trust led many to express concerns about personal security and identity theft.
Other writers for Media Morgue have addressed the issue of USAVoice’s ownership. My personal experience has convinced me that USAVoice is both a scam that bilks reporters and editors by not paying them their share of Per click advertising revenue and a phishing expedition that collects email addresses through recruiting efforts and reporters’ mailing lists. Editors and reporters continue to receive job offers from USAVoice and others affiliated with www.instanthumanresources.com.
The website’s “honest and unfiltered” slogan has not held up under scrutiny. I have filed a complaint with the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center and with the Federal Trade Commission. I also applied for an Employer Identification Number as an independent contractor so I could file a W9 form without revealing my Social Security Number to USAVoice. The form appeared in the online Back Offices in early November without explanation or instructions.
“I was not the only one” became the new mantra as a spirit of cooperation developed among those who turned to emails and blogs in order to find out what management was not revealing. This wonderful group also has shared job leads. But not all people approached the issue of payment from the same viewpoint. While diversity of opinion is appreciated, the manner in which those differences were expressed was often less than supportive.
Two camps evolved - those who thought the complaint-filers were persecuting a start-up company and those who thought the company was avoiding the truth, if not actively distorting it.
Some people turned to posting comments on the site as warnings about the site’s problems while reporters posted articles about their plight on the site in an effort to get the editor in chief’s attention. Others retaliated by sending negative emails to those who were trying to share information. I have been called a ridiculous, ungracious, little fool and a piss poor journalist.
Some, citing naiveté and greed, criticized the reporters and editors for their plight - hey, you must be stupid to have fallen for that offer! Some seem to take pride in not being paid - a sort of purist approach that money somehow diminishes the art of writing. When contacted, one frequent and prominent byline said he lets his agent handle such matters as he is far too busy to be concerned with payment issues.
To the people who do not mind working without pay, I offer these thoughts: The position was presented as a job and not as a hobby. By allowing your work to appear on the site without requiring promised compensation, you are enabling USAVoice to keep the income it receives from advertisers. If no one posted any stories, the advertisers would take their checkbooks and go elsewhere.
The amount of money may seem insignificant, but most USAVoice staffers I know just wanted a little extra income to help with tuition or mortgage payments. Others needed to pay off college loans and medical bills. Working from home and flexible hours would enable them to tend to children, a disabled spouse or an ill parent. The chance to be paid for writing articles meant being able to eventually give up a second job as a waitress or telemarketer. For me it meant a return to meaningful employment using the education and professional experience I had earned. It also meant that my daughter, a high school senior, could apply to colleges where the annual tuition exceeds what my husband’s income alone can afford.
USAVoice reporters and editors have lost more than money. They have lost valuable time during which they could have been looking for something that would have paid them for using their talents. USAVoice has exploited people’s potential and stolen their creative and intellectual efforts. Even if the company does pull itself together, solve its technical issues, improve its journalistic integrity and start mailing pay checks, USAVoice’s credibility has suffered. I, for one, am no longer willing to work for a company that abuses dreams.