Northside Media, the company founded by Daniel Steadman which owns Northside Festival, SummerScreen, Brooklyn Magazine and other properties, owes “tens of thousands of dollars” in unpaid wages to former staff members and freelancers, according to an article in Gothamist:
“They’ve been able to bob along putting out these legit products, while at the same time essentially abusing their employees,” Sarah Zorn, a former full-time staffer who was Brooklyn Magazine’s food editor for six years, told Gothamist. Northside Media owes her around $8,000, which she’s fought desperately for since leaving the company last October. Emails shared with Gothamist show that Stedman has repeatedly blown past his own deadlines for payment, while promising to “get us through this, if I don’t die of exhaustion.”
Zorn, meanwhile, says she was forced to go on Medicaid because of the unpaid wages. She’s explained her financial desperation to Stedman, who pinned the extended delay on the company’s brief acquisition by Zealot Networks—the company purchased Northside Media in 2015, though Stedman stayed on as a publisher and CEO, before officially reacquiring the group the following year. “Someone who owns a company, is commissioning work, and lives in a $3 million brownstone, has no right to ask for patience from me,” she added. (Records show that Stedman purchased a $1.7 million brownstone in Prospect Heights in 2014.)
Others have been waiting even longer than Zorn. Laura Lannes, a freelance illustrator based in New York, says she has $1,300 in outstanding invoices for artwork she contributed to Taste Talks, the food-based spin-off of Northside Festival, more than two years ago. She’s sent dozens of emails to Stedman, who effectively ignored her until this week, when her complaints began attracting attention on Twitter. In an email, he promised to call her with a “comprehensive update” once he returned from vacation with his family.
Gothamist spoke to Steadman, who declined to discuss the non-payment issue with the former employees and freelancers. “Things are more complicated than they seem,” Stedman told Gothamist. “My candor is a strength and a weakness, and I’m starting to lose faith in the degree of honesty that I have treated everybody with. It is clearly doing me a disservice.”
Freelance sound engineer Alex Jones, who did jobs for Northside Media starting in 2014, told Gothamist he settled with Stedman in small claims court for the original $878.29 he was owed. Sarah Zorn, however, said Stedman has yet to respond to the lawsuit she served against him last month.