Commentary

'Epicurious' Job Posting Triggers Angry Tweetstorm

David Tamarkin, digital director of Conde Nast’s online food hub Epicurious, triggered the angry wrath of the Twitterverse after posting a tweet that announced a job opening. Once again, the Twitter mob rushed to judgment, this time by unfairly hoisting a culinary editor on a social-media spit for a digital roasting.

The New York State Department of Labor said it’s now investigating, if only to remind everyone why the People’s Republic of New York is so hostile to business. It’s the kind of bureaucratic overkill that only Comrade Andrew Cuomo could love.

I’m envious of the controversy, which started when Tamarkin posted a tweet innocently announcing, “I have an amazing job for a food writer who is at the beginning of her/his career.”

That sounded promising. Who wouldn’t want to get paid for writing articles like “A Better Way to Make Butter at Home,” “6 Things You Can Do with That Lonely Can of White Beans” or “Why Every Pantry Should Have a Bag of Chickpea Flour”?

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Tamarkin ran into trouble when he provided more details about the job, including a tweet that said: “This is a full-time freelance position.” Twitter users asked for more details, such as the definition of “full-time freelance” and whether the job offered health insurance and other benefits.

Tamarkin stepped in it when he responded with a tweet that read: “Paid hourly at 40 hrs/week, no benefits.”

Soon, Twitter’s rampant, underemployed trolls had a hissy-fit, practically accusing Tamarkin of exploiting workers and possibly violating state labor laws, the federal Fair Labor Standards Act and the Affordable Care Act that mandates big employers provide health benefits.

“This reeks of exploitation,” “you’re willing to destroy human lives,” “you’re incompetent at the basics of posting a job opening,” brayed the Twitter scolds.

Tamarkin sent a follow-up tweet two days later to clarify the job did offer health insurance and benefits, but the damage was done. Condé Nast said the original description was a mistake, and that the job always offered benefits.

“Condé Nast is very proud of how we treat our employees,” a company spokesperson said an emailed statement. “The position that was the subject of the tweet is, in fact, a full-time employee with benefits. While we do use some temporary workers, like many businesses, we ensure that such individuals are properly categorized as employees and eligible for benefits when appropriate.”

Yes, it is quite common for media companies to hire writers, editors and other creative professionals on a contract basis. I'm a full-time freelancer -- working part-time for separate media companies, which is another common practice -- and I pay for my own health insurance. In case you're wondering, Obamacare didn't let me keep my doctor. 

So, let New York’s labor department try to justify its existence by opening an investigation into the damning tweets of a site editor. Perhaps its bureaucrats can remake New York's labor market into a sclerotic European system of chronic unemployment. The gig economy will only move elsewhere.

It’s a silly, ginned-up controversy, as if Condé Nast’s editors have nothing better to do than provide “full-time freelancers” with fodder for the next “Devil Wears Prada” -- or in the case of Epicurious, perhaps “The Devil Chaws Chickpea Flour.” Admittedly, that doesn't have quite the same ring to it.

6 comments about "'Epicurious' Job Posting Triggers Angry Tweetstorm".
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  1. Tom Hespos from Underscore Marketing LLC, March 15, 2019 at 8:39 a.m.

    Wow.

    People want to be sure that one of the most celebrated publishing organizations in the history of publishing adheres to state labor laws and you're making cracks about New York being anti-business?


    Companies can hire contract workers.  Companies can hire part-time.  But they can't hire full-time positions within the company and fail to offer benefits like they do for the rest of their employees.  It's easy to see why people would have a problem with that initial post.


    But you're a contract worker, so it's okay, right?


    Maybe your barometer for what's fair ought not to start with whatever arrangement you've managed to come to with Fadner, but with what's fair.  Or do you not mind others getting rich off the content you're supplying while you enjoy no bargaining clout?


    There's a reason these laws exist.

  2. Tom Hespos from Underscore Marketing LLC, March 15, 2019 at 9:20 a.m.

    I'm making an addendum to my comments because I think the bigger point is being missed.

    When you tell someone you have a 40-hour-per-week position and it offers no benefits, particularly when it's writing for an established publication at one of the most prestigious publishers in the world, people are right to question whether that's a good look for that publisher.  They're also right to question whether it violates the ACA, and whether CN is trying to somehow skirt it.

    I don't think so because I think CN is some evil corporate entity.  I'm in advertising.  I know otherwise.

    But the notion that the Twitterverse jumped on something they perceived as potentially violating federal law isn't problematic.  It did what it was supposed to do, namely call out CN for perceived bad behavior.  It's good CN was able to correct the record.

    That bigger point I referenced above?  Why is it okay for publishers to devalue content to the extent that they do?  If you work in this business, you already know the answer to that.  It's because the digital publishing model is broken.  (Largely due to the influence of the idiotic quants in our industry, if you ask me...)

    If your reaction to this Twitter dustup is to go bash Andrew Cuomo and ask why New York is so anti-business, you've missed the point entirely.  (If you want to bash Cuomo, go after him for his poor record on education, IMO.)  The point is that our most prestigious publishers can't seem to afford to be able to support full-time writers, even in their most prestigious publications.  We should be asking ourselves why that is.

    Hint: It's the infinite supply problem brought about by automating ad delivery, the lack of standards in the industry, and the notion that digital display's problems can be cured by simply adding more ad inventory.

  3. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, March 16, 2019 at 10:34 a.m.

    It is also illegal. Call the friendly IRS. Been there. Done this. 

  4. Robert Williams from Mediapost, March 16, 2019 at 11:01 a.m.

    Thanks for the comment. No, I don't mind people getting rich from my work. If I did, I never would have entered the work force as employee or a freelancer.

  5. Robert Williams from Mediapost replied, March 16, 2019 at 11:02 a.m.

    as *an* employee

  6. Robert Williams from Mediapost replied, March 16, 2019 at 11:10 a.m.

    Thanks for the thoughtful reply.

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