Ski Writers vs. Moguls

Freelancers Accuse AOL of a Rights Grab

This week, the protesters will send a letter to Time Inc. honchos Norman Pearlstine and John Huey, requesting a face-to-face meeting by the end of September. "The decision makers have very little familiarity with what we do," says Wiltsie, "and that's why it's important to go to New York and make our case." Walter adds, "We're not trying to throw down ultimatums. We're just trying to be reasonable."

A spokesperson for Time Inc. said, "We value the contributions of our freelancers, and we're sensitive to the concerns that they're raising." He pointed out that the contract in question is the "standard freelance contract" used by Time Inc.—and denied that the contract had anything to do with AOL or the merger. Asked whether the writers will be granted face time on Sixth Avenue, he declined to comment.

Back in Boulder, editors are working on the winter issues of Ski and Skiing. Because September through December are the biggest issues and the mags shut down in the spring, the resolution of this dispute will not be apparent until September 2002. But editors will soon be making assignments for next fall, and Wiltsie says some writers have been told that if they don't sign now, there won't be any work in the future. If Time Inc. does not budge, he says, "the leading columnists and contributors will no longer agree to work for the magazines, and that will be a major loss."

Walter's take is equally dire. "If AOL Time Warner cannot be enlightened to what is contractually fair for writers," she says, "then sometime between now and when the snow falls and melts again, they're going to have to find a new bunch of unproven writers." Aspiring gearheads are encouraged to send their résumés directly to Steve Case.


ccotts@villagevoice.com

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