Media

The Wages of Magazine Photo Leakers Fall Behind Inflation


Is Jezebel ripping off the hard-working leakers of unretouched magazine photos?

The question arose last week, after editors at Gawker Media’s women-oriented website offered $10,000 to anyone who would leak them the unretouched photos from Lena Dunham’s recent cover shoot for Vogue.

Amid the subsequent debate about the feminist merits of Jezebel’s mission, one publication also took issue with the amount of money Jezebel was offering for the unaltered photos of the HBO (TWX) star. After all, Salon pointed out, Jezebel was offering $10,000 for a similar task all the way back in 2007. Since then, more than half a decade has come and gone, rents in New York have skyrocketed, yet—despite some improvement in the labor market—Jezebel has failed to raise its rates for freelance photo leakers. As Salon put it:

There’s also the small matter of inflation. Jezebel’s bounty hasn’t increased in a decade? Ten thousand dollars is a lot of money to many people, but it is not nearly enough money for the people with access to Dunham’s unretouched images (probably no more than a handful of Vogue staffers) to take such a risk. Jezebel editor Jessica Coen is intelligent. She knows she will likely never get these images.

On this point, Salon was quickly proven wrong: Less than 24 hours after issuing the bounty, Jezebel posted six unaltered images from the Annie Leibovitz photo shoot. But on the broader economic-equatability issue, Salon was spot-on. Jezebel’s bounties have, in fact, stagnated over the past decade.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics inflation calculator, if Jezebel bounties had merely kept pace with inflation—never mind merit raises—magazine photo leakers who were earning $10,000 in 2007 would now be fielding offers of a respectable $11,235.40.

Alas, no. At a time when the precariousness of magazine careers continues to soar, Jezebel seems entirely aloof to the cost-of-living increases facing the industry’s rank-and-file photo leakers. All of which further exacerbates the growing income gap between the people who appear on glossy magazine covers and the people who leak them to Jezebel.

In the meantime, Dunham, weighed in with her own economic ideas about the value of the offer.

“10k?” she wrote on Twitter. “Give it to charity then just order HBO.”

Gillette_190
Gillette is a staff writer for Bloomberg Businessweek in New York.

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