Frosh makes strange bedfellows, but this is a bit much.
To my representatives, the Arts and Science Federation of Associations (ASFA) – I’m sorry, and you’re welcome.
Wait, wait, no. No publication should ever start with something as insulting and pretentious as that. But that’s exactly what MTL Blog did in their open letter to Montreal, following mounting criticism due to their unsavoury business practices.
Frankly, there’s a rabbit hole of problems here. Here we have a self-identified for-profit organization that has a track record of not paying its writers. What we see is a revolving door of unpaid interns and university students, and according to Pierre Chauvin of Canadaland, only two paid writers actually on staff.
And it isn’t just the writers, either: the photographers are also getting the short end of the stick. Many bloggers have claimed that MTL Blog had stolen their pictures and placed them on the site with no credit and no payment. The anti-MTL Blog site StopMTLBlog.to even has a blog post detailing instances of stolen photography – three of them, actually.
When confronted for stealing a picture, the MTL Blog twitter claimed that “if there is no [credit] it is because it was found on Google with no [credit]”. In their Love Letter to Montreal, they admitted that their “lack of initial experience… has led to unacceptable errors on our end”, adding that “[t]he ethics of the internet are ever-evolving”.
Know what else is in an ethical gray area? Taking money to write stories. Wait, sorry, my mistake – pretty sure everyone can agree that’s just plain wrong, especially from a site that strives “every day to deliver important news”, according to their History page. One look at the “Submit Your Event” page makes it very clear: Twitter promotion, featured banner, a photographer and writer, event listings – all available to you, for a fee. (The words “Contact Us for Pricing” appear eight times on the page, by the way.)
Which brings me back to you, ASFA. You represent nearly 15,000 undergrads, including writers and journalists. Knowing what we know about MTL Blog, and considering who you are supposed to be representing, it begs the question – why did you partner with them for #FROSH?
When one goes to the ticket site for #FROSH, their logo is at the bottom of the page. Not to mention all the articles and pictures they’ve been posting of your events, with such great lines as: “This was definitely a great way for everyone to start their semester and academic program” and that “[y]ou definitely don’t want to miss out on this year’s Frosh celebration”.
Paul Jerajian, President of ASFA, said there was no exchange of money for the partnership with MTL Blog. “What they mainly get is exposure, and we get coverage of the event,” said Jerajian, who added that Concordia’s student body was likely “big market” for the publication.
But out of all the publications to promote, out of everyone you could have picked, why go with the one with a proven track record of shady operations? When the tuition of writers, photographers and journalists goes to keeping you running, why run with someone who would stab us in the back?
It might be too late for this year, but something to keep in mind, ASFA – if you’re going to promote yourselves, how about picking someone who wouldn’t try to swindle us? Strange concept, I know, but we’d all really appreciate it next time.