This SF Bay Area Publication Blocked Its Former Editor for Calling Them Out (Again)

After criticizing The Bold Italic’s poorly worded call for submissions, I was blocked from seeing what they’re up to… on Instagram and Twitter.

Freelancing is a glorious, albeit fickle career path. It’s punctuated by autonomy — a permission slip to create a schedule, a lifestyle, and a laundry list of vocational habits that uniquely cater to the freelancer. I’ve been doing this for a decade; I, too, have become austere about the language used around the work type.

Why? It’s rather simple: The inherent malleability of freelancing lends itself to manipulation and misinterpretation, especially when the business entity is unclear about what soliciting for contracted work entails. In my brightly naive twenties, when I was just a lil’ baby freelancer, I was fucked over more times than I’d care to admit because of careless, avoidable mistakes done on my behalf.

Recently, The Bold Italic (TBI) — the publication I previously helmed, which is now owned by the conservative YIMBY political group GrowSF and has since quietly onboarded another queer editor for the site — tweeted out what could only be described as a grossly deceptive call for freelance work.

“We are hiring freelancers for written content and video [unnecessary heart emoji]. Rates begin at $150-$300, with a bigger budget for special projects,” the contentious, once-beloved, now-devolved publication tweeted out from its anemic Twitter account. “Pitch us something!”

Jesus Fucking Christ, where to begin. Well, let’s start with the most surface-level criticism: “Rates” for contracted work don’t “begin” on a scale — they *start* at a *set bottom line* and can be slid up from there. In this specific request for contracted work, the wording for pay should be stated that one-time pay for approved and delivered pieces starts at $150. From there, it would then be stated that pay can go up to $300 in some instances — and potentially higher for projects that necessitate more time and resources from the freelancer.

(Diction and syntax, they’re v, v, [v], important, y’all.)

Fantastic, wonderful! Glad we got this one out of the way, first. Now, let’s dive into the ambivalent, far more insidious choice of wording in regard to the freelancer, himself, herself, or themself: We are hiring freelancers for written content and video.

This is as frustrating as it is dangerous. The implication behind the aforenoted statement is that The Bold Italic is hiring freelance talent, but it’s not; it’s calling for pitched work from freelancers. These are two entirely different tasks and freelance modalities.

If one were to be hired as a freelancer, there’s an expectation that the to-hire worker would have some sort of onboarding schedule, a stable flow of work and that a portion of the said work would come from the hiring organizational or business body; the pay in the initial ask would also reflect this, e.g. “we’re hiring a freelance reporter, who will produce five pieces of written content a week at a pay of $1,500 a month”; they’re might also be certain exclusivity clauses and content expectations associated with a contract presented to a hired freelancer.

The Bold Italic is not doing so in this instance. 

The publication is merely calling for pitches from freelancers that the talent behind those ideas will, more or less, organize and execute on their own accord and deliver a product to the publication based on a previously agreed-upon amount. This, too, is why you see “pitch language” used by prominent local publications, like SFGate and 48 Hills, when they call for freelanced pieces of content. They never connote accepting pitched work as the same as hiring freelancers — because the two exist in two entirely different cannons of trade, expectation, responsibility, and representation.

When I pointed this out in a quote tweet pulled from TBI’s account — “A lesson in Freelancing 101: *Accepting pitches* from freelancers is *not* the same as being *hired* on as a freelancer” — the criticism was met with agreement. I, too, waxed how increasingly exhausted I’ve become at having to constantly call out The Bold Italic on its flawed editorial methods since its new owners acquired the publication in December of 2022.

It wasn’t soon after posting that objection to Underscore_SF’s Twitter account that I noticed I could no longer view the tweet I was criticizing. From the Underscore_SF account. And from my personal account.

I had been blocked. By the previous publication I once served as its editor-in-chief. On Instagram, too. On both my personal account and Underscore_SF’s.

There was no admission of wrongdoing or misstepping from The Bold Italic, nor was there a snarky retaliation to my tweet that would open up a dialogue as to why their call for pitched work was so poorly worded. 

There was just an outright silencing — which is not only dangerous editorial practice but cements the point that new humans behind The Bold Italic chose not to learn from their mistakes. 

Instead, they lobotomized another account that holds them accountable on their social media networks.

(Mind you, as a publication owner and engaged journalist, I choose not to block accounts that present a counter-opinion or thought. Even ones that have outright trolled either myself or Underscore_SF, I’ve continued to allow access to both my page and Underscore_SF’s accounts. I’ve only ever blocked users when a direct threat to my safety has been made; as a public-facing individual and someone who owns a media company, it’s poor practice to hush criticism and opinion, and statements from readers, regardless of whether or not I agree with them. An air of dismay, distrust, and dishonesty are filled when done so. To block accounts in this manner — like GrowSF co-founder and perpetual internet child Steven Buss did thousands of times in 2002 — would be siloing,  allowing myself, and by proxy the publication I’ve created, to exist in a self-ideated vacuum void of the digital realities oscillating outside.)

The irrefutable irony of the publication I effectively rebranded during my two-year tenure erasing me from its social mediasphere is comically dissociating. But I remain unaffected. Again, more amused than anything.

I’ve gone through mental gymnastics (and therapy sessions) to detach myself from the brand and its inevitable collapse into irrelevance. If anything, the hundred-plus new followers gained across social media and the dozens of fresh email subscribers that transpired since this blocking has proven reassuring.

I did — have done, and continue doing — the right thing by starting my own publication… with, as some have so kindly pointed out, the familiar “soul” I injected into The Bold Italic during my time there.

And that sits incredibly well with me.

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