Thursday, November 04, 2010

Sports Illustrated issue now escalated to Magazine Publishers Association of SA [MPASA]

Dear Melony

I'm not sure if this is an issue you can assist me with.  I hope it is.  I am a professional freelance writer regularly published in mainstream magazines such as Getaway, Bicycling and Financial Mail.  I was commissioned by Sports Illustrated recently to do an interview with the swimmer Cameron van der Burgh.  I have subsequently been told the story is 'substandard' and to reinforce this claim, that Ryk Neethling, van der Burgh's agent, supports this view.

A few points on the matter:  I sent the interview to Neethling for approval and he  communicated to me his approval.  This casts into doubt Angus Powers' allegation that Neethling didn't like the story.
The accusation that it is substandard is interesting, because I was given a number of questions to ask van der Burgh [it was a highly formulaic Q&A story] meaning my input and my freedom to write my own story was very limited.  Thus my input in the story basically amounted to asking the questions I was required to ask, which I did, and also to write and answer these questions in the same style and format as other Q&A pieces.  I then simply edited van der Burgh's answers, and as the finished article demonstrates, this is not really a test of my ability to write.  I feel I can prove that it is on the same standard as SASI's conventional Q&A pieces.

As a result of Sports Illustrated's assertion that these other sports celebrities did not approve my methods, this calls my reputation and ability to write in question, which I believe is dishonest.  The real issue is that Men's Health and Sports Illustrated double-booked Cameron and Sports Illustrated then tried to get out of their obligations, and did so making disingenuous allegations.

I cannot believe this behaviour is acceptable.

Please advise; and I am happy to provide the entire correspondence and the piece that is in dispute.

Best wishes
Nick van der Leek


Anonymous said...

isn't the issue really whether C and R like what you wrote about him/them? maybe you should speeak to them 1st.

Nick said...

I just did actually. Apparently Ryk Neethling felt the article wasn't good enough. He described the writing as 'entry level'. I didn't know he was a writing expert. In the same conversation he brought up something about his sister that he wasn't happy with, so I think he was trying to settle a score. Why he provides me with the chance to interview his client, approves it then bombs it behind my back I don't know. The whole me being unprepared/unprofessional schpiel has a bit more of a personal agterground methinks. This does change my opinion of Ryk a lot. He's got a high opinion of himself, and I thought he was so humble.

Anonymous said...


I've had a look at your blog and was wondering if you'd considered at all the fact that you just don't write very well? Or certainly as well as you seem to think that you do?

Sometimes you just have to take your medicine and come back stronger.

Perhaps some deep introspection is needed from your side.

Anonymous said...

Wait... So...

According to what you've been saying on your blog, Sports Illustrated told you what to ask Cameron (quote: "Most of what I used were Angus' questions anyway."), you then phoned Cameron, asked him the questions, then typed out what he said, mailed that to Sports Illustrated, then sat back and waited to get paid R2 a word for your efforts, then complained to the MPASA when you weren't paid soon enough (in the real world, invoices take up to 90 days to get paid)?

Nick, is that really how journalism works?

Or is that just how you work?
Maybe you should stick to photography, bud. I don't think any magazine is going to want to touch you with a barge pole after this little display of yours.

Nick said...

No, the story was killed, in other words not published. Not because they don't want it published, they're still doing it. Sports Illustrated claim to already have paid me. They've announced as much on twitter. Two small problems. One, I haven't invoiced them, and they don't have my banking details. Another small problem with announcing on twitter that they paid me is that it doesn't reflect in my bank account. Here's the simple lesson: don't cheat, backstab or tell lies, especially not in social media.