The Ice Garden will not be posting any content today, Dec. 23, 2019. As you might be aware, SBNation and their parent company, Vox Media, made the decision to essentially lay off hundreds of contributors in California last week starting in the early part of 2020. The decision is in response to California Assembly Bill 5, which limits the amount that contractors can contribute to a site like ours.
What isn’t complicated is that Vox handled this poorly. They’ve known since Sept. 18 that they needed to figure out how to approach this problem. Their solution was to terminate all of the hundreds of contracted writers in California the week before Christmas with many contributors finding out about the decision via Twitter or a public blog post. Of all the options, this is one of the most callous.
And so we will not be posting any content today both to show that we think Vox’s handling of this situation was unacceptable and to call on leadership to figure out a better solution than forcing contributors in California to either stop writing about their teams or to do so for free.
Most of us at SBNation don’t make much money for doing this. We’re hobbyists. We write about the team here because it gives us the chance to be part of a larger network of fans where we can collaborate. We get a minuscule monthly stipend as a token gesture.
Vox’s decision in California exposes the underbelly of this whole model in a way that forces everyone to confront the uncomfortable reality. They’ll hire 10-20 new employees to replace the hundreds of contractors, knowing that many of the contractors will continue to write for free because for a lot of us, the money is so small as to be meaningless and we’re doing this for fun anyway. So the new employees will manage dozens of unpaid contributors and that will be the new model. Instead of getting a little money, the people doing the day-to-day work of building these fan communities will get none.
I’m not delusional. I see all the problems in the current model. I’m not sure there’s a way for SBNation to exist that doesn’t take advantage of its writers.
But what we can be certain of is that they didn’t have to do what they did last week. People shouldn’t have found out during the holidays that a paycheck they’ve gotten for years was suddenly disappearing and that if they want to continue contributing, they would have to do so for free.
So today, we won’t post in solidarity with our friends in California. Concretely, for NHL fans, this means Fear the Fin, Jewels from the Crown, Anaheim Calling, and Battle of California will not exist in their current format come March of next year. That’s bad enough. But the way Vox communicated the decision is so egregiously unacceptable that we feel compelled to take action in response.
We’ll resume normal content tomorrow.