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Defector Freelancer Policies, Created In Partnership With The National Writers Union

Last updated February 22, 2022

This unilateral announcement will be in place for one year from the date of acceptance by both the Defector Media editorial collective and the National Writers Union. At the end of that period, Defector will re-evaluate the conditions outlined below, and draft a new unilateral announcement with any necessary amendments offered by their freelancers, contract workers, and with the assistance of representatives from the National Writers Union.

For the purposes of this announcement, all parties agree that freelancer is defined as any media worker providing labor and/or services to Defector Media, including but not limited to writers, photographers, artists, video and/or audio producers, among others. All parties agree that “the publication” refers to Defector Media. A contractor is any media worker contributing to Defector on a mutually agreed-upon ongoing basis. The negotiated rate is the full fee stated by the assigning or accepting member of the Defector editorial collective, as stated in any contracts or email correspondence related to the freelancers’ assignment or submission.

This unilateral announcement is the product of open discussion and collaboration between the Defector editorial collective and representatives from the National Writers Union, and is intended to define the scope and terms of freelance labor in the course of producing work for Defector. All freelancers and contractors doing work for Defector shall be provided a link to the unilateral announcement upon pitch acceptance. The announcement will be publicly available on Defector’s website. In one year, the Defector editorial collective, the National Writers Union, and a group of Defector freelancers will meet to review and revise this unilateral announcement. 


    • Defector will set clear and equitable base rates for freelance digital media workers and publicize them on their website. 
    • Defector will commit to reducing pay discrepancies across the industry for people from disadvantaged and underrepresented groups.
    • All assignments accepted or commissioned will be paid on the graduated schedule outlined in the next section. Upon acceptance of a first draft or product, Defector will issue the 50% of the negotiated rate immediately. 
    • All freelance digital media workers can negotiate above the standards stated in this unilateral announcement if desired.
    • The standard base rates are as follows: 
      • Longer essays and reported pieces will be paid a minimum of $1,000.
      • Shorter pieces will be paid a minimum of $500.
      • For audio and podcast work, producers/editors will be paid a minimum day rate of $400/day.
    • Defector commits to acting in full compliance with New York City’s “Freelance Isn’t Free” law.
    • All freelance contributors will be paid within 30 days of invoicing. 
    • Standard rates and other conditions for photographers, audio and video producers and engineers, illustrators, and other media workers will be posted as Defector determines its needs for such freelance services, in collaboration with the National Writers Union. 
    • If a freelancer contributes to Defector on an ongoing basis, they can negotiate with the publication to receive a W-2 contract for a mutually agreed upon duration of time.
    • Defector will post clear rates and working procedures for regular contractors and establish a process for contract freelancer raises. 
    • Defector commits to following the standard legal definition of “just cause” in the event a contract is terminated before the end of the agreed upon duration.

Graduated Fee Schedule

    • Upon publication of the freelancer’s contribution, Defector will pay the remaining 50% of the negotiated rate within 30 days. 
    • In the event an assignment of an editorial nature (including but not limited to text, photo, design, video, or audio) is accepted or commissioned but cannot run in Defector as anticipated, Defector will follow the below stated schedule for kill fees: 
      • If Defector chooses to kill an assignment upon acceptance of a first draft and/or first submission with no edits: no additional payment is necessary above the initial 50% already paid upon submission.  
      • If Defector chooses to kill an assignment after two rounds of revisions, edits, and/or notes have been sent to the freelancer and subsequently returned to the editor for further review: an additional payment of 25% of the negotiated rate (freelancer receives 75% of the negotiated rate).
      • In the event an assignment is accepted or commissioned by an editor, and is approved for publication by both the freelancer and the editor, and still does not run: Defector will pay the freelancer 100% of the negotiated rate. 
    • In the event an assignment is accepted or commissioned by an editor, and the freelancer has passed the first round of edits, and Defector ceases to be operational for any reason and/or under any circumstances: Defector will pay the freelancer 100% of the negotiated rate. 

Reporting Costs & Incidental Expenses

    • Defector will set clear procedures for reimbursements of any/all expenses incurred in the editorial process.
      • Upon acceptance of an assignment/submission, the assigning editor will provide the freelancer with those procedures via email.
      • Defector and the freelancer will agree upon major reporting expenses upon assignment. Defector will pay for any agreed upon travel/accommodations booked for the purposes of fulfilling a freelancer’s accepted assignment in full and in advance of the scheduled trip when possible.
      • Any incidental expenses incurred in the process of the work done by the freelancer will be reimbursed as per Defector’s stated policy, within 30 days of submitting Defector’s reimbursement process. 

Intellectual Property

    • Defector agrees that each accepted submission or assignment is the sole property of the freelancer. 
      • The sale of the submission entitles Defector to first North American serial rights. 
      • If Defector has the opportunity to sell or lease the submission to another publication (for the purposes of, but not limited to, a medium such as an anthology, retrospective, or similar printed and/or digital collection) Defector will make their best faith effort to notify the freelancer immediately with at least two notices in writing, preferably by email. Once the freelancer has been reached, a mutual decision to make the sale or approve the leasing rights will be reached between them. If the freelancer does not respond within ten days of the second email or by a deadline clearly stated in the emails, Defector has the right to make a decision on the freelancer’s behalf. 
      • The freelancer retains the right to republish the work after 90 days of the date of publication in a book, anthology, collection, or similar product, with original credits and acknowledgements given to Defector. The freelancer does not have the right to republish in another website, magazine, or similar publication. The freelancer may republish their work on a personal website or newsletter 48 hours after the time of original publication. 
      • If the freelancer has the opportunity to sell, lease, reissue, or otherwise use the material first published by Defector in another medium, including but not limited to film, audio, or television production, they retain the right to do so as per their own discretion and with original credits and acknowledgements given to Defector. 
    • In the event that an accepted assignment is killed by Defector at any stage of the editorial process after the freelancer’s first submission, the intellectual property is released back to the freelancer.

Pitching, Assigning, Editing, and Publishing Process

    • Defector shall maintain a commitment to promoting diversity and equity among its freelancers.
    • All pitching and submissions guidelines will be clearly detailed and made public on the Defector website.
    • Contact information for the editorial collective will be made public, with instructions on where to direct freelancer pitches. 
    • An assignment from a Defector editor, or a submission from a freelancer, is considered accepted upon email confirmation from the editor on the story. Freelancers will be issued a contract as soon as possible following email correspondence, and the first installment of payment will be issued as per the stated rate schedule above. 
    • After an assignment has been accepted, editors shall formally notify the freelancer of the acceptance or rejection of subsequent drafts/submissions within two weeks.
    • When a freelancer proposes an idea for an article that has not previously come to the attention of Defector, the editors will not assign a story based on that proposal to someone else without permission from the proposer and payment of a mutually agreed-upon fee between the editor and original proposer. However, this will not apply to ideas that are in Defector’s general domain. Nothing in this announcement shall prevent Defector from assigning an article based on a similar proposal subsequently (and without prompting from the editors) submitted by another freelancer. Defector will have a commitment from management and editors that freelance-generated ideas are not given to others in the editorial team. 
    • Defector may commission research on a potential story from a freelancer before an assignment has been given. This work will be compensated at a flat rate set between the editor and the freelancer. This does not apply to freelancers being asked to refine pitches already in process. 
    • The Defector editorial collective will provide the freelancer a final version of their work before publication for final review. The freelancer will have the right to make changes of any nature, within reason, before printing commences and/or publication occurs. 
      • In the event that the freelancer and the Defector editorial collective cannot reach an agreement in good faith about a change in the editorial work before publication, the freelancer retains the right to remove their name from said work. 
      • Defector reserves the right to make any final, minor copy edits before printing during the proofing process. Defector commits to making no substantive edits to a freelancer’s work without first notifying the freelancer of the change and confirming their approval in writing. 
    • A credit line suitable to the design of the project will be used wherever visual contributions appear (including but not limited to web, print, and social media). If suitable, in addition to the freelancer’s name, the credit line will include links to either the freelancer’s website or social media page.


    • Defector will provide a one-year subscription to all freelancers with work on the site. 
    • Defector will detail what, if any, subscription-only database services, publications, and resources the publication has access to, and make them available to freelancers upon request.

Safety and Legal Protections

    • Defector will indemnify and defend a freelancer against any third-party claim arising out of any article published, distributed, or assigned and any newsgathering related thereto unless such claims arise out of the freelancer’s breach of representation, warranty, or obligation under their contract. Such indemnification will include all losses, costs, and expenses, including reasonable attorney’s fees, damages, and recoveries. Defector will do this if the freelancer agrees to cooperate with Defector and its parent and affiliated entities, and their members, shareholders, directors, officers, employees, representatives, and agents from and against any actions, claims, demands, liabilities, expenses, and costs, including reasonable attorney’s fees, arising out of any such third-party claim.
    •  Defector will set clear safety and legal protections for freelancers, both abroad and at home, and publicize those procedures. 
      • If an assignment requires heightened safety and security protocols, those protocols will be made known to the freelancer at the time of assigning. 
      • The organization will provide complimentary safety training and PPE as needed, and will be rigorous in providing support before an assignment, while in the field, and after an assignment. 
    • Defector will commit to providing a work experience for freelancers that is free of harassment and discrimination.
    • In the event a freelancer experiences physical and/or psychological harm, harassment, discrimination, or abuse of any nature in their course of work for Defector, the publication agrees to resolve the dispute through the below stated National Writers Union grievance procedure.

Grievance Procedure With the National Writers Union

Defector will make every effort to work out any freelancer grievances on an informal basis.

If Defector cannot work out a freelancer’s grievances on an informal basis and if that freelancer designates a representative of the NWU to meet with the publication in an attempt to work out the grievance on the freelancer’s behalf, the process shall be as follows:

    1. (a) Before filing a grievance, the aggrieved freelancer and/or Union representative will present the grievance to the freelancer’s assignment editor to try to resolve the matter without formal proceedings. 
    2. (b) If step (a) is unsuccessful, the NWU shall submit the grievance in writing to the Editor-in-Chief of Defector or their designated representative. 
    3. (c) If there is no resolution within two weeks of step (b), there shall be a conciliation conference including the NWU representative, the freelancer, if possible, and the Editor or their designated representative. Defector shall provide a response to the grievance within three weeks of the conference. 
    4. If the NWU and Defector cannot resolve the grievance, a board shall be convened consisting of one representative of the NWU, one of Defector, and one member acceptable to both parties. The third member shall receive no compensation from either side for participation in this board. A majority opinion by the board shall be accepted by both parties.

Freelancer Contracts

Defector will allow the National Writers Union to review and suggest changes to their standard freelancer contract. 

If Defector considers making any edits or changes to their standard freelancer agreement, they will notify NWU prior to implementing the edits or changes and meet with representatives to discuss. 

Notification and Communication

Freelancers/contractors will be provided with a copy of this letter upon agreement of assignment, along with a letter from the NWU.

Once a month, the NWU can request and will be provided with a list of names of all freelancers/contractors working for Defector. 

Once a year, the NWU can request and will be provided with a comprehensive demographic survey of all freelancers/contractors working for Defector.

If any freelancer/contractor requests information about NWU, or to speak with an NWU representative, Defector will immediately notify a member of the Freelance Solidarity Project organizing committee and/or a designated member of the NWU.

Future Unilateral Announcements

In February 2023, a representative from the National Writers Union will contact the Defector editorial collective and a group of Defector freelancers to set up a meeting for reviews and revisions to this announcement.