Pittsburgh's Equal magazine ceases publication but questions linger | News | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Pittsburgh's Equal magazine ceases publication but questions linger

"They never really wanted to talk about what's happening with the magazine."

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Equal circulated about 10,000 issues each month, says Van Horn, and ran several thousand more to mail directly to its members. During pride week, it published closer to 50,000.

And while all of the writers interviewed for this story say they enjoyed writing for the publication, there were consistent payment problems.

"The printer was paid late, the staff was paid late — even the graphic designer," says King, the former editor. "I actually lost two other writers last spring and summer when they had not been paid and they threatened to go to the labor-relations board — and checks were sent out again miraculously."

Karla Doolittle, one of the more vocal writers, says, "I did have to threaten [Van Horn] several times on behalf of the staff with court action" before she could get paid. "It was just all these little tricks and games," noting she received paychecks that had already expired. She resigned in 2013.

Another writer, John Britt, says the magazine stopped using him as a freelancer after he complained about late payments. "You expect to be compensated even if it's a small amount — it respects the integrity of what you're doing; we weren't paid much to begin with." He says he doesn't harbor ill will toward the magazine or Delta, and was eventually paid.

For his part, Van Horn says, "Mr. King was responsible for providing payment information ... I've asked it from him a number of times. When we got the information, we paid the writers. The foundation pays the bills that we have."

But news of payment issues began reaching Delta Foundation's board members, which concerned some about the organization's finances.

"I was told the printer was never paid," says Samuel Badger, a board member who resigned last February. "They never really wanted to talk about what's happening with the magazine."

Michael Bartley, a Delta board member who resigned the same month Equal stopped publishing, says the timing is just coincidence: "I never serve more than five years on a board and my five years were up. As far as I'm concerned, Pride is one of the best events the city has, and I hope [it] is there for years to come."

Thomas Waters, a former board member, says losing the monthly magazine doesn't suggest the Delta Foundation is in any great financial trouble: "It's just [that] this hasn't panned out as an income source."

But a board member, who asked not to be identified, says, "There's no question about it — the fact that people weren't getting paid was alarming and unusual. Board members have been concerned about the organization paying its bills."

"That's news to me," counters Van Horn, who says board reorganizations happen every few years. He says Delta is "in the process of construction" to renovate a roughly $500,000 property it purchased on the North Side — a sign of financial health.

And with respect to the magazine, he says, the board is in the process of figuring out what form it might take in the future.

"We've had a lot of conversations about the magazine and what the future will hold. We're going to reformulate."

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