Why I Left the Vanguard


By Shezad Khan

  • I didn’t get paid the first three months I worked for the Vanguard. The director lost my paperwork which included some sensitive information. It was later found after I was asked to fill all the forms out a second time.
  • One of my articles was attributed to someone else. This one really upset me. How can you take the time, work, and effort of a writer and put someone else’s name on it? I only heard from the chief editor once via a short email. Nothing was done to correct the problem. I was told the following issue would offer clarification. It didn’t. It was a stupid error for the Vanguard to make, and the way they handled the problem was nothing but a slap in the face.
  • They cut our pay by 33% (the least of my worries). For months I was making $45 per article if my articles were over a certain word count. After a new managing editor and a new editor for my section arrived, however, our pay was dropped to $30 dollars. Why? Because apparently the last managing editor had been mistaken about our pay. So it didn’t matter how long of an article we wrote, the pay would be the same. Did they bother to tell me that before I wrote articles nearing or reaching a thousand words? Of course not.
  • They changed the title of my article – twice. When this happened with the new editor, I was told that these things happen all the time. This would be the deciding factor in my choice to leave the Vanguard. I wrote an email asking why they would change the title without telling the writer, or why they wouldn’t give the writer the chance to come up with a new title if they didn’t think the original title was sufficient. The answer I received was that it would simply be a waste of time for the Vanguard to consider the writer’s thoughts. It doesn’t matter to me if publications feel they “have the right” to do this, I still think it’s wrong.

9 thoughts on “Why I Left the Vanguard

  1. Shezad,

    I last wrote for The Vanguard in Fall 2013 as the “Campus Critic” columnist. That fall, PSU instituted the policy of paying student media writers as self-employed freelancers. At the time, articles of 800-1199 words paid $35, and 1200+ word articles paid $45. Your story indicates they either changed the policy in the last 15 months, or have it wrong.
    I never thought paying by length was the best system for a college paper. Learning to write in a pithy, efficient style is a journalistic skill that should be rewarded, and more length is sometimes just amateurish writing. But I’m not sure what system would replace it. Although replacing it by simply paying everyone less hardly seems like a solution.
    Your comment about receiving “only a short email” also caught my attention. In Fall 2013, my editor once informed me that the Editor-in-Chief told her she could do all her communicating with writers by email ONLY, and didn’t have to take ANY live meetings with them. (This showed up as an example in my best blog for the PSU Chronicles, dated Jan. 24, 2014, “A live phone call! Someone loves Me!”). I hope this sad, non-communicative policy between editors and writers has not since become more institutionalized at The Vanguard.

    1. Hi Theo, thank you for your feedback.

      When I started writing for the Vanguard, I was told that the payrate for all writers (at least those in Opinions) would fall under the reporter category. That meant that we would be paid $40 for a story of 500-749 words, $45 for 750-1199 words, and $50 for 1200+ words. After months of using this system, they knocked us down to the Columnist pay which is a flat $30, regardless of word count. This is straight from the payrate sheet I was given from the Vanguard.

      I am sorry you feel longer articles can be amateurish. However, I did not write long articles for the money, but because I was passionate about the subject.

      The communication I experienced was basically nonexistent at the Vanguard.

      Thanks again for your comment.

      1. I didn’t mean that ALL longer articles are amateurish! Of course, features need length, and good writers make good use of length. I’m sure your passion translated into good writing, Shezad!


  2. Dude, your editor is right: It’s very common to change the headline (the “title,” as you called it) of an article, as well as parts of the story itself. It’s probably more common than not to have a suggested headline changed. If the editor doesn’t edit, they’re pretty obviously not doing their job!

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