It’s been yet another month since we’ve checked in on Bon Appetit, let’s see how they’re doing- oh god, oh fuck.

The last major update we had gotten from BA was that negotiations for better pay were under way, albeit behind closed doors.  A development finally came on August 6th, when it was announced that Sohla El-Waylly, Priya Krishna and Rick Martinez would no longer be making videos for the YouTube channel (albeit while still performing their other BA-related duties).  They had all felt that the video contracts presented to them were empty promises that offered little increase in pay- or, depending on per-video fees, offered even less in pay than what they were making before.  They also said that the continued vague promises of promoting diversity without anything specific to show for it compounded their frustrations.  The next day, Gaby Melian also announced she would not be signing the video contract presented to her and Molly Baz announced that she had been asked to be relieved of her existing video contract in solidarity. [Update: as of Augsust 15th, Carla Lalli-Music and Amiel Stanek have also asked to be relieved of their contracts]  Jesse Sparks and Ryan Walker-Hartshorn, two black BA staffers (not on the video side), also quit, voicing similar concerns.  Claire Saffitz also happened to release a statement saying that she had asked BA not to upload any more of the videos she had shot and that she was no longer under contract with them, but it’s hard to tell how closely that was related due to it coming several days earlier than the rest.  

At first glance, it’s hard to imagine why Conde Nast would let this happen.  In the early months of the quarantine, millions of viewers flocked to their YouTube channel upon realizing they needed to learn how to cook.  And the personalities of their stars kept people coming back, turning series like Gourmet Makes and It’s Alive into some of the most bingeable content on YouTube.  So one would think that, when the scandal broke, Conde Nast would simply do the damage control, pat themselves on the back for being so ‘woke’ for paying their employees equal pay for equal work and let the ad revenue start flowing in again.  Why would they throw it all away? 

For the most part, Conde Nast is still run by old money.  And the Anna Wintours of the world profit the most from preserving the status quo.  

I recently came across something saying that the “gig economy” was now dead, and that the “hustle economy” was on the rise.  Basically, they meant that freelancers are increasingly switching from bouncing from temp job to temp job to using platforms like Patreon to become your own boss and monetize your passions.  

As much as seizing the means of production would be a big mood, I do have some problems with this attitude.  I actually set up a Patreon for this site back when Patreon announced upcoming changes to how it structured payment plans, just so I could get grandfathered into the better plan (I don’t even remember what that entails, it was like a year ago). I haven’t gone live with it, though, because, aside from subscriber polls about what the next article would be, I have no clue how to incentivize food writing.  On a similar note, a friend of mine who used to be a Twitch streamer had barely enough subscribers to cover the cost of buying a new game every once in a while.  And, of course, as the coronavirus continues to rampage across the U.S., there is the concern of health insurance (not that freelancers would have had that anyway).  

But, what the (former) video personalities at BA have that neither me nor my gamer friend have is a large, preexisting, and fiercely loyal fanbase.  If they were to start up their own channel, it would certainly be successful.  

Take a look at Watcher Entertainment, for instance.  3 former Buzzfeed employees and showrunners of their most successful franchises, Buzzfeed Unsolved and Worth It, got fed up with their company’s corporate BS and started their own channel.  And, even with the complication of not being able to shoot videos on location anymore, they’re still managing to be successful enough to provide for not only the 3 of them, but also a small support staff, thanks to their fanbase.  Judging by former BA fan’s reactions to this whole situation, if any (or a group) of the video personalities were to start their own channel, the fans would be right behind them.

If there’s anything we’ve learned for sure from watching BA implode over the last few months, it’s that change can take time, and doesn’t always happen in the way you may expect.  All we can do for now is wish the former video personalities the best of luck in their future endeavors. 

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