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Beware Of William May - Or Whatever
Name He Posts For Auditions Now
 
By Paul Strikwerda
Voice Actor
©2010 Paul Strikwerda
 
Posting jobs under false names, not paying invoices, and Jekyll-and-Hyde-treatment of voice-over talent … these appear to be the trademarks of William May.

Mr. May is the founder and editor of Newspapers For The Blind Organization Inc., a web-based service offering a daily selection of newspaper articles for the vision impaired, read by voice-over pros.
 
The site was quietly launched during the last quarter of 2009 (and should not be confused with NFB-Newsline®).
 
WHAT AND WHO ..

The idea behind Newspapers for the Blind (NFTB) is not new, but certainly noble.
 
The other two people involved, Dr. Edward E. Boas Jr. and Noelle Mills Adler, have impressive credentials.
 
Dr. Boas is a Professor of Computer Science, Data Processing and Electronics at Cecil College in North East, Maryland.
 
Ms. Mills Adler is a past president of the Ladies Christian Union of New York City (now known as the LCU Foundation).

But it’s the voice-over professionals known as newspapercasters who are at the heart of NFTB.
 
Newspapersfortheblind.org raves:
“Our three dozen readers, culled from 3,000 auditions, bring the precise vocal skills to reach and meet our unique audience.”
I AUDITIONED ...

At the beginning of September 2009, I became a member of this “elite team,” after auditioning for the following job posted on Voice123:
Newspapers for Blind
This is a daily long-term commitment to read a newspaper article into an MP3 for webcasting and free-phone service to the blind and hearing-impaired.

The files would want to be recorded from roughly midnight to 6AM US Eastern Time, so, geography may be important to readers.

The pacing of the delivery is painfully S-L-O-W, and the voice resonance is highly critical for the hearing-impaired. Tenors and sopranos need not bother; it won’t work for the hearing-impaired. Professor Henry Higgins diction is important; bite the words.

Voice-seekers name: confidential

Company name: hidden
GOT THE GIG
 
I was absolutely thrilled to have made the cut.
 
Regular gigs are hard to come by in this industry, but there was another reason why I was so excited.
 
Some jobs we do for the money; others because it is the right thing to do. This was the best of both worlds!

THE AMAZING MR. MAY

On top of that, the founder/editor seemed to possess an incredible drive and contagious enthusiasm to make things happen.
 
His initial emails were personable, funny and encouraging.
 
After I started reading leads from The Independent and The Times, he commented:
“My Cat, BraveHeart, loves your voice. She always perks up when I play your readings. You have a fan.”
 One day, I shared with him that I wasn’t feeling too well. He responded:
“Paul, hope you shake the cold … just don’t shake this perfect voice, W
BUT SOMETHING ODD ...
 
This was clearly a man with a heart! One thing bothered me a little, though.
 
Whenever I asked May if he intended to formalize the relationship and how payment would be handled, it took him months to come up with something that came close to a straight answer.
 
A month or so into the job, I had yet to be paid.
 
NOW WHAT?
 
Then I noticed that May had placed another job posting on Voice123. Why would he be looking for new recruits? When I asked him about it, he answered:
“Please don’t worry about not enough readings for NFTB. Stick with me. I have to keep a Chinese Wall between the not-for-profit and other activities. There will be plenty of other activities to follow.”
He was right. Not only would I be recording and editing at least two articles a day, but Will asked me and four other colleagues to record public service announcements for NFTB (a 501C-3 Corporation).
 
ON A ROLL ...
 
I was tickled when he told me:
“Out of the 5, they chose your Public Service Message on 970 AM, New York.”
By that time I was on a roll. The only thing missing was a regular paycheck and eventually, that became an ordeal.
 
I had to send out countless reminders, only to hear that my “address was lost” or that someone would be looking into it.

GIVE ME A BREAK

On Nov. 15,, May surprised me with the following message:
“Let's let your money catch up with your readings; take a break.”
I responded:
“(…) As you know, I am very supportive of your charity, and I don’t understand why I should take a break.
 
"(…) If you do not have the money to pay me, you should have said so from the beginning. As a professional, I made my commitment based on your commitment.
 
"Financially, I plan ahead and make future projections based on assurances that have been made by my clients. Knowing that payment would not be forthcoming or would be seriously delayed, would have given me the opportunity to reconsider my commitment to NFTB, and possibly spend my time and energy generating income in other ways. (…)”
The answer:
“I had interpreted your last mail as unhappy. I was simply saying let's let the accounting, our weakest link, catch up with you. We have enough money, just not enough accounting bobbins.”
But on Nov. 20, I received the following email:
“Don’t count on any more readings in your planning; nothing to do with you. We’ll catch up the accounting, and probably just wind things up.
May try to limp along at half or one-third normal see what happens (…)

"Also, frankly, not enough users to merit all of the work; I’m working 18-20 hour days to throw 8-10 k out the window each week …what for.

"I think we made sliced bread, when the world wants baguette.”
ANOTHER VOICE

The truth is that it was business as usual at Newspapers for the Blind. They didn’t miss a beat, and never have.
 
I was sidetracked for no apparent reason, while waiting for my checks. And I was not alone.

Voice-over colleague Juliette Gray picks up the story:
“I was hired in November. They required reading articles (in my case from the London newspapers). These articles were long, and the editing took ages.
 
"Then the person in charge decided because these people were also partially deaf that I needed to change my sound system. I did this willingly because I thought I had a steady job.

"At quite a bit of expense, I was ready to start working again and it was then he turned out to be a complete nightmare. We exchanged numerous emails, phone conversations, etc., and then he did a 180-degree turn – sort of like a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Became impossible to communicate with, and finally did get nasty in his final email.
 
"Needless to say I never got paid.”
VOICE123 HEARS IT

Steven Lowell handles the PR for Voice123. This is what he said when I asked him about NFTB and Will May:
“When I first saw the job posted a while back, I was very excited because in NYC, I got some early voice-over practice in the 90’s doing charity by reading books to the blind at a local church. It was something a coach recommended I do for practice.
 
"The job made me think, ‘Wow! Good to see something like this again!
 
"Yet, what followed was an unpleasant experience of several talents with decades of experience, complaining to me that he was harsh and unfriendly to work with.
 
'When reaching out to Mr. May to present that there have been problems, merely as a way to communicate feedback, his reply to me was, ‘Who complained? I don’t have the time to coach every talent to perfection ….’ "
SAME OLD STORIES

Before hearing my side of the story, Voice123 heard from Juliette and two other voice-over professionals; one from the US, and one from the UK.
 
As I was researching this article, I got in touch with other newspapercasters. Without exception, they asked me not to reveal their names, because they’re still hoping to get paid and they want to keep their job.
 
But all of them told similar tales about Mr. May, and I wondered if Voice123 had taken any action.

MAY IS BANNED
 
As a rule, Voice123 only investigates non-payment matters that are 60-days old. Steven Lowell:
“This is because we do not get involved, and most payment disputes are resolved quite easily with a reminder email from me.”
But having examined concrete proof from email correspondence as to what had happened, Voice123 banned Will May from the site.
 
GETS SNEAKY
 
Unfortunately, that was not the end of the matter. Lowell:
“Mr. May posted the initial jobs under his own name. Once removed from the site, he began to use different names.
 
"During verification efforts by our staff, it was discovered who was posting the job. The staff at Voice123 has not changed in two years, and we have become very aware of ‘who is who,’ and as such, have been able to catch people easily trying to repost after being banned.”
WHERE'S THE MONEY?

Juliette Gray is still waiting for her paycheck, and she’s not the only one.
 
I was lucky. Even though Mr. May still owes me a substantial amount of money, I did get paid for approximately two-thirds of my work.

For months, I asked May to pay the remainder of the balance, but he was MIA. When my knocks on his door became louder, he finally sent a very unfriendly email, accusing me of “futzing the dates” on my invoices. He wrote:
“I am in no great rush to go through hours of checking to deal with whatever might be outstanding to you. Checking truth versus falsehood is a nuisance.”
I responded:
“The invoices were sent on Nov. 9 of last year, so you have had over two months to figure things out. I resent your remark that I “started futzing the dates.” My invoices accurately and faithfully reflect the work I have done for your organization at your request, and that’s the work I deserve to be paid for.”
WHAT I'M THINKING ...

I think that Newspapers for the Blind offers a terrific service. The newspapercasters are dedicated and talented readers who can be proud to support their families by bringing the news to the blind and vision-impaired, day in day out.

The web site has an impressive list of reputable institutions labeled as “dedicated listeners“.
 
There is no doubt in my mind that the energetic editor has moved mountains to realize this project.
 
Based on my email exchanges with him, Will May works night and day to keep the service up and running. I don’t know for sure, but I suspect that he has invested a substantial amount of his own money into this undertaking.
 
THE WILL MAY-WAY

I also believe that people are not their behavior. From time to time, all of us do things that we are not proud of, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t know any better.
 
Just because we do something crazy, doesn’t mean that we are crazy.

Having said that, it is not okay to treat people the Will May-way, and Voice123 was right to ban him from the site.
 
Other sites have been alerted to make sure he doesn’t pull the same stuff.
 
Furthermore: May needs to pay his talents. Without them, there would be no Newspapers for the Blind.
 
WHY DOES HE DO IT?

For now, I am left with one question: why would someone who is clearly invested in and dedicated to such a noble cause, turn from Mr. Nice into Mr. Nasty?

In my experience, there’s always a story behind a story. And believe me, in this case there is:
 
 
ABOUT PAUL ...
 
Paul Strikwerda is a 25-year veteran of the voice-over industry whose Nethervoice service features German and Dutch voice-overs, translation and evaluation services. Born in Holland, he has worked for Dutch national and international radio, the BBC and American Public Radio. Although 90% of his work is in English, Strikwerda also records in Dutch, German and French. Clients include Novartis, Johnson & Johnson, and the Discovery Channel. He also publishes an informative and entertaining blog, Double Dutch.
 

 

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Comments (11)
Juliette Gray
2/3/2010 at 10:43 PM
The reason for the very low voices is because these people (supposedly) were hearing-=impaired and sight-impaired, and that is why Mr. May kept me going round and round to lower my register as I was the first female he decided to hire. Whatever he denies about hiring me or not - I have 30 emails from him that any arbitrator would see clearly how he changes his mind every moment almost, and renegs on what he has said before. As I told Paul, in a post-Madoff world we should all have our antennas out a little more - the fact that this is small potatoes compared to the other white collar fraud that goes on - does not excuse the fundamental lack of transparency. The other thing is - what kind of bona fide organization doesn't have a business phone number or a place to leave a message? The number I spoke to him a couple of times on had no machine and was only answered when he decided to pick up. One has to wonder what else he is using his non-profit status for.
Steven Lowell
2/3/2010 at 3:11 PM
That is interesting to hear that he hired off competitor sites to Voice123.

I wanted to add: the reason for Voice123 not revealing information on who is banned, has nothing to do with Voice123 hiding information.

Sometimes, people are simply embarrassed by what happened and don't want us to talk about it in public. Sometimes, they state the deal just went bad, and even though the person paid, they acted in a manner that was damaging to a sense of community harmony.

No web site should openly state someone is a scam until they have all facts cemented in place, and you have to understand this is a rare situation:

It grew into what everyone knows now because the online community is quite small for voice talent, and Mr. May's behavior was combative. When he went the route of hiring and not paying ... then hiring people who knew each other, and not paying them ... only to turn around and become combative again; he created this mess on his own.

The ill-advised belief that 'theft will occur online and no one will talk about it or do anything about it," thankfully, is a thing of the past due to proactive conversations like this, and something I have been able to write about more in the last year.

I believe many feared talking about this in the past due to fear of consequences, maybe the site did not know HOW to help, or yes ... sometimes the business deal just went bad, and there was no scam at all.

Personally, I don't believe it is the job of anyone to take punches, and transparency and moral obligation are two things needed for the job market of tomorrow.

As we see in this case, those who believe it is not necessary, soon find a public online record of all that happened, and no amount of counter-campaigns can erase what already happened.

Really, with web sites, instant karma will always get you.
Paul Strikwerda
2/3/2010 at 9:45 AM
Thank you so much for your encouraging responses. If you haven't read the follow-up "Story behind the Story" yet, please do so. I think it will answer some of your questions. Secondly, it will give you an idea of how (relatively) easy it can be to check someone's credentials, and how you can check whether or not a charity is legit.

RESPONSIBILITY
It is important to know that as a voice-talent you are always responsible for doing a background check on your clients. In my follow-up, I quote the voice123 policy:

"Although Voice123 tries to establish the legitimacy of all voice seekers, you are responsible for conducting your own investigation into any and all claims made by prospective voice seekers, agents and/or clients. You assume all liability for use of any information you find through Voice123, LLC, or any of its publications."

Even though internet voice-casting has been around for a few years, the major players are not in the habit of sharing information with us, about people they have banned and about scams that were uncovered. Rather than being afraid of negative publicity, I think they'd do all of us a great service by making this public.

Not only should they share this information with their members; they should also alert one another. Otherwise, individuals banned from one site, will simply set up shop nextdoor.

As far as this is concerned, the Pay-to-Plays can learn a lot from similar sites for translators. One such site (www.translatorscafe.com) has a "Hall of Fame and Shame". You simply type in the name of an agency or an individual, and if they happen to be blacklisted, you'll be the first one to know.

For now, our industry has left it to a colleague in Egypt (Mahmoud Taji), to set up a scam alert. You'll find a link to his site in my article.

OTHER NEWSPAPERCASTERS
After my blog was published, several colleagues have contacted me, and told me about their experiences with the editor of Newspapers for the Blind. Without exception, they mention being treated disrespectfully and rudely. Whenever the subject of payment was brought up, the relationship turned sour. Some had to threaten with law suits in order to get paid. Others decided that it was better to walk away.

It was impossible for Will May's newspapercasters to form a united front because we had no idea of who else was doing the reading. I knew their first names, but May made sure that we did not have eachother's contact info. It's a rather archaic way of making sure that employees are kept in line and prevent them from filing a class action. If you keep people isolated, it's easier to ignore the issue and intimidate the individual.

BACKLASH
As you can imagine, Mr. May is not too pleased with my article. He knew that it was coming because I told him I would write it if he refused to change his ways.

Someone in his situation can do a number of things: ignore the issue and let is dissipate. A story like this could blow over in a few days. People have a short attention span and are forgetful.

Another tactic is to blame the messenger, and to accuse the writer of making things up or not being trustworthy. That way, the attention moves away from the perpetrator.

Mr. May has already started a campaign to discredit me. When voice123 contacted him about his disrespectful behavior, he did the same thing by saying that he was not the problem. The voice-talent was the problem. As Dr. Phil would say: "you can't change what you don't acknowledge".

SECOND THOUGHTS
I wish there wouldn't have been a reason for me to write this story. Newspapers for the Blind is a terrific service and I hope it will continue. When I was still reading the papers, I told Will May that I'd be happy to use my experience as a radio and TV journalist and media trainer, to spread the news about his charity.

As you may have gathered from Chris Coulter's comments, not too many people in the blind community have heard of this service. Just look at the number of hits on their website... it is rather disheartening.

Will never took me up on my offer. And when he complained about his bookkeeping woes, my wife (she's a great bookkeeper) offered to help him out, because we really believed in this charity. Again: no response from May.

Why wouldn't he allow someone to take a good look at the books and help him out with accounting? Why wouldn't he want to have an experienced newsmaker on board to help shine a bright light on his service? It simply doesn't make sense, does it?

THE FINAL WORD
Ultimately, this is not about Will May. It's about something much bigger. It's about openness, accountability and transparency.

I hope that you will take my experience with you and be more alert. I hope you'll contact your internet voice-casters and ask them to be open about con-men and scams, and share the information with you. After all, you are a paying member. You have some clout.

Don't you think it's unfair to purposely hide the name of a voice-seeker and then add a legal note making YOU fully responsible for conducting your own investigation?

I also urge you to tell services like voice123 and voices.com about the problems you have had with voice-seekers. If they don't know about it, they can't do anything about it. And in my experience, they are willing to do something about it. You owe it to them and to your colleagues.

Paul Strikwerda

PS if you wish to share information on your experiences with Newspapers for the Blind and its editor, drop me a line. The only reason why things like this can continue, is because people with the best intentions don't take any action.
Rebecca Michaels
2/2/2010 at 6:38 PM
Paul - THANK YOU so much for telling this story with such "gory" detail and for those who contributed. What a tragedy, really. I'm sorry for those affected negatively. Was there any effort to deal directly with others at the company, in order to get some sort of turn-around on this? You had mentioned the names Dr. Edward E. Boas Jr. and Noelle Mills Adler. Also, this seems a case for an attorney potentially (albeit unfortunate) for the many others unpaid.??? Not that I'm litigious but this seems a crime.

Best regards,
Rebecca Michaels
www.LoveThatRebecca.com
Audrey Bentham
2/2/2010 at 11:27 AM
Thank you for bringing this name to our attention, as a community of voice providers. I'd like to see Voice123 and other casting sites take a step further when they ban an individual from posting jobs, since there's nothing to stop them from contacting talent directly and getting free voice work. I've been waiting a year to get paid by Russ Nelson in Utah, who is banned from Voice123, but was able to hire me directly. I wish I had known his shady status before I did work for him.
Laura Branch Mireles
2/2/2010 at 9:01 AM
Paul,
Thank you for your words of advice. As a relative newbie to the world of voiceover marketplaces, I still feel uncomfortable with the anonymity of many of these voiceseekers and the miles between us. While I have an agent in my hometown with several repeat clients, I am aware the Internet has vastly changed our way of doing business. Articles like yours strengthen the talent alliance in our industry and that may be the smartest thing we can do at this point. Blessings to you and Ms. Gray for your courage to speak up.
BP Smyth, Narrator
2/2/2010 at 8:36 AM
Paul,
Back on Sept. 16 of 2009 I auditioned for William May through Voices.com and was selected as a finalist. Fortunately, I was not chosen. Thank you for this information about a scam artist. He will eventually "pay" for his behavior. The less we have to deal with people like this, the better. I will be notifying Voices.com about this man. Also, I believe people ARE their behavior, when such behavior is consistent.

Andy Boyns
2/2/2010 at 2:47 AM
As I mentioned on my blog (http://andyboyns.com/vo/2010/01/synergy.html), there are times when many individuals are willing to contribute to develop a cause, and this is a very positive thing. Following the “Talk about Haiti” project I contacted several VO talent about their thoughts on setting up a volunteer register, and all responded positively.

The issue which Paul raises here is an important one, as this case is where the relationship with the organisation was understood to be contractual and payment terms were understood (on the performers' side, at least). What is sad is that the "Will May" approach raises questions about the integrity of organisations which we'd naturally want to "help" - whether as a volunteer, or by providing preferential rates.

As a community I find that professional voice artists are incredibly generous. The question is how to enable this to be chanelled into useful and deserving causes, and to avoid the sort of abuse discussed here. Furthermore, there is the dichotomy of how to balance our professional, income generating, goals with the desire to be philanthropic.

Thanks for sharing this, Paul.
Ian Fults
2/2/2010 at 1:30 AM
I find it interesting that Tenors and Sopranos were excluded, for the Visually impared usually don't have a problem with those voices, and the Hearing Impared would rather read a papper than hear it. But food for thought, no matter where you are, there will always be those ready to exploit the kindness of others.
Chris Coulter
2/2/2010 at 12:45 AM
Maybe there are news and information reading services for the blind that I'm not aware of, but as a blind person and a member of a promenant national organization of the blind as well as a voice actor, I've never heard of Newspapers for the Blind. In my opinion, both voice talents and blind people who would benefit from a service like this are being exploited. Did anyone look into the records for this organization and find out about its 501C-3 status?
Joe McMillan
2/1/2010 at 8:51 PM
Paul
I was Hired Also BUT when I mentioned payment the Subject was changed.
I walked away.
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