Rebuttal: Newspapers for the Blind ...
It's 'Newspapercasting' For A Charity
Editor's note: A recently-published article by voice actor Paul Strikwerda about a job payment situation with William May, editor of Newspapers for the Blind, has created quite a stir, with many comments. (Click here for that article.) Below is a rebuttal to the article from voice actor Mark Finfrock, who voices for NFTB. Mr. May has also been invited to add comments to the article below ...
By Mark Finfrock
Voice Actor & NFTB Newspapercaster
I wish to offer a rebuttal and some insight into the posting of the fired NFTB reader. I am currently a reader for this Non-Profit organization, and have been from the start.
For whatever reasons, the reader in this case, Mr. Paul Strikwerda was let go; those reasons are between Mr. Strikwerda and Mr. May of the NFTB: I understand he was faking the dates of the news articles.
KEEP IT PRIVATE
In my opinion, disputes should be kept private.
To air one's "dirty laundry" in a public forum is in my mind, distasteful and shows poor judgment. Should he have posted this on his own web page, as he has, fine. He owns it, do what you want.
Therefore I am equally surprised that it would be allowed to be posted publicly to begin with; without rebuttal opportunity. This, not to mention the slander incorporated in the posting. That's item one.
Item two; NFTB is a Not for Profit organization, to date funded by Mr. May and his family.
It is also in a start-up phase. Grant requests, contributions from those utilizing the service and subscriptions have all been very slow to non-existent at this current time.
There is a Board of Directors, of which Mr. May is not a part, due to his role as editor.
Reader payments are slow; this much is true; we were told they would be.
BOARD AUTHORIZES PAYMENTS
But since the board only meets monthly, payments are authorized and distributed as soon as they can be processed. These are not "payroll" checks; there is no formal payroll department.
These charitable contributions are from the board of trustees.
This does cause a lapse in time for payments, as the trustees have to calculate payment. Also, when there are questions of payment, as in the case of incorrect readings, as in the case of Mr. Strikwerda, there is adjustment.
Mr. Strikwerda is right in the fact that opportunities like this for a voice artist - steady work - are few and far between.
But the thing to know and realize is, this is not voice-over work. This is Newspapercasting.
This is not a one-shot voice acting gig to get a point across to a mass audience for advertising. This is daily relaying of the news to those with disabilities. In this case, the visually- and hearing-impaired.
WHY CERTAIN VOICES?
That raises another point. As to why, certain voices are used and others not.
Simply, the need for the lower end - deep, baritone or bass - voices, rather than the higher - alto & soprano - is due to those levels being decipherable to those that are typically hearing impaired.
Our web site, as well, has been designed for the visually deficient and blind.
Both functions are the best there is for the dual-impaired, as determined by audiologists and ophthalmologists, for use on the web.
I welcome any one of you to go to the web site to get an understanding of what it is that we are doing: www.NewspapersForTheBlind.org
WORKING WITH MR. MAY
As for the personality of Mr. May, I can't say that I've had an issue.
In fact, Mr. May has more than helped me in this and in other endeavors in voice-over work.
Eccentric is a word that comes to mind. Mean-spirited, you say? Not in my experiences with Mr. May.
But I now believe these things to go with a person who at this point now has to defend himself against those who feel they have been wronged.
I also believe the descriptions given are of a person who only desires to have this endeavor done with the highest regard of perfection. As any employer or contractor would require in any business.
It's the old standard of, "If you are going to do something, do it right. And do it honestly."
THE BAD EXPERIENCE
In closing, I am sorrowful that Mr. Strikwerda feels he had a bad experience with Mr. May and NFTB.
In today’s world it is easier to try to tear down one's character than it is to approach in confidence in a manner of understanding.
I had a school principal whose motto in finding out the truth was, "He who cries first, is the guilty one."
I have to ask myself, why one would go to such great lengths to have the name of someone blacklisted from the voice industry or tarnished in a public forum? Is it merely due to a business deal gone sour between two people for whatever reason?
I also have to ask, due my defending of the NFTB and offering my insight in the dealings of Mr. May, am I too to be blacklisted?
ABOUT MARK ...
Mark Finfrock is an on-air radio and voice-over talent.
Newspapercasting is closest to AudioBook production, but, with an immediacy that no book author could conceive.
Newspapercasting is the verbatim, timely, aural, precision delivery of printed newspaper news to those who cannot hear well or read- for blindness, tiredness from cancer, or other debility- for themselves.
When a disabled listener hears financial news from a Newspapercaster, that news is relied upon.
When that news is false dated, and that disabled listener suffers a financial reverse therefrom, that has consequences. In this event, the Newspapercaster was let go: the Macular Degeneration suffering elderly man recompensed for his loss from faked news.
There is often a story behind the story behind the story ...
NFTB elected to offset what may have been owed to a reader by the manyfold costs to NFTB resultant from the falsity of action by the reader.
Newspapercasting is not frivolously copying Donald Duck's noise: it is a genuine endeavor to bring print news- through vocalisation- to the disabled,
What to remember is that the mission of NFTB was always praised by voice actors. The issue has been honest communication and honoring commitments.
And along that line, we can project a lesson for ourselves on dealing with our voice-over customers:
1. Be realistic in what we promise we can do for clients. If a job is too big or gets out of hand, get help! Or refer it to a colleague.
2. Be straightforward in communications - polite but specific about terms and expectations.
3. Meet deadlines. Honor commitments.
4. And whenever possible, in whatever way, OVER-deliver our services to help clients achieve their goals.
Thanks again for hanging in here!
We all know that there's a time difference between the UK and the US. That means that a lead from the Times of London could be published on Saturday, UK-time, while it's still Friday in the US. Hence the difference in dates. That's a fact. Not a fraud. This difference in dates and time zones might be confusing to some, but to say that the blind listeners were mislead, seems quite condescending to the blind community.
I believe most readers will recognize that the whole argument about dates seems rather contrived, and it purposely deflects from the heart of the matter.
Mr. Morgan states that I have claimed that Newspapers for the Blind is a fraud. I have never made such a statement. I searched for his 501-C-3 in the databases for registered charities of the IRS and the BBB. I also searched the Maryland Charities database.
Any reader can confirm that NFTB does not come up as a registered charity. I have asked these bodies to look into the status of NFTB, and I am awaiting their response. Once I have received a definitive answer, I will be the first one to publish it on my blog. I'd also be happy to publish a list of the entire board of NFTB directors, with their credentials or regular job titles and their place of employment.
The BBB Education Alliance has developed standards for Charity Accountability. If you’re interested, try the link below to find out if NFTB lives up to those standards: http://www.bbb.org/us/Charity-Standards/
Lastly, in my blog and throughout this discussion, I have described NFTB as a “terrific service.” In my article, I called the founder “personable, funny and encouraging; a man with a heart.” I also wrote: “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 never set out to “defaming and damage” the NFBT, as Mark Finfrock seems to believe. In the end, Mr. May’s inexcusable behavior toward me and my colleagues, as well as the Voice123 staff, was what lead to my article. If anything, that was and is damaging to Newspapers for the Blind.
I would like you to see the original job posting on Voice123.com.
I have yet to see the word 'voluntary' in any of it. If you are unaware of what was posted here, my apologies. But you will see where the expectation of payment came from.
This job listing was posted using a Voice Seeker account, not a premium voice talent account, which is not possible. Voice talent have the option to select whether or not they wish to do non-profit work. 'Non-profit' refers to the organization, not 'no profit for the talent'. I am sure, given your position, you know this, as my wife works for a non-profit organization and is paid a yearly salary.
You neglect the very foundation of this entire issue. 'Payment was promised. It was not delivered.'
It is a sad statement that you use your charity as an excuse for Will May's behavior, and feel no accountability for his behavior.
Avoid accusing Voice123 of any misgivings. Voice123 helps many charities for epilepsy, breast cancer, Haiti, donorschoose.org, and those in which we know we can make a difference. Our database is aware of this, and it is posted on our blog. We are a moral and ethical operation set up to get people work.
To present your job on our site, hire good people who believe in your charity, promise payment, and then fire people without payment when work was delivered ...The sad statement becomes that good people trusted you in tough economic times. To try to spin your actions as being the fault of someone else either shows apathy for your actions.
The facts are what they are:
1. Job posted
2. People hired
3. Payment promised
4. Work delivered
5. People fired before payment in a combative manner, as to bully one into believing payment was not deserved.
All emotion and spin aside, those are the facts, and if people were simply paid, none of this would have happened.
Still, I am sure all of this would go away if the people hired were paid for the work they did.
I have yet to see an explanation as to why that did not happen.
Mark, I think you should emotionally remove yourself from this, and ask yourself, 'What if I were in Paul's shoes?', because he is a voice talent just like you.
After seeing and dealing with all of this from my side, I can trust that Paul's intentions are pure.
I certainly hope if you need assistance one day, that you will think of what happened to Paul.
There are two sides to every story, and I have seen both.
No one need question my intentions here. They were pure when I tried to help Will May, and when I saw what happened, they were pure when helping fellow voice talent.
I, too, come here for Voice information and to learn more on the craft of Voiceover. If names would have been left out of the initial article and something crafted of a usefull nature pertaining to the possible issues that Mr. Strikwerda describes, fine. But I believe his initial intent was to defame and damage. It just so happens that I am a member of the NFTB and decided it to be fair to offer a different side to the claims being made.
And if I were to weigh these two interpretations of the same issue, I would have to give my verdict to Paul, for not only was Paul affected, but other Talent were affected as well. And one of the best resources for continuing Voice work, Voice123, was affected by the actions of one individual. If there is a team of people, why are they not addressing these issues? Instead of not paying.
Non-profit charities still have to pay for services. That's why they raise money, to pay for their housing, to pay for their electricity, and if they are looking for FREE services from Voice Talent, Ask and ye shall receive.
To offer payment gives them the right to ask for specific talent, but not the right to refuse payment, under the guise of Charity.
I have done Volunteer work for a Great organization here in Canada, and at one point got paid for some of it. I have volunteered for the TERRY FOX FOUNDATION, which rasies awareness and money for cancer research, and I am very proud that I could help them for Free. But if the offer of payment is made, do not shame the Talent for taking it. Shame the person who uses that as a way to get what they want and breaks their promise to pay.
Ian Fults, Voice Over Artist
The position of the board of directors is that Mr. Strikwerda began fudging the dates of the news articles assigned (not fudging invoices, his claim) to him in the FT and other papers; exactly, this means he was dating articles from Monday as though from Tuesday, thereby misleading the blind listeners as to the financial news. He did this for at least four days straight, enough evidence that it was not a mistake, but a pattern. It took some time and effort to compare archived audio to the print, before the final decision to discontinue him.
The editor did not want to call him out on his fraud, but merely let him go; thinking he would be smart enough to slink off after having been caught trying to mislead the organization and its disabled constituents. He has not been that smart. Having used the organization's proprietary logo on his blog to attempt to damage the organization he will answer a federal infringement complaint.
As to Mr. Lowell, the editor only took a Voice123 premium account to see how it worked, never seeking voice work. It was handed off to another user. When a posting for VOLUNTARY ~ no compensation ~ voices was posted - for live one-to-one readings, only, for the disabled via the web site, that posting was never actuated by Voice123. That Voice123 does not wish to help the disabled is a sad statement.
The editor, Mr. May, is driven to produce the best narrated newspaper possible, to be availed to the hearing-deficient, to the extent of Cochlear Ear implant, and vision-deprived. Who else would audition 3000 voices to reach a final team of three dozen. Out of 3000, obviously some disgruntled auditions would arise: all auditions were told that their first work was probationary; their work was passed or failed by a panel of audiologists. Many submitted invoices for two or three times what they had been told would be the guideline rates to be paid, causing issues.
Finally, the organization has paid six figures to narrators in the past four months; and admittedly some issues have fallen through cracks. At one point there were 50 narrators to try to keep track of, and several thousand emails each day incoming: things get lost with thin staff. Should there be issues, please snail mail to 543 High Street for my attention.
As to Mr. McMillan, when asked for his address to mail a check, he declined to answer, as to Ms. Gray, her work never passed the audiologists, for machine noise. As to Ms. Hart, you slipped through the cracks, sorry, please send snail mail.
The board stands behind the intent of the organization, and behind its overworked editor.
I would that everyone should how honest biz practices, but I have grown past that naive thinking. I have been burned in biz, and there are those who think nothing about hiring talent and never paying them. Therefore, I am grateful for the heads-up about Mr May, but do not want my subscription to your newsletter to be a forum for Personal gripes and he said she said banter.
I read for a quadrapoligic man that can move only his eyes. I read for a dyslexic professor, I read for the blind, and I read for children that can not see the difference from a "b" and a "d".
It gratifies my heart to know that God has so blessed me, that I can help. I would never expect to be paid for my services. I am not the best, but I am available, and I care, and I love reading for the disabled more than I love reading for money.
I am dismayed to read of these disputes, and I am disappointed that my peers think that they need to be paid for every word that comes out of their mouths. Very sad. Give and you will get. Linda. email@example.com
While I cannot say for certain if this is the case here (although the facts do seem to suggest that) and it does seem that Mr. May and his organization are well meaning, this is a reality for freelancers. A reality that it is good to understand and be prepared to deal with. I know a lot of new and upcoming talent read these articles and I applaud VO Extra in airing this controversial case. While it is always best if these matters can be resolved privately it is good for readers to see that these things happen and that they are often complex and two sided.
I would like to clarify that each business, be it yours, Mr. May's, the voice talent hired and not paid, and the sites he used to communicate to voice talent:
Each have a responsibility to protect their own interests with better business standards and obligation. As well, his very actions, even if privately discussed, still damage the business reputation of those hired, and web sites used to facilitate the process.
Regardless of how you 'feel," dismissing his behavior as 'eccentric' does not change:
He promised a monetary return to those who delivered goods and services.
His response was to fire them and claim the work was not good enough when they requested to discuss payment, even though at times he still used the voices on the web site, which I am very well aware of, although they are removed now.
To give you an analogy...
The next time you go into a restaurant, order your meal, eat it, and then try NOT to pay for it because you did not like it; the fact remains that you ate the entire meal and regardless of your opinion of the food, you therefore must pay for it. If you do not, you get arrested.
Keep in mind, none of this would ever have happened if Mr. May's combative behavior did not back businesses into a corner that led them to protect their stakeholders' interests.
I offer my full support to Vanessa, Paul, John, and anyone else involved. Mr. May's actions were damaging to the reputation of Voice123.
Voice123.com supports community harmony to allow for fair and honest business practices, and will continue to do so with the highest moral, ethical, and better business obligations.
Before defending his actions, I recommend contacting the Better Business Bureau Education Alliance, as I did, and see for yourself how justified his actions were.
Mark is a complete stranger to me. We have never met. We have never spoken. We have not exchanged one single email.
Yet, Mark seems to know exactly under what circumstances my time at Newspapers for the Blind (NFTB) came to an end. I wonder who has been feeding him these facts?
He also chooses to point his arrows at me, conveniently ignoring the fact that I am not the only voice-over talent who was at the receiving end of Mr. May's behavior.
Remember that Will May was banned from Voice123 because of the way he treated other voice-over talents. When he tried to post jobs under a false name, he was banned from the site. This was more than "a business deal gone sour."
To qualify Mr. May's behavior - as Mark does - as "eccentric" is quite an understatement. Some might call that "misleading," "unprofessional" and "rude," but maybe those are understatements, too.
Secondly, those who have read my piece, know how Will May explained my departure at Newspapers for the Blind. First he asked me to "take a break." A few days later he wrote: “Don’t count on any more readings in your planning; nothing to do with you."
If - for arguments sake - it were true (as Mark claims) that I doctored my invoices, why would I expose myself to everyone in this community, by writing an article? Does that make any sense? Crooks generally don't like to be caught. That's why they prefer to stay out of the limelight and take on false identities.
For the record: my invoices accurately reflected the work Mr. May asked me to do. I was never under contract. I worked for NFTB on a freelance basis. It's impossible to fire an independent contractor.
If you read my articles, you will have noticed that I never claimed that Newspapers for the Blind was not a charity. It just does not show up in any database as such and that raises serious questions.
If there in fact is a board of directors, why isn't that information openly available? Why does Mr. May rely on a "newpapercaster" to come to his defense? Can't he handle these things himself?
And finally: why did I write my piece? That's simple: I didn't want other colleagues to go through my experience.
Anyone who has read my article knows that I have praised Newspapers for the Blind as a service, and that I have described Mr. May as a hard-working man with an interesting past.
Unfortunately, the way Will May thinks he can treat people, does not reflect well on his charitable enterprise. His worthy cause deserves better. Much better.