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Refinery29 ‘Money Diaries’ Post Leads to Fight About Who Should Be Paid for Online Work

Refinery 29 editor Ashley Alese Edwards’ defends policy, and things escalate

A dispute over Refinery29’s “Money Diaries” feature, in which people talk about how they get and spend money, sparked an intense Twitter argument Wednesday over who deserves to be paid for such online content.

It all started when Parker Molloy, a senior editor at Upworthy, criticized the latest “Money Diaries” post, in which a college student and marketing intern described how she gets by on $747.50 per week, about $1,100 a month from her family, and babysitting money.  Molloy asked whether it might be better for Refinery29 to give “honest accounts of the working poor” instead of highlighting “stories of well-off people without any real financial problems.”

She then asked, “How much did the author get paid for this piece?”

That didn’t sit well with Ashley Alese Edwards, a senior News and Politics editor at Refinery, who replied: “Hey Parker, Money Diaries features women from vastly different income brackets, including many who would be considered working poor. A quick scroll through the pieces would show you that.”

She added: “MD are all reader submitted and we 100% DO NOT pay for interviews,” she added. “To imply R29 PAYS for content is unfair and disingenuous.”

While paid interviews are frowned upon in journalism, paying writers is not. And news organizations have been criticized in the past for not paying contributors. Earlier this year, the Huffington Post announced it was dissolving its self-publishing contributors platform — which had ballooned to include 100,000 writers, according to the New York Times — after 13 years.

In a statement, Refinery29 global editor-in-chief Christene Barberich clarified that the site considers Money Diaries posts to be interviews.

Refinery29, of course, pays its freelancers & salaried employees for the work that they do, and we do not pay for interviews, which is what Money Diaries are. They are based on voluntary user-submitted forms that come from our readers, after which we conduct follow-up interviews with them. As Ashley noted on Twitter, and as we also make clear on every Diary, they come from a range of professions and socio-economic backgrounds.

Edwards later accused Molloy of being “woke white feminist™️.” Edwards, who is black, also said Molloy had “used her Twitter following to get a Black woman harassed simply because she CALLED YOU ON on YOUR WRONG statement.”

But Edwards then received Twitter criticism for bringing race into the discussion.

Others were critical of Refinery29 for its soon-to-be-published”Money Diaries” book, from which the company presumably hopes to profit. New York Times book editor Tina Jordan tweeted out a press release she had received about the book.

“Just a thought,” she tweeted. “But maybe it’s not the best week to pitch a Refinery 29 ‘money diaries’ book.”