Is MTV Hoarding Charity Cash From Workers?

Following our request for information yesterday, we heard from a good number of freelancers who said MTV was stiffing them on paychecks. Including people MTV got charity money to support.

The Knight Foundation, a philanthropic journalism nonprofit, gave MTV $700,000 to "make possible" a "Street Team" of 51 "citizen journalists" to cover the 2008 election. We've already heard from three of them. They aren't getting paid!

The citizen journalists were supposed to each receive a stipend below $1,000 per month for the 11-month duration of the "Choose or Lose Street Team" experiment.

One wrote that paychecks used to be paid promptly, but got cut later and later as 2008 wore on. Then, "I wasn't paid for two months. Anytime I contacted payroll, they always gave me a run around response that blamed ME for being impatient." Contracts stipulated payment every four weeks.

This matches the stories we heard from other MTV freelancers, including at least two not involved with the Street Team experiment. It looks like MTV is treating workers on its Knight Foundation-supported project the same as people it hired entirely with its own money.

Another Street Team source said MTV was more than two months behind on pay by the fall, and confirmed that MTV accountants were uncommunicative and unfriendly about the delays.

A third Street Team member also reported being stiffed by MTV.

The most painful slight? Though the website where Street Team published, think.mtv.com, just won a Public & Community Service Emmy, members are not invited to MTV's upcoming Barack Obama party in Washington, DC. The reason? Community service and involvement is required for an invitation.

One would logically presume, then, that MTV brass won't be able to get in the door, either.

(Disclaimer: I submitted an application to the 2007 Knight Foundation News Challenge which was ultimately not selected. But I don't blame MTV!)