Back in December, Vox Media’s SB Nation revealed their solution to impending California legislation (AB5) impacting freelance writers: firing all of their California contractors and contractors elsewhere who wrote for California sites, and creating a few new employee positions to run the California sites. That approach took a lot of blowback, and it’s interesting that another team site network is going somewhat of a different way, at least in their public statements.
Here’s a statement AA received from FanSided, which has sites for each of California’s NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL teams, plus USC and UCLA:
“As the law states, all publishers are only allowed to have California resident contractors submit 35 total content submissions per calendar year, and FanSided will comply with the law. We greatly value our contractors in California and will continue to work with them, while abiding by this new law. Over the next few weeks and months, FanSided will be looking to add more part-time and full-time positions to meet our content needs.”
Of course, this is still a big negative for California-based contractors for FanSided. 35 pieces a year is not a lot, and that will certainly lead to some role changes and to people not being able to keep their existing roles there. Here’s one tweet showing that, from Chargers’ writer Tyler Scoon:
…and you have all been so responsive, through the excitement of the draft to losing in Week 17. Thank you all for following along and helping this account break 9, 10, 11, 12 thousand followers in less than a year.
I'm @tjscooter30 , and I'll be there no matter what…
— Bolt Beat (@BB_Chargers) January 8, 2020
The Bolt Beat account has since been turned over to another site expert, Travis Wakeman, who doesn’t live in California. Those shifts are likely to happen across a number of FanSided properties, and that’s going to be a large blow for many of the site expert writers there who now can’t hold that role thanks to state legislation.
It’s notable that while AB5 came into effect as of Jan. 1, 2020, it is facing legal challenges, including one from Uber and Postmates and one from the American Society of Journalists and Authors and the National Press Photographers Association. However, those challenges likely won’t be heard for months, so it’s somewhat understandable why organizations like FanSided are already making moves to comply with AB5.
It also isn’t completely clear just what FanSided means by “We greatly value our contractors in California and will continue to work with them.” If that’s offering a decent rate for pieces up to the 35 submission per year limit, that’s not going to be anyone’s primary source of income, but it could at least help. But if that means “They can continue to write for us if they become unpaid contributors,” that’s obviously much less worthwhile for anyone, and is much closer to the SB Nation approach of just parting ways with the California contractors (they were offered a “special lane to write on the site and a special place on the masthead,” but without any stated compensation). We’ll see how this plays out.