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Update: Stewart's Rep Denies He's Paying Writers Out Of Pocket During Strike

Portfolio   |  Jeff Bercovici   |   November 5, 2007 10:55 AM


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In a show of solidarity with his fellow scribes, the Daily Show host has told his writing staff that he will cover all their salaries for the next two weeks, according to a well-placed source. He has also vowed to do the same for writers on The Colbert Report. A Comedy Central spokesman referred my inquiry about this to Stewart's personal publicist, who has yet to respond.

Stewart's intention, says the source, is to ensure his writers will face no financial hardship should the strike, which kicked off at 3 a.m. local time, conclude within that time frame.

Read more news about Jon Stewart and the WGA Writers' Strike, as well as the Huffington Post's regularly updated Writers' Strike Opinion page.

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collapse  GenericBlogger (See profile | I'm a fan of GenericBlogger)

Give credit to Jon Stewart. At least he is reaching out to the writers when few are.

I am 100% behind the writers.

collapse  TheDieHard (See profile | I'm a fan of TheDieHard)

Sigh. Even some of Jon's fans show appalling ignorance.

ONE. Stewart helping out his writers, out-of-pocket, IS NOT CROSSING THE STRIKE LINE. If he offered financial help, good on him. But that has NOTHING to do with any strike.

Nothing obliged the talk shows to be part of the strike. They don't get anything out of it. The strikers are griping over movie and TV residuals. The book (and comic book) industry went through the same thing DECADES ago. If the TV writers thought they were too superior to work out the same contract deals back then, that's THEIR fault.

TWO. Talk shows do often run reruns. Sometimes it's "best of," with the time-dependent stuff left out. Sometimes they just rerun the past two weeks. It's not as if it were an actual news show.

THREE. There are thousands of talented, capable writers, ready, able, and willing to break into the incestuous writer's market. It's not a high-skill field, with lives depending on them, like air traffic controllers who were fired for demanding equipment that wasn't fifty years old. (Go look it up, kiddies.) Writers should be grateful that they HAVE a job. If they think they're being treated unfairly, they can always find another line of work. A kid with a random-word program could write "Desperate Housewives"-type trash.

FOUR. Entertainers, especially progressive entertainers like Stewart and Colbert, are shooting themselves in the foot. Rightwingscum dis-infotainers are laughing themselves sick. Faux Spews and their sewage-spouting ilk figure they'll see a huge jump in couch potatoes, and have upped their advertising rates (and their own paychecks).

FIVE. IT'S A NON-ISSUE. While the corporate-whore media is moaning over having to watch reruns, Big Money interests are quietly preparing to install their puppet as the next ruler who controls their tax handouts. All four "front runners" in the presidential race, D and R, are owned and operated by multinationals.

But you just go on worrying about entertainment, and confusing a union demanding millions in residuals with a union demanding a living wage.

collapse  jbeach (See profile | I'm a fan of jbeach)

Agree with points 1 and 2.

Disagree with point 3 immensely. First, writers have value not only as human beings, but specifically because they create and disseminate thoughts and ideas - and knowledge and information is power for the rest of the nation and the world.

If you're saying there's other people in America who have it worse, you're absolutely right. But I don't see how that means writers shouldn't strike if they're unhappy.

Don't see how point # 4 holds any water at all. How are Jon Stewart and Colbert hurting themselves? What else should they be doing - having the writers shaft their Union? Or have the local bulls bust their heads in at the trainyard?

As for point 5 - sure, other things are going on badly and require some attention. Perhaps more attention.

But you seem to be saying that the writers should just take the shaft because other matters are being ignored - and I don't see how the latter follows the former.

collapse  zull2 (See profile | I'm a fan of zull2)

Basically, the way I read all this was Stewart made an offer, it was turned down on principle, and Stewart's rep decided to do some damage control. That's usually how this stuff goes...if it isn't on paper, then it didn't happen, or something like that.

collapse  avicenna (See profile | I'm a fan of avicenna)

this story essentially has established nothing - which leaves us without a story - fitting as there are no writers at the table....

collapse  Hopalongpoppyseed (See profile | I'm a fan of Hopalongpoppyseed)

Just put some bright witty people around a table and let 'em riff; you know, like a large Charlie Rose table with lemon pie and tequila shots.

collapse  vegasobserver (See profile | I'm a fan of vegasobserver)

JON STEWART FOR PRESIDENT OF PAKISTAN!!!

collapse  wadenelson1 (See profile | I'm a fan of wadenelson1)

Writers' can't help but write.

They'll get script ideas even while walking the picket lines and sneak off to Internet cafes just to get them down on screen.

Unfortunately the producers know this.

collapse  loki (See profile | I'm a fan of loki)

Kind of sneaking of them to show Musharraf with Stewart at this time. Are they trying to send a message of what they think of Jon? It doesnt work for me.

collapse  loki (See profile | I'm a fan of loki)

ok, even if he is paying them, but whoop. After all, I do believe Jon was a writer himself, and even still does write. If he does pay them, its his money, and it doesnt really hurt anyone. Does it?

collapse  AnnArtist (See profile | I'm a fan of AnnArtist)

And... maybe this is a boon for theatre and playwrights! Think folks will get their butts off the sofa and go out and see a play?

To adapt one famous writer:
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your TV Shows and bad movies.

collapse  Deathwarmedover (See profile | I'm a fan of Deathwarmedover)

I'm a Writers Guild member and a working writer, but I believe the strike is a tactical mistake. The Guild won't get crushed, but we'll end up striking for very little in the end. I consider myself very pro-union and don't have anything against striking, but like invading other countries, if you're going to do it you should at least be relatively certain that you're going to win. The problem is that the Guild can't beat modern-day corporations with a 1950's union. You need to have much greater mass over an industry or a company than the writers have. The Guild should have a) gone out with other unions (actors, directors, editors, etc), b) vigorously recruited more members, even in areas "tangential" to writing (and even at the expense of pliant unions like IATSE if need be) and c) instituted a slowdown prior to the strike, instead of rushing to finish things up. Instead we failed to unionize reality workers, we failed to link up effectively with other unions (the DGA might in fact undercut us), and we ended up stockpiling scripts anyway - wasn't that what going out now instead of next year was supposed to prevent? I wish we had a leader like SEIU head Andy Stern, who understands the recruitment and groundwork required to muster critical leverage over an industry and make real gains.

collapse  loki (See profile | I'm a fan of loki)

Your a writer? Wow, I thought my writing skills were bad. That has to be one of the longest sentences Ive ever seen in my life. Then again, I admit my writing skills are lacking.

collapse  Sumocat (See profile | I'm a fan of Sumocat)

The first word of your message leads me to agree that *you're* probably right about *your* writing skills being bad.

NEW collapse  JamaicaGoodPoint (See profile | I'm a fan of JamaicaGoodPoint)

Sounds like your reading skills are lacking, too. The longest sentence in DeathWarmedOver's post is 54 words. You seriously can't handle reading 54 words in a single sentence?

O.K., then-- how about these?

See loki read.

See loki struggle.

Loki needs tutor.

collapse  SmellyOne (See profile | I'm a fan of SmellyOne)

Deathwarmedover... I feel for you... I hope this is resolved in your favor as soon as possible...

collapse  MsLiz (See profile | I'm a fan of MsLiz)

What is with the change of headline so that it contradicts the story? We need the Daily Show to explain this to us! Turn it in to Beat The Press!

collapse  ShamRockNRoll (See profile | I'm a fan of ShamRockNRoll)

There are a couple of dumbasses on here who think that if Jon Stewart paid his writers during the strike (which apparently now isn't the case) that he would be encouraging strike breaking.

Obviously you don't know much about strikes, or unions...

That would not be encouraging strike breaking at all. The writers would not be working, they would still be on strike, Jon would just be helping them out so that they wouldn't be forced into undue hardship. I am a union member, and during our last grocery worker strike/lockout in Southern California there were many families who lost their homes and ruined their credit because they could not afford to go without their regular paychecks (they received a small subsidy from a union fund that we contribute to for such things).

If anything, Jon would be aiding the cause of the strikers by allowing his workers the ability to hold out a little longer should they need to.

It appears as though he is not paying them now (not that hey has to, or should) although, if you're still thinking about it Jon, that would be one classy thing to do!

collapse  TimmySlagle (See profile | I'm a fan of TimmySlagle)

" Jon would just be helping them out so that they wouldn't be forced into undue hardship"

Yes, and in return, the writers might pass a few jokes to Jon here and there, so he wouldn't have to face the "undue hardship" of writing a half hour show all by himself every single day.

It would make sense. The Daily Show isn't like the other chat shows, they really can't go into re-runs.

collapse  Sumocat (See profile | I'm a fan of Sumocat)

And yet they do a week of re-runs every four weeks or so.

collapse  eastearll (See profile | I'm a fan of eastearll)

OOPS, just an unfounded rumor, I didn't think Stewart had Beck kind of money.

collapse  loki (See profile | I'm a fan of loki)

Now I love the daily show, when its on. Most of the time they are on vacation or something and its re-runs anyway. So would it be any different with our without writers now? Just keep running re-runs and no one will notice.

collapse  getoffthecross (See profile | I'm a fan of getoffthecross)

As a working writer and part-time comic, I am always amazed at how judgemental people who don't entertain are of those who do.

The Colbert Report's "Word" is just one example of a reaccuring brilliance that is probably a couple of people's full time job by itself. Could YOU produce 22 minutes of funny material 4 nights a week for upwards of 40 weeks a year? Frankly, I don't care if I'm talking to George Carlin, the answer is no.

New shows this year have included the brilliant interview with Lynn Cheney, the broadcast from the green zone in Iraq, the single best and most sensible coverage of the Larry Craig debacle and more. If all of 2007 were reruns (as you propose), we would be poorer. Quit talking out of your ass.

collapse  CraigR (See profile | I'm a fan of CraigR)

The Daily Show is the smartest comedy show on television, and you complain that "most of the time they are on vacation"? It sounds like your brain is on vacation. There are more new episodes of The Daily Show in three months than there are in two entire seasons of a network sitcom. Geez..get a clue.

collapse  Pennsylvanianne (See profile | I'm a fan of Pennsylvanianne)

Good on ya, Jon Stewart. Your writers don't deserve to starve to death, excellent as they are. And they are the lucky ones. Another blog on this site says the average salary of Writers Guild members is $5,000. That's a year, folks.
"In the beginning was the word ... " People just do not realize -- or maybe don't care -- that all television and movies, visual though they are, begin with a script that is written by people who have stared at blank computer screens and written and rewritten until their eyeballs bleed. So strap on your seatbelts, folks, you're going to be inundated with repeats and reality show drek instead of something crafted to entertain. Yuk.

collapse  NicoleAnonymous (See profile | I'm a fan of NicoleAnonymous)

Do writers continue to get paid during a strike?

If they don't then I think he should continue to pay their salaries but not tell anyone about it. I don't know many people who can afford to go without a paycheck especially during the holidays.

But I do think it's important that writers get paid from DVD sales the same way the producers, actors and studios get money from it. The problem in the entertainment industry is you have a few people making an outrageous salary that is almost impossibly to justify and that takes money away from other artists involved in the work.

collapse  Ginzaman (See profile | I'm a fan of Ginzaman)

It's common that writers and others get paid under the table (depending on the person and show). Back in the '70s, Geraldo got suspended for a week. But because he was tight with the news director at that time, he was secretly paid his full salary. So yes, it pays to use your power.

collapse  LeonFreilich (See profile | I'm a fan of LeonFreilich)

SILENCE IN LAFFLAND

Just how unique is their vaunted point of view

If they have to switch to repeats?

Neither Jon nor Stephen can utter something new,

At a loss without cheat sheets.

collapse  mddragon (See profile | I'm a fan of mddragon)

You don't know much about this do you? Even your hero Rush has writers dolt.

collapse  phansen (See profile | I'm a fan of phansen)

Someone PLEASE tell me that Bush's writing staff is part of the WGA... that would be priceless... The President having nobody to tell him what to say or how to say it? The ensuing comedy might rival Stewart and Colbert!

collapse  Rand (See profile | I'm a fan of Rand)

It's highly unlikely that the CT Cowboy would use union writers

collapse  jbeach (See profile | I'm a fan of jbeach)

The Bush administration is already giving the Daily Show half it's material, every episode.

I wonder if Jon should be paying them during the strike, just to be fair.

collapse  MsLiz (See profile | I'm a fan of MsLiz)

Are Rush Limbaugh's writers in the Writers' Guild? Probably not. Wouldn't it be wonderful if he had to turn off his microphone for a few months.

collapse  lovethesinner (See profile | I'm a fan of lovethesinner)

Jolly good show, Stewart! (I mean, paying the writers during the strike.) Goes to show that working stiffs can have lots of class.

I wonder how Tucker Carlson feels about all this? (will he go back to wearing bow-ties?)

collapse  zull2 (See profile | I'm a fan of zull2)

Hilarious...a little off base, but there's a google ad I'm seeing with the title "Stewart: Fair or Biased?". What does it matter? It's comedy news. Sure, there's a lot of good content, but it doesn't try to push itself as "fair and balanced". Why some idiot would make a poll like that is beyond me...and why anyone would vote on it is almost as bad.

That said, Stewart's a good guy. He's also been a writer, and I'm sure he probably understands why writers are going on strike. This would be the equivalent of a music studio taking a band's song, paying the band for recording it and telling them they are only selling it on a cd. Then, turning around and pimping it out to ad agencies, putting it on a music download site...you get the idea.

collapse  dictatortot (See profile | I'm a fan of dictatortot)

Either Stewart is filthy rich, or writers don't make that much money...

http://www.newsprism.com

collapse  kellygrrrl (See profile | I'm a fan of kellygrrrl)

Both, actually

collapse  Rand (See profile | I'm a fan of Rand)

Yes!

collapse  getoffthecross (See profile | I'm a fan of getoffthecross)

Or you are insipid. Don't leave out any variables to that particular equation.

collapse  Wiredwilly (See profile | I'm a fan of Wiredwilly)

Good. Now get everyone else to strike to protest everything else.

collapse  TimmySlagle (See profile | I'm a fan of TimmySlagle)

Here's the REAL question:

Are the writers still working for him?

There's a nasty word for people who cross a picket line...

collapse  TitaniumAvatar (See profile | I'm a fan of TitaniumAvatar)

Nothing in the article indicated he expected them to cross the picket line. Just that they would be paid, so as not to incur financial hardship.

collapse  TimmySlagle (See profile | I'm a fan of TimmySlagle)

Nothing in the article indicated he expected them to cross the picket line.

Yeah, but nothing in the article indicated he DIDN"T expect them to cross the picket line either. Seems to me it's a question worth asking, and I wonder why nobody did.

And now that Stewart is denying that he ever made that offer, it appears that he might have expected them to cross, got caught, and has put the machine on spin cycle.

collapse  CharlesD (See profile | I'm a fan of CharlesD)

Now I wonder what you would do if you had an ounce of talent.

collapse  TimmySlagle (See profile | I'm a fan of TimmySlagle)

If I had only an ounce?

I'd probably end up as a Troll like you.

collapse  mikelartist (See profile | I'm a fan of mikelartist)

This unselfish act will be sure to roil the cold blood of the right wingnut bloggers that have been salivating over this strike all week as a death knell to shows like the Daily Show. Show's they love to pan as "ill informed" and "communist".

A brilliant and kind man Mr. Stewart is.

collapse  wagonjak (See profile | I'm a fan of wagonjak)

When we have to look to comedians for the integrity our politicians like Feinstein and Schumer lack...

THIS COUNTRY IS IN REAL TROUBLE!!!

Thank you Jon, for standing up for a minimum level of decency and accountability...

collapse  Martskers (See profile | I'm a fan of Martskers)

Doesn't anyone see this for what it is---encouraging strikers to cross the picket line (literally or figuratively).

If his writers accept this special deal, they'll still be scabs, and they will incur the justifiable wrath of the writers who can't get the same special treatment from the rest of an industry that's made its bread by grinding writers' bones. If I were them, I'd think twice before I abandoned my brothers and sisters on the picket line. It is only solidarity and a united front that will get the powerful entertainment industry to recognize the importance of writers.

The fact is, writers are paid a pittance compared to what the greedy media empires they work for (and the "stars" who mouth the words they write) make. They deserve their fair share of the pie.

Stewart is doing nothing but encouraging strike-breaking conduct by giving his writers this special deal, and, I suggest, he's doing it for far less than charitable reasons.

Remember, if his writers strike, he goes off the air, his advertisers stop paying the freight, he loses audience share, and to the extent his income is dependent on ratings, that goes in the crapper as well. All of that's a powerful incentive to pay to get his writers to ignore the picket line.

P.S. I'm not an entertainment industry writer (or a member of their union), but I am a believer in collective bargaining, and what Stewart is doing is inimical to that process.

collapse  TheRef65 (See profile | I'm a fan of TheRef65)

The show will not be live until the strike is over. If you ever watch the show you will have seen him say this last Thursday. They're only scabs if the show stays on the air.

collapse  BassMonk (See profile | I'm a fan of BassMonk)

Perhaps, in your own mind, they will be crossing picket lines. Not in reality. What's wrong with receiving pay while ON STRIKE?

collapse  TheHandyman (See profile | I'm a fan of TheHandyman)

Without knowing as to whether or not he is paying his writer's salaries while they do or do not work you pull the typical human stunt by screaming and hollering without knowing the facts. Logic would tell you that if they were crossing the picket line and still writing he personally would not have to pay their salaries as they would still be working and would get paid anyway by the studio. Logic then would point to the fact that Stewart is paying them while they do not work. But logic would be way too much to ask from a knee-jerk reactionary, wouldn't it?

P.S. If what you said were true, I'd agree with you in all ways.

collapse  rake74 (See profile | I'm a fan of rake74)

He's encouraging scabs.

He's paying their salary while the striking writes are strikers - etc, not getting paid.

He's not asking them to do anything except accept his assistance - while they strike.

What he's doing is ASSISTING the process - by helping his few writers (that he's probably good friends with).

BTW: I don't like unions. I don't believe they're necessary anymore. But that's my two cents. I have no problem with other people being a part of a union - I'll just skip it: my free will/choice.

collapse  rake74 (See profile | I'm a fan of rake74)

I meant to start with: He's NOT encouraging scabs.

Sheesh.

collapse  EDL (See profile | I'm a fan of EDL)

I don't believe Stewart's writers will be working. As far as I know, there is no quid pro quo here. He is subsidizing them for two weeks *while* they strike.

collapse  scrogger (See profile | I'm a fan of scrogger)

moron - try reading the article - they're not going to write for him, he's just paying their salaries, WHILE THEY ARE ON STRIKE, for the next 2 weeks. And for everyone on the show too. But then again, everyone is denying everything at this point, if you read the latest updates.

collapse  drexel (See profile | I'm a fan of drexel)

If you actually read the article you would see that he is not paying them to cross the picket line and work, but is paying them while they are on strike. You are the one who doesn't see this for what it is (literally).

collapse  MsLiz (See profile | I'm a fan of MsLiz)

Don't labor unions pay strike benefits in some cases? That doesn't make the strikers scabs.

collapse  Cappy (See profile | I'm a fan of Cappy)

OK, let me get this straight, if the people writing TV fiction are on strike, does that mean FOX News will go into reruns?

collapse  HedgeApple (See profile | I'm a fan of HedgeApple)

Jon Stewart is a mensch (a particularly good person) in the finest tradition of the word.

Proud of you, Jon. Thank you for this gesture of appreciation and solidarity with your writers - it speaks volumes!!!

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