No Unethical Shortcuts for Me! By K.M. Lowe

One of my first assignments as a writer was preparing monthly shopping, dining and events columns for a city magazine. The work wasn’t exciting but it was steady. I’d been doing it for several months when the editor telephoned. The magazine was planning a special edition for an international sporting event the city was hosting and the editor wanted me to write the features for it. She asked me to work up article ideas, and bring them to a meeting the following month. I was thrilled.

When I arrived at the office, the receptionist told me the editor was no longer with the publication. I would be meeting with the new editor, and was surprised to find a woman younger than myself behind the editor’s desk. I presented my ideas with a full outline for each and she said she’d be in touch.

Concerned about what happened to the former editor, I called a friend who worked at the magazine. She explained the publisher fired the editor during a disagreement. Until a week earlier, the new editor was an ambitious intern. She’d begged for the editor’s job, offering to do it for low wages. I shouldn’t have been surprised when she called, and told me that none of my articles were needed. An aspiring writer herself, she planned to do all the features personally. I should, however, continue to write the monthly columns.

I was disappointed at losing my big break but I slogged on, submitting my columns each month. Then, the special edition came out. I was shocked to find the features were identical to the ideas I’d submitted. Each followed my outline exactly so there was no question the editor had used my concepts. Maybe she didn’t realize it was unethical to ask someone for creative ideas, and then use them yourself without pay. I couldn’t condone her conduct and, even though I needed the money, I quit.

About 18 months later, I recognized a woman in a shoe store as the ambitious intern-turned-editor. We were trapped in the shop, so I said hello only to discover she wasn’t a shopper – she was a clerk. She’d been working at the store for well over a year. At the time, I had a steady gig writing for a business publication. Karma?

Since then I’ve worked in writing, publishing and communications continuously on two continents, slowly moving forward in my career