Experience Counts for Little With a Writing Sample: The Inquisitr

Screenshot of The Inquisitr recruitment page
It is interesting to note that The Inquisitr, which appears at first glance to be a content mill which requires 100 plus articles per month from its “staff,” require applicants to provide three examples of work published and then ask for a written sample. When submitting your three urls of past work they then state that to save time you may want to write a sample article based on topics provided by them.

After submitting prior work they then inform you that the sample must be written anyway. Fair enough. It is, after all, their company and if they prefer to not mention up front that the sample article is a requirement, so be it.

At no time are any guidelines offered for this sample. After punching out a fluff piece on Heidi Swedberg, a former Seinfeld cast member, I waited over the weekend with no response from my contact at The Inquistr. No email stating that they had received the sample and no feedback. After following up my submission with two emails, the first was a one-word query, “Feedback?” The second asked if they had even gotten the sample.

After getting a response saying that they had and it was being evaluated, the very next day I learn that they do not like the sample and it has not “passed the quality” evaluation required. Could I please write another one.

Uh…That would be a no.

Since 2011 I have written 2478 blog posts for my personal site, I wrote just under 2000 articles for the Guardian Liberty Voice, where I worked as Deputy Managing Editor for Entertainment, 40 articles for Viral Global News, since December 2014, around 7 for Rogue Cinema, I left to work at GLV, and around 3 or 4 for another company called WhatCulture! the last two sites paid nothing to their writers. These stories include interviews, film reviews, television recaps and reviews as well as other types of articles.

I did mention that I’d worked at the Guardian Liberty Voice for 18 months, my position and even provided a link to the site, where I wrote my little heart out, for pay. Their response was that they still required the sample. Again, fair enough. Except for the lack of guidelines, apart from it had to be around 400 words, I had no real issue with the requirement.

Such a short bit of work was a “walk in the park” and took little time to put together. Ensuring that nothing was plagiarized (to the best of my knowledge) and that it contained the “trending” information relevant to Ms. Swedberg was not a problem. This was to be, after all, a sample article, not to be published but used, I thought, to show what I could do. A little something that they would use to provide proper feedback on what they were looking for.

This was not the case. Their response? Write another one which may show your skills a bit better. There was no explanation of what I did “wrong” or what they were expecting. Entertainment pieces are not “real” journalism per se, I should know I’ve been writing these pieces for the last two years, so the bit I submitted should have been fine, on the off chance it was not, I expected a reason more forthcoming than “sorry, it’s not good enough.”

This “writing in the dark” process of applying for what appears to be a content mill site may work fine for them, and for other writers, but I am not playing this game. For one thing, it tells me that this is some sort of power play thing where they can tell then me I cannot write, ergo justifying a lower wage for my product. Either that or they surprised me and read my other blog post where I voiced my suspicions that they were either a sweat shop or content mill publication. I sincerely doubt the latter as they seem to have a system in place that does not recognize other work.

It seems that the requirement to submit three url’s of published work is nothing more than a chance to prove you have been published. The real part of the application is the sample article which does not include any guidelines.

Perhaps I am being picky here. They may be assuming that the basic journo rules that have been in effect for ever and ever, amen, are enough in the way of guidance. Fair enough, if that is the case, but when writing fluff, aka gossip, aka entertainment, the rules bend…a lot.

I already write for a site, which may or may not ever pay me anything. I do not contribute on a daily basis for a number of reasons which includes divvying up my time between memoirs, their site and my own personal blog all while trying to get my site monetized. On top of these time consuming things, I have no Internet, apart from my slow iPhone hotspot so I must ride to either the library or Burger King for Wi-Fi on my bike. Depending on which way the wind is blowing, the trip takes a minimum of 45 minutes one way.

Living on a pittance, and believe me it is a pittance, and trying to come up with money for Internet and still be able to eat is a challenge and one that I will not attempt until I can get a few more paying jobs under my belt.

I will end this long winded rant with one thought.

I worked for almost two years on a site that recruited new writers constantly. Hundreds applied on a regular basis and out of the stream of applicants who thought they could write, very few actually could string a sentence together and many of them knew English only as a second, or third, language. So thanks, but no thanks chaps at The Inquisitr. I’ll not play your game. Many will, I have no doubt, but I refuse to believe that my work failed a “quality” check and will not submit again (as I stated in my short email back).

Your loss.

9 June 2015

Michael Knox-Smith

Entrepreneurs: The New Con? Writing for the Internet

Robert Redford and fellow conman in film
1973 The Sting

In our computerized world with, almost, instant access to businesses, information and porn at one’s fingertips, the Internet is full of entrepreneurs. While this is nothing new, stories have existed for quite some time about the clever clogs who have made a fortune off the World Wide Web. A lot of these took place when dial-up was the norm and Broadband was still a dream. But are these new businessmen/women now part of the “new con?”

Many are.

It would appear that in some areas, dreams can still be bilked for big money. There is at least one website, the Guardian Liberty Voice, that is still singing a song of sweet success to those who write.

And to those who think that they can write. Back when the online publication was called the Guardian Express prospective writers were enticed to join the “paper’s” bootcamp and learn how to write for the Internet and Google.

Back in those days, the training lasted one week and consisted of learning about how to do images and where to find trending stories and the secrets of Bottlenose. There was meant to be a test at the end of the week’s training but I did not have to take part. My class consisted of me alone and my articles were packing views in at an impressive rate (according to owner/publisher DiMarkco Chandler) so at the end of my “hell day” I was immediately brought on board as a writer and editor for Entertainment.

I did edit as well as write but anything that kept me from hitting my 8 to 10 articles a day output was frowned upon and the duties of editor were taken away, but not the title. As my output soared (on weekends I wrote up to 15 articles a day) I was then made Deputy Managing Editor and Senior Entertainment Editor.

*As I’ve pointed out before, most of these articles were a minimum of 500 words and many were up to 1500. However you slice it, that is a lot of work.*

This promotion was soon followed by the information that I was being made a “late stage co founder.” Something that was made to sound quite profitable, eventually, and rather special. It soon turned out that being able to breath entitled one to earn this special title.

While having worked management positions in retail, I was not qualified in the world of journalism to run any paper’s section. Journalism was a class taken “millennia” ago and although being a manager does help to a degree in helping underlings to make deadlines, it does not immediately qualify anyone to work across the board. Managers should be well versed in the area they are working in.

I’ve written a couple of articles about my time at the GLV and Carol Tice wrote an incredibly well researched piece about the company last year.

This is not meant to be more recounting of an odd experience but a warning that there are other places out there that also take advantage of their writers and staff.

A few years ago, my daughter was approached by a website that specialized in video gaming news. She has her own YouTube channel and she hired on to do videos and write articles for this site. In a matter of days, the publisher had her writing up to 7 articles a day, although she was contracted for 3 to 5. The pay, however, was brilliant.

At first.

As time went on, her output was meant to go up exponentially and she was expected to do a certain amount of videos per week. Starting the job in her break from University she had to stop when the next semester started. After a short time, other writers and video journalists were being either fired or quitting.

The publisher did not take the departed staff’s names and titles down from the site. Thinking that this “established” site was still going strong, when the publisher approached her to do some more work she said yes.

Things were very different in her return to games journalism. The price for the videos had dropped drastically and she was not required to write many articles at all. To make a long story short, the publisher was now writing all the articles himself but putting them under the names of the departed staff.

One of the perks of doing videos and writing gaming news was getting early copies of new games and this became an exercise in futility for my daughter. There was no rhyme or reason in the way games were shared out and it was only after partnering with Sony that the situation cleared up.

In the end, this blogging site lost many of its original staff and left quite a few with lingering sense of betrayal. This video games blogging site was different from GLV in many ways.

There was never any sticking point like a contract, apart from a verbal one, and video walkthroughs and reviews were part of the package expected by its staff. The site, which is still up and running, continues to do its thing and appeal to gamers the world over.

GLV, despite its intent of having a TV channel on the site, never did proper videos and the channel never worked well enough to reach fruition.

Any interviews I did had to be uploaded onto the publisher’s YouTube channel and received a tiny amount of views (less than my own personal YouTube channel uploads). In fact, after the first “big” interview (a hastily put together Q & A with the incredible Marlon Wayans) no camera operator was sent to film these events.

The one thing that both of the sites have in common is that the owner/publisher of each were entrepreneurs. This appears to be the new code name for con men and women. It is not all about selling the unwary the newest thing in bridges, swampland or snake oil, it is about luring the creative into writing or vlogging for sites that have no intention of paying for work being done, despite promises to do so.

I will include one last thing about working for the GLV.


Leaving the company did not solve all my problems, for one thing it now appears that the president (who took care of all the forms needed by the self employed contractors to file their tax claims) has revealed in a confidential email to the publisher that the 1099s are incorrect. Mine, which I have yet to see, she refused to send out as the publisher is attempting to falsify my income by making it much higher than it really was.

As I sit here finishing this last Internet writers scam article, I am now worried to death that I will get a 1099 that is not only falsified, but, one that will leave me liable for taxes I do not really owe or can pay.

Beware the Internet children.  In this cyberspace medium there are creatures who prey on the creative and wannabe creatives. They are not above overworking and underpaying writers and they lie. Do not trust GLV and its expanding offshoots look around, start your own blog, write for experience and do not expect a huge amount of money when you are starting out.

Most importantly, use the very medium that is being used against you to learn if the snake oil on offer is really liquid napalm that is ready to burn you to a crisp.

Postscript: While polishing off this article, I was contacted by The Lyrical Elitist, a fellow blogger and, for a short while, fellow employee at GLV, who thanked me for my article and revealed another that he had just written, concerning a leaked email. One that I’d seen earlier today, that mentions me specifically.

17 February 2015

Freelance Writers: Beware the Scammers (The GLV Experience)

Person in a hamster wheel

There are a number of websites that advertise for “Freelance Writers.” Of course many do not come out and call these aspiring writer’s freelance. Some, like the site I stumbled across almost two years ago, just asked for writers who wanted to be paid for their efforts. Like any rube at the county fair I was suckered in, and it took me a long time to realize that the promises made were never going to match reality. So potential writers should beware the scammers.

A freelance writer and blogger, Carol Tice; wrote an expose on the Guardian Liberty Voice, the publication that caught me in its opportunistic web of half-truths, full-out lies and “black-hat” practices that got the site hammered by Google repeatedly.

Her article came out in 2014 at a time when I was living in the same house as the publisher, DiMarkco Chandler. Carol did not shirk her duties in doing research and contacting members of the site. I remember walking past Chandler’s office and seeing Carol on the big screen monitor asking him questions. Rather interestingly, the two people who had been with Guardian Liberty Voice the longest, the chief editor and myself, were never asked to take part in this rebuttal to her investigation.

No other writer or editor came near my output on the paper. I wrote nearly 1,900 articles for GLV and worked very hard to give the publication a credible Entertainment section. Attending fan conventions, film screenings and doing interviews with professionals from the entertainment community. Since I was an editor who did not recruit, I was never interested in building a team, my focus was on writing and developing a good reputation as interviewer and scribe. That probably explains why I was never asked to add my two penny’s worth of experience to the Tice “attack” (as DiMarkco called it).

I wrote a little about my experience working for GLV in a prior post. I mentioned no names and only do so here because the referenced article by Carol does.

During an emergency meeting last year, DiMarkco urged that no one in the GLV fold should answer any of the “allegations” made by Carol or to stand up for the paper. I was too busy setting up film screenings, attending events and doing interviews. I was also writing around 50 to 70 articles a month while trying to establish television show coverage for popular scripted TV rather than the reality rubbish covered by the publication.

It was only when things began to fall apart and my pay continued to be less than promised that I started reading the comments. Too late I realised that DiMarkco’s version of events was always given in a way that made him look good and everyone else look conspiratorial. In one case, the other temporary “crazy” roomie in the big house in Vegas, to be fair the guy did come across as some kind of nut, (He sniffed Prozac for Christ’s sake!) did turn out to be off kilter. But, initially this guy came across as  normal until his meds (Prozac) came in and then he flew out into left field. As he had the room next to mine, I slept with the door to my bedroom locked and with a computer table wedged against it.

Around the same time that  DiMarkco was arrested for domestic assault, he  braced me after I asked him, quite reasonably I thought, to not move “my shit” without telling me. This 57 year-old one-legged man came up to me ready to resort to fisticuffs and he cursed me out while claiming that I was two-faced.

A former Prison Officer, I didn’t react the way he expected me to and it confused him. I looked him in the eye, as I moved closer (as a Prison Officer when threats are made we were taught to escalate and dominate if we could not calm the prisoner down) and asked him, “You want to fight? What? Are you 10 or 12?”

This slowed him down but he did not talk to me for three days after the incident. This little event soured our relationship of trust; which never did get back to its initial state. Later, when he was talking to me again, I took him aside and explained that bracing me like that was not wise. I told him, truthfully, that I would not attack, but my defense would put him on the floor crying. “10 years of training in the prison service, mate.”

He never acted up again, but that “circle of trust” was broken and only lack of money, and faith that my hard work would eventually rectify the dollar situation, kept me at the house and at the publication. That and the fact was I was having a great time meeting film and television stars, going to Comic Con in Vegas, and the Star Trek convention.

I was actually doing my dream job, writing and getting paid for it. Sadly, I was too busy to realize that I was being paid abysmally for my hard work. While turning a blind eye to the various things that were occurring around me; massive turnover, editors fleeing like crazy, and stories from DiMarkco about how all these new folks were trying to “take over” the company, I kept writing and trying to get my health sorted out.

While the penny dropped about the state of reliability of my “boss” fairly early in 2014, my financial situation kept me prisoner at the GLV and the house. One clue was Chandler’s claims of ill-health. I was told: That he had been diagnosed with cancer, had a tumor, a failing liver, a hernia operation that was done multiple times and deadly high blood pressure. I finally realised that he was massively stretching the truth after being told that he could no longer climb up the stairs due to the hernia.

Two weeks after being informed of this, he sprightly shot up the steps to the second floor to ask me a favor. My jaw dropping did not register with him as he’d obviously forgotten his claim of two weeks prior. Perhaps a little explanation is required here in my role of gullible village idiot.

I always take everyone at “face value” until they prove that their word cannot be trusted. To me, broken or “delayed” promises did not immediately equal dishonesty. Many people promise more that they can instantly deliver, so these claims did not register as dishonesty or scamming.

They should have. Still, once I realized that the man was just another greedy snake oil salesman, I had to get away before I got caught up in the “con” as patsy. I was staying alone in a three bedroom, with pool, house. He was living somewhere else, buying a new car and setting up another “scheme.” All this took place while telling me and everyone else that the company was going under and broke.

Meanwhile the steady stream of “investors” who used to come trooping through the house, I met most of them, suddenly stopped. Whenever these men and women came in, money was made by DiMarkco but no one else. Gifts were made, a big screen telly was put downstairs after one visit, but no extra pay was laid on.

As Publisher, Chandler kept everything segmented, a lot of the editors had no idea what others were doing. There were complaints. One “high earner” fell out of favor after complaining too regularly about being left out of the loop. DiMarkco’s way of handling anything he dislikes is to ignore it. He will stop responding to phone calls, Skype calls, emails and texts.

He will designate someone else to handle the “problem.”

Finally, after accruing enough credit to do so, I made my escape. My main excuse was to come down and look after my parents (which was, in part, true) and I left. Shortly after arriving in Arizona, the only other editor who’d been at GLV longer than I, left.

I read Carol Tice’s 2014 article then and realised that I should have read it sooner. Although to be honest it would not have helped too much as I could not afford to leave the publication or the house. Reading it again today made me wonder just how many other folks have been taken in by the scammers out there in Internet-land.

For the novice freelance writer, like I was back in 2013, the Internet can be an arena full of landmines. Searching for paid work is difficult. I’d already had one unhappy experience before hoisting my flag with the Guardian Liberty Voice, née’ Guardian Express, so I knew the playing field  can be fairly dodgy. My experience at GLV has left me a little wiser and poorer, but I can impart some advice.


If it sounds too good to be true it probably is. This adage has been around forever and applies to this situation, even if the sales pitch doesn’t seem too far-fetched (the GLV pitch certainly didn’t at the beginning) look at it cautiously.

The minute something doesn’t add up, get out. When two plus two end up equaling more or less than four, it’s a clue that this is shady business; so turn around pick up your laptop and get out.

If English is a second, or even third, language of many who work there as writers. Same deal, grab that laptop, PC or MacBook and get out.

Quantity is more important than quality? Get out, it’s a content mill and they will leach you dry. Enough will never be enough and your rate of pay will not equal your output.

Overall, any place that caters to people who cannot really write, should be avoided. At GLV there were many who will never get a job writing for any reputable company. Sad but true and many editors were driven mad by having to rewrite entire 500 word articles and consequently left disgruntled and disillusioned.

The advice to start one’s own blog for money is good, if you can write. I’ve always said and repeated this the entire time I was at the GLV, “if you have no talent in this area, no amount of training will teach you or make you a better writer.”

One last bit of hard-earned advice. It is hard to navigate the world of freelance writing and even harder to find any site that wants to pay writers anything that can be called significant. This is not just prevalent to the Internet; I met a critic who wrote for a “real,”  but small, printed publication who only got $10 per review. So here is the last bit of my “heart-felt” advice: As the old joke goes, unless you’ve gotten a real break? Don’t give up your day job.


5 February 2015

Operation Christmas Child Kicking Off This Week in Las Vegas

Operation Christmas Child Kicking Off This Week in Las Vegas

National collection week for Operation Christmas Child kicks off this week in Las Vegas on Saturday, November 15, 2014 at the Life Springs Christian Church as the forerunner to next week’s drive, from November 17 through to the 24th. This charitable collection is set up and run each year to help 10 million “needy” children across the globe who otherwise will not be getting anything for Christmas.

A Guilty 1000: Go Me?

A Guilty 1000: Go Me?
On March 2012, I moved from my former blogging home to WordPress. Immediately my amount of views went up exponentially as did my followers. After a year and three months I had 500 followers and it seemed to take ages for me to attract folks to read my stuff. I posted a self-congratulatory type of “Go me” write up and now, a short 11 months later I’ve hit a very guilty 1000 follows.

They are guilty because since April 2013, I’ve been refocussed on not just what I have to say about life, my experiences, or my thoughts about how we should be treating one another. In April, I joined a brilliant man named DiMarkco Chandler who had/has a dream. He wants to be the biggest, or one of the biggest, news sites on the Internet in the world. The Guardian Liberty Voice (GLV) has been my home for writing since that time last year, it has also become my real life home and introduced me to some of the most genuine people I’ve ever met.

I’ve now written stories/articles that have been read by more than a million people on one story alone and a couple of million or more for the rest. The man who brought me into this dream job is a friend, confident and brother. His dream is for writers to be paid for their writing. Unlike many other sites, like for instance Huff Post, who do not pay writers for their sweat, GLV does and has become another path in my life and I excitedly look forward to each day doing what I love best – “And getting paid to do it,” He cackled wildly…

In the short time I’ve been blogging, I almost died…twice, I lost my job to ill health retirement, I went to South Africa, I lost my house and I’ve moved back to the country of my birth after being gone for over 31 years. I starred in an Independent Short Film Once Bitten, Twice Shy – thanks Tasha met some other wonderful people whom I’ve not spoken to nearly as much as I’ve wanted to, you know what I mean Marilyn? I love all you folks I’ve met and interacted with since joining WordPress.

I’ve also interviewed some wildly talented people and one world famous forensic scientist who is one of the world’s foremost authorities on the Kennedy assassinations. I will shortly meet a writer whose daughter’s murder prompted her to write two books about a mother’s search to find her offspring’s killer. My cup truly “runneth over.”

One sad side affect from my new job is that I very rarely post anything on my personal blog. Twice in the last couple of months I’ve posted articles about films. One a documentary and another short independent “autobiographical” short film starring Tony Todd, both of which I’ve supported and are on the road to being produced. I will continue to write when I can on this small slice of Mike. But I do feel guilty at reaching a milestone that, in my mind at least, would probably never be reached. Especially after making the decision to use my blog to link to my GLV work.

I would like to thank all you good folks who have taken the time over the last two years to drop by, read, comment and follow my little blog. I sit here humbled at the attention I’ve received over the years and I’d like to take this moment to say to another film blogger, I finally got to watch the film you raved on and on about and you’re right matey, it is beyond brilliant. Thanks for the heads up, I only had to wait ages to see it on American Neflix.

I will stay on this blogging platform and hopefully will see you all in another 1,000 follows moment. If you’d like to connect with me on Twitter my handle is @MikesFilmTalk, no surprise there, and I’ll wish you all a happy, happy and as good old Roy Rogers used to say, “May your troubles all be small ones.”

A Guilty 1000: Go Me?
Me and Marlon Wayans: one of the highlights of my 2014.
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