17 November 2011

Blogcatalog Owners Silencing Writers With Threats of Lawsuits

Lies, censorship and lawsuits. Why 14 writers decided to take a stand against the unethical business practices of the owners of Blogcatalog and Broowaha.

“I’ll sue your fucken ass if you make one false statement
about Broowaha. You’re a pussy.”Tony Berkman (left), owner of Blogcatalog, Broowaha and BloggersUnite.
What made 14 writers, many of whom had been writing with the Citizen Journalism website Broowaha since its inception, decide to leave? Seven of the writers left the site in one weekend, 14 within the space of a week. Many of the 14 requested that all of their work, amounting to hundreds of articles over six years as writers with Broowaha, provided free of charge to the website owner, be deleted as they no longer wished to be associated with the site. These were writers who had built up a solid following of readers at Broowaha. Many were featured continuously for years as the site’s most popular writers.
One or two writers leaving a website because of creative or business differences with the new owner may not seem unusual but when 14, including the editor, suddenly leave citing unethical business practices as the reason for the exodus, then alarm bells should start ringing.
In an ironic twist, Tony Berkman, the owner of a Citizen Journalism website has, in trying to silence the writers, turned himself into a story.
Broowaha; a Unique Citizen Journalism Website
"I feel that over the years I connected with a lot of good writers that I consider friends, although we haven't met one another face to face. That's the kind of community that had been built there; and to see how they were being threatened and "blacklisted", I couldn't in good conscience remain there. So, I left, requesting my account be removed - and not saying why. And for that I was "blacklisted" as well."Julian Gallo. Broowaha writer for four years, 110 articles.
Broowaha was created in 2006 by Ariel Vardy as a Citizen Journalism site back when CJ sites such as Orato and All Voices were also finding their feet. What made Broowaha unique from other CJ sites was the long-term writers. These weren’t fly-by-night writers who would submit a few articles or hang around for a few years and then disappear; many of the writers stayed the course, submitting articles regularly for six years. Over those six years these writers created Broowaha by supplying hundreds of well written articles on subjects such as politics, human interest and the arts to name a few. Broowaha became a unique place because the writers themselves were unique. They would interject articles with their own perspective, would encourage others with their writing through the comments section, and many of these writers became friends over the lifespan of their time with the site.
With any collection of diverse personalities there would be arguments, but freedom of speech was always a key component of this CJ site. Left and right wing writers would discuss and sometimes argue points, but what was always important about Broowaha was there was no censorship, no editorial bias and no interfering from the owner except perhaps to refuse an article that was not up to the writing quality of the site. Any writer who was refused publication for this reason was invited to revise their article and resubmit. This was all to change in October 2009.
The New Management Has Arrived
In October 2009 there were a few new arrivals to Broowaha.
Antony J Berkman describes himself on his Linkedin profile as a “Digital Entrepreneur” although in interviews he likes to describe himself as a visionary and someone who likes to “add fuel to the fire.” Angie Alaniz has been Berkman’s business partner for over 10 years. According to Berkman, Alaniz is the one who “keeps the fire contained and is the glue of what we do.” Together, Berkman and Alaniz are variously listed as either CEO or President or co-owners of Blogcatalog, Broowaha, Fried Eggs and Bloggers Unite as well as a host of past and present websites.
In 2009, Berkman purchased Broowaha for $15,000. A silent partner, John Forch, is also known to be involved in Broowaha.
The arrival of Berkman, Alaniz and Forch didn’t go unnoticed by some of the long-term Broowaha writers. Some writers saw the new management team immediately as a threat and gave them the nickname ‘the wrecking crew’ but most waited to see how the site would be affected before passing judgment. Berkman began simply enough by bringing in new writers to the site, many from his Blogcatalog site. Most of the Broowaha writers saw nothing wrong with new writers coming onto the site as the common thinking was that new writers are always needed and would bring in more readers. But many long term writers left the site claiming that Berkman was a destructive force, getting rid of the features such as the individual country locations that boasted their own writers.
New Site Editor Cher Duncombe
One good idea Berkman had was to hire writer Cher Duncombe as Broowaha’s new editor. Duncombe had written articles for Broowaha since 2009 and was taken on as editor shortly afterwards. “After spending many months as a volunteer Editor at Broo, I studied the writers and tried to determine what the community wanted. The consensus seemed to be that the community wanted columns, which I thought was a great idea and appropriate for the site. I asked Tony's permission to implement them and he told me to go for it!”
Duncombe began emailing previous writers who were no longer interested in the site and she stoked their enthusiasm. For all intents and purposes, it wasn’t Berkman or Alaniz who ‘added fuel to the fire’ and brought Broowaha back to life it was Duncombe. With Duncombe onboard as an unpaid editor, sometimes putting in 20 hour work days, Broowaha began to attract old and new writers. Many writers were given columns; a format introduced to Broowaha by Duncombe, and began submitting articles every week without fail. In October 2011, seven months after her appointment as editor, Duncombe quit Broowaha citing creative differences as the reason for her departure.
“Cher did so much work setting up a column system and it just got swept of the table. Like it was nothing. I truly admire and respect Cher and to see one of my friends hurt like that, it just pissed me off.”Tahira Lubrano. Broowaha writer, May 2011, 17 articles.
The Beginning of the End
The creative differences mentioned by Duncombe is a nice way of saying that Berkman had decided that things weren’t going the way he wanted them to. As Duncombe said, “He removed the columns and began adding new writers to Broo where they could essentially hone their skills and become better writers. Many of the regular Broowaha writers are published authors and I thought this took Broowaha down several notches on the quality rungs. I asked Tony if this was really the direction in which he wanted to go, and he said yes. After spending so much time on setting up columns, talking to writers, etc., I became totally disheartened and left. It became apparent that Tony had his own ideas for the direction of Broowaha. It was time for me to move on.”
Censorship and Favoritism by Broowaha Owners
“It appeared that specific article comments were being deleted without warrant. It seemed as though there were favorites (writers), and it was usually those whose opinions, usually political, sided with one of the owners.”Jennifer Sharp. Broowaha writer since 2007, 23 articles.
With Tony Berkman now in charge as editor, relationships between writers and management quickly deteriorated and the term ‘wrecking crew’ became a reality. A site that was previously free from editorial bias and censorship now had Berkman’s boot print stamped all over it. Whereas Berkman had previously tried to come across as a guy who understood writers, wouldn’t interfere with the site and wanted everyone to have a say, he now began laying down the law in no uncertain terms. Berkman again began to bring in writers from his Blogcatalog site, claiming he would promote them heavily on the site if they wrote regularly for him.
One right-wing writer brought in by Berkman was a particular favorite of his. It didn’t go unnoticed by other writers that if another writer disputed the ‘facts’ on the right-wing writer’s article, then Berkman, who had never usually commented before on articles and had described himself as apolitical, would jump to her defense. In fact, disputing the facts on this writer’s article was all it took for Berkman to issue threats of termination from the website, as happened to long-term writer Dean Walker.
Walker, who publishes regularly on the website Project Censored, would regularly shred the right-wing writer’s alleged facts as propaganda and outright lies. Berkman and Alaniz gave Walker the ultimatum of either keeping silent on these specific articles or being banned from the site. When the right-wing writer publicly made desultory comments on Walker including accusing him of anti-Semitism, Berkman either stood back and said nothing or backed up the right-wing writer. In the end Walker, who had been given frequent warnings that he would be banned for simply exercising his right to free speech and disputing unbalanced reporting and disputable facts was eventually kicked off the site by Berkman.
Just before Walker was banned from the site, Berkman stated his intentions in a public comment on Broowaha when Walker dared to argue with him: “This is my site, I’ll do what I want. Don’t like it leave. I don’t give a fuck what anyone thinks of me who doesn’t know me.”
The New Edgier Broowaha As Defined by Tony Berkman
“I think we should have a porn section, I mean don’t you think that would sell?”- Sam Zell, the businessman who took over and ran the Chicago Tribune into bankruptcy.
The quote above will sound familiar to anyone who was around when Tony Berkman announced his intention to make Broowaha an ‘edgier’ website. In a Letter from the Editor called The Edge of Writing and Creativity, published on September 29, 2011, Berkman outlined the direction he wanted the site to take, which was to make the site edgy and to attract hip, high quality, undiscovered authors and artists that are writing and sharing stories about life on the edge.
Between the lines of the article Berkman also publicly tore into the hard work and success achieved by Cher Duncombe. Berkman called the columns that Duncombe had implemented “a hangover thinking derived from the age of traditional journalism,” and in an article that reeked of hypocrisy given the nature of Dean Walker’s exit, Berkman wrote Broo's mission is to flatten the news organization and provide a platform for authors, new's (SIC) journalists, citizen journalists and creative people to express their views without fear of censorship.”
What was apparent to the writers was that when Berkman said he wanted a new direction he meant increased page views above all else, even if that meant deterioration in the quality of writing on the site.
Sex Sells at Broowaha
So what did Berkman, the visionary, think would give Broowaha this edge? With amazing unoriginality Berkman tried to take the most obvious route towards increasing page views: sex. Berkman brought in a sex writer to post regularly but also, in what is one of the more bizarre Broowaha moments, wrote an article called, Wikipedia’s Insights on Masturbation are important to Google-Broowaha.
The image that accompanied his article on the front page is as pornographic as it gets. When writing the short article Berkman inserted the keyword ‘masturbation’ around 20 times in the hope of using search engine optimization (SEO) to lure internet users typing in this keyword to land on the article.
By posting this article, Berkman had in fact broken the terms and conditions laid down in Broowaha’s user agreement stating that users of the site were forbidden from uploading pornographic images.
Berkman did succeed in attracting more readers with this article, but only for around 30 minutes and only from long-term Broowaha writers who couldn’t believe how low Berkman would stoop to increase the readership. Broowaha writer Dan LaFollette cited Berkman’s article as one of the reasons why he left the site: “When I got a full shot of the picture he had on his masturbation article (with my kids right next to me) coupled with all of the news coming in from people who I have come to trust about his use of profanity while communicating with them, and endless threats, it was time to leave.”
When Berkman’s article was posted, Angie Alaniz stated in the Broowaha Café for all registered readers and writers to see that she “hadn’t signed up for this, I quit.” Then, Jennifer Sharp, a long-term Broowaha writer, had a public discussion in the Broowaha Café with Berkman and effectively talked him down off the ledge. Berkman at first simply changed the article image to a slightly softer version but then removed the article completely. Alaniz, whether she did actually quit or not, came back on board the next day.
* Since the writing of this article, Berkman’s contributions to the ‘edgy’ content of Broowaha has included articles on Fila’s skele-toes footwear and another on crooked teeth enhancements. According to one Broowaha writer, “The irony of the article written by Berkman entitled Are You a Social Media Tool is apparent to all but Berkman.”
Dirty Tricks, Lies and Legal Threats
“What pushed me to leave is finding out the writers that were NO LONGER part of it were threatened with a lawsuit for voicing their opinions. WE LIVE IN AMERICA and have the right to say how we feel and discuss with others. ”Katy Kern. Broowaha writer April 2011, 35 articles.
October 24th 2011 saw the creation of a Facebook page by Jennifer Sharp known as the Broowaha Expats. This was a place ex Broowaha writers could come together and discuss what had been happening on the site. By this date, Cher Duncombe had quit, Jennifer Sharp had requested that her account by deleted and the Dean Walker censorship argument was coming to a head on Broowaha. Six days, later another 12 Broowaha writers, having seen and heard from others exactly what was going on requested that their accounts be deleted and their articles removed. In the Broowaha Café, Tony Berkman proclaimed his innocence and said that he couldn’t understand why writers were leaving. Behind the scenes, he quickly began threatening legal action.
Having a point of view or sharing an opinion is not against the law. In Berkman’s eyes however, the Broowaha Expats group was a threat to his name and his website’s reputation. The Expats was an invitation only group but Berkman had managed to view all posts by the members during the first week. Berkman and Alaniz would then put on rehearsed conversations in the Broowaha Café in which they would repeat and discuss the postings in the Expats group, again for all readers and writers of the site to witness. Berkman and Alaniz portrayed themselves in these conversations as free from blame and completely perplexed as to the reasons behind the writer’s walkout.
Berkman and Alaniz could have discussed the matter in private; they were working together in the same apartment. Instead, they chose to air the matter in public including Berkman falsely stating that health problems were the reason for Duncombe’s departure.
Black-Listing the Writers
Berkman also took the step of placing a status of “black-listed” in red on the Broowaha account of every writer within the 14 who had left. Berkman and Alaniz then had a discussion in the Broowaha Café on the subject after reading comments in the Broowaha Expats about the black-listed status. Alaniz said, So apparently the word "Blacklisted" is a bad word these days. Please know that word has now been replaced with "inactive".
Tony Berkman - Cease and Desist
“It's about freedom of speech. It's about the freedom to read what we want. It's about having a site that provides writers with traffic and not telling them what to write about.” – Tony Berkman on Broowaha, November 2011.
On October 28 2011 Berkman took the step of sending Cher Duncombe (and Jennifer Sharp) a Cease and Desist email in regards to the Broowaha Expats group stating, “I am sending this to you with the intention to follow up with an attorney and a law suit if you fail to stop defaming BrooWaha, Angie and myself. If this continues I will sue both you and Jen for continuing to defame BrooWaha and Angie and I. You have already been reported to Facebook as has Jen. If it continues you will be sued.”
Berkman’s Love of Legal Threats
Why does Tony Berkman take the aggressive action of threatening writers with lawsuits in an attempt to silence them? Berkman is under the assumption that if legal threats have worked before they will work again. In 2010, Berkman used legal threats to force a writer named Selina Eckersall to give up all rights to a new platform that Eckersall had created in partnership with Berkman’s Blogcatalog. Eckersall claimed at the time that the new platform that would bring bloggers and brands together was 100% her intellectual property, which she created for free on her time. Although, according to Eckersall, no contracts were ever signed, Berkman threatened legal action against Eckersall if she did not relinquish all rights to the property that she had created. Eckersall walked away from the deal with nothing.
When I asked Eckersall to comment on the matter she stated, “It was rough on me what I went through with them (Berkman and Alaniz)…. While it was a difficult experience to go through, especially publicly, I have to say, I absolutely have moved on and am in such a happier, brighter and more successful place now.”
On October 30 2011, two days after I had deleted my Broowaha account and had decided to write an article on the matter I emailed Berkman, politely asking for his view on the writers’ walkout.
In the early hours of the morning I received a reply from Berkman, “You have zero spine. A reporter? You ran with a bunch of people who didn't like the fact that there was competition. It didn't involve you. You're writing an "independent story" yet you're hanging with a group that defamed broowaha. I’ll sue your fucken ass if you make one false statement about Broowaha. You’re a pussy.”
Using Legal Threats to Avoid Bad Publicity
One of the reasons Berkman is trying to silence writers is that bad publicity is the last thing his company needs right now. Blogcatalog is Berkman’s most popular website, a blog directory site that Berkman and Alaniz bought in 2007 for a reported $40,000 from The Bloggy Network. The site that, according to Berkman, once generated $400,000 annually and was receiving 20 million visitors per month has been accused by many of its members of breaking the user agreement terms and conditions. Without prior warning members have found their accounts deactivated due to not linking back to Blogcatalog, not adding the Blogcatalog widget to their blogs and failing to consistently add content to their blogs. When one blogger found her account deactivated she contacted Berkman via Twitter to question why and was simply told she was no longer welcome at Blogcatalog.
If bloggers aren’t adding widgets and links and contributing content daily, then there is no financial incentive for Berkman to keep them. Blogcatalog is, of course, free to use but there is a fee paying ‘Very Important Blogger’ service priced at $20. Accusations that Berkman is only concerned with fee paying members of Blogcatalog have been denied by Berkman and Alaniz in their usual ‘fool the public’ business manner.
On November 8 2011, an article appeared on Broowaha entitled “Is BlogCatalog turning into a paid blogging community? This article was written under the name ‘Blogger’. But this article is a copy and paste job that first appeared on Blogcatalog a year ago, written by none other than Tony Berkman. Because of the copy and paste nature, Berkman actually names himself as the writer in the most recent version, yet in the comments section under the article Berkman thanks the writer of the article a year before the article was actually published. Using a simple piece of code, the publication date on the Broowaha version of this article is updated daily.
Berkman also runs a year-long Power Blogger program costing $50 per month per blogger, which is still ongoing. Unfortunately for the bloggers who signed up for Berkman’s Power Blogging, Berkman made promises he simply couldn’t keep. According to two sources, the Blogcatalog offices, as mentioned in the Power Blogger Video, in San Antonio, Texas, have been shut down and the business partners are working from Alaniz’s home in order to save on overheads. The San Antonio, Texas address has been removed from Blogcatolog's website. The business now consists of Berkman, Alaniz and a few volunteer writers marked as employees. Traffic to Blogcatalog has decreased by 50% since the introduction of the Power Blogging program in April 2011.
What Next for Blogcatalog/Broowaha?
To people like Berkman and Alaniz, writers are simply an ends to a means, a way of increasing their profits. All of the websites owned by Berkman and Alaniz are built to financially benefit Berkman and Alaniz - not the writers who supply the labor and content to them for free. Berkman’s use of legal threats to scare and silence writers is an example of not only his business tactics but also his view on the people who have contributed to his success. Berkman’s attitude towards using unpaid writers to publicize his company can be seen during his failed business deal with celebrity lifestyle coach Tony Robbins. (Read more on the Tony Robbins business deal that lost Berkman $200,000 of investors’ money).
Many people will be under the impression that Blogcatalog and Broowaha are private sites and the owners are free to do as they please. But owners of private sites who operate in bad faith are subject to penalty of law. Writers place content on their sites for free and owners make money from advertisements that are viewed beside the writer’s articles. The owners of privately owned websites are subject to internet commerce laws. The future of Blogcatalog and Broowaha can only be determined by the writers who supply the work that allow these websites to exist. Whether that is to be threatened into submission by website owners such as Berkman for daring to have an opinion or to place principles above pageviews will ultimately be the choice of the writers.
Never Underestimate the Narcissism of the Businessman

During November while writing this article I noticed a post in the Broowaha Expats. Dean Walker had been in contact with Berkman and made a more than fair offer to purchase Broowaha with the intention of turning it into a co-operative, which the 14 writers could all then run equally. Berkman has, for appearances sake at least, listed Broowaha for sale four times in the last year with apparently no takers. (Read more about Tony Berkman's continual relisting for sale of his websites).
Berkman’s response to Walker perfectly captures his attitude towards the 14 writers of a Citizen Journalism website who took a stand against his business tactics; the writers he threatened with lawsuits and claimed were defaming his website and ruining his name simply by airing their opinion.
“It’s not about the money anymore.”


askcherlock said...

Garry this was excellently done. I must add that I had resigned Broowaha initially due to health reasons. Within a relatively short time, however, I was back to the site I loved, approving and declining articles as a volunteer. Once Mr. Berkman decided to do away with columns and take Broowaha in a different direction, I had an email exchange with Alaniz explaining that this new course was not my vision, nor one I felt served Broo well. I then advised her I was leaving with finality.

pacificmelody said...

Garry, this is a fair and unbiased account of these sad events. Too bad one person had to mess it up for everyone!

Jen and Tonic said...

For the record, I want to say how crushed I was over the turn of events at Broowaha. Many people considered it their writing home, and to see things sour between the writers and the site...made me really sad.

I can confidently say I'll never return as long as it is being run this way. Not that they'd want me anyway ;)

You did a tremendous job on this, and as Melody said, you managed to be very fair in your approach. Kudos to you because it takes a great writer to be able to do that.

You will always have my respect and admiration.

Annie said...

And THAT'S what happens when you mess with Garry Crystal and co.....

Julian Gallo said...

Fantastic job, Garry! It just goes to show you that when a community is strong no amount of threats and intimidation or any other sordid tactics can pull that apart. The truth is out and perhaps this will put to rest any "questions" certain people may have had. Now people can see this and make up their own mind about it. Fantastic work. Extremely well done. Bravo! :-)

Theresa H Hall said...

In my humble opinion this whole situation was blown way out of proportion.

This is a comment I made recently on an article written on BrooWaha by a fairly new writer. (The article, "The Tyranny of Judgement", by Skipper from British Columbia, touches on this subject in a thoughtful way)

** My comment:

"Judging others seems to be a knee-jerk reflex and the daily norm for many of us. It is unfortunate that we have been brainwashed by the media that this is the proper way to behave toward one another or situations. The negative side is that a lot of times judgements are made by snap decisions, and it is only after damage has been done, that we can see it wasn't the right answer after all."

The saying goes something like this, "Judge not so you will not be judged". **

I can understand people being hurt, angry or irked, but this calculated effort tear down goes beyond understanding.

To say I am sorely disappointed is such an understatement. I hope my words will not inflame you or any of your new group of readers.

Most sincerely,

Theresa H Hall
"Sleeping Kitten - Dancing Dog"

Derek said...

This is all news to me - I'm a Brit writer - but I will watch developments with interest. It's very sad when editors and writers don't share the same vision, especially when writers are giving their time and creativity for free.

Garry Crystal said...

Thanks for all the comments guys. As you know this was a joint effort and couldn't have been done without the writers who left or were forced out and decided to take a stand. There were many outside of the group of 14.

Theresa - thanks for commenting. This article wasn't about judging though, if it was, it would have been an opinion piece. It was simply the facts. I know some of the writers who were put through hell because of the legal threats thrown at them. If it was blown out of proportion, as you say, I would say, in relation to what? In my 'opinion' writers deserve to be treated better than this, and writers who are giving content for free to make money for others should be treated with the same respect as employees on his payroll. As I said in the article, re blown out of proportion..one or two writers leaving wouldn't seem odd, 14, many of the top writers, leaving means something is wrong.

Garry Crystal said...

Thanks Derek, there are people in that group who were extremely hurt by what has happened. When people start trying to scare others into silence with legal threats then a wrong turning has been taken somewhere. Citizen Journalism site silencing its writers - the irony is evident I think.

Sweet Violet said...

So now you understand why I left Blog Catalog more than two years ago. Once the inmates began running the asylum, once bad manners and bullying other members was tacitly sanctioned by management, once Tony et al began bullying writers, I knew it was not the place for me.

FYI--free speech rights do not apply in the case of a privately owned entity. Just as the newspaper is not obliged to print every story submitted nor every Letter-to-the-Editor, privately-owned websites are not obliged to publish everything sent to them. This, of course, does not excuse the breaches of ethics and common courtesy displayed by the site management, but short of libel or defamation, Tony is right: he can say what he likes on HIS site.

Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Garry Crystal said...

Violet you are right, a few writers including yourself left way before the 14 did and some have been willing to speak out for this article. The amount of information I have received could fill a book. These owners aren't running writing sites because of a love of writing, it's money, pure and simple to them. Nothing wrong with that unless you start treating the people who make you the money as disposable products.

Theresa above is entitled to her opinion and she is marked on Blogcatalog as an 'employee' of Berkmans. Opinions are free speech not to be met with threats of lawsuits.

TJ Lubrano said...

Ciao Garry!

I am really glad that the word is finally out and that people can decide for themselves what they will do with it. There is no judgment or telling others what to do as you just displayed the facts.

Again, let me just say that this article is awesomely written. Thank you for the time to write it all down! I bow and tip my (pirate) hat to you.

Jen and Tonic said...

I agree with the person who said, "In my humble opinion this whole situation was blown way out of proportion." I mean, who sends a Cease & Desist letter just because you want to leave their site, and explain why you did. Talk about a knee-jerk reaction...

Dan LaFollette said...

Great article Gary, thanks for researching and then writing it. One thing that I don't understand is why Tony felt he needed to post private conversations that people were having on Facebook about the situation on the Broo Cafe. I'm looking at the screen shot in this article and there are my words. I don't think I remember giving him permission to post my private conversation in that way.
That is an example of unethical behavior that I think is really inexcusable.
Thanks again Garry, you rock!

Angie said...

Ok…First of all, I want to thank you for the publicity and for stating I am 44 yrs old.
I think I love you. :D

@Dan LaFollette, Yes, I understand what you mean. : /
I also see private conversations that people were having in the broo cafe, Twitter and FB that have been posted not only live but on peoples blogs.
Imagine that?

Garry Crystal said...

Dan, the conversations in the Cafe were blatantly rehearsed, many after they had read what had been said in the expats room. It was done, as always, to make the owners appear to be the victims, "we don't know what's happening, why are they doing this to us" etc etc. Yet behind the scenes they are throwing legal threats around like confetti.

Garry Crystal said...

No problem Angelica. Always glad to help those in need. I like the domain address changes as well, you guys have been busy. I'm sure you and Tony will have a long and successful business relationship.

Tired of Previews said...

Garry - well done! Thank you for taking the time to tell this in such an informative manner. I will miss what Broo was when I first joined and hope it can be that again for other writers.

Although I was only there for 7 months it was a great experience for me. I am lucky to have been a part of it when it was run well and am happy to have made such wonderful friends.



Anonymous said...

Great! thanks for the share!

David Bennett said...

I have read your article and the articles referred to, but I am not sure what the actual dispute was about.

I understand it in the general sense over a grievance about freedom of speech, but what specifically was the subject matter that caused the dispute?

Garry Crystal said...

David it was not so much one specific thing as a whole list of things that happened this year. All the writers who left had their own reasons for doing so but it was all to do with the attitude of the management. I left because of what happened to Dean Walker, when I saw what was going on, the legal threats to silence people, the censorship and editorial bias I thought the place had completely lost all of its credibility. The management were saying one thing to the public and then doing the opposite behind the scenes. But this is a private site and the choice to leave is there. This isn't the first time writers have complained in writing on their blogs about the business practices of these two and i'm sure it won't be the last. You simply need to look at the comment further up here from Angie (Alaniz) to see her attitude towards the writers who have kept that site going for years. If you are offering a service and getting writers to supply content to you for free and making hundreds of thousands of dollars from them then you do not treat them as these two have done. The word 'unprofessional' is nowhere near strong enough to describe these business owners. Thanks for keeping an open mind David on the issue.

Morgana's POV said...

Reputation: Character Minus What You Been Exposed Doing. He publically threatened me so I took screenshots of it and posted it athttp://www.myspace.com/morganaspov.

Instead of being professional and business as smart people know the only one that wins in any lawsuit is the lawyers, Tony Berkman, self identified several places on the internet as "owner and CEO" of Blog Catalog and Broowaha has very publicly wrongly name-called me / Morgana on You Tube and very publicly wrongly threatened on You Tube to sue me / Morgana yet per previous screen shots and this screen shot there indeed truthfully remains Continuing Wrong & Unethical Use of Content by Blog Catalog, Broowaha, Tony Berkman, Broowaha Editor Cher Duncombe, Fried Eggs, et al as they continue to wrongly and unethically reproduce, distribute, perform, publicly display, or make into a derivative work my / Morgana content as it is without the permission of me / Morgana, its owner.

This unprofessional, anti-business, immature, bizarre, amateurish, name-calling, and legal threatening without cause, behavior also sadly at You Tube from Mr. Berkman is a disturbing continuation of why I / Morgana was sadly finally forced to take the step of requesting my / her content removed from Broowaha under Mr. Berkman.

Morgana's POV said...

Ariel Vardi started BrooWaha, “Citizen’s Journalism” in 2006. In October 2009, chuckling all the way to the bank, Ariel Vardi sold BrooWaha to his new partners Tony Berkman & Tony’s Merry Band of Partners. According to Tony Berkman, he and His Merry Band of Partners paid $15,000. That being John, Tony Mouthpiece & Senior Yapper Alan Handwerger and his 57 Socks, Angie, Tom Bates, and Enforcer Tom Lewis.

Ariel’s BrooWaha, and Tony Berkman & His Merry Partners’ BrooWaha, were horses of very different colors. Failing to understand that, Tony Berkman & His Merry Partners soon had BrooWaha up for sale. Who said slavery still isn’t thriving?

Morgana's POV said...

Networks are people and neighborhoods also.

At the network micro and macroeconomic level, Tony Berkman & His Merry Partners made fundamental mistakes. One was the failure to understand the consequences of networks’ interconnectedness and interdependencies. Failing to understand this basic business issue that should have been previously covered in their Business Plan, Tony Berkman & His Merry Partners exposed themselves to the risks of interdependencies without benefiting from interconnectedness advantages. Tony Berkman & His Merry Partners’ disdain was and remains palatable as networks are people and neighborhoods also.

Morgana's POV said...

On January 8, 2008, then came BrooWaha’s new editor DigiDave’s Journalism is a Process, Not a Product @ http://blog.digidave.org/2008/01/broowaha-where-im-the-new-editor.

DigiDave proudly wrote “Broowaha is a space to experiment. I do believe the future of citizen journalism is in networked reporting – groups of people working together on larger investigations. Broowaha is already a vibrant community with writers across the world (literally from Los Angeles to Paris).

Right now Broowaha writers are centered in LA, SF, NY, Miami and other cities around the country. I hope that we can tap into stories – even simple stories like "the dying 1950′s diners" and report on them in cities across the country.

So – if you believe in citizen journalism, want to start writing/reporting about issues or events in your neighborhood check out Broowaha.” That was BrooWaha editor David “DigiDave” Cohn’s proud words then. And DigiDave had good reason to be proud of them.

Morgana's POV said...

According to Tony Berkman himself, in Sep 09 he (and his merry band of partners) then paid $15,000 for BrooWaha.  I sure hope Ariel's chuckling with delight each time at that!

I miss Reno Broo and the Old, Classic, Original, First, 1.0, 1.1, 1.2, 1.3,...Broo. It was a moment in time that I thought was special. Special as there were actually organic and dynamically alive moments where these various personalities would actually read what another said, commented intelligently on it, and continued a civil discourse. And there is a cool record to refer back to.

Writer Ursula K. LeGuinn had a workshop http://www.amazon.com/Steering-Craft-Exercises-Discussions-Navigator/dp/0933377460 and she was pleasantly surprised at how many people were at it who were writing and wanting to improve their writing, even see their craft improved with critiques of their writing and others' writing. Unless we rise above the lowest common denominator, giving a cr.. is not on ones mind though, is it?

Morgana's POV said...

BrooWaha was BrooWaha rather than the FauxBroo it became under Tony Berkman because its focus was on the dynamics; the people and community hum along the links.

Ed Attanasio said...

I have stayed out of this mess because I don't have a dog in this fight. Someone asked me to quit Broo and get all of my articles off there, but Tony has been fine with me and I have no issues with the man. He told me that my content alone makes up more than 25% of the total on Broo, so I know it would hurt for me to leave, but I won't. If the Group of 14 had issues with TB, then I can understand why they left and I respect their decision. In the end, it's his baby and he can do whatever he wants with it. If he wants to turn it into a paper about unicorns or lawn gnomes, he has the right. BrooWaha has been valuable to me, because it has given me more than one million page views that I never would have received. I didn't feel that I was prepared to scrub 350+ articles and walk away from the exposure, because in the end, what do we want the most as writers? For me, it's readers. Call me a whore, but that's my position.

Julian Gallo said...

You are absolutely right in the fact that Broo is an individually owned entity and can be run in any manner that owner chooses to run it. Those who don't like it are free to leave - and it's apparent many weren't happy and left. "The 14" as it's becoming known with such ominous tones, is just a number. We all left for our own reasons (my reason is in the article above) and when I left, I just left. I didn't say why I was nor in my own blog post about it did I get into the specifics of the thing. I was no longer happy - and I didn't like the way people I call friends were being treated - so I left. End of story.

If you choose to stay, that's your business. I, personally, have no qualms about it or anything else. That's your choice. No need to justify anything here to me, or to anyone else. I understand why you would want to stay. Tony never did anything to me either, personally, nor was I ever treated badly. As I said, my reasons for leaving is and was personal and to be quite honest with you, I don't think either Tony or Angie even care. That's life. I did what I felt I had to do just as the others have for their own reasons.

Garry Crystal said...

Ed, no-one from the expats group is asking anyone to leave any of Berkman’s sites; that is not why this was written. I don’t know who asked you to leave but no-one asked me to leave. I can’t speak for the others but everyone had their own reasons for leaving. Your reasons for staying are your own and if it comes down to page views and readership above all else then that is fair enough. You may make up 25% of the total on Broo but if you dare to have a point of view that differs from either of the owners, and make it known, they will have no qualms about getting rid of you, as they have done with other writers. Give them your loyalty but don’t think it will be equally returned, that’s not the way this pair work. They don’t deserve loyalty from writers, and they certainly haven’t earned it, and in any case, loyalty to that pair is measured in cents and dollars, above all else.

Ed Attanasio said...

Hey, I'm totally cool with The Party of 14. I don't write anything political, so I evidently haven't been involved in any form of censorship. I did notice that comments were deleted on Broo, which never happened before as far as I know. When Broo starts doing that on a regular basis, I too will stop contributing, If someone makes a comment that is not inappropriate, it should remain, in my opinion. Happy T-Day all!

Anonymous said...

I suggest adding a facebook like button for the blog!

JaxAce said...

Thanks for this valuable information. My account was deactivated 3-19-12 with no reason are warning. I'll probably sign up again only to warn my followers with your web page link. BC is getting snobbish like Google. This author also experience problems:

Garry Crystal said...

Thanks for the comment Jax, I hope you do warn other users, will check out your link.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

The problem I had with Blogcatalog is a few annoying members like SweetViolet and the top annoyer called Timethief who paraded on that site acting like mods. They were not mods and should have been silenced a long time ago. Many members comments were being deleted because a few of these annoying members like Timethief and SweetViolet had nothing to do but click the report button every time they disagreed with a member, a members comment or whatever. Besides that even the board got out of hand taking sides. Now if you log into Blogcatalog, both Angie and Tony can be seen talking to themselves via their discussions. Even Timethief changed her account and created a new user called HellenaFortisma or some kind of crap like that. These people are friggin weird and that site should be avoided at all cost. What has Blogcatalog done for anyone's blog anyhow? Do yourselves a favor and avoid BC like the plague.

Anonymous said...

Just goes to show that people like Anthony Berkman and Angie Alaniz should have no business running any site or even Blogcatalog, Broowaha and BloggersUnite. The man is a little uneducated _uck who needs a day job. He knows nothing about writing, or writers. All he did was saved some money and bought a catalog. He doesn't even realize that having good social media connections would have increased and benefited his site greatly but instead he was too busy making enemies and people who got fed up deserted all 3 of this sites. What a great way to do business.