Anyone who follows liquor license battles, education, politics and just about any civic issue in the rich and gentrifying pastures of Northwest Washington might be familiar with the name Bill Petros. For more than 18 years, the D.C. resident snapped shot after shot after shot of city life for the pages of the Current Newspapers, which include the Northwest Current, the Georgetown Current, the Dupont Current and the Foggy Bottom Current.
The work of Petros — big and splashy on the front page, small and boxy on the inside pages — has been as much a part of this D.C. institution’s look as its unchanging bold logo and its relish for small but consequential neighborhood disputes.
No longer. Petros tells the Erik Wemple Blog that he stopped shooting for the papers this year following a freelance-pay dispute with the papers’ publisher and editor, Davis Kennedy. “I was an extremely loyal vendor,” Petros told the Erik Wemple Blog today. Petros claims that Kennedy didn’t pay him for his work from late June 2013 through the end of the year, at which point he “terminated” his services to Current Newspapers. The total outstanding invoice for his work is $7,000, says Petros.
“That’s not true,” replies Kennedy when asked about the figure. When asked for details, Kennedy says: “We will not comment on anything like that. . . . We certainly plan to pay him everything he is due. We appreciated his service greatly.”
They better. To hear Petros tell it, “I worked my butt off shooting for four or five papers of theirs,” he says, noting that he ate a lot of expenses along the way. “It was almost like paying [them] to work, to take pictures for the Current.”
The Current papers are a good example of a unique product that has survived a ruinous newspaper depression around the country. Though there are other outlets that cover the Current’s turf, they don’t cover it with the consistency and granularity of the Current — a tribute to longtime Current Managing Editor Chris Kain. Six years ago, the Erik Wemple Blog, then at the Washington City Paper, wrote about the paper’s official policy of all but ignoring the Internet. There’s no indication that policy has changed under the old-school Kennedy, given that the Current’s site continues showcasing its digital products in handy PDF format.
At that time, Kennedy spoke of very positive advertising trends. Could the arrears to Petros signal that the paper is having troubles? “If we had a financial problem, we certainly wouldn’t talk to The Washington Post about it,” says Kennedy.
UPDATE, 5:42 p.m: Kennedy calls back to assert that the Current Newspapers are operating “in the black” — not as much in the black as “we have in the past,” he says. But still in the black.