Directories – Is paying for a manual review bad?
If a directory charges a fee to do a manual review and the directory is relevant to your sites topic, pay the fee. This is a business decision, not a search decision. Yes, you are spending money for a link on a web page. But that page is a relevant directory.
There are paid directories that you MUST avoid. If anyone can pay to get a link and there is not a clear topic, then listen to your inner radar and avoid it.