Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Integrating print and online newsrooms

Negotiations for a new Guild contract began today in Baltimore and although neither side disclosed what their proposals will be, Tribune has indicated it will seek more flexibility (no surprise there) and Guild members want staffing levels maintained (no surprise there, either) and  — integration of employees who work for the paper's Web site (currently non-union) into the Sun newsroom.

Guild members are writing, designing and producing for their employers' online products and have been doing so for years. When newspapers made their first venture into the new digital arena during the Nineties, many sought to create and then maintain separate work forces, often at different locations designed to keep the new staff non-union. Guild employees argued that though the news delivery platform is different, the work is the same; online workers should be covered by Guild bargaining agreements. Some employers concurred and folded the online staff in under the union's existing contract (Denver Post, Rocky Mountain News). In some cases, local bargaining committees successfully negotiated separate agreements covering the Web staff (New York Times Digital).

More and more newspapers are making the business decision to increase their news gathering flexibilty by integrating the print and online staffs. Keeping them separate doesn't make much sense at a time when increased collaboration between print journalists, designers and photgraphers and the paper's Web staff is expected — no, required — to produce news content for the Internet audience.

Online workers should have the same right to voice and vote on workplace terms and conditions as their print counterparts.

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