Thursday, June 28, 2007

Blue flu at WSJ today**

Reporters were sick this morning. The WSJ union said in a statement:

Wall Street Journal reporters across the country chose not to show up to work this morning.

We did so for two reasons.

First, The Wall Street Journal’s long tradition of independence, which has been the hallmark of our news coverage for decades, is threatened today. We, along with hundreds of other Dow Jones employees represented by the Independent Association of Publishers’ Employees, want to demonstrate our conviction that the Journal’s editorial integrity depends on an owner committed to journalistic independence.

Second, by our absence from newsrooms around the country, we are reminding Dow Jones management that the quality of its publications depends on a top-quality professional time and staff. Dow Jones currently is in contract negotiations with its primary union, seeking severe cutbacks in our health benefits and limits on our pay. It is beyond debate that the professionals who create The Wall Street Journal and other Dow Jones publications every day deserve a fair contract that rewards their achievements. At a time when Dow Jones is finding the resources to award golden parachutes to 135 top executives, it should not be seeking to eviscerate employees’ health benefits and impose salary adjustments that amount to a pay cut.

We put the reputation of The Wall Street Journal and the needs of its readers first. That’s why we will be back at our desks this afternoon, producing the day’s news reports. But we hope this demonstration will remind those entrusted with the future of Dow Jones that our publications’ integrity must be protected, and sustained, from top to bottom.'s Paul R. La Monica doesn't think the action will make a difference, "... after taking a quick look at the WSJ’s Web site on Thursday morning, it didn’t appear that there was any indication that people weren’t working. Breaking stories were covered by writers there and not just wire stories".

We think the action by WSJ's unionized reporters sends a powerful message: The staff is willing to take action in full demonstration of their convictions. United, they can and will make a difference in the future of the company in which they too have so much invested. And united, they will continue to demand a fair contract.

We do agree with La Monica's conclusion:
The WSJ’s strength is its brand and that comes from its reporting and editing talent. So if Murdoch succeeds in winning control of Dow Jones, he’s really going to have to extend an olive branch to the union, stat, or he may quickly find that he just threw $5 billion of his shareholders’ money down the drain.
*Will Murdoch walk? "They can't sell their company and still control it — that's not how it works..." An exclusive interview with Murdoch: Time

**Bill Moyers on Murdoch: YouTube

(end of post)

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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Shares are sliding

Tribune shares are falling well below the $34 deal price as analysts struggle to decipher the meaning of the drop. Dow Jones reports that shares of Tribune Co., have been steadily weakening in recent weeks. On Wednesday, the stock dropped another dime to $29.36 by midday. A month ago the stock was trading above $33. "It's very puzzling," said Ed Atorino, an analyst with The Benchmark Co. " There has been some very negative news that is off the mark."

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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

In Baltimore, what they wanted is what they have

A couple of non-union Tribune staffers contacted us about the recent Guild contract settlement at the Baltimore Sun: What about it is a good deal?

We passed on the question to Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild president Bill Salganick. Here's his reply:

– We came out of this contract with our real, defined-benefit pension and with company contributions to a 401(k), while unrepresented Tribune employees have neither, having been given a risky ESOP and a cash balance plan. There's no guarantee ours will do better, but it's what our members wanted, and it's what we have.
– We have guaranteed raises for the next four years. While some of that is on the scales and some is "pay for performance," the performance pool must be distributed each year.
– Through bargaining, we were able to maintain a sick leave plan we like, rather than have the inferior Tribune short-term disability plan forced on us.
– Although we've lost our original reporter-photographer combo prohibition, we have, written into the contract, a guarantee of training, and guarantee that people won't be disciplined or downgraded in evaluations for work they weren't hired to do, and a joint Guild-management committee to oversee the transition.
– Our members got to discuss and set priorities, vote on what we proposed, and vote on the final contract (which they approved overwhelmingly).
– Guild-represented Sun employees had voluntary buyouts during the last couple of months and there was a layoff of three ad artists (less work for them), but they got severance and they go on a rehire list – which means they will have right of first refusal should The Sun seek to fill those positions during the next two years.

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Monday, June 25, 2007

NYT on empire-building Murdoch

Today's four-bylined story comes just as reports on the talks between Murdoch and Bancroft family and Dow Jones advisors may be closing in on a deal.

Murdoch's vast media holdings give him a gamut of tools — not just campaign contributions, but also jobs for former government officials and media exposure that promotes allies while attacking adversaries, sometimes viciously — all of which he has used to further his financial interests and establish his legitimacy in the United States, interviews and government records show.
Too bad the gamut of tools at his disposal aren't used for fair and balanced news and information gathering and delivery that truely serves the community and common good rather than simply to promote his agenda and expansion of his personal empire. Readers and employees should hope another valid offer comes along mighty quickly.

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Saturday, June 23, 2007

Zell 'doesn't have a silver bullet'

NYT's Joe Nocera went to Chicago last week to see Sam Zell because he wanted to hear what Zell had to say about "his recent — how to describe it? “Takeover?” “Bear hug?” “Assumption of control?”— of the Tribune Company..."

As it turns out, Mr. Zell doesn’t have a silver bullet either. He seemed to take the view, for instance, that all it would take for the Tribune Company to start generating more ad revenue was a smarter advertising sales approach. And while he said he had ideas he wasn’t ready to unveil until the transaction closed, he didn’t seem to believe, as so many do (myself included), that the news business is going to have to find a different model if it hopes to thrive again. “It is a 160-year-old business that has a lot of history and an opportunity to do a much better job,” he said, speaking of the Tribune Company.
Zell also made it plain that he did the deal not because he harbored some deep feelings about the role of newspapers in a democracy, but because he was getting a good asset on the cheap. “I looked at this as a business transaction,” he told me. “That’s just who I am. My entry point is $34 a share”— and that low price is why he jumped in. (The ESOP trustee negotiated the lower $28 a share for the employees.) He was just doing what he’s done his entire career: buying an out-of-favor asset.

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Friday, June 22, 2007

A worthy news item you probably don't know about

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), which represents about 600,000 journalists around the world, is marking Sunday as a global day of solidarity with Iraqi journalists to highlight the increasing danger and uncertainty their colleagues face as the conflict in Iraq worsens. At least 212 Iraqi colleagues have been killed since 2003 in a conflict that has claimed more media lives than any other in modern history. The IFJ knows of 39 Iraqi journalists who have been killed since January of this year.

The Newspaper Guild, AFTRA, National Writers Union and The Writers Guild of America are U.S. members of the IFJ. The IFJ has 161 member unions in 117 countries and promotes international action to defend press freedom and social justice through strong, free and independent trade unions of journalists. It does not subscribe to any given political viewpoint, but promotes human rights, democracy and pluralism.

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Staff cuts move west to Hawaii

Seventy-four union workers are among 86 employees at the Honolulu Advertiser who are being offered buyouts packages that include a week's pay for every year of service up to 40 weeks, medical, dental and vision coverage for three years or until age 65 and two years of service credits toward the pension plan.

The Hawaii Newspaper Guild reports the buyout is being offered to workers 55 or older and have at least 20 years of service. The company seeks to eliminate 30 full-time positions, including up to a max of 20 union slots.

"We've seen a softening of the Hawaii economy over the past eight months and we believe it is prudent to adjust our staffing as we have other expense elements to provide us the flexibility we need to operate our business successfully," (Publisher Mike) Fisch wrote in a letter to employees yesterday.

Though Hawaiian papers haven't downsized to the extent stateside papers have, Fisch's comments are similar to the mantra we've heard from corporate owners coast to coast.

Sure, the newspaper industry is in the middle of a cultural and economic earthquake that's forcing it to develop a new business model. So why are companies still using an old business model: Need to save money? Cut the staff, slash the payroll! Result? The older, higher-paid employees are being replaced with younger (usually inexperienced), eager-to-work-for-almost-nothing folks while Corporate tries to figure out which new business model will generate the double-digit profits the industry enjoyed during the Nineties.

Employees shouldn't be considered liabilities needing to be eliminated. They are the real assets of every company.

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An ESOP tale from Maryland

Readers of this blog are coming back to re-visit ESOP info posted here and here. The following is from a story in yesterday's The Daily Record about a Maryland-based company that is held by an Employee Stock Ownership Plan "Selling the Benefits of Ownership". It's worth the read.

The recent annual shareholders’ meeting at Macfadden, a Silver Spring-based contractor that works primarily with the federal government, had the feel of a company retreat.

The conference room was packed and guests talked and laughed while they networked before a presentation by President/CEO Russ Hall. In a group exercise, participants pretended to be geese in a flock, a process designed to highlight the virtues of teamwork and leadership.

Hall highlighted company financial information and described Macfadden’s 2006 performance, but the meeting was longer and more detailed than many other companies’ stockholder events. After all, these weren’t just shareholders; they were also employees.

(end of post)

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Market confidence slipping on complex Zell deal

Chicago Tribune – Following Tribune's announcement late Wednesday that May revenues had fallen 11.1 percent -- bringing the year-to-date decline to 5.6 percent -- the company's stock lost 1.3 percent to close at $29.57 Thursday, or 13 percent below the $34 price Tribune pledged to pay for its shares outstanding.
"It's an indicator that the market's appetite for the deal is waning," Donnelley said.

Investors aren't the only ones anxious about this deal. Employees are too. We've noted a significant increase in page views to our posts on the ESOP here and here. (end of post)

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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Update: Eight buyouts, no layoffs at Hartford Courant

Word is that three veteran reporters and five long-term copy editors left the paper, resulting in enough expense savings for Tribune that no one was forced to leave involuntarily. At a time of wide-spread bad news regarding the extent of Tribune Co. newsroom staff cuts, that's a bit of good news. (end of post)

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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Another Tribune staff purge

Twenty-five veteran employees at the Daily Press (Newport News, VA) will leave their jobs within the next few weeks. No details on the buyout severance package.

Some will be replaced and others will not. The move is part of an effort to cut $1 million worth of annual expenses. Some of these savings will be invested in new areas as the newspaper tries to diversify its sagging core business.
Core business being the print product. Tribune continues to slash costs and redirect its resources to the Internet. At least in Newport News, the number of reporters will remain the same though no doubt the jobs will require different skill sets.

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Monday, June 18, 2007

'For years, I had no interest in the union'

I have been a Wall Street Journal reporter for 28 years, in Hong Kong, Tokyo, Paris and now New York. I have written about every imaginable topic from sumo wrestling to diplomacy. I currently cover financial markets. For years I had no interest in the union. My wages went up steadily and my benefits were excellent. Then, in the past decade, management pulled out its knife and began trying to grow through cutbacks, a recipe for disaster. At first, people figured cutbacks were inevitable and tried not to worry about it. But with time, we came to realize that the cuts were hurting the paper, not helping, and that they were a crutch management used to avoid exercising actual leadership. When they cut our retirement benefits, a lot of us who had had little involvement with the union got involved, forcing management to roll back most of the planned cuts. When the union later agreed to a deal to cut health benefits, we voted to reject the proposal contract and negotiated a new one. A new group of people took over leadership of the union. Now we are locked in yet another fight over proposed cutbacks, this time involving both health benefits and real, take-home wages. We have realized that the only way to protect ourselves is to act together. We are much stronger today than we were five years ago, and management is slowly discovering that it will have a fight on its hands every time it tries to cut. The cutbacks are threatening the newspaper's quality, and the only way to protect the paper -- and our families -- is to stand up for ourselves.

E.S. (Jim) Browning,
WSJ reporter

(end of post)

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Carl Bernstein on LAT staff cuts: "A truly awful tale"

Carl Bernstein was in LA last week for at a book signing for his recently-released Hillary Clinton biography where he was interviewed by LAObserved's Jacob Soboroff. Bernstein has much to say about the LAT - "a truly awful tale ... to watch a great newspaper get stripped and great people leave ... to watch this parent company with an interest in very little except the bottom line ..." Watch the video at LAObserved

Bernstein voices the sentiments of many we've talked to at the LAT. The Tribune's demands for higher profits from its newspapers from out-of-town corporate makes it extremely difficult for a reduced staff of managers, editors and staffers - all of whom share a strong commitment and obligation to the Los Angeles readership and community - to put out a great newspaper with fewer and fewer resources. Yes, it's being done well for the time being. But, how much longer before the next failed cost-saving and staff-cutting plan comes along? Cutting staff and resources at a profitable paper is not a way to make the LAT a better paper.

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Thursday, June 14, 2007

New BS/Guild contract ok'd by voice vote*

* Read Baltimore Sun story here
* Read E&P story here

"I am glad both sides were able to work together for a fair contract,” said Bill Salganik, President of the Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild. “Now, we can put this behind us and work together to produce a great newspaper to serve our community, our readers and our advertisers.”

Congratulations to the bargaining committee and union members at The Sun who stood united during intense negotiations. Both sides – management and union – are winners today.

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Looking the same is not the same as being the same

A little off topic for this blog (but certainly related to what we do) is a post on John Duncan's The Inksniffer – "Why newspapers should get out of the internet business before it kills us all". We're linking it here because his reasoning raises some interesting points that are worth considering for those of us who are tired of hearing newspapers are dead and the internet is the future.

The internet is great. The access it has given consumers like me and you to news and information is great. But becoming commercially successful at distributing information on the internet requires us to completely change who we are and what we do, to compete with completely different people.

Who succeeds there? Individuals with a million ideas who execute them quickly and effectively. And some huge global companies with vast resources who snap them up. People who think outside of geographies and inside communities of interest. People who can apply the language of computers to solving real-world information needs. People who want to do something for themselves or others just for the hell of it and don't carry huge costs. People who experiment and fail all the time and just keep on going. People who can gather other people's work and spread it around in a useful way without making much money off it. People who are happy to put something out there and see it used in a completely different way to what they intended. Does that sound like any newspaper company you know. Me neither.
(end of post)

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Baltimore Sun Guild committee to recommend contract

Guild and management negotiators reached an agreement on a new 4-year contract late Wednesday. Members will vote on it tonight.

As part of the settlement, the controversial company-proposed provision requiring photographers to write and reporters to shoot will include protections for those current members having to do the work of both: a guarantee of training, a prohibition on discipline or negative performance reviews for the quality of photographs taken by reporters (and vice versa) and a joint Guild-management committee to address issues raised by the new provision, such as training, quality and work assignments.

"They have to provide that training," said WBNG president Bill Salganik told Editor & Publisher. "It makes us feel we've got to keep an eye on it, but it is a protection. We all want a quality product."

The Guild and management also came to an agreement on the company's pay-for-perfomance-only proposal that will now provide for a wage increase structure that includes a mix of automatic raises – real raises for everyone each year – and funding for a merit pay pool.

Despite painful memories of prior years' contentous bargaining when both sides prepared for a strike neither wanted, Guild members were fully mobilized in support of their bargaining committee and were prepared to do whatever necessary to get a quality contract. Examples of their commitment to the bargaining committee positions was this week's photographers' byline strike and a petition signed by about 150 Guild members calling for a contract rejection if the prohibition of reporters acting as photographers was removed without adequate safeguards.

(end of post)

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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Milwaukee suburban journos want the Guild*

*More info here

In Milwaukee, the Journal Sentinel no longer covers suburban news, opting instead to let it's weekly newspaper divisions of Journal Communications, staffed by journalists making half what journalist at the JS make, provide service to the communities. The Milwaukee Newspaper Guild is helping the group organize themselves as a Community Newspapers (CNI) unit of the local.

We are impressed with the group's determination. Take a look at their blog. The following is a snip of a recent post:

We have the backing of dozens of people who know where we are because they’ve been there. Those 150 people from Local 51, the Milwaukee Newspaper Guild, know how much we love what we do - the freedom to write, polish, create and photograph that next great idea. They know if we didn’t have families, we would do it for free, but they also know that wouldn’t be a great idea… because what we do and how we do it is of great value to people.

We also have the backing of the entire News Guild Union and the Communication Workers of America … and that my friends, is a great place to be.

Sometimes us creative types think we operate better in isolation. We aren’t known to do battle with our employer, except of course when it comes to our craft. Many of us have probably never asked for a pay raise, thought of asking for time-and-a-half after working an eight-hour day, or thought there was a need for a pay classification. And I’m sure the notion of turning in three stories before we went on vacation or even better yet, (I’ve personally done this) writing on our vacations, didn’t cause us much concern.

But now the dynamic is different… it’s different because I now feel the sting of being told I don’t contribute to generating revenue, that those red marks on a piece of paper some how dictate that I should continue the status quo while being spoon fed fear. Being a writer has often been called an affliction, a disease, and an incurable one at that, but does it mean that we need to be taken advantage of?
No. You shouldn't be taken advantage of. Dignity and fairness for all is what the Guild is all about and it doesn't matter whether you work at a small weekly, a national daily or some place in between. Nor does it matter if you are just starting a career, at your pinnacle or heading into the sunset of a long, successful career. What DOES matter is that you are properly and proportionately compensated, fairly treated and provided with equal opportunities for advancement. And let's not forget your right to have a voice and have it be heard! (end of post)

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Zell talks with Washington bureau staffers

Kevin Roderick reports on LAObserved that "Sam Zell dropped into the Tribune Washington bureau today. A Q-and-A session with staffers was cancelled, but reporters surrounded him in the lobby and he chatted for more than fifteen minutes. He wouldn't be pinned down on a desired profit margin, but I hear he told them that if the papers make enough money he won't interfere in the journalism. He also said there might be some independent directors with media experience added to the Tribune board."

And if the papers don't make "enough money" (how much is enough?), he WILL interfere in the journalism? We're interested in learning more about that. Anyone?

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Zell goes to Capitol Hill about needed FCC waivers*

*Details here from LAT

Zell and Tribune execs met with Senate Democrats Tuesday on their concern that the FCC has yet to respond to Tribune's request for waivers nor a letter from Illinois' congressional delegation urging a quick decision.

In order to take Tribune private in the $8.2 billion deal, Zell needs to get regulatory waivers from the FCC for the company's ownership of print and broadcast properties in the same markets – Los Angeles, New York , Chicago, Hartford and Fort Lauderdale-Miami.

From AP: "There's a lot at stake here (and) 20,000 employees, their future, is on the line," (Dick) Durbin, the Senate's majority whip and second-highest ranking Democrat, said Tuesday, complaining that there has been no FCC response to the delegation's letter.
Critics of the $8.2 billion deal have argued that the media conglomerate should be broken up to avoid the cross-ownership that now exists in the five cities. A public interest law firm, Media Access Project, has urged federal regulators to deny Tribune's request for waivers.

(end of post)

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Monday, June 11, 2007

Unacceptable: Raises tied to job performance*

*UPDATE: Rank-and-file members must ratify the Tribune contract offer by midnight Thursday or it will be rescinded and bargaining will have to begin all over again."We expect to make changes and continue to negotiate,"said Michael Hill, Guild unit chair. Stay tuned.—

Tribune's wage proposal wasn't well-received by Baltimore Sun Guild negotiators.

"They are still stuck on the pay-for-performance model, which is very unpopular for our members," Michael Hill, BS unit chair said. "It doesn't do what they think it does. It doesn't lead to better performance. It just leads to disgruntled employees."

Here's why: the pay-for-performance model allows employees to be at the mercy of middle managers who favor one or two over other workers even when all things are equal — including performance. Let's face it: not all managers are equal – or fair. Under such a plan, finding yourself in disfavor with a new manager though not necessarily because you aren't doing your job well, could not only impact your psyche, it will impact your take home pay. How unfair is THAT?

Having guaranteed periodic wage increases in Guild contracts has never stopped managers from awarding merit increases to those who seek them or to those they believe should have them. But a pay-for-performance model only has been used discriminatorily and it's use over time is the main reason for significant pay disparities among certain groups at non-union newspapers.

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Sun photgraphers withhold bylines

Photographers begin a three-day byline strike to protest a Tribune bargaining proposal that would require photographers and reporters to do each other's jobs. In a Guild flyer to members announcing a Tuesday noon rally and calling for a membership meeting Thursday, Guild leaders said:

The photographers believe this proposal is misguided and will only lower The Sun’s standard of high quality still and video images that the photographers work so hard to maintain. Editor Tim Franklin told the bargaining committee the new job is aimed at assigning reporters to take photographs and videos, reminding us that, “…we live in this YouTube world.”

The photographers understand the Sun’s need for ‘flexibility,’ but believe the technological demands for more photographs and video images should be provided, not by journalists with little or no photographic training (who are already bogged down with extra reporting duties), but by highly skilled photojournalists. Our current contract gives management ample flexibility to add supplemental photography by reporters, such as the breaking news coverage provided by police reporters. As The Sun’s photojournalists wrote in a letter to Franklin last week, the company’s proposal “is a recipe for mediocrity. Juggling note taking and picture taking will guarantee that key moments for both will be missed.”

We hope this week’s byline strike will encourage the company to rethink this proposal - which is clearly not good for the future of photojournalism or for The Sun - and take it off the table.
Companies have for years tried to figure out ways of making reporters photographers and photographers reporters. Though it varies local to local, agreements have been reached that, like the current BS/Guild contract, give the company flexibility but preserves the skill and expertise required of each position. At some papers, Guild locals enjoy the opportunity to apply multiple skills to their work. The problem arises when burdensome multi-tasking creates pressure in time and resources that may enhance one skill at the expense of the other.

Our experience with collective bargaining with today's employers is that while the employer creates proposals they claim will create efficencies, they don't generally know how their proposal will work in real time. Guild members regularly provide the solutions that both sides can work with.

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A fellowship would be great, but I need my job

And so it seems that journos aren't applying for prestigious fellowships because they fear their jobs won't be waiting for them when they get back. According to this NYT piece, the decline in program applications may be a result of the massive job cuts happening in the troubled industry.

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Thursday, June 7, 2007

They didn't go away

Former Stamford Advocate staffer Patrick Verel marvels at the "spectacularly bad advice some labor lawyer gave the Tribune folks who then presented The Advocate and Greenwich Time to Gannett and said, in effect [regarding the union], "Don't worry about that rowdy bunch in the corner; they're going away."

Read "Belaboring the Deal" at

(end of post)

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At the LA Daily News, a Guild-Company partnership that can work

With the recent and on-going newsroom purges, it's no wonder editorial employees worry about their future and the future of journalism. The old media model is out. The new media model is in development. The barriers between print and the web must be torn down as newsrooms restructure themselves in an effort to stop their steady decline into irrelevance. In the meantime, newsrooms are shrinking as corporate demands increase.

The truth is journalists have always risen to the challenges to their craft. They can now, too.

An example of how editorial employees are digging in to meet the challenges of a new media world where no blueprint for saving the industry has yet to be found, staff at the Los Angeles Daily News have jumped in feet first. In response to an LADN memo to staff yesterday announcing part of a strategy to reconfigure how the paper gathers and delivers its content (online and in print), Guild member Brent Hopkins, appointed to a task force to help develop new strategies for change, wrote on his blog to his coworkers:

Ever since I came here as an intern, we've always been the understaffed, underfunded, under-equipped underdog. And while I'd love that to change, we're always going to be that way-- and we're going to find a way to make that our advantage. While we don't have the resources of our larger competitors, we've got an incredible array of minds, great work ethic and an ability to think beyond the way things used to be done."
I know that change is hard and frightening, but it's something that we're going to have to do. And that's why the union's here, as well-- to ensure that as we change, we do so fairly and equitably. The members of this union have stepped up to be the newsroom leaders in recent years, so I'll expect them to continue to lead the way by speaking up with their best ideas and looking out for their colleagues. With their guidance, we have nothing to fear as we change for the uncertain times ahead.
While newspaper executives talk about industry change, they continue to operate under the broken model of tying staff size and news hole to subscription and advertising revenue. The job cuts have resulted in less revenue and fewer readers willing to pay for information. A great example of Guild members working to save the industry from itself is happening right now at the Los Angeles Daily News and at

(end of post)

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Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Many out of work while a select few collect millions

Company executives are collecting millions in cash on unloaded stocks and 401(k)s at the very same time jobs are being slashed, sending talented journalists who are the foundation of the business, out the door.

Explain to us how that helps to reinvent the core print paper, true to it's journalistic mission yet focused on what readers need and want from a print newspaper today?

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Staff cuts don't bode well for paper's future

The Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild today condemed Tribune's decision to cut more staff at The Sun as "a shortsighted move that further damages Maryland's largest newspaper." Read the WBNG press release here.

Sending out the door the very people who collect, investigate, report, analyze, photograph, edit, produce and sell the news isn't going to fix the declining revenue problem. "The Sun's institutional knowledge is slipping out the door," said Bill Salganik, President of the Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild, which represents reporters, photographers, columnists, copy editors, designers, advertising personnel, sales assistants, customer service representatives, finance specialists, productions and systems support, all jobs that are essential to the daily operation of The Sun. "We are losing a tremendous amount of talent. Quality is imperative, yet with these cuts Tribune compromises quality. Our readers and the state at large deserve much better."

But Tribune continues to cut staff claiming declining revenues requires such drastic measures. Perhaps it's got the business model backwards. Disappearing newsrooms result in declining quality. Readership goes down, advertisers bail and circulation tanks. Result? Revenue losses.

"Layoffs and further reduction in staff is not the answer," said Michael Hill, Chair of the Guild Unit at The Sun ... "Management needs to rethink its mission and work with us to build The Sun so it remains one of the greatest newspapers in America."

Perhaps it's time Tribune listened to it's staff instead of the consultants and bean-counters. Three years of brutal staff cuts hasn't stopped revenue losses. They won't now either.
(end of post)

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Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Chronicle Colleagues care**

Now this is a great idea!

Current and former San Francisco Chronicle staffers have launched Chronicle Colleagues, a blog created to support each other during downsizing that will eliminate 25% of its newsroom staff.

Though it offers job listings that can be found elsewhere such as at Mediabistro and Poynter, the real value of the blog may just be in the camaraderie, comfort and support those folks can offer each other.

A community of like interests for sure. Whether one is union or not.

*Ten top editors are out. Names here. According to this, expect 10 more management types to go.

* Editor's memo to staff says no more manager departures are planned and discussions begin about voluntary buyouts to Guild members."

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Baltimore Sun shows 3 the door

Twenty-four Guild members took the buyout, but 3 advertising designers were laid off yesterday. The following is the Guild's announcement to it's members. Posted with permission.

The other shoe dropped yesterday on three people in the Guild bargaining unit who learned that they would be laid off from their jobs. In keeping with what has become Tribune tradition, they were told to leave the building immediately, though they will still be paid for four weeks and receive severance specified under the Guild contract. All work as advertising designers.

The layoffs come after 41 people – 24 of them in the Guild unit – took the buyout and left the company last week. Hundreds of years of experience walked out of the newsroom on Friday.

We all recognize that this is a challenging time in the newspaper industry, but Guild members know that reducing resources is not the way to meet these challenges. And that’s exactly what layoffs and buyouts are.

Perhaps moves like these could be defended if The Sun were in financial trouble, but it remains a highly profitable business. The only people disappointed with its profits work for the Tribune Corp. who must think we are not sending enough money from Baltimore to Chicago.

The Guild has arranged support services for our three members through the AFL-CIO. It is just a shame that we cannot arrange such support for Tribune, whose managers need to know that The Sun will not thrive if it is put on a starvation diet. If you want to see this newspaper succeed, you need to invest in the people who put it out every day. Don’t lay them off.

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120 years in the newspaper business ends for the Chandler family

The departure from the Board of Directors of three members of California's Chandler family ends a long, troublesome relationship with the Chicago-based Tribune Company. The Chandler's agreed to resign upon the completion of the tender offer that expired May 24.

Chicago Tribune's Phil Rosenthal minces no words about the final exit of the Chandlers in his media column today: "For Tribune, which looks to go private by year's end as a result of agitation and aggravation from the Chandlers, it's like passing a stone. One only hopes the pain subsides, and there's no lasting damage."

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Monday, June 4, 2007

Dow Jones union seeks alternatives to Murdoch's bid*

IAPE has retained advisors to explore alternatives to the News Corp. bid for Dow Jones & Company and its flagship The Wall Street Journal. In a statement released today, IAPE president Steve Yount said the union is "reaching out to substantial investors that we believe could serve as partners in our effort to maintain the editorial independence of Dow Jones & Company and preserve the unquestioned journalistic integrity of all of its publications and products."

The union blasted the Murdoch bid May 1 in part:

Mr. Murdoch has shown a willingness to crush quality and independence, and there is no reason to think he would handle Dow Jones or The Journal any differently.
The voice that really matters in the chorus of comment, opinion and prediction by media types about the negative impact of a Murdoch takeover is that of the workers. After all, they have a significant stake in the outcome.

*Update: Union reaches out to investors including Buffett and Burkle Poynter Forums
(end of post)

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Dow Jones writer isn't an employee-at-will

In most employment situations, the power differential is vastly in management's favor regardless of one's skill and expertise. Working in a Union setting helps tip the "playing" field with genuine standards of just cause and due process. For example, at Dow Jones, you are not an "employee at-will." You cannot be fired tomorrow, for no reason, or for any reason other than just and sufficient cause, incompetence or a company decision to cut staff or eliminate a job position. You cannot be terminated for wearing a political (or Union) button or for asking for Union representative when your boss calls you into a meeting and you think it may involve discipline. With IAPE, you have a tangible voice in the workplace, dedicated to improving the terms and conditions of all Dow Jones employees in the publishing industry. Your Union dues support just cause by helping (the Local) in contract negotiations, fees for legal services and arbitrators (sometimes needed to enforce Bargaining Contracts), and other issues that may affect employees.

Leilani Fallon,
Technical Writer,
Dow Jones

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Friday, June 1, 2007

Making our way in the changing media landscape

The Newspaper Guild/CWA is a sponsor of an upcoming seminar to be held in NYC on corporate ownership, new media, increasing freelance and contract work and the affect they will all have on the career of young journalists. Strategies for success and adapting to change will be offered up by:

Harold Meyerson – Executive Editor for the American Prospect and Washington Post op-ed columnist
Kara Jesella – Editor, New York Times Styles section, and author, How Sassy Changed My Life
Sara Horowitz – Founder, Freelancers Union (not yet confirmed)
Anya Kamenetz– freelance journalist and author, Generation Debt

The Guild (and it's parent union CWA) regularly sponsors educational opportunities that help prepare members for career advancement. (end of post)

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