Friday, November 30, 2007

The MediaNews recipe for success profits

"If I had my choice between pleasing one banker or 1,000 journalists, I'd rather please the banker." — Dean Singleton on his business philosophy

American Rights @ Work reports on how the company destroys journalism, jobs and democracy. Here's the strategy. Sound familiar?

— Step 1. Purchase a small, but struggling local newspaper cheaply.
— Step 2: Buy all the local papers in a single geographic region.
— Step 3: "Cluster" to combine the operations of the small papers in a single geographic region under one roof. This way all the papers share the same staff, advertising, editors, and printing presses. Also, combining staff makes it easier to eliminate "wasteful redundancies," MediaNews Group's name for newspaper staff members.
— Step 4: "Consolidate" all of the papers of a region under one media group, essentially a subsidiary of the MediaNews Group. This media group houses only one staff writing for 5-10 papers.
— Step 5: Break up the union. Through clustering, union-represented positions are typically eliminated first, resulting in a smaller, weaker union. When consolidating, MediaNews Group combines union-represented staff papers with non-union papers. The tactic is usually the final step in killing the union - as the union-represented workers are now in the minority and cannot overcome the barriers that MediaNews puts in place to stop the union.

It's the plan recently implemented in Northern California. We can't let it happen here in Southern California. How so? Talk to a Guild rep for info about the union strategy.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Where are our stories going?

Our union colleagues at Northern California MediaNews papers have been told the same thing we have: the company plans to keep the reporting staff bare-boned. It will freeze positions vacated by departing staff members who have moved on. From One Big Water Cooler, we learn that MediaNews has signed a deal with, a company that "handles online forums and comments section people use to discuss articles they read in the paper. The bottom line spelled out by Topix folks, is the deal is a way to stretch copy and reports further." Check it out, but then come back here and tell us what you think about yet another effort to expand MediaNews reach (read: $$$) without investing in the very people who provide the content — you and me!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

MN editor wish: People ought to get paid what they're worth

Media News-owned Santa Cruz Sentinel editor Tom Honig has another wish as well: that people would stop complaining about hard-working, honest mainstream journalists long enough to appreciate the work they do.

The editor quit after more than 35 years at the paper. Nine positions out of 38 have been cut in the editorial department, Honig said.

Did that have anything to do with his decision to quit? One has to wonder. Editors don't like loosing staff; they are committed to serving the readers and have a vested interest in their staff members, but the economic squeeze Media News imposes at all its papers slashes staffs to skeleton-crew levels making it impossible to serve the readers. Unfortunately, MediaNews business plans only serve company coffers.

It's up to us to stand united in our commitment to great journalism and informed readers. But right now, it's hard to focus on that commitment when we're in a fight to win a fair and equitable contract that includes the pay raises we deserve. So unlike Honig, we're not leaving.

Email us and tell us what you think.

Friday, November 23, 2007

HI premium increases: One more reason to fight for a raise

It's an insult and we're angry. The benefits cost increase in January with no wage increase on the bargaining table will put many of us in the red. The increase drives the value of our current meager wage down further. We need to convince the company it has to share. We can only do that standing strong together!

Downsizing — with dynamite

MediaNews purchased the San Jose Mercury News last year. Now "the very top of the organization is saying, blow up the newsroom." WP

Monday, November 19, 2007

Dean: Lean or mean?

Northern California Guild leader Michael Cabantuan worries "about the future of both the people who work for [Singleton] and for the quality of journalism at his newspapers." Read his post at Media Guild Blog

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

MN merger triggers a seismic shift in Bay Area journalism. Is SoCal next?

A Palo Alto Online news analysis today suggests the Bay Area is ground zero for newspaper consolidation and the fears it has generated. MediaNews owns at least 29 daily newspapers in Northern California and nine in Southern California, and the company's unprecedented merger of news operations at a number of it's Northern California papers are its effort to "eliminate wasteful redundancies, streamline management, and redirect staff and resources to [it's] interactive services and other priorities, such as watchdog journalism".

Note that "watchdog journalism" is last on that list. And as a result of its skewed priorities, MN employs fewer reporters, editors and copy editors — wasteful redundancies.

"There's no variety, there's no differentiation... When all papers are owned by one person, there's just one voice," Harry Press, a longtime journalist and former editor is quoted as saying in the analysis.

What is happening in the P-T newsroom that suggests MediaNews has similar consolidation plans here in Southern California?

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Local, local, local — copy editors

Recall a report a few weeks in which the president of MediaNews Group was quoted as having said, "We have to find ways to grow revenue or become more efficient by eliminating fixed costs. Why does every newspaper need copy editors? In this day and age, I think copy-editing can be done centrally for several newspapers.''

Two days later an assistant managing editor of the Baltimore Sun, (where The Guild represents 500+ employees) blasted the MN Suit in a column titled "Just Sack all the Editors": the Suit "appears to understand money, his grasp of newspaper production seems less secure. To start with, if intensive local coverage — the current industry mantra — is the future of daily newspapers, then they will need local copy editors." (Check out the comments there too.)

Anyway, at The Committee of Concerned Journalists' website you'll find "Copy Editors: Keep them ... and keep them local" where a journalism professor writes: "If newspapers and Web sites are getting increasingly local in their coverage to survive, shouldn’t we also have copy editors become increasingly local? Instead of consolidating copy desks, why not have copy editors work more closely with reporters, not only in the main newsroom but also in newspaper bureaus? ... As stated by the Committee of Concerned Journalists, 'journalism’s first loyalty is to citizens.' Diminishing the role of the copy desk and divorcing editing from reporting are betrayals of that loyalty."

Guild continues its public opposition to media consolidation

Concentration of communications power in the hands of a few corporate companies threatens democracy. That was the message to FCC commissioners from unionists and activists at a recent rally at the Federal Communication Commission's D.C. headquarters. TNG Secretary-Treasurer Bernie Lunzer joined GCC/IBT President George Tedeschi and Jesse Jackson to oppose media consolidation and demand that FCC commissioners dilute the conglomerates' power by limiting their combined control of newspapers, television, cable firms and other information providers. "This is not a hypothetical fight. The destruction" of newspapers and other media by the big conglomerates "is already taking place," he warned. Mark Gruenberg of Press Associates, Inc. news service wrote:

Lunzer cited two examples were one mogul has taken over an area's media and fired staffers, curbed the flow of information and — in one case — used the staff firings to argue the Guild does not represent most workers any more, and thus should be ousted.

That case is in the San Francisco Bay area, where Denver-based MediaNews Group has taken control of all but one newspaper, and then laid off so many staffers from them – notably from the San Jose Mercury-News that he now argues the Guild does not have a majority of workers.

"So you'll have about a dozen papers with the same masthead and the same content" up and down California, owned by [MediaNews Group], Lunzer said.
Our neighbors and friends need to know that their valued source of information, their hometown newspaper, is at risk of disappearing into a cookie-cutter, not-so-local publication with little relevance to their community. Save the Press-Telegram!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

United we stand

The company's outrageous outsourcing proposal seems to be glued to the bargaining table. So we're just going to have to convince the company that outsourcing our work and eliminating our jobs is simply not in the best interest of our paper and the community it serves. First, we'll wear this button proudly to show each other and the company that we stand firmly united against their unacceptable, thinly-disguised union-busting proposal!

Monday, November 5, 2007

Save the Press-Telegram!

We are asking the community to rally to our cause, a cause that goes beyond the issues at the bargaining table. MediaNews needs to know our community needs us! It is our job as journalists to provide the citizens of Long Beach and the surrounding communities the Press-Telegram serves with news and information they need to make educated decisions about important issues that impact their daily lives. Cutting staff, eliminating sections and leaving beats uncovered for months is not the way to serve the best interests of the newspaper community, its advertisers or its employees.

We are collecting hundreds of resident signatures on our petition headlined "Don't destroy my Press-Telegram". Download the petition here.

Newly purchased CT papers lose 7 top editors under MediaNews ax

The purchase from Tribune Company was barely finalized last Thursday when new owner MediaNews set about making cuts to consolidate at The Stamford Advocate and Greenwich Time. In addition to the fired editors, 3 copy editors, 3 reporters and a paginator were not rehired. (MediaNews required all employees to re-apply for their jobs.)

In a statement we've heard time and again across the MediaNews empire, John Dunster, new publisher of The Advocate and The Time said, "The (newspaper) industry needs to consolidate. We need to find efficiencies in our organization that allow us to put our resources into what means the most to readers."

Sound familiar?

The fired editors had strong links to the community the papers served. Joseph F. Pisani, editor of both papers, saluted the departing editors for their dedication:

"There's a trend in the newspaper industry that suggests newspapers are 'better than they have to be,' that readers don't really want or need quality. But I can't imagine any of these editors settling for anything less than excellence. They were part of a 180-year tradition at these papers that will continue," he said. "They were the people who made The Advocate and Greenwich Time the best small papers in the country - all of them were committed to community journalism."
Commitment to good community journalism doesn't seem to be part of the MediaNews business model. We need to convince it otherwise.

Master of cluster, consolidate and cut

In BusinessWeeks's "Newspapers' Unlikely Hero", Singleton is said to have become a crusader for efficiency and collaboration as a way to save the industry.

"These days, Singleton has plenty of admirers—some of them in surprising places. Robert N. Giles, curator of Harvard University's Nieman Foundation, says "His reputation has been enhanced, and it has been enhanced out of performance. His bigger papers are doing well journalistically." Not all journalists agree with that. "He's shrewd. But you have to have shrewdness and journalistic passion to create really outstanding journalism, and I wish I saw more journalistic passion there," says Larry Jinks, a former publisher of the San Jose Mercury News who is on the board of the McClatchy newspaper chain."
Read it. Then tell us what you think.