Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Singleton's interviews

In an interview with paidcontent.org writer David Kaplan, MediaNews capo Dean Singleton blames his woes on the economy, defends the Associated Press, and promises to reorganize MediaNews' advertising sales into a single entity.

“The biggest thing we need right now is an improved economy, because at least 60 percent of the revenue problem we’re facing today is good-old fashioned economic recession.”

And earlier, talking with Editor and Publisher, Singleton discussed the upcoming presidential election, saying neither candidate has captured his support, but many of his MediaNews editors are leaning towards Barack Obama.

He said neither Obama nor McCain would make his top list for what is essentially "the next CEO of the country."

Friday, September 26, 2008

Talks continue on outsourcing and wages

P-T Bargaining update: Outsourcing continues to be a sticking point for the company, who remain doggedly insistent on securing the right to fire P-T employees at will and farm out the work.

Despite the company's assertion that "we're on the cusp of a depression" and "we cannot bury our heads in the sand", no reasonable explanation was given for rumors that the company — famously leveraged to near bankruptcy by its relentless acquisitions —may be considering the purchase of yet another paper, The San Diego Tribune-Union. The rumors follow(s) last month's Democratic National Convention (in Denver), where the company's largess came in the form of a $1.5 million party for (media) attendees.

The bargaining team came to the table with a revised proposal that reduced annual merit pay increases by half, but that was still insufficient for the company, who offered nothing in return and went so far as to attempt to kill any further negotiations on the issues, stating that he saw "no reason to schedule another date".

We disagreed. The parties go back at the table Oct. 9.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Best wishes for Sam

The sad day has finally arrived. Tomorrow marks the end of the road for Sam Gonzaga's tenure at the Press-Telegram.

We'd like to wish her the best as she continues her journey, and many more happy successes. The loss of such a talented reporter is going to be quickly felt, not only in the newsroom, but among the communities she covers.

Karen Robes and Steve Carr offered the following:

Samantha Gonzaga is one of the most versatile reporters in the newsroom. She started at the paper 4 years ago, working her way up from general assignment weekend reporter, to a beat covering five cities - Downey, Cerritos, Bellflower, Lakewood and Paramount. Sam could have chosen a smaller beat, but she didn't, because of her dedication and determination to make sure all our communities are represented equally. Sam has covered everything from the always-riveting Leadership Long Beach, Long Beach Library foundation and kiddies on the beach. Also covered numerous gang shootings in the street, court sentencings, and was witness to the largest wildfire on Catalina Island. We will all miss Sam's energy and twisted sense of humor in the newsroom.

Let's all wish he luck in her new venture in urban planning.

Come out to the Puka Bar tomorrow to say farewell and good luck to Samantha. We're told the shindig starts at 8. Looks like we got some bad info. Turns out the party's over and done with already.

Photo by Steven Georges

Another Southland MN expansion?

Memo to us in July: "MediaNews is not currently looking to acquire more newspapers." But today San Diego Union-Tribune reporters spotted MNG boss Dean Singleton "prowling the halls" of the paper raising speculation that he may be shopping again.

MediaNews is the largest publisher of daily newspapers in California (29). According to Singleton, consolidation within the industry is inevitable. Well, if MN continues to gobble up CA dailies, we as stakeholders should go Guild state-wide to ensure our state's newspapers don't all end up penny shoppers.

Illustration courtesy of Free Press under a Creative Commons Attribution license.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Our new Web site

We'd like to announce the launch of our new Web site, lang9400.com

It's got online tools, news, information, and other resources for Guild members - including the lang9400.com forums. The forums have much more depth than a blog comment system.

Registration is free and painless, and registered users will be able to post their own discussion topics - but certain areas are for Guild members only!

Stop by and check it out, and stay tuned for more information on upcoming events!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Another one gone

Press-Telegram reporter Samantha Gonzaga has given her two weeks notice today, according to P-T staffers.

We cannot verify it, but an email we received from the P-T newsroom states that Gonzaga is headed to grad school, and will study urban planning at Cal Poly Pomona.

Although this is bad news for the Press-Telegram, few are surprised at the loss of yet another employee from a newsroom that has faced an ever-more-hostile employer and deteriorating working environment.

It's been suggested that, like the positions vacated by Wendy Thomas Russell and Joe Stevens, Gonzaga's slot will be frozen and no replacement hired. In a recent discussion however, management insisted that this is not the case, and any Press-Telegram personnel (including management) who have stated otherwise are mistaken. We await further information on this situation. If you hear anything, please pass it along.

As for Gonzaga, one staffer called the news "devastating to the newsroom."

We are still investigating the details, and will post more information as it becomes available.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Not that funny


Washington Post comics blogger Michael Cavna examines Doonesbury's take on the newspaper industry.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Slogans, singers and petition signers

Nothing's better than a Saturday afternoon BBQ. Especially one with a with a hundred or so political, community and union activists willing to sign our petition in support of quality journalism and quality jobs at the Press-Telegram.

We were certainly among friends today at the SoCal Democrats BBQ and Rally for Barack Obama at the Recreation Park Bandshell at 7th and Park, complete with entertainment and mouth-watering food stuffs. In the crowd were representatives from the Obama campaign, LB mayor Bob Foster, California State Party Chair Art Torres, Vice Mayor Bonnie Lowenthal and Huntington Beach mayor Debbie Cook.

It's a great feeling knowing people in the community (many of them subscribers to the P-T) really care about the employer's contract proposal that threatens our jobs – and our beloved paper.

Most we talked to agree that outsourcing local news-gathering is not an acceptable solution to the problems facing MediaNews – at least not for the readers who depend on the work of qualified locally-based journalists.

We lost some pens along the way, but it was a great day.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Lakewood City Council voices concerns over declining coverge

Members of our bargaining unit met with the Lakewood City Council Tuesday to ask for the city's support in our fight to preserve local journalism.

Press-Telegram reporters Joe Segura and Karen Robes addressed the council on behalf of their fellow journalists. Robes once covered Lakewood for the paper, and was a familiar face to many on the council. The frank description of conditions inside the newsroom led city officials to express their own sense of disappointment and frustration over the declining coverage and quality of the Press-Telegram.

Although the Ralph M. Brown Act limits the ability of local government to address unscheduled items, council members asked that the Guild meet with city officials to examine the issue further and determine how the city might help protect community journalism.

We'd like to thank the Lakewood City Council for allowing us the time to speak with them, and for their support. Civic leaders understand that local journalism is a key part of any community. The loss of reporters and coverage can't help but negatively impact us all.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Carson mayor adds his support

We'd like to thank Carson Mayor Jim Dear for taking the time to examine the issues facing the Press-Telegram, and lending his support to the fight for quality journalism in our communities.

The following is an excerpt from his letter to the company:

The residents of the city of Carson are served by the Press Telegram. Therefore we have a major stake in the way the news is reported. We are concerned with the recent layoffs and staff reductions. It is important to me and the readers to have local news and events reported accurately and in detail. We expect and need to know what is happening in our community.

MediaNews has an inherent responsibility to its readers to serve the communities in which it reports on. I want to be confident that the local news is reported by local Press Telegram reporters who are in touch with the community.

It is understood that the newspaper industry as a whole has seen many changes and must adapt to new technologies to remain viable. However, in doing so MediaNews still enjoys significant profits. It is unreasonable to expect workers to adapt to changes in the way their work is done, be responsible for more reporting because of the shrinking newsroom and then see no increase in compensation.

The support of leaders like Jim Dear is crucial to the fight to preserve local journalism. Mayor Dear joins our coalition of leaders, activists, and community members calling for an end to the short-sighted cuts and decisions that not only hurt the journalists and the community, but which ultimately end up hurting the company, when frustration over content drives readers to other news sources.

If you're interested in learning more, or lending your support, we'd love to hear from you.

Together we can make a difference!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Another departure

We've gotten word that Craig Howie, copy editor at the Torrance Daily Breeze and former copy chief at the Press-Telegram, will be leaving the company to pursue other opportunities, citing "industry conditions" as his motivation.

Howie becomes the latest MediaNews staffer to depart the company, already plagued by layoffs and attrition.

The loss of so many valuable personnel has become an all-too-common refrain for LANG. We contacted Howie to get a little more information, and he sent us this:

So I just wanna say thanks to all the PT bods past and present and all at the Breeze, both to the ones I'll keep up with and the ones who inevitably will drift away. Newsroom staffers are always great people and sincerely I wish all of you the best. Perhaps one thing that's rarely mentioned when dealing with the whole sad industry situation is battered pride, but all of my colleagues at all times maintained pride in their work, pride in their colleagues and pride in their organization. In better times, their worth will be recognized. I sincerely hope. Till then, see ya.

We'd like to wish Craig success wherever the future takes him. His humor and dedication will surely be missed.

Come on out!

Photo by Steve Carr

Our community action campaign is in full swing, and by request, here's some more information on how you can get involved.

Joe Segura, seen here talking with former Long Beach City Councilman Frank Colonna, is one of our stewards, and the point man for our community outreach campaign. If you'd like to learn more, or would like to help us out, you can reach Joe at


We'd love to hear from you!

Monday, September 1, 2008

KPFK examines P-T struggle

Radio Pacifica's Los Angeles station, 90.7 KPFK, featured a segment on our Solidarity Rally, and the issues facing the Press-Telegram, during last Friday's Midday News program.

The result was a pretty thorough look at the relationship between MediaNews, its employees, and the local communities that have seen coverage and quality stripped out of their daily newspaper in the name of short-term profits.

Timothy Karr, campaign director for media reform advocate Free Press, points out that layoffs and declining coverage are largely unrelated to oft-cited economic woes, but rather a means of maximizing short term profits.

They try to squeeze their costs down, so that they have larger revenues. They have the capacity to better serve their communities - to produce better, more local, more independent journalism - but they don't have the will, because these companies are often run by accountants and bean counters, who are outside of that community.

Karr also cited some industry numbers to support the argument that newspapers are still profitable, despite the claims of newspaper owners like MediaNews.

If you look at the profit margins of newspapers, they're still recording in excess of 15 percent annual profit margins, so there's still money that's being made through the process or business of journalism. The problem is that a lot of these companies are now owned by large conglomerates, who are more concerned about quarterly earnings than they are about their public obligation to serve their communities.

The P-T segment starts at 11:50 in the program. You can listen to the broadcast, or just download it for later.

We highly encourage anyone interested in learning more about the struggle local journalists and communities are facing to tune in and listen. The news might be surprising.