Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Pay walls coming

They said they were going to do it, and now it's official.

MediaNews Chairman Dean Singleton announced yesterday that the company would begin implementing a "pay wall" at two MediaNews Web sites.

Initially, only the Chico Enterprise-Record and the York Daily Record will see portion of online content restricted to paying customers, but according to Editor & Publisher, the plan may spread to other properties if successful. The Chico Enterprise-Record is located in Chico, Ca., and has a circulation of 27,000. The York Daily Record is in York, Pennsylvania and has a circulation of 55,000. MediaNews says the sites were chosen because of the size of their respective markets.

"We wanted to get sites that were not metro sites for the same reason that you don't open on Broadway," said Howard Saltz, vice president for content development. "But not a site that has Web traffic so small that the change would not affect anything."

Saltz said more sites, including MediaNews Group's larger papers such as The Denver Post and San Jose Mercury News, would likely add a pay wall approach if the York and Chico efforts prove successful: "We are going to be rolling out for the next two years."

Despite the near-inevitable public mutiny awaiting the decision, MediaNews' plan cuts to the heart of the online conundrum. In an environment where advertising is so grossly undervalued, how does a newspaper get paid for the content it produces? Their solution isn't what matters, what MediaNews is trying is an assertion that real journalism isn't cheap, and it isn't easy to produce. Even after being slashed beyond comprehension by layoffs and cutbacks, most daily newspapers still have no peer when it comes to the scope and quality of the news they produce each day. The question is whether or not anyone cares...and perhaps more importantly, will anyone pay for it.

What do you think?

Friday, October 23, 2009

Free Speech Assembly, October 24

It's short notice, but we've just received information on an upcoming journalism conference, hosted by the California nonprofit First Amendment Coalition.

The Free Speech Assembly will discuss "journalism, technology and public policy - explained and debated from the standpoint of freedom of speech and freedom of information."

Saturday, October 24 is the date. The place is Southwestern Law School's Biederman Entertainment and Media Law Institute in Los Angeles. The event is FAC's annual Free Speech and Open Government Assembly, jointly sponsored by the Coalition, the Biederman Institute and the McCormick Foundation.

For our colleagues in the ethnic media, some sessions will be conducted in Spanish and Vietnamese, as well as English.

The program includes panel discussions on topics ranging from journalists' use of social media for reporting, to new online tools to track the influence of money on legislation, to journalism training sessions on how to get sophisticated, insider news stories (and avoid being "spun" by government officials on one hand, or union officials on the other) about: local police and the criminal justice system; public school financing and the ranking of schools and teachers; salaries and pensions of government employees; and much more.

Attendees will have a chance to listen to featured speakers Alexandra Berzon and Alex S. Jones. Berzon was awarded the 2009 Pulitzer Prize as a reporter at the Las Vegas Sun, and currently covers Las Vegas for the Wall Street Journal. Jones, Director of Harvard University's Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy, is a fellow Pulitzer winner and former host of NPR's On The Media, and PBS’s Media Matters.

Discussion panelists include: Dan Gillmor, Director, Knight Center for Digital Media Entrepreneurship; Geneva Overholser, Director of the USC Annenberg School of Journalism; Claudia Nunez, La Opinion; Evan Hansen, Editor-in-Chief,; Neil Budde, President, DailyMe; Ricardo Sandoval, Sacramento Bee; Mary Perry, EdSource; Kathryn Baron, Fellow, UC Berkeley; and LA Times reporters Mitchell Landsberg and Matt Lait.

Best of all, attendance is free. But space is EXTREMELY limited. So if you're interested in attending, please register now.

You can register to attend at the Web site.

Monday, September 28, 2009

'Accidental' owners

As newspaper fortunes decline, the banks that financed the ambition of chains like MediaNews will increasingly find themselves the new owners of media properties, said MediaNews CEO Dean Singleton in an interview with The Salt Lake Tribune.

"Whether by supervision of the courts or by negotiation to convert some debt to equity, America's banks will own a large position in the newspaper sector going forward. Get used to it."

In a surprisingly candid moment, Singleton also suggested that the eventual denouement of corporate newspaper empires might be the best thing that could happen to the industry.

"Is this all bad? Probably not," Singleton said, predicting the result could be that newspapers are eventually owned once again by people wanting to cover news and shape opinion through editorial pages instead of being publicly owned corporations forced to meet Wall Street's profit expectations.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Breeze Names New Top Editor

Management of the Torrance Daily Breeze announced Friday that Managing Editor Toni Sciacqua has been named to fill the top editor position at the paper. Sciacqua has been filling the top position on an interim position since the departure of former editor and publisher Phillip Sanfield in August.

The announcement was made by new Breeze and Long Beach Press-Telegram publisher Linda Lindus, who joined the MediaNews Group-owned papers last month.

Lindus highlighted Sciacqua "soccer-mom" bonifides in making the announcement, saying that Sciacqua "is from a different constituency than the Breeze's traditional newsroom leaders. Her perspective will allow the Breeze to broaden its coverage, not only in print, but online as well."


Sciacqua is an 11-plus year veteran of the Breeze, moving from copy editor and designer to city editor and then to managing editor. She previously worked on the copy desk of the Press-Telegram.

MNG Decides to Charge Online

Dean Singleton, CEO of MediaNews Group which includes the nine newspapers of the Los Angeles Newspaper Group, said Thursday that MNG has decided to start charging for at least some online content on each of the MNG websites.

The comments from the typically media-shy Singleton came in a short interview with the Salt Lake Tribune (another MNG outlet).


In previous statements, Singleton had said that MNG was considering charging for some online 'premium' content.

"We can't continue to give everything away for free," Singleton told the Salt Lake Tribune. "When you give it away for free, it has no value. When you begin charging for it, it has some value."

Singleton said that each MNG paper would most likely move into the future with two sites, one for free that offers breaking news and some user-generated content, and one that charges, populated with what Singleton describes as the "most valuable content" -- sports, hyper-local news, and maybe even entertainment news.

Monday, September 21, 2009

President "happy to look" at nonprofit bill

He's not familiar with the legislation yet, but President Barack Obama told the Toldeo Blade he'd "be happy to look at" bills like the Newspaper Revitalization Act.

"What I hope is that people start understanding if you're getting your newspaper over the Internet, that's not free and there's got to be a way to find a business model that supports that."

Monday, September 14, 2009

Can it work?

According to Alan Mutter, a recent survey shows 51% of newspaper publishers support fee-based online content. 49% are either unsure if the plan will work, or believe it will fail.

Losing faith in the news

Confidence in the accuracy of the media is at a two-decade low, according the the Pew Research Center.

Just 29% of Americans say that news organizations generally get the facts straight, while 63% say that news stories are often inaccurate. In the initial survey in this series about the news media's performance in 1985, 55% said news stories were accurate while 34% said they were inaccurate. That percentage had fallen sharply by the late 1990s and has remained low over the last decade.

The impact of diminishing variety in coverage that comes with so many mergers and acquisitions of media properties is never addressed by the study, but many groups like Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting suggest that the two are closely intertwined.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Expense voucher issues

We're hearing reports from members that company policy regarding expense vouchers has changed. We're investigating the situation, and we need your help. Have you experienced any difficulty filing expense vouchers? Let us know by either sending an email to, or log on to our message board at

Thursday, August 6, 2009


Guild members are invited to participate in a private online discussion of some possible developments from inside LANG.

For topics like this, registration is required in order to access the forum - so everything is completely private. If you haven't registered yet, stop by and check it out. It's fast, easy, and free.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

New publisher announced

The latest joint publisher for the Torrance Daily Breeze and Long Beach Press-Telegram was introduced today. Linda Lindus, 61, steps into the recently-vacated shoes of Mark Ficarra, who left for a position at the San Diego Union-Tribune. The post had been held by Breeze EiC Phillip Sanfield, who left the company last month.

Lindus is currently the publisher of the Longview Daily News in Washington. She steps down from that position Aug. 14. She assumes her position in LANG Aug. 10.

The Longview Daily News is a 21,000 circulation daily paper, according to the most recent numbers from the Audit Bureau of Circulation.

Here's the notice sent to P-T staffers:

Linda Lindus has been named publisher of the Press-Telegram and the Daily Breeze. The appointment is effective Aug. 10. Her most recent position was as publisher of the Daily News in Longview, Wash., but her career stretches back to a number of stops, including at the Daily Illinoisan in Carbondale, Ill. and as publisher of The Spectrum in St. George, Utah, plus positions at Lee Enterprises. She is being introduced in Torrance right now and will visit here later this afternoon.

More at the Daily Breeze and from Gary Scott

Monday, July 27, 2009

Cutting costs, or profits?

Although controlling costs is undeniably a necessary part of managing a successful business, sometimes it's wiser to wield a scalpel, rather than an axe. This is something we've seen time and time again lately, as newsrooms across LANG and the rest of the country fall into the same herd mentality and reflexively slash newsroom staff every time revenue starts to droop.

Unfortunately, as we and many others have said all along, cutting into your core business product isn't a smart business decision. You don't need an MBA or a PhD in economics to see that. And now there are hard numbers to back up that argument.

Gary Scott posted a link to this study by the University of Missouri, which indicates that short-term savings, eked out by cutting news expenses, quickly translate into lower revenue and profits down the road.

The authors advised that newsrooms should be the last department cut. When cutting costs, newsroom cuts are by far the most damaging to revenues – and the longer the reductions occur, the greater the acceleration of damage. The authors wrote, “We find that newsroom cutbacks hurt a newspaper’s revenue many times more than cutbacks in either distribution or the sales force departments.”

This of course isn't news to anyone familiar with the vagaries of life inside LANG. MediaNews' ongoing pursuit of lower costs has been a case study in what happens to the bottom line when newsrooms become less important than the boardroom.

The real question is, what can we do to change course?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Sanfield out of Torrance

We're told that according to LANG management, Breeze EiC and interim publisher Philip Sanfield has left the company.

That's all we have for the moment. We'll follow up as more info becomes available.

...According to Gary Scott (posting from the phone, so no link), Sanfield told staffers in a memo that he's leaving to join the Port of Los Angeles as Director of Media Relations.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

CWA Legislative Conference

The 2009 CWA Convention and Legislative-Political Conference adjourned last week, with several important resolutions. Guild rep and Vice President Vicki Di Paolo was good enough to share her take on what the conference means for working journalists facing the worst industry conditions in history, so here's a partial list of some of the issues CWA is tackling right now.

The subject matter is a little dry, but the information is critical to understanding how the Guild is working to help improve and preserve the lives and jobs of journalists in America.

United Labor

Because unity and solidarity are some of our guiding principles, CWA and other labor organizations like the AFL-CIO, Change to Win, and the NEA established a National Labor Coordinating Committee to work together and create a labor movement that maximizes the strength of its' members.

Employee Free Choice Act

Most of us realize that U.S. labor laws are no longer enforced as intended. The National Labor Relations Act of 1935 established rights for workers for the first time, and helped pave the way for the laws we take for granted today. But in the 70 years since its passage, the NLRA has been under constant attack by big business. In the last few years particularly labor laws have been interpreted vastly differently from those early days, and again the rights of workers are overlooked, unenforced, and disregarded by employers.

In an interview with Multinational Monitor magazine, David Bonior, Chair of American Rights at Work and former Michigan Congressman, says abuse of labor law by employers has become an "epidemic."

It is a huge problem. To give you some perspective on that: the International Labor Organization arm of the United Nations ranks all member countries based upon compliance with labor law, and the United States ranks in the bottom twentieth percentile. We are down there with Iran and with Afghanistan. We do not comply with our own labor law. As a result, we've seen the numbers of illegal firings and discriminations shoot up from five and six hundred in the 1960s to a few thousand in the 1970s now to epidemic proportions of 23,000 to 30,000 a year.

That's why CWA and so many others support the Employee Free Choice Act. Human Rights Watch says EFCA is absolutely necessary to "help remedy glaring deficiencies in current U.S. labor law that significantly impair the right of workers."

Despite what big business says, EFCA is not a way to sneak unions into a workplace, and it doesn't eliminate "secret ballot" elections. Instead it gives the decision over elections to the workers - not management, where it rests today. Currently, employers are legally entitled to force employees to "confirm" their decision, and endure harsh anti-union campaigns where employees are harassed, intimidated, and fired for supporting union representation. In some instances, employers have been able to force workers to vote more than six times before their decision was finally accepted! EFCA levels the playing field, and that's why big business has spent hundreds of millions of dollars fighting to maintain their stranglehold on employees.

Health Care Reform

With the support of President Barack Obama, CWA has joined the call for national health care reform. The high cost of health care is not only the leading cause of bankruptcy in America, but hurts our ability to compete in the global marketplace. Affordable health care is probably one of the biggest issues facing Americans today, and CWA is working hard to support passage of legislation that will ensure quality affordable health care is available to everyone. Coalitions like Health Care for America Now! stand at the forefront of this fight, and CWA is a proud member.

Trade Reform

The U.S. trade deficit continues to wreak havoc on our economy, and the effects travel far beyond the manufacturing sector. That's why CWA supports balanced trade agreements that will create genuine opportunity and make it harder for multinational corporations to move production overseas. The Trade Reform, Accountability, Development and Employment (TRADE) Act of 2009 calls for a comprehensive review of U.S. trade policy, with a priority on the interests of working families, farmers, the environment, and domestic manufacturers.

Shield law for journalists

Although most states have a shield law in place, there is still no federal protection for journalists.

Irwin Gratz, SPJ president, points out that without this legislation, protection for journalists remains an uncertain proposition.

Posner's findings have been echoed by several other judges in the past two years, leading to the increased likelihood that prosecutors would subpoena reporters. And they have. In the most notorious case to date, New York Times reporter Judy Miller has been jailed for refusing to comply with a subpoena. So, we, and other journalism groups are turning to a practical solution that has worked in 31 other states: a shield law.

CWA recognizes the importance of ensuring that the media's ability to gather information is not compromised, and is a proud supporter of the Free Flow of Information Act of 2009.

Media Antitrust

Although the media conglomerates might argue that relaxing the rules on media ownership is necessary, CWA knows allowing even more local newspapers to be swallowed up will only "accelerate newspaper monopolies, thereby perpetuating a downward spiral of layoffs and closings." CWA-TNG President Bernie Lunzer spoke with Congress about the need to preserve independence and diversity, as part of this commitment to protect journalistic freedom and integrity.

Although there's no legislation related to this issue, CWA opposes any efforts to relax the rules on media ownership.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Bankruptcy ahead?

Bankruptcy is imminent.

That's the word from Michael Roberts, longtime MediaNews watcher for the alt-weekly Denver Westword.

Unfortunately much or Roberts' evidence - a subscriber-only report with anonymous sources - can't be easily verified, so it's hard to determine the accuracy of these dire predictions. But the numbers Roberts cites are downright horrifying if they're correct.

According to numbers pulled from Debtwire, and culled from a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Roberts calculates MediaNews' debt obligation at $1.28 billion. Spread out over six loans ranging from $100 million to $350 million, these obligations establish a constant set of hurdles for the company to negotiate. The first of which, a $235 million "revolving" loan, is due December of this year.

MediaNews has disputed the accuracy of the story. In response to the Debtwire report, the company released a statement saying the plans were not a bankruptcy, but merely a restructuring of their debt and organization. But while the statement calls Bankwire's report "inaccurate in almost all respects," they don't dispute the fundamentals of the story, only the details.

MediaNews acknowledges that the proposed restructuring will trade debt for equity, but claims such a move will not affect control of the company. They also state that these plans are in no way a bankruptcy procedure. But with an unknown amount of company equity in the hands of lenders, the question is whether MediaNews' executive control will be an extension of their authority, or a matter of agreement between the company and lenders who simply have no interest or experience in managing a newspaper empire.

The difference of course, is that a subordinate leadership organization is responsible for implementing policy, not setting it.

An independent executive team, freed from the burden of meeting an impossible payment schedule, could develop a long term plan for viability and profitability. But a financial institution intent of recouping or minimizing their losses may not offer the same opportunities, if short-term profits are on the table. There's been enough of that already, this industry doesn't need any more.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Circulation station closure postponed

The impending closure of the Press-Telegram's sole remaining circulation station has been postponed until further notice, according to MediaNews Group SVP Jim Janiga.

The company notified the Guild on June 8 that due to a need for further operating expense cuts at the P-T, it planned to shutter the Signal Hill location by June 23 and perform the work out the Daily Breeze's circulation facility in Torrance. The nine Guild-represented workers at the P-T station were offered transfers to the Torrance facility, albeit at the loss of their Guild representation and coverage under the Guild-negotiated P-T contract. Transferees would have become "at-will" employees of the Daily Breeze and faced serious changes in their job status and compensation.

Janiga said Wednesday that the decision to postpone the closure came after the company learned that all nine of the P-T circulation workers declined to transfer to Torrance. This scenario would have left the P-T will no circulation staff following the closure of the Signal Hill facility.

"Current [P-T circulation] staff will not be released until some later date," said Janiga in a message to the Guild yesterday. "Hopefully, this delay will not be too great. As a result all employees currently working out of the Signal Hill office will remained employed and expected to continue working their assignments until otherwise notified."

The Signal Hill facility will remain open, according to Janiga, until sufficient staff can be found to perform the work out of Torrance.

Under the Guild-negotiated P-T contract ratified in January, the circulation staff--once let go by the company--will be entitled to 60-day pay in lieu of notice, enhanced severance, extended COBRA medical coverage and participation in the company's tuition reimbursement program.

Friday, June 12, 2009

On the move

Press-Telegram operations will be consolidated onto the 1st floor of the downtown Long Beach ARCO Tower Building by July 1 and the newspaper plans to vacate the building entirely by the end of 2009, according to P-T General Manager Joe Brenneman.

Brenneman told employees Thursday that the company has hired an agent to look for property and the hope is to keep the paper in Long Beach, preferably downtown.

In July 2006 the P-T's parent company, Denver-based MediaNews Group, sold the more than 100-year-old P-T building at 6th and Pine Avenue for roughly $20 million and signed a 15-year lease for four floors of the ARCO Tower Building. According to MediaNews Group's past financial reports, $16.7 million of the sale of the P-T building was funneled back to Denver as profit directed toward dividends to the privately-held company's small group of shareholders.

MediaNews financial documents reveal a likely reason for the end-of-the-year deadline to vacate the ARCO Tower Building space. Under the terms of the original lease for the space, the minimum annual cost of the lease jumps from $800,000 a year to $900,000 a year on Jan. 1, 2010.

Currently, the main P-T operations, including the newsroom, are operated out of the ARCO Tower Building's 14th floor, with smaller ancillary operations located on portions of the 4th and 1st floors. P-T management plans to consolidate all operations, including the newsroom, to the 1st floor, with 4th floor operations remaining in place. Brenneman acknowledged that the much smaller 1st floor space is untenable for all the paper's operations in the long run.

When questioned by newsroom employees on the possibility of remaining in their current 14th floor location until the planned full move out of the building, company officials replied that this was not an option.

The P-T subleased the 12th floor more than a year ago and plans to sublease the 14th floor once the consolidation to the lower floors is complete.

Update on PT circulation station closure

Additional details of MediaNews Group's plans to shutter the Long Beach Press-Telegram's sole remaining circulation facility were presented to Guild members yesterday.

The company, citing a need to further reduce operating expenses at the P-T, plans to close the Signal Hill facility by June 23 and move the work to the Torrance Daily Breeze. The MNG-owned Los Angeles Daily News circulation department, which is not represented by the Guild, is also being consolidated to the Breeze.

The nine Guild members at the Signal Hill facility, the last P-T circulation station of five shuttered and consolidated by MNG since 1998, are being offered transfers to the Torrance Daily Breeze. The company has said that there are nine slots available in Torrance for the nine Signal Hill workers. However, not all of the nine slots are in their same "District Advisor" position currently held by the Signal Hill workers.

Any Guild member accepting a transfer will lose their Guild representation and become an "at-will" Breeze employee.

In addition to traveling the extra miles to Torrance, transferees will no longer receive a per-mile reimbursement for work travel (a much smaller per-day lump reimbursement will be provided), will have to use their own vehicles to perform their work, and will be forced to accept future wage and benefit cuts if enacted by the company.

Five of the positions at the Breeze are also set to be salaried, meaning transferees accepting these positions will not be eligible for overtime, a common occurrence for circulation workers.

Guild members at the Signal Hill facility who are interested in transfer will able to meet with management at the Torrance facility and look at the operation before making their final decision about transferring.

The Guild and members at the Signal Parkway circulation station are set to meet with MediaNews' SVP Jim Janiga on Friday morning to discuss further details of the situation.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Dark Clouds Continue

MediaNews Group, citing a need to further reduce operating expenses at the Long Beach Press-Telegram, will shutter the P-T's sole remaining circulation facility and move the work to the Torrance Daily Breeze, according to a company notification to the Guild.

The station, located in Signal Hill, now employs 10 P-T unit members. Each will have the option of taking a buyout or transferring to Torrance. Circulation department members have been led to understand that the positions in Torrance will be salaried with no Guild representation. The company is making the move to outsource the P-T circulation under the terms of a Memorandum of Understanding in the current contract. Some aspects of P-T circulation are already being performed at the Daily Breeze and by the Los Angeles Times.

An exact date for the Signal Hill closure and move has yet to be announced by the company. A Guild meeting with SVP Jim Janiga is being scheduled for later this week.

The impending move of the Press-Telegram newsroom and offices out of the 14th floor of the Arco Towers will also see the shuttering of the local office of the Pasadena Federal Credit Union, formerly the Media News Credit Union.

The credit union, originally formed by the P-T decades ago, has been asked to vacate the first floor Acro Towers office space they have leased from the P-T since the paper moved to the downtown high-rise in 2007. P-T management has said that it will need the space to accommodate the paper's personnel as part of the move. The three PFCU Long Beach employees will be moved to the Pasadena office of the PFCU.

Credit union members will still be able to do their banking locally at several credit unions and banks the PFCU is partnered with. A list of partner sites in Long Beach is available from the PFCU at the P-T.

The credit union has been asked to vacate their first floor offices within the next several weeks.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Use it or lose it

Just a reminder that July 19 is the date when the new vacation accrual cap goes into effect.

That means bargaining unit members must reduce their accrued vacation hours to less than one year's total. After July 19, you will not accrue any vacation time if you have a year's worth of vacation or more on the books.

If you are having trouble using your vacation hours, please contact Vicki Di Paolo at or at 562.259.9430 so the situation can be resolved quickly.

Monday, May 18, 2009

A "plan" for the future

Big changes are needed in order to save journalism from the ravages of the internet.

That's the message presented by Bruce W. Sanford and Bruce D. Brown, in this piece for the Washington Post. The pair have come up with five ways to save newspapers.

Some of their suggestions are well-intentioned, like a call to strengthen copyright law to prevent abuse from digital outlets. Unfortunately their focus is on search engines - and rather than accept the loss of placement that would result from being delisted by Google and others, they argue that media owners shouldn't have to lose their Web visibility, and search engines should instead pay them for the privilege of having media products in their search results, whether Google likes it or not.

Publishers should not have to choose between protecting their copyrights and shunning the search-engine databases that map the Internet. Journalism therefore needs a bright line imposed by statute: that the taking of entire Web pages by search engines, which is what powers their search functions, is not fair use but infringement.

This is obviously a losing proposition.

Another argument is to reduce business taxes on media companies and give tax incentives to buying advertising - but not, they note, with companies like Craiglist.

Congress could provide incentives for placing ads with content creators (not with Craigslist) and allowances for immediate write-offs (rather than capitalization) for all expenses related to news production.

While reducing taxes will certainly help media companies, it doesn't address why media outlets deserve a tax break in the first place? If the goal is to promote the public good, why not support proposed legislation like the Newspaper Revitalization Act, as recommended by Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin, and allow a way for media outlets to qualify for nonprofit status?

They answer that question not once, but twice. That's how many times they suggest relaxing the rules for media ownership and promoting antitrust exemptions for media conglomerates.

Whether you like the idea or not, it's worth noting that Baker Hostetler is no stranger to media ownership and antitrust law. The firm has represented most of the national media chains, including MediaNews, for a variety of issues and litigation.

Antitrust exemptions and increased consolidation may be the key to saving our industry, but it would be heartening to hear someone without a vested interest say it, instead of another expensive Washington lawyer.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Hiring in San Gabe

Amid the layoffs and cutbacks, MediaNews is still hiring - at least in West Covina.

The San Gabriel Valley Tribune is looking for a Metro Reporter, according to this listing at

The San Gabriel Valley Newspaper Group seeks a Metro reporter who can produce enterprise stories in addition to strong daily coverage. Candidates should be comfortable covering city hall, but also able to provide incisive analysis of regional issues – from the exploits of local politicians to emerging trends. Candidates should have experience writing for a daily.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Globe threatens closure*

Are there any sacred cows left? Or have things gotten so bad that literally everything is negotiable? How much of tomorrow are you willing to surrender in order to preserve today?

These are the sort of very real questions facing journalists across the country. Most recently, the Boston Newspaper Guild, which represents over 600 employees at the Boston Globe, has been forced to face some harsh choices. The New York Times Co. has been threatening to close the paper if demands for employee concessions are not met. Since last week, representatives from the company and the employee union have been trading proposals with the hopes of reaching an agreement.

But that was last week.

As of today, the New York Times is reporting that the talks have stalled, despite claims by the employee's union that concessions exceeding the Times Company's demands. For their part, the Times Company has announced that it plans to file a notice of their intent to close the Globe within 60 days.

Dire news and tough talk are nothing new to our members here as well. Over the last year, members at the Daily News and Press-Telegram have collectively been hit with an assortment of demands, including unpaid furloughs, a 401(K) freeze, layoffs, the loss of vacation accrual, and threatened wage cuts. And there's little reason to suspect that the worst is over.

Every newsroom is different, and so is each bargaining unit. Individual members have to decide what's right for them and their coworkers, and in this day and age that's no easy task. As the demands for concessions grows louder, it's unfortunate that few among the upper echelons have been willing to make similar sacrifices. But unfair as that may or may not be, it's irrelevant. Business decisions are made by the folks in charge, and if they're not fair, what can anyone do?

If threatened with closure, is there anything that's too important to give up? Is there a line that cannot be crossed? If so, where is it?

What do you think?

Mission Accomplished...sort of

* At the zero hour, a crisis has been averted. According to Poynter Online, a deal has been reached with six of the paper's seven unions, so the threatened closure is no longer necessary.

But the good news ends on an ominous note:

We are disappointed, however, that we have not yet been able to reach an agreement with the Guild. Because of that, we are evaluating our
alternatives under both the Guild contract and applicable law to achieve as quickly as possible the workplace flexibility and remaining cost savings we need to help put The Globe on a sound financial footing.

For all the concessions, it appears the company is not satisfied yet. That doesn't bode well for the employees in Boston.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Antitrust hearing looks at diversity

Are antitrust laws killing the newspaper industry? That's the argument media executives from made to congress this week, asking for an exemption to the laws regulating media consolidation, arguing that consolidation is the only way to preserve the industry's falling revenues.

So far, the Justice Department isn't convinced. Carl Shapiro, Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Economics at the Justice Department's Antitrust Division told a House panel "We do not believe any new exemptions for newspapers are necessary."

Bernie Lunzer, President of the Newspaper Guild, testified that allowing MediaNews and Hearst to absorb more newspapers into their regional chains may do "do more harm than good" to readers and communities.

The largest concern we have about such a monopoly in Northern California is that an answer to the very real problems that exist in our industry will remain unanswered and that real innovation will be stifled. The two large corporations behind this initiative will only have forestalled their inevitable reckoning. The result will be underserved communities.

Lunzer isn't the only voice challenging the perceived "need" to homogenize content and reduce operations by slashing staff. Many believe that this trend toward consolidation and cost-cutting - which began long before the introduction of the internet - bears at least part of the blame for newspaper's diminished relevance.

Ryan Blethen argues that media conglomerates have been imperfect stewards for newspapers, and increasing their presence won't solve the problem.

The public-ownership model is disintegrating. That is what Congress must understand. We have a chance to put newspapers and professional journalism back in stewardship of smaller entities that care about community.

Lunzer agrees that ownership models, not industry conditions, may be the best solution for the newspaper industry.

If there is to be serious consideration of the problems facing newspapers, Congress needs to look at alternative ownership ideas, like employee stock ownership, non-profit approaches and the new L3C concept. The L3C approach would allow publications to serve a stated social purpose in exchange for the ability to accept non-profit foundation money. Smaller, more committed news operations will be more successful in providing real coverage to communities. Bigger is not better. The current financial crisis is evidence of this.

It boils down to a simple question: Why are newspapers failing? If the answer is simply that archaic print media is no match for the faster, leaner online competition, then consolidation seems to make sense. But that argument overlooks the fact that for most community newspapers, there is no natural online competition. The internet is a boon for economies of scale, where your market is quite literally national, if not global. For most newspapers, this isn't the case. And there are few community-centric online newsgathering operations, and virtually none that operate on the scale of a local newspaper.

In other words, newspapers have stacked the table against themselves by relying on national and international content that puts them squarely at odds with online outlets. Wire news is cheaper - but the competition, as we've seen, is much stiffer. That's a fight most print outlets have been unable to win.

It's true that classified advertising is gone, or severely diminished, and those losses have hurt the industry. And there's no indication that money will ever come back. But the revenue losses from classified advertising alone aren't enough to put most newspapers out of business. Adjusting projections and expectations to more modest goals, and focusing on developing content that's truly relevant will do more to preserve newspaper fortunes than simply drawing more ink out of the same tired well, and running identical pages across several newspapers, in a region that's larger than many states. Readers are smart enough to know when they're not being served, and the earnings sheet reflects their disappointment. More of the same won't change that.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

DN proposal could avert layoffs

MediaNews has informed the Guild that it intends to lay off five newsroom staffers at the Los Angeles Daily news by the end of the week as part of its declared need to reduce Daily News newsroom expenses by 15 percent. As reported yesterday to Guild members, the positions identified by the company include three metro reporters, one photographer and one graphic artist.

The Guild has been discussing a plan with the company that could avert or reduce the planned lay offs by allowing some workers at the Daily News to volunteer for a reduced work week for a period of six months.

While the Guild is opposed to any reduction in force by the company, such a plan may offer an option in lieu of more drastic workforce reductions.

Guild members that opt to take the reduced hours under the proposed plan would retain the same hourly rate of pay and still receive all health benefits afforded to full time employees.

Guild representatives are meeting with the company on Wednesday to further discuss this proposal.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Nonprofit success

Voice of San Diego, the nonprofit online news Web site, has been recognized by Investigative Reporters and Editors Inc., for their Redevelopment Investigations series.

NPR's Alex Cohen calls it one of the "most prestigious national awards" in his her coverage of the award.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Tuesday Roundup

Three plus six equals one

It's been confirmed that April 20 is LANG's D-Day for transferring copy editors of the Daily News, PT and Breeze to the universal copy desk at the San Gabriel Valley Tribune facility in West Covina. Daily Breeze EiC Phillip Sanfield sent out a memo on Monday informing Breeze and former-PT copy editors that Monday April 20, the day following Long Beach Grand Prix coverage, would be their first day in West Covina. Daily News employees report being told the same date.

MediaNews options

Gary Scott has an excellent article on the options available to MediaNews Group in the wake of the foreberance agreement recently negotiated with its lenders and announced last week. This includes a startling prediction by former Los Angeles Daily News editor Ron Kaye that MediaNews will unload all of the LANG papers and be gone from Southern California by mid-summer.

Better late than never

After years of giving away content for free on the Internet and letting online aggregators steal content with few repercussions, it appears that the newspaper industry is finally beginning to see that content costs money to generate and news organizations should be compensated for this work appearing in the digital world.

The AP on Monday announced that while it prefers to work out solutions with websites now using its content without permission, such as Huffington Post, Yahoo and Google, the trade association would resort to legal remedies to either block unpermitted use of AP content or force such users to pay for the content.

“We can no longer stand by and watch others walk off with our work under misguided legal theories,“ AP Chairman and MNG head Dean Singleton said at the AP annual meeting being held in San Diego. "We are mad as hell, and we are not going to take it any more," said Singleton, using the oft-quoted line from mentally deranged and obsolete newsman Howard Beal from the film "Network."

Monday, April 6, 2009

Jody Collins transfers to San Gabe

A member forwarded us the following memo from Press-Telegram executive city editor John Futch:

Jody Collins, who has been a steady beacon on the Press-Telegram city desk, will be joining the consolidated production operation in San Gabriel in a few weeks. Jody has pulled us through so many tough evenings with her great skills and unflappable good humor and we'll miss that. On the other hand, she'll only be a phone call away and will bring her vast knowledge of the Long Beach area to the folks up there.

Good news for Jody is it's a hop, skip and a jump away from home, so the driving time will be shorter, and hopefully the time around Hunter will be a lot longer.

But that doesn't make it easier for us, who enjoy her presence at 300 Oceangate.

Obviously we'll have to rework the city desk editor operation, and this is a work in progress.

The move will happen sometime after the Grand Prix, date TBA. And we'll keep you updated on a proper sendoff.


In a newsroom full of hard-working journalists, Jody stood out for bearing the increasing demands of an ever-shrinking staff with dignity and grace. She was always willing to meet the needs of the newsroom without hesitation. That's the quintessential definition of a professional journalist, and a Jody always did her best to set the standard. We know she'll be an asset to the the Tribune, and we wish her the best of luck.

Jody sent us this message regarding her transfer:

I've really enjoyed the time I've spent working with the amazing, dedicated and talented staff at the Press-Telegram - first at 604 Pine and now at 300 Oceangate.

I've learned so much about the craft of good journalism from you over the past seven years and will miss working together in the same office each day. This place is a family and it will be hard to walk out those doors for good.

I will, however, be able to keep an eye on your work, albeit from a different desk. I will do my best to be an advocate for the Press-Telegram in my next adventure.

Thanks for all that you do to make the P-T interesting and relevant to our readers every day. I'll miss you. I'll be at JCOLLINS on Unisys if you need to find me.


Friday, April 3, 2009

Friday round-up

MediaNews Group has reached a forbearance agreement with its lenders, according to a report in the New York Times. A forbearance agreement is where the debtor and the creditor both acknowledge there is a financial problem and arrange a payment schedule that will allow the debtor to make moves to regain its financial footing. While not specified in the NYT article, it should be noted that forbearance agreements typically include a drop-dead date by which time the debtor must straighten out its finances or face default to the lenders. This could all mean that unless MNG revenues dramatically increase, more "cost cutting" is likely.

The Los Angeles Newspaper Group announced further company-wide cost cutting measures Thursday. The latest move freezes vacation accrual for all non-Guild employees, as well as management, between April 5 and July 4. LANG is also asking these employees to take any vacation time already on the books.
The move does not apply to LANG employees under a Guild contract at the Press-Telegram and the Daily News.
Gary Scott at reporter-g and LA Observed have posted several internal management memos explaining the freeze from the MNG perspective.

Monday, March 30, 2009

NLRB issues preliminary ruling on charges*

Officials at the regional National Labor Relations Board have filed a Motion for Default Judgment against the Press-Telegram over our charges that the newspaper violated federal labor laws in March 2008 by moving P-T Guild members to the non-union Daily Breeze and laying off others.

In filing the motion, the Region 21 counsel calls for the NLRB to find in favor of the Guild on all counts.

The counsel said in the motion that because the P-T did not "file an answer within the time and in the manner prescribed by the [National Labor Relations] Board's Rules and Regulations, all allegations in the complaint shall be deemed to be true and have been so found by the Board."

If the Region 21 motion goes forward, the decision includes a list of possible remedies, including (but not limited to) back pay and benefits, plus interest, for the employees laid off by the company. Transferred employees could receive compensation for any wages and/or other benefits lost to them as a result of their transfer.

Responding to the Board's decision, the company filed a request to extend the deadline. According to the company's request, their failure to respond was the Guild's fault, and the company should not suffer any consequences for ignoring the numerous notices and letters issued by the board over the last several months.

In January of this year, the P-T received an order that consolidated the Guild’s cases and a copy of the consolidated complaint along with the hearing date notice. Then in February the NLRB sent yet another copy of the complaint to the P-T. When the company continued to ignore NLRB requests, the board informed the P-T on Feb. 24 that "it had 7 days to file an answer, and failure to do so would result in a filing for default judgment."

The P-T repeatedly failed to answer the "consolidated complaints" as required by the NLRB’s Rules and Regulations, even when notified of the legal necessity for filing a timely answer. (The company was served notice of the Guild's first NLRB charges in August 2008 and again in September 2008. It also received copies of amended charges, first in October of last year and then again in November.)

On March 26, the company filed a request for a deadline extension. In the filing, the company argues to the NLRB that both parties had reached an "agreement in principle" on all charges and that is why, it alleges, it did not respond to the NLRB complaints. (Late February was the final deadline for the company to respond however, so the company would have already received the notice of an imminent decision by the Board.)

P-T management and Guild officials had a brief conversation earlier this year in which they discussed that all affected persons should be "made whole" - but details had not been worked out. The Guild conducted a survey of the workers impacted by the March 2008 layoffs and transfers to help it determine what a reasonable settlement should look like.

The Guild has not received a written settlement offer from the P-T.

The five-member panel at the NLRB in Washington, D.C. will now have to vote on the Region 21 motion, however the board currently has only two sitting members, one a recent Obama Administration appointee and the other a Republican holdover from the previous administration. This fails to meet the board's required three-member quorum to hold a vote. Like many federal boards, the NLRB panel is required to be made of no more than three members of the majority party. Due to the quorum rule, a vote on the Region 21 motion will have to wait until President Obama appoints at least one more member.

*UPDATE: 04/04/09* - The Employer has agreed to provide a written proposal for a settlement to the Guild.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

A way to (non)profits?

Since last year, we've been reporting on the rise in nonprofit news ventures. Now, one U.S. senator is trying to make that option a little easier.

Senator Benjamin Cardin (D-Maryland), has introduced a bill to allow newspapers to restructure into nonprofit organizations.

This effort, which currently has no co-sponsors, gives newspapers the option to "operate as nonprofits for educational purposes under the U.S. tax code, giving them a similar status to public broadcasting companies," according to the Reuters article.

This seems like a no brainer. NPR and PBS offer valuable coverage that's often not available from traditional profit-driven media. But their small-scale coverage - local and community news - is virtually nonexistent. Cardin's bill would enable community papers to complement other nonprofit media outlets, and ensure that our right to information is not capriciously wiped out.

And in the abstract, widespread nonprofit community newspapers might hold the key to reinventing journalism as we know it.

We are unabashedly optimistic about print journalism. Not because we believe that the printed page is essential - but because people will always care about the mundane, day-to-day events that shape their lives. More often than not, local newspapers have the operational resources to get the story faster and more efficiently, and it on a larger scale, than anyone else in town.

But newsrooms have been under attack for decades, a slow erosion based on a business model that believes readers are the product, and advertisers are the customer. Content and news are just a means to an end.

Nonprofit newspapers, dedicated to providing earnest, quality journalism could undo all that. If nonprofit news gains market share, it could re-establish the primacy of content, and provide a total rebuke to the argument that one-size-fits-all, shared content is good enough for readers.

Still, it's unclear how viable nonprofit status is for papers like the Press-Telegram or the Daily News. There are requirements that would significantly impact the owner and debt structure of MediaNews, and there's virtually no reason to believe the company would consider the idea.

A digital copy of the bill can be found here.

What do you think? Is local news important enough to save? If you support community news and want to help protect the future of journalism, contact your state senator and ask for their support on this issue.

Barbara Boxer can be reached here or at (213) 894-5000.

Diane Feinstein can be reached here or at (310) 914-7300 .

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Denver slashes in Rocky's wake

The MediaNews Group-owned Denver Newspaper Agency, which provides non-newsroom services for the Denver Post, fired 40 people on Friday and is set to let another 160 people go in the coming weeks, according to the Denver Business Journal.

The DNA, which was created to consolidate business services for the Denver Post and the Rocky Mountain News, had been expected to slash its staff following the demise of the Rocky last month. Former LANG head and current DNA president and CEO Gerald Grilly said that the cuts will help DNA "shape a new business model' to adapt to "new market realities."

“We are not just ink on paper anymore," said Grilly about the cuts. "We are true information providers across many platforms."

There is certainly increased competition, and responding to the challenges of the digital era is the biggest obstacle facing newspapers today. But this attitude might come as a surprise to many LANG employees - especially all of the online and "new" media staff that have been slashed throughout MediaNews over the past several years. There has yet to be a cogent argument that justifies trimming resources and reducing the core business at a time of increased competition. Yet the industry response to new challenges has always been to retreat, regroup, and far too often, surrender. We can only hope that any new business strategy not only recognizes the importance of reducing costs, but the value in strengthening the product and the newsrooms that produce it.

Friday, March 20, 2009

No news is...good news?

News organizations are fond of defending free speech and the importance of keeping the public informed. MediaNews is no different - unless that news is about the company itself.

In a move reminiscent of the MNG decision to cease filing financial reports with federal regulators, the company has asked Standard & Poor's to withdraw all credit ratings for the company.

The request is presumably a reaction to news that the company's credit rating has been cut yet again, from CCC+ to CCC, a rating that indicates "high default risk" investments.

The upshot, if there is one, will be that the company might stave off further bad news that would presumably deepen the tarnish that has engulfed the company for the better part of a decade. But is no news really good news? Does it matter that S&P will no longer report on MNG's steady slide down the credit ratings ladder until the company is now hanging at nearly the bottom rung with its legs flailing over a bottomless chasm?

The more likely reality is that the further MNG retreats into solipsism and isolation, the more distorted and unclear the truth will become to those attempting to plan their way out of this mess. And that same enigmatic shroud will also hinder any other entity that might consider reaching down to MNG with a deal that would help them back up the ladder.

Perhaps it's painfully naive, but taking an honest account of the situation, warts and all, might be for the best. And honestly, right now Singleton and company can't afford to make it harder for anyone that wants to bring back the days when company news is a source of pride.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

MediaNews rating drops...again

As if Dean Singleton does not have enough worries just finding enough advertising, now Standard & Poor's is on his back yet again.

MediaNews has taken another hit at the hands of the credit agency, sinking further into the morass of junk status. This time he's not alone--the Orange County Register had their rating downgraded too.

S&P cited steeply declining cash flow as a main reason for the decision. This can only mean that Singleton and his crew will be looking for ways to cut costs even further. Given that the Press-Telegram has a year moratorium on Guild layoffs and the Daily News has just gone through another round of cuts, there are only a few other pins on the SoCal LANG map for the company to look at.

MediaNews' Jim Janiga however offered some "reassuring" words recently, telling Daily News bargaining committee members that he could not "see us operating with fewer people."

Singleton had some thoughts to share recently on the situation at the Hearst-owned and Guild-represented San Francisco Chronicle, which reportedly lost more than $50 million last year. For some reason, he thinks it would be a "good idea" if the federal government waived anti-trust restriction and let all the Bay Area papers be owned by one company. Any guesses which company he would vote for?

U-T finds buyer

In other industry news, the San Diego Union-Tribune, on the selling block since July, has found a buyer in Beverly Hills-based private equity firm Platinum Equity. U-T watchers expect that the paper is likely to suffer serious cuts after the takeover and see many of its assets sold off, including a portfolio of more than $100 million of San Diego-area real estate. While details of the transaction were not revealed, U-T owner Copley reportedly sold the U-T for $20 million to $50 million, a fraction of its likely asset value.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Return the favor

I'm sure most of us remember seeing members from the other CWA units rallying beside us over the last two years. They were at nearly every event, carrying signs and helping out as much as possible.

Now we have the chance to return the favor.

The Verizon unit's contract will be up for negotiation soon, and it's shaping up to be a tough fight. The Verizon unit is holding a "Countdown to Negotiations" rally tomorrow, Fri. March 13th, in front of the Verizon offices at 200 Ocean Blvd, from 11 to 2 pm.

I know it would mean a lot to the Verizon team if some of our members showed up. Some of the Press-Telegram folks have already volunteered to to attend, but if anyone else has a few minutes to spare, stop by and say hello!

Thanks, and we'll see you there!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Around the Guild and beyond, briefly

NoCal Guild votes Thursday (March 12) on contract changes that may keep the SF Chronicle publishing – California Media Workers Guild

Sacramento Bee cuts 11% of its staff, Modesto Bee staff agrees to wage reductions. Agreements made to stave off job cuts – McClatchy Bee Bulletin

Round-up of negotiations and news in Seattle –

Final days for the Seattle P-I? – The Stranger

Is I-News old news?

Big Labor and Big Business meet today on Capitol Hill as the fight over the Employee Free Choice Act begins in earnest this week– Three testify before the Senate: "This is a fairness issue. The system of employee-employer relations is fundamentally lopsided. There’s a need to level the playing field, to redress a great imbalance. When a system is in such fundamental imbalance, it is our obligation on both sides of the aisle to remedy that."

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Final Edition

A member asked us to share the following with everyone.

How is it relevant you ask? We all talk in the newsroom and are convinced that the paper won't be around.

Regina Combs at Poynter Online tells the story behind Final Edition, a somber look back at the loss of yet another civic institution.

Although no one needs to be reminded just what's at stake, and just how badly things can get, it just might be essential to be remember that a newspaper is more than simply a business.

"I'll tell you what. If you take out our paper, people will not be informed any more. And an uninformed society breeds a lot of social evils."

Feds subsidize COBRA coverage for recently laid off

According to the Department of Labor, the recently-signed economic stimulus package has provisions that should be of interest to many Americans.

Under the new rules, employees who are laid off between Sept. 1, 2008 and the end of 2009 will be eligible for subsidized medical coverage from the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) program. March is first month of the subsidy program.

Individuals eligible for COBRA coverage who were involuntarily terminated by their employer on or after September 1, 2008 through December 31, 2009 who are eligible for COBRA and elect COBRA may be eligible to pay a reduced premium amount that is only 35% of the premium costs for your COBRA coverage.
Laid off employees who have not yet signed up for COBRA have a 60-day window to apply, starting from the date they receive notification of eligibility. Employees that have already waived their COBRA coverage may revoke their waiver before the end of the 60-day period.

More information is available at the Employee Benefits Security Administration's COBRA continuation page.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Questions loom as Rocky falls

E.W. Scripps said it will shutter the Pulitzer Prize-winning Rocky Mountain News on Friday, ending 150 years of continuous operation and adding more than 200 union newsroom staffers to the unemployment rolls.

The move comes one day after union workers represented by the Denver Newspaper Guild reached a tentative agreement on wage and benefit concessions with a joint operating agency that publishes the Rocky and the MediaNews-owned Denver Post.

It remains unclear how the Scripps move will affect the Guild’s tentative agreement and the future existence of the DNA.

Citing declining revenues and the national economy, Scripps said it was forced to close the Rocky three months after putting the paper up for sale on Dec. 4, 2008, because a buyer had not been found.

Scripps, which bought the paper in 1926, said that although the paper will cease publishing Friday, employees will stay on the payroll through April 28.

Scripps officials told employees in the Rocky newsroom that the firm’s lawyers were discussing the move and its implications with union officials.

The DNA had sought concessions from six unions totaling $18 million to help the agency renegotiate $130 million in debt. Additionally, MediaNews sought $2 million in concessions at the Post. Two additional unions have yet to reach an agreement on the concessions.

The loss of the Rocky will leave the Post as the only major daily in Denver.

In the past decade the Rocky has been awarded 10 Pulitzer Prizes and many of the paper's departments, including the sports, business, and photo desks, have consistently been named some of the best in the nation.

The Rocky, first published 1859, is Colorado's oldest newspaper as is considered the state's longest continuously operated business.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

LANG policy warning

We'd like to remind LANG employees that our employer, like many firms, has a company-wide policy in place restricting the use of company equipment to company business-related purposes only.

This includes, but is not limited to: phone systems, work e-mail, Unisys chat messaging systems, and internet browser software. In at least one recent incident, our employer has disciplined a Guild member for private comments made on the Unisys chat system. Previous incidents have also indicated that the company monitors website visits and traffic by employees.

Any use of LANG electronic equipment creates an electronic record that can be accessed at any time, and these records can be used to discipline employees for any perceived violation of the firm's equipment-use policy.

While our leadership is moving the discipline of its member to the grievance process, it is important for all employees to note this apparent shift toward enforcement of the equipment-use policy and take appropriate protective measures.

We also recommend that any personal communications, no matter how benign, be handled through personal equipment, such as personal laptop, cell phones or PDAs. It is also highly recommended that personal messages of any kind NOT be transmitted through your company-provided email account, as the employer may find any such personal use a violation of the company-wide policy.

If you have any questions regarding this situation, please feel free to contact Vicki Di Paolo at 562.259.9430.

Labor gains friend in D.C.

In a serious rebuke to the former Bush Administration's labor policies, California Rep. Hilda Solis was overwhelmingly confirmed today as U.S. Labor Secretary. Arguably a major turnaround for journalists and other working Americans, the decision came after Republican senators backed away from a threatened filibuster of Solis' nomination. Solis was confirmed today by a vote of 80-17.

This is perhaps one of the biggest developments and cause for hope among every American employee struggling for justice and equality. Solis has been a champion for workers' rights for the length of her political career.

The fight over her nomination stemmed from her vocal support of the Employee Free Choice Act, which has polarized national opinion on workers' rights to unionize.

Solis is a long-time supporter of the CWA and The Newspaper Guild and we look forward to working with her to improve the rights and working conditions of our current and future members.

"A Closer Look at the Employee Free Choice Act"

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Welcome aboard!

Sorry for the lag in updates, this week has been crazy!

Lots of news to report. We'd like to welcome Keith Higginbotham to the team. Keith is a former Press-Telegram writer and all around smart guy. He'll be working to help facilitate communications between the units, and coordinate our various projects, community outreach, and other activities.

Keith and the rest of the team spent this week with representatives from the Bay Area News Group (BANG), who came down to learn a little about our operations, and share their insights on organizing within the MediaNews empire. As always strength in numbers is the name of the game, and we're building a closer relationship with our northern counterparts so everyone working in MNG will have the best, most comprehensive information and tools available to them.

Karl Fischer, Jeremiah Oshan, and Pia Basudev spent time with Lesley Phillips, Keith, and me as we visited LANG properties, spoke with members, and learned more about the issues facing Southern California journalists.

We're working on some exciting new projects, so stay tuned for more information, and please give Keith your support!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Questions about consolidation

MediaNews' copy desk consolidation plan is in effect, and more papers are potentially scheduled to move operations to San Gabriel very soon. As plans for a universal desk move forward, our goal is to ensure that our members are heard, and that this transition is as effective and trouble-free as possible. To meet that goal, we need your input.

We are reaching out to anyone on the copy desk, union or otherwise, about LANG's plans for a universal copy desk.

In order to learn how the plans will affect you, we've drafted this survey. Please click on the link and fill it out when you have the time.

The goal we hope to achieve from the survey results is it to develop a better understanding of copy editors’ concerns so we can help our Guild members there reach out to and better frame discussions with the non-union folks.

If your operations haven't been consolidated yet, what is your biggest concern?

If you're already working at the universal desk, what needs to be improved?

We know you have ideas that can make this work better, and create a more stable and effective work environment. With your help, we'll bring these ideas to the company and push for coordination to examine areas that can be improved or modified.

For instance, one of our Daily News CEs said that leaving a slot editor and designer at each paper to would help maintain local identity and ensure accuracy.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Imagining the worst

It looks like the first big city in southern California to go naked without a daily paper won’t be Los Angeles.

So says noted L.A. writer and historian D.J. Waldie at Where We Are, a KCET blog focused on examining "LA’s twinned identities as urban and suburban," with deft and clear analysis.

Waldie calls the decline of MediaNews a case of "self-cannibalism" - which gets the point across with gruesome efficiency.

Although he doesn't dig too deeply, Waldie points out that pursuing "legacy values," has led to incessant cuts that bleed away a newspaper's value, until the axe falls on the final physical assets - property and equipment.

The PT (with most of the MediaNews Group) is making that final passage. The PT sold off its block-long building on Pine Avenue and moved to rented quarters in a nearby office tower (where the paper and its staff have continued to shrink).

It looks like the first big city in southern California to go naked without a daily paper won’t be Los Angeles.

We don't think it's quite that bleak yet, but there's no denying the dangers Waldie has pointed out. Without decisive action, the Press-Telegram is in real danger, and the city of Long Beach deserves better. But we continue to believe in newspapers, and the potentially bright future for responsible journalism that serves not only as a profitable business, but as a worthwhile civic institution that serves its readers and community with passion and commitment.

Friday, February 6, 2009

About those furloughs ...

We met with the Press-Telegram yesterday to sign our recently ratified contract that includes, among other provisions, a one year protection against layoff and 2% annual wage increases. That's the good news.

The not-so-good news, depending on one's perspective, is that a very intense discussion regarding the company's 5-day furlough mandate and its effects to the bargaining unit failed to produce an agreement acceptable to both sides at this time.

The furlough has been imposed at other non-union MediaNews properties and is now in place at Guild-covered papers where negotiations with the company resulted in an agreement. Guild and company representatives reached a furlough agreement earlier this week at our sister paper, the LA Daily News.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Labor Board hearing date set

We have received notice that, absent a settlement agreement between the Guild and the Long Beach Press-Telegram, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) will begin hearings April 13 on our charges against the P-T stemming from it's March 2008 implementation of a reduction in force and unilateral transfer or sub-contracting out of our work to the non-union Daily Breeze that affected eighteen members of our bargaining unit without giving the union advance notice and without giving it the opportunity to negotiate the effects of the company's actions.

The Board's General Counsel will ask an NLRB administrative law judge to issue an order that requires the company to "pay interest on any backpay or other monetary awards ... " and "all other relief as may be just and proper to remedy the unfair labor practices alleged."

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Daily News[room] launch

We'd like to announce the launch of a new blog for the LADN unit, the Daily News[room]. As they begin negotiations, members of the DN bargaining unit will be able to keep up with everything related to Woodland Hills and our efforts there. Keep an eye on the DNr for more in the coming weeks...

Mandatory furloughs for management, nonunion employees * **

*Headline changed per comments

MediaNews has just announced that non-union employees at all California properties will be required to take one-week unpaid furlough by the end of March, in order to lower expenses. Managers will have to take two weeks unpaid leave within the same period.

The company is interested in implementing furloughs for their union employees but such a move has to be negotiated. The company cannot impose a furlough without first speaking to the Guild.

Obviously the company is in bad financial shape, and we're interested in anything that will help preserve journalism in Southern California. Our first concern is the well being of our members, and we welcome the chance to discuss the company's needs, and how they can accomplish their goals without unfairly impacting their employees.

If you have any concerns or questions on this issue, please feel free to contact a shop steward or email us at

* The Southern California Media Guild has released a statement in response to MediaNews' announcement.

** Chris Berry, Online Editor for the Press-Telegram and Daily Breeze, said he's not aware of any extra furlough for managers, and believes MediaNews is only asking for a one week furlough, in line with the rest of the newsroom. We're trying to confirm our original information, and if we get any details they'll be posted here as we get them.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Company moves quickly to cut circulation staff

We were notified by members in the circulation department that they were informed that eight district advisors will be laid off, effective February 23. (The ratified contract provides a one-year moratorium on editorial layoffs.)

There are two District Manager positions available at the non-union Daily Breeze in Torrance and the laid off employees may apply for transfer to those open positions.

Our members have asked about their prospects at the Breeze: will their experience guarantee them a slot? The answer unfortunately is no. Although the Breeze may consider experience as part of hiring, as an unprotected workplace, the company is under no obligation to honor seniority.

The news of the layoff does not come as a surprise to circulation workers. We first received notice four years ago that the company desired to subcontract the Press-Telegram circulation department. We worked very hard to negotiate the company away from its position. But throughout negotiations, it became increasingly obvious the company intended to put its plan into effect. In the face of the declining economy, the company continues to make cuts and consolidations across LANG and implement cost saving measures like subcontracting out the P-T's circulation department.

In the end, the company refused to extend the editorial moratorium on layoffs to circulation. Although it's no substitute for their jobs, and an insult to the men and women that have given decades of service assuring timely delivery of the P-T, as the company's determination to eliminate these jobs became apparent, we redoubled our efforts to secure the best possible terms of lay-off benefits for our colleagues in that department, and hopefully those benefits will help our colleagues in these difficult times.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Contract Approved

Well, it's official.

The bargaining unit approved the contract proposal with a unanimous vote that brought out an overwhelming majority of bargaining unit members.

We'll have more information later, but for now, thanks to everyone for participating, and their patience in getting to this point.

Guild member Pamela Hale-Burns turns in her ballot to rep Vicki Di Paolo for the contract ratification at the Arco Towers.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Don't forget to vote!

Just a reminder - the contract ratification vote is tomorrow, Jan. 20, at the following locations:

- Motz Station - 6:00 AM - 7:30 AM Tuesday January 20

- Signal Parkway Station - 8:00 AM - 9:30 AM Tuesday January 20

- 300 Oceangate - 2:00 PM - 5:00 PM Tuesday January 20 - 15th floor

We've gotten a few questions regarding the contract. An email with clarifications and more more detailed information has been sent out to members. If you still have questions, please don't hesitate to contact Vicki Di Paolo at 562.260.8378, or send us an email at

Thanks, and we'll see you tomorrow!

TNG-CWA president sends congratulations

My congratulations to the bargaining committee and everyone who worked to make this happen - we all know there's much work left to be done, but I think you've made a smart move and bought some critical time. — Bernard Lunzer, TNG-CWA Pres.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Labor Board approves charges against MediaNews*

We know many of you have been waiting eagerly for news about the litigation we filed against the company after last March's layoffs and copy editor/designer transfers to the Daily Breeze. Well, here it is:

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has determined that its investigation into two of our charges found sufficient merit to go to a full hearing unless the company comes to a settlement with the union.

1. The Board's investigation reveals sufficient evidence to show that the Employer unilaterally eliminated departments and jobs by transferring unit work to another employer, resulting in the substitution of non-union employees to perform the same work; and unilaterally eliminated a sports desk reporter position. The NLRB's investigation found "sufficient evidence to show that the Employer subcontracted out unit work in the design and copy-editing departments."

2. The Employer "failed and refused to supply the Union with requested information."

The company has been notified of the NLRB complaints. MediaNews must either negotiate a settlement with the Guild on those complaints, or it will have to answer allegations on its behavior at a hearing in front of an administrative law judge. To avoid a long and expensive hearing, we hope to reach a settlement agreement with the employer soon.

Other charges, some of which our lawyers felt had strong supporting evidence, did not fare as well with the Board. While we could appeal that decision, the appeals process would delay our successful charges, and we would not gain any additional benefit in terms of resolution, so our only real benefit would be in the "Gotcha!" moment of having another charge against the employer, and we think that's not worth the extra delay.

We know this has been a long time coming, and we appreciate the patience you've shown as our efforts to hold MediaNews accountable made their way through the administrative process. These successful charges demonstrate our commitment to seeing things through, no matter how long it takes.

These board charges could not have happened without the support of our members who stood by their convictions to give testimony and demand equality for themselves and their colleagues. Without their courage, none of this would be possible. Our thanks go out to each and every member who helped make this possible.

*Clarification: In order to avoid a hearing (date set by the Board), the company must negotiate with the union a fair settlement agreement for those impacted by the company's illegal maneuvering. Former P-T staffers who were either transfered to the Daily Breeze or laid off in March, 2008, can call Vicki Di Paolo at the Guild office (562-259-9430) for more information.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

At last!

After almost two years, it's finally over.

Our bargaining team announced today that a tentative agreement has been reached in negotiations with MediaNews' Press-Telegram, and all that's left now is for members to review and approve the plan.

The proposed contract calls for a 2/2/2 wage increase (two percent at ratification, and subsequent annual raises of another two percent), and perhaps most importantly, gives Guild-covered newsroom employees a one-year moratorium on layoffs. Given industry conditions at the moment, obtaining such a guarantee is no small accomplishment.

After a year, if employees are laid off, the team secured additional benefits and rights for our members, including 60 days advance notice (or pay in lieu of), additional severance, and extended health and tuition-reimbursement coverage.

This settlement was a long time coming, and clearly this could not have happened without the patience and support of our members. It wasn't always easy, but it was always important.

Additionally, political and civic leaders, advertisers, and everyday readers stepped forward during these long months to stand with us. We'd like to thank you all individually, but the list is staggering. This truly was a community effort, and the support we received has been invaluable.

Guild rep Vicki Di Paolo sent the following:

Words cannot express the respect I have for this bargaining team. Over the past two years Joe Segura, Kris Hanson and Steve Carr have gone above and beyond to do everything they could to secure this contract for Guild members. They have spent countless hours at my kitchen table planning strategy and preparing proposals. Although we have had our differences we were always able to come to the same page and move forward. This unity contributed greatly to our ability to get the best contract language we could have reached. I could go on and on, but I won't. I'll simply say thank you guys, you're the best. - Vicki

Monday, January 12, 2009

Daily Grill farewell pics

Sorry for the delay folks, but here's some pics from the farewell party for Scott, Joe, and Brenda last week at the Daily Grill.

Even though it's nice to see everyone together, and we're grateful for the reminder that good people aren't diminished by bad times, posting pictures and stories about layoffs is getting pretty exhausting. When you reflect on just how much the newsroom has changed in under a year, the difference is absolutely shocking.

Here's someone else affected by MediaNews' decision, Scott's son.

Best wishes on your future success guys.

Opportunity amidst the chaos

BALTIMORE – CWA media unions met last weekend to study industry restructuring and discuss opportunities to build our power during this time of great turmoil. The event brought together leaders from the Newspaper Guild, The National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians, and the Printing, Publishing and Media Workers Sector, all sectors of the Communications Workers of America.

Check out stories and podcast at California Media Workers Guild.

Luther Jackson, San Jose Newspaper Guild executive officer, above, reports out subcommittee findings on the biggest threats to MediaNews and Hearst survival and the challenges and opportunities they pose to the Guild.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Stand with us

The continued dismantling of Long Beach's paper of record should concern every member of our community. We are witnessing the destruction of a civic institution that has served the people of Long Beach for over a century, and now the reporting of community events that are important to readers is in jeopardy.

The Press-Telegram's newsroom staff has been reduced from 101 in 2003 to 26 in 2008 and yesterday, the employer eliminated three more dedicated, talented employees, leaving just 10 reporters and 4 photographers to cover our city, a place that half a million people call home. Over the last two years, while in contract negotiations employees have worked without a raise, and under the constant threat of losing their jobs.

In these uncertain times, the experience and industry knowledge of our members is essential to P-T readers. We believe that quality need not be sacrificed on the altar of short-term profits, and that newspaper efficiencies can be achieved with locally-based experts rather than inexpensive and inexperienced stand-ins with little or no connection to our community and its citizens.

We need readers, advertisers, civic leaders, and city and community representatives to continue to stand with us and demand that the P-T provide quality local news that serves the needs of our city, and honor the commitment of its staff by settling its contract with its unionized workers that provides job security and decent wages.

~ Vicki Di Paolo
Vice President, Southern California Media Guild/CWA Local 9400

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Covering the layoffs

The District Weekly has an article on our layoffs.

So does, including a statement from Guild Rep Vicki Di Paolo. has the story too.

Body Count* **

We're saddened to report that the company's latest round of Press-Telegram layoffs have eliminated Joe Dickson, Scott Smeltzer, and Brenda Duran.

Joe Dickson was a longtime LANG employee. As an online content producer, he worked at several different LANG papers over the years. I personally worked with Joe during my time at the P-T, and I know just how talented, dedicated, and hardworking he is. With Joe, the company had a skill set much deeper than his paycheck implied, and they won't be able to replace him at even twice the cost. Sacrificing his contribution to the newspaper was a monumentally foolish decision.

Scott Smeltzer worked for the P-T since 2007. An award winning photographer, Smeltzer is also the sole breadwinner for his wife and infant child, and although we're certain a photographer of his caliber will have no trouble meeting this challenge, the news is clearly tragic. Our hearts go out to his family.

Photographer Steve Carr shared the following:

Scott was just a great guy, and an amazing photographer. He's somebody who always upbeat. He'll be greatly missed. It seems like the photo dept is always getting hit, and this makes us feel like an even bigger target. Scott will be a great asset wherever he ends up."
Brenda Duran was a recent addition to the Press-Telegram, but made friends and earned the respect of her colleagues quickly.

Reporter Kelly Puente emailed this:
Brenda Duran was the last hire at the P-T. She worked at the P-T for about six months before she was laid off today. A USC grad, she's worked at US Weekly and the North County Times. She was the night reporter and assigned the cities of Norwalk and Downey. She was doing a kickass job and we'll miss her.
Duran's layoff shows just how tightly-knit the Press-Telegram is. No matter who they are or how long they've been with the company, every loss is felt. There are no expendable employees. Especially today. We wish Brenda nothing but the best.

A staff meeting has been announced for the remaining P-T employees today at 3:30, presumably to explain the company's action.

As reported earlier by Gary Scott, Guild-covered colleagues at the Daily News were also laid off today.

Tyrone Harris, editorial assistant
Gregg Miller, graphics
Patrick O'Connor, editorial cartoonist
Steve Dilbeck, sports columnist
Jammie Salugabang, features copy editor/online
Stewart Slavin, copy/slot editor
Simone Trimm, editorial assistant in features

Additionally, Roger Vargo, non-union photo/pre-press staffer was let go.

Today marks the latest tragic round of temporary cost-cutting, and saddest of all, few (if any) believe that decimating the newsroom will have any lasting benefit for the company. Indeed, many fear that further attacking the content will only drive more readers away, and precipitate further layoffs.

* Our colleagues in Torrance report that Miguel Lopez is among the laid off employees at the Breeze. A former P-T staffer and constant friend to many, we know the staff at both the Breeze and in Long Beach will miss him. Other known Torrance layoffs are photographer Bruce Hazelton, Andrea Hayashi, admin asst. for the feature dept., and Linda Mancini from advertising.

** Here's some info from today's staff meeting:

12 total were cut from the Press-Telegram, and approximately 15 from the Daily Breeze. In addition, the pending San Gabe consolidation is expected to cull another 12 from the Breeze and Daily News.

As a result of the layoffs, staff in Long Beach is small enough that the operations will be consolidated onto the 14th floor (the company used three floors as little as two years ago).

In the meeting, a staffer asked Rich Archbold if the company has a plan for the future, and where the company is headed. We're told he had no answer to either question.

Morale is understandably low.

A redesign for all of LANG is in the works, and plans are to unveil the new look in a few weeks.

A farewell gathering for our colleagues has been scheduled for tomorrow afternoon at the Daily Grill across the street. Stop by and buy the guys a drink, or just wish them well. We hope to see you there.