Saturday, August 28, 2010

P-T building burns

A Guild member tipped us off to this video of a fire at the former Press-Telegram building.

One Nation, marching for progress

We've gotten word on several upcoming Guild initiatives, and the immediate future is shaping up to be very busy indeed.

One Nation March

CWA is asking all members to consider participating in the One Nation March, in support of real progress. Blue collar and middle class Americans are this nation's most valuable resource, and we deserve a government dedicated to strengthening and protecting our economy, our families, and our rights.

In addition, the Guild is seeking additional media industry organizers, launching a study with the University of Missouri to examine the value of newspapers, and several other projects. Visit the Guild's update page for more information.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Content for nothing

Online advertising is more popular than ever, and represents an ever-increasing slice of the media revenue pie. But as media properties grow their online audience, advertising revenues have seen their margins slashed.

Daniel Lyons at Newsweek points out that The Huffington Post, top dog of online media, will earn approximately $30 million in revenue this year. That's despite having five times the audience of The Washington Post.

As a comparison, the Washington Post recorded over $45 million in profit for Q1 of 2009. Their revenue? $1.17 billion. That's for the quarter, not the year.

Lyons reports that Michael Wolff, founder of, has had his online advertising fall by 20% in terms of CPM value. Even as the overall audience grows, the value of each individual reader is falling.

Compounding the problem is that few readers seem to value online content. According to USC's Digital Future study, exactly zero percent of respondents showed any willingness to pay for online content. And doubly vexing, most were unhappy with online advertising too.

Jolie O'Dell at analyzes the results.

“Such an extreme finding that produced a zero response underscores the difficulty of getting Internet users to pay for anything that they already receive for free,” says Jeffrey I. Cole, the Annenberg School’s director of the Center for the Digital Future.

So what's the solution? Paywalls? As the source of online content shrinks with every reporter laid off or masthead shuttered, online purveyors like Yahoo! and AOL have attempted to fill the void with in-house content. But is Yahoo's acquisition of Associated Content really equal to professional journalism? Is an article written by "anyone" (so says AC's About Us page) which cost the company $5 and was written to capitalize on the latest Google Trend, really a substitute for in-depth coverage of current events?

What do you think?

Friday, July 16, 2010

Guild reaches deal in NY

PoynterOnline is reporting that the Guild has reached a "tentative agreement" with Time Inc. The three-year contract provides Guild members yearly pay increases and additional job security, and in return Time Inc. will have greater flexibilty in assigning work to employees. Specific details of the contract will be released after the deal is ratified by Guild members.

Guild President Bill O’Meara said he was “extremely pleased that we could come to an amicable agreement with the company, despite the challenging times facing the print industry."

“I believe our agreement gives Time Inc. the sort of flexibility that is going to be required to insure its success in this rapidly changing world of communications,” O’Meara said. “And, in return, Time Inc. has given our members an added measure of job security."

Thursday, July 1, 2010

LAPC honors SoCal journalists

The 2010 Los Angeles Press Club SoCal Journalism Awards included members of both our Daily News and Press-Telegram units, and we'd like to congratulate not only the winners, but everyone in each newsroom for producing the quality journalism that's so vital to local communities.

Tracy Manzer and Kelly Puente shared top honors in the Hard News category, followed by Press-Telegram reporter Greg Mellen in second place.

Read the article

In sports, the Daily News' Jon Gold was recognized for his coverage of Skid Row's Midnight Mission basketball team.

Read the article

In photography, our members again grabbed the spotlight. For news photography, Jeff Gritchen took first place, followed by David Crane. Honorable mention went to Stephen Carr.

Features photography honors went to John McCoy, and second place went to Mike Baker. Brittany Murray received honorable mention.

Sports photography was also capped by the DN's John McCoy, followed by Stephen Carr in second place and Hans Gutknecht with an honorable mention.

We tried to find the photos to showcase them here, but it's been difficult to locate them. We'll update the post if we can track the pictures down.

Again, congratulations to all our winners on a job well done. You, and the rest of your newsrooms, deserve it all. Bravo!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Bankruptcy brings new owners, new business models

As the newspaper industry reels from bankruptcies among some of its most powerful players, a new class of investors have quietly stepped in, seeking to capitalize on rock-bottom stock prices.

Michael Oneal of the Chicago Tribune suggests that this isn't a takeover of the industry, but it will have an impact - the scope of which remains to be determined.

The natural tension for funds like Angelo Gordon, however, is that they don't have unlimited time to wait for their investments to bear fruit. Their compensation and fee structure is generally based on raising a fund, investing it to generate 20 to 30 percent annual returns and then monetizing those returns over a period of a few years.

That tension may have led to a parting of the ways between the firm and Brad Pattelli, who gained attention this year as the architect of Angelo Gordon's extensive newspaper investments. Neither Pattelli nor the firm would comment for this story. But John Johnson Jr., who runs a company called Foamex International Inc. and has sat on a number of boards for Angelo Gordon in the past, said Pattelli was interested in business-building in the media industry, not just trading in and out of distressed companies.

"Brad wants to move up and have more of a say in how companies are managed," said Johnson. "But funds have a time limit on them."

Despite their time constraints, many believe the hedge funds will be forced to remain patient if they want to reap what they've sown in newspapers. Johnson believes the funds may not have a firm exit strategy in mind, and it will take sure signs of a recovery to grease deals and provide liquidity. For that reason, Dunning thinks any real shuffling is probably months away as financial players continue to learn what's possible and wait for exit opportunities to present themselves.

Editor wanted

The Press-Telegram is on the lookout for an editor to replace John Futch, who leaves in August. has the details.

The Press-Telegram, the newspaper of Long Beach (California) and surrounding areas, has a rare opening for an EDITOR for its award-winning newsroom. Our ideal candidate craves local news, thrives on deadline and relishes the challenge of converting a blank planning budget into a vibrant, reader-relevant daily report. Hands-on is a must as are solid organizational skills. So is a natural ability to communicate across functional departments -- from editors to sports to photo to online (and research, or advertising) -- and to coordinate with nine partner newspapers to reach more than 1.5 million readers in Southern California and a rapidly growing online/mobile market as well.

Direct reports must write for the web first, or perhaps mobile.The candidate should be unflappable, comfortable rallying a team, running day-to-day operations, launching the enterprise story, sports smart and know ins-and-outs of social media. We're looking for an exceptional planner and a gifted motivator, never shy about demanding accountability from among the staff. Someone who still passionately believes in newspapers, yet understands how to appeal to people whose lives are changing and a market that has seen dramatic changes in the past few years.You will identify and analyze new market readership opportunities and monitor trends that indicate the need for new strategies and initiatives. Show us that you're a natural leader, able to navigate an intense news day, concentrate on the reader first -- and still come out invigorated with a thousand ideas on how to make tomorrow's paper even better.

Candidates must have five years' editing/leadership experience. Interested? Send us a cover letter, a resume, three references and links to two deadline and one enterprise story within the last six months, describing how you were instrumental in making them come together. In Micro Soft Word format to: Publisher Linda Lindus at; Executive Editor Rich Archbold at until filled.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

John Futch retires

John Futch, managing editor of the Press Telegram, told staffers that August would be his final month with the paper, in a meeting earlier today.

Futch, a stalwart newsroom fixture at the Press-Telegram for nearly three decades, probably does more to get each edition out the door than anyone in the building. His dedication and experience leave some incredibly large shoes to fill.

Management has not announced a replacement yet.

We have no further details at this time. If you have anything to share, please contact us at

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Haakenson out

Joe Haakenson, the Sports Editor for the Long Beach Press-Telegram, was let go Friday.

Haakenson, a nearly 25-year veteran of the news industry, was reportedly offered a transfer to the San Gabriel Valley Tribune with a 15-percent pay cut, but declined.

Sports editing duties at the Press-Telegram will now be performed by the P-T's Executive City Editor John Futch, who also currently serves as the paper's Photo Editor.

Members of the P-T Sports Department were informed of Haakenson's departure during a Friday afternoon meeting.

Guild representatives met with P-T management immediately following the meeting and were told that Haakenson's departure would not impact any Guild member positions beyond a change in work flow and readers would see no change in coverage.

During the meeting, P-T management also confirmed reports that a plan was in the works by the Los Angeles Newspaper Group, a nine-paper Southern California cluster of Denver-based Affiliated Media daily papers which includes the Press-Telegram and the Los Angeles Daily News, to purchase new photography equipment for photographers LANG-wide. If approved by Denver, the capital expense plan would begin implementation by LANG management sometime after July 1 and be instituted in several phases at the various LANG papers.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Bankruptcy may spur growth, profits

Billionaire investor Warren Buffett told his annual meeting that it "blows your mind" how quickly the newspaper industry is losing the fight for readers and advertisers.

Despite dire warning from Berkshire Hathaway, many in the industry say that bankruptcy, and the attendant release of enormous debt structures, will enable many newspapers to preserve, and even grow advertising revenue.

In this article from Reuters, experts like Alan Mutter suggest that reinvestment will allow titans like MediaNews to reverse declining fortunes.

"These companies are trying to come up with new products beyond yesterday's news in tomorrow's paper," said newspaper consultant Alan Mutter. "They get that the business is declining and wasting."

He pointed to MediaNews Group, which recently introduced a glossy lifestyle magazine to supplement its 54 dailies and their circulation of more than 2 million.

"The fact is, that's something they could not have done before bankruptcy," said Mutter.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Eve of destruction

Sumner Redstone, Chairman of Viacom, says newspapers are not only dying, they're dead. And in two years, they'll be extinct.

According to BusinessWeek, the comments came as part of a dig at News Corp. and Rupert Murdoch.

“He lives in ink, and I live in movies and television,” Redstone said. “Ink is going to go away, and movies and television will be here forever, like me.”

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Better Newspapers Contest winners

The California Newspaper Publishers Association announced the winners of their 2009 Better Newspapers Contest on Saturday, and the winners include Press-Telegram writer Greg Mellen and photographer Stephen Carr, and former reporter Wendy Thomas Russell.

Congratulations to Greg, Steve, and Wendy. We know how hard you and the rest of the staff work every day to serve the Long Beach community.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Memphis Guild facing impasse

From Romenesko: The Memphis Newspaper Guild has been informed by management at The Commercial Appeal that the company believes the two sides to be "at impasse," and the company's latest proposal will be implemented if the Guild does not respond by April 27.

The Guild is trying to avoid that outcome, since it would mean unlimited outsourcing (and layoffs), a frozen pension, and would eliminate the "evergreen clause" from their contract.

An evergreen clause generally protects established contractual obligations from "expiring" - meaning that unless the terms of the contract are renegotiated, they cannot be simply stripped away when the contract expires.

As part of their fight, the Memphis Guild is launching a campaign to inform the pubic about the dispute, and what it means to the local community.

The Guild plans to use their Facebook page and other tools.

Link: Save Memphis News and Memphis Jobs

Friday, April 9, 2010

Guild fights social networking rules

According to Media Matters, Guild members in Philadelphia took action last month when employees at the Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News received a memo from parent company Philadelphia Newspapers, outlining its policy on social networking.

Guild reps fear the vague and nonspecific terms of the policy are excessive. The article contains the full memo. Read it and judge for yourself.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Internships under fire?

The proper role of interns in the newsroom is a touchy subject. We know. And the line separating supporters and opponents cuts across ideology - two people that never disagree politically will suddenly find themselves at odds over how much work interns should contribute to the newsroom.

So for the moment, we're staying out of it. That said, here's a link forwarded by one of our members.

According to this story in the New York Times, unpaid internships are on the rise, as more companies try to take advantage of the opportunity available in the college labor pool.

Unfortunately, many employers also seem to be abusing the system.

In response, state officials are beginning to crack down on employers that try to skirt the rules in pursuit of cheap labor.

No one keeps official count of how many paid and unpaid internships there are, but Lance Choy, director of the Career Development Center at Stanford University, sees definitive evidence that the number of unpaid internships is mushrooming — fueled by employers’ desire to hold down costs and students’ eagerness to gain experience for their résumés. Employers posted 643 unpaid internships on Stanford’s job board this academic year, more than triple the 174 posted two years ago.

In 2008, the National Association of Colleges and Employers found that 83 percent of graduating students had held internships, up from 9 percent in 1992. This means hundreds of thousands of students hold internships each year; some experts estimate that one-fourth to one-half are unpaid.

Clearly, mentoring the next generation is good for our industry and good for the next generation of journalists on their way to the newsroom. But is it good if their internships displace fully-skilled professionals, simply as a matter of cost? In the end right or wrong might not matter. According to the government guidelines, it's illegal.

1. The training, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, is similar to what would be given in a vocational school or academic educational instruction;

2. The training is for the benefit of the trainees;

3. The trainees do not displace regular employees, but work under their close observation;

4. The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the trainees, and on occasion the employer’s operations may actually be impeded;

5. The trainees are not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the training period;

6. The employer and the trainees understand that the trainees are not entitled to wages for the time spent in training.

In other words, qualifying as an internship, and not a regular employee position, is more than a matter of sanction by a college or university. The position is intended to benefit the student, not the employer. If anything, taking on interns (a voluntary decision for an employer) should generally comes at a cost to the employer, according to federal guidelines. There are many that would acknowledge this is currently not the case in most newsrooms.

What do you think? Has the use of interns gone too far, or should federal guidelines be revised, so that employers can keep on training the next generation?

Monday, March 29, 2010

Focusing on content

What do readers want out of online news?

Yes, people want multimedia. They want games, maps, 30 Rock on Hulu, bootlegged first-run movies from Pirate Bay, and whacked-out amateur videos on YouTube and a dozen other sites. But there’s no evidence that they want, for instance, a thoughtful interactive map/video/database mashup on Afghanistan or global warming on which they can comment. There’s no evidence that users love these things so much that they flock to them, stay around, and convert to a news site’s brand because of cool multimedia.

So here’s my position: There is no future in a paywall. No salvation in digital razzle dazzle.

There is, however, a bold future in relevant content.

John Yemma is Editor of the Christian Science Monitor. Since focusing on their Web presence, Yemma says the Web site has grown steadily. How did they do it? By looking at the internet as a tool to enhance their core business, not replace it. In this article at, Yemma espouses a simple strategy - focus on original content, quality journalism, and the technology to make that content easily available for readers.

What do you think? Is content enough to drive traffic, or do we need more?

P-T reporter honored for service by LBPHS

Long Beach Press-Telegram reporter Tracy Manzer has been named the Distinguished Service Award recipient for 2010 by the Long Beach Police Historical Society.

In presenting the award to Manzer during a ceremony Thursday, Long Beach Police Department Cmdr. Gary Morrison cited her many years of fair and accurate reporting as a significant contribution to the historical record of the LBPD. Morrison, the executive director of the LBPHS, also cited Manzer's efforts to save volumes of historical LBPD photos when the Press-Telegram photo morgue was abandoned several years ago.

The annual Distinguished Service Award, a replica of a vintage LBPD badge, is one of the most prestigious awards presented by the LBPHS.

Manzer, a 15-year veteran of the Press-Telegram, has won numerous journalism awards during her nearly 10 year tenure as the fire, crime and courts beat reporter for the paper.

Obama makes NLRB recess appointments, gives board quorum

President Obama announced Friday he would appoint 15 high-ranking administration appointees now awaiting Senate confirmation through recess appointments, including two positions on the National Labor Relations Board.

The president said he plans to use his constitutional authority to seat Craig Becker, a former union lawyer, and Mark Pearce, also a former union lawyer, to the labor board while Congress is on Spring recess.

The NLRB has been operating with two of five board members since January 2008, which has raised legal questions as to whether the board could issue rulings without a quorum of three sitting members. Last year, the two-member board--one Democrat and one Republican--was instructed to hold off on any rulings until the quorum issue was decided. The Supreme Court heard arguments this week on the issue.

Sitting NLRB Chairman Wilma Liebman, who has served on the board for 12 years, welcomed the new members saying, “I look forward to beginning work with them, and especially to addressing cases that have been pending for a long time.”

One of these cases is the Press-Telegram settlement with the Guild over layoffs and illegal transfers to the Daily Breeze. The settlement, which has been approved by both the Guild and the Press-Telegram, as well as the regional NLRB office, remains on the desk of the NLRB in Washington, D.C., awaiting a sign off from the board.

The Obama administration said it was forced to make the recess appointments because GOP obstructionism has created a backlog of 77 high-level Obama appointees awaiting Senate approval.

"Regrettably, Senate Republicans have dedicated themselves to a failed strategy to cripple President Obama's economic initiatives by stalling key administration nominees at every turn," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

By comparison, at this point in the George W. Bush administration, there remained only five high-level appointments left to be appointed. Democratic leaders in the Congress also pointed out that by this period in his first term, Bush had made 15 recess appointments and ultimately made 171 during his two terms in office.

Becker's appointment has draw severe criticism from many Congressional Republicans, who have said they believe that his pro-union background and disposition will lead to NLRB rulings that make it easier for employees to unionize. A previous Senate confirmation vote on Becker fell shy of the required votes when two Democratic Senators joined with Senate Republicans to deny Obama the needed 60 votes for confirmation.

Democrats and labor organizations cheered the president's decision to use his recess appointment authority.

"When jobs are scarce, workers are often forced to endure unfair working conditions," Kimberly Freeman Brown, executive director for American Rights at Work told CNN. "America's workers need a fully functioning NLRB to mediate their claims for better wages, benefits and other rights now more than ever - and after two long years they have one."

Friday, March 19, 2010

Investing in local news

Veteran AP newsman Dan Robrish isn't scared of the economy, or its effect on the newspaper industry. In fact, he thinks this could be an opportunity for journalists. Some of them at least.

“It’s often said that newspapers are dying, but that’s a gross oversimplification,” stresses Robrish. “The papers with the big problems are the metropolitan dailies. You can get that information from so many sources. But here, if you want to read a professionally written news story about what the Board of Township Supervisors did on Thursday, you really don’t have much choice but to pick up the Elizabethtown Advocate, because I was the only journalist at that meeting. I am the only game in town.”

In this article at the Philly Post, Victor Fiorillo tells how the former employee became a newspaper owner. It's a fascinating story if for no other reason than it flies in the face of the conventional wisdom and a business climate obsessed with cutting expenses, instead of seizing opportunities.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Long Beach alt-paper, The District Weekly, to shutter doors

It appears another marker is set to be placed at journalism's Boot Hill.

The District Weekly's editor-in-chief Ellen Griley confirmed to Wednesday morning that the Long Beach-based alt-weekly, barring any last minute financial reprieves, will be folding. The confirmation follows more than a week of rampant speculation about the fate of the publication.

No firm date was immediately given as to when the operation would cease, or whether The District Weekly website, which remained up and running Wednesday afternoon, would continue separately.

Art Director Heather Swaim told Wednesday that the publication truly represented the tight Long Beach community. "[The District Weekly] is just a really talented group of people who I've loved working with, and if the paper closes I will miss them dearly," she told

The District Weekly began nearly three years ago, staffed to a large degree with veteran journalists from the OC Weekly and headed by well-known OC Weekly editor Will Swaim.

The publication, which featured such OC Weekly and Press-Telegram luminaries as Dave Wilenga and Theo Douglas, built a reputation for itself with an often hard-hitting look at City Hall dealings, an irreverent view of Long Beach culture and an encyclopedic coverage of the area's restaurant and entertainment scenes.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Few willing to pay for online

According to Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism, charging for online news means "significant consumer resistance."

That's the consensus of the project's annual journalism survey, which was released Sunday.

In this article Associated Press reporter David Bauder cites several depressing statistics - like the fact that only 19 percent of "online news consumers" are willing to pay for the content. Or that 82 percent will abandon their preferred web sites if that means getting their news for free.

What's not answered is where "news consumers" will go if newspaper outlets like the Associated Press go bankrupt and there is no content left.

Honolulu Star Bulletin for sale

After losing more than $100 million in the last nine years, the owner of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin is calling it quits and looking for a buyer. Sort of.

Categorized as an "asset sale," the request for bids is part of a legal agreement for Oahu Publications, which owns the Star-Bulletin. Oahu Publications is in the process of purchasing crosstown rival The Honolulu Advertiser, and this sale is among the conditions put forth by the Department of Justice.

If the paper is not sold, the Star-Bulletin and Advertiser will merge into a single newspaper, called the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Bankruptcy update

A federal judge has approved a bankruptcy reorganization plan presented by Denver-based Affiliated Media, Inc., clearing the way for the newspaper owner to emerge from chapter 11 protection within the next two weeks.

The Hon. Kevin J. Carey of U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware confirmed the plan at a hearing Thursday. The plan reduces the firm's debt by about 81 percent, from approximately $930 million to approximately $165 million.

Affiliated Media is the nation's second-largest newspaper publisher by circulation and owner of 54 daily newspapers, including the Los Angeles Daily News and the Long Beach Press-Telegram. Formerly known as MediaNews Group, the firm changed it's name last year to Affiliated Media, Inc., according to lawyers from Affiliated.

The reorganization, which will retain the MediaNews Group leadership at the helm of Affiliated, was approved prior to the filing by more than 90 percent of the firm's debtors.

Dean Singleton told the Salt Lake Tribune on Thursday that the lenders, mainly a group of banks led by Bank of America, would play no role in managing Affiliated or its properties.

Under the approved reorganization plan, Affiliated's debtors will own about 88 percent firm, with the former-MediaNews Group leadership retaining the rest. Stipulations in the plan allow the MediaNews Group leadership, including Singleton, to eventually own up to 20 percent of the firm.

The newly created seven-member Board of Directors for Affiliated includes Singleton, Utah billionaire Jon Huntsman Sr., Jody Lodovic, president of MediaNews, and Howell Begle Jr., the firm's general counsel. Under the bankruptcy plan these four Class A seats were selected by the former MediaNews leadership.

Class B directors named to the board by the lenders include Joseph Euteneurer, chief financial officer of Qwest Communications International, and Michael Sileck, former chief operating officer of World Wrestling Entertainment. And additional seat on the board remains to be named by the lenders.

Singleton will get a base salary of $634,000 in addition to a $360,000 salary at Denver Post Corp., court papers show. He will receive 6 percent of the reorganized company’s stock, out of about 11 percent reserved for management, and warrants to buy 8 percent more. He is eligible for a performance bonus of as much as $500,000 a year.

Lodovic’s base salary will be about $1 million plus 3 percent of the reorganized company’s stock. He will be eligible for a yearly bonus of up to $500,000, according to court documents. He already has received $500,000 for achieving goals in the restructuring process and stands to receive $250,000 more as part of a deal to win confirmation by March 31 and execute the turnaround plan by April 14.

Top executives not including Singleton or Lodovic stand to receive bonuses totaling $1.6 million and will receive up to 2 percent of the reserved Affiliated stock.

According to lawyers for the Guild, the reorganization should have no impact on the National Labor Relations Board settlement over the illegal transfer of employees from the Press Telegram to the Daily Breeze.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

End in sight?

According to the Associated Press, the stalemate over President Obama's "controversial" appointees to the National Labor Relations Board might be over soon.

Labor Secretary Hilda Solis told AFL-CIO officials at their annual meeting Wednesday there will soon be positive news on the long-stalled nomination of union lawyer Craig Becker.

Solis then told reporters the unions will be "very pleased" with how the issue is resolved.

As our members can attest, the obstructionist delays put forth by opponents of nominee Craig Becker have sacrificed American families in the name of political gamesmanship. The sooner it ends, the better.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Settlement on hold over NLRB debate

Despite negotiating a settlement with the company, we have learned that the recent failure to appoint the final three members of the National Labor Relations Board is having a HUGE impact across the country, as cases (including ours) cannot be addressed until a full board is convened.

That's why we're asking you to help push for the final approval of the nominees for the Labor Board. There is no good reason to delay making a recess appointment for NLRB nominees Craig Becker and Mark Pearce, if that's what it takes to move forward.

Until this is completed, the settlement process remains on hold.

Call the White House Switchboard at 202-456-1111 or 202-456-1414, and demand that this gridlock end immediately and appoint the final members for the NLRB. Call your congressman and do the same. Washington has to know that their inaction is hurting us, and we demand that it end immediately.

There shouldn't be any controversy over this issue - President Bush used recess appointments to appoint seven of nine NLRB nominees.

From the CWA National Headquarters:

CWA is continuing to press for NLRB nominees Craig Becker and Mark Pearce to be confirmed as soon as possible, with a recess appointment from President Obama if necessary.

With just two active members now on the NLRB, "thousands of fired workers can get no justice and hundreds of thousands have no bargaining rights as every critical case at the national level is frozen," said CWA President Larry Cohen.

Presidents routinely make appointments during the Senate recess, especially when lawmakers have refused to confirm nominees to critical positions. Ronald Reagan made 243 recess appointments, George W. Bush made 171, Bill Clinton made 140 and George H.W. Bush made 77.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Bankruptcy leads to ownership change

MediaNews CEO Dean Singleton announced today that the company has entered into a debt restructuring agreement as part of Chapter 11 proceedings.

Affiliated Media Inc., the holding company for MediaNews, will have their debt load reduced from $930 million to $165 million. According to the Wall Street Journal, the company's value has been estimated at $200 million.

As part of the agreement, majority ownership of the company has been given to Bank of America and other debtholders. Singleton and MediaNews President Joseph Lodovic now control 20 percent of the company stock. The pair maintain control of all Class A shares however, enabling Singleton and Lodovic to elect a majority of the board of directors.

No restructuring of individual properties or newsrooms is planned, according to Singleton, who characterized the move as a blessing for the cash-strapped empire, and perhaps an opportunity to expand further.

“Current shareholders will be losing the value of their holdings. But we believe that adopting this plan will give us a far better platform from which to develop, grow and participate in the consolidation and re-invention of the newspaper industry.”

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Debunking the 'bias'

Romanesko today has a link to an article from the American Spectator. It makes a lot of bold claims about newspapers and reporters. Few of them are true.

Reviving the tired argument that newspapers have a "liberal bias," American Spectator senior editor Tom Bethell tries to put a new spin on the idea, citing union membership for the supposed leftist slant of U.S. newspapers. He doesn't try to demonstrate that there's a bias however. You'll just have to take his word for it.

From there, Bethell embarks on a long wandering indictment of labor unions, specifically those in the newspaper industry. But none of his criticisms have anything to do with The Newspaper Guild, Communications Workers of America, or any organized news unit. Instead, Bethell drags out shopworn cliches like the auto workers and the airline industry as convenient stand-ins, warning that newspapers may be doomed just because their employees have the ability to negotiate collectively.

Adding insult to injury, Bethell suggests that Guild units "are disposed to keep on doing their thing out of habit even if it threatens to put their own company out of business." He ignores the glut of stories documenting concessions and back-breaking sacrifice accepted by our members, including this unit.

Here's a very incomplete list of other Guild units that have agreed to concessions, found after just two minutes with Google.

Minnesota Guild approves concessions for bankrupt Star-Tribune

Chronicle workers vote 10 to 1 for concessions

Yakima Herald-Republic Concessions Agreement

Paper handlers union is fourth to approve concessions at Globe

To be fair, the Spectator hit piece acknowledges the holes in its argument - right before it glosses them over. Here's one such caveat:

To be sure, major newspapers are not closed shops, and a reporter hired by the Post has the option of joining the Guild or not. The Guild is moderate, as unions go.

Which sounds nice, until you realize that he's already called us self-righteous, irrational bullies. Nevermind the long list or documented cases of intimidation and illegal firings that face our members. But again, facts don't seem that important here.

Regardless, everyone is entitled to their opinion. We aren't in the business of arguing with people and groups that sacrifice reality for ideology. Disagreement is natural, even healthy, but differences of opinion should be rooted in facts, not lies.

The real question is why Romanesko is linking to an old the article in the first place. It's been out for over a month now. What purpose is served by enabling those who attempt to distort the truth, and do it as a weapon against the industry that Romanesko ostensibly serves?

Like the article, it makes no sense.