Thursday, January 31, 2008

Management Road Show Redux...

This week's been filled with meetings at our many worksites with MediaNews management. Reports range from a very lively exchange in Walnut Creek to nary a mention of the Guild organizing campaign at Oakport.

How did it shake out at your worksite?

And what are the key issues you think we need to be providing more information about to address colleagues' concerns and management's talking points?

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Denver Guild, MediaNews reach tentative 2-year agreement using streamlined process

Following only seven negotiating sessions, MediaNews management at The Denver Post and the Guild's negotiating team have reached agreement on a new two-year labor proposal. Guild members will vote on the the measure in the coming weeks to determine if it will take effect as a contract.

The agreement includes a 1 percent raise beginning March 16 for all Guild-covered employees and another 1 percent pay increase the next year. The pact calls for an increase in night differential to $4 per shift from the current $2.25 a shift.

The agreement includes numerous changes in contract language that reflect the extraordinary transformations in our industry. Most notably, it includes an expectation that employees will gather and process information for multiple media platforms using a variety of tools, and that Post management will provide the necessary training and learning opportunities for employees to do so.

Guild reps cited the parties' use of a process known as "interest-based bargaining" for the remarkably quick resolution of the agreement. The process makes use of a federal mediator to streamline the negotiations, and was aimed at getting a fair agreement for both sides in a difficult economic environment. The teams are finalizing language of the proposed contract and will be making drafts available for all Guild-covered employees within the next two weeks. Following a review period, Guild members will vote to approve or reject it.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Monterey Herald Guild members speak out

The Monterey County Weekly is running a piece this week on the situation at the MediaNews-owned Herald. Guild members there are in the midst of contract negotiations with the company.

On Jan. 18, MediaNews laid off eight Herald employees, including two editors and one reporter. It was the second round of layoffs since the company bought the paper and 32 others in 2006.

“The thing that worries me as a journalist: I’m really concerned about the decreasing local coverage,” said staff writer Claudia MelĂ©ndez Salinas, chair of the Monterey unit of San Jose Newspaper Guild. “When you start reducing the number of people gathering information and making sure that it is delivered accurately, the community suffers.”

The article also notes that MediaNews paid $25 million in cash dividends to shareholders in 2007.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Amazing quotes by exiting LAT editor, refusing cuts and urging investment plus journos' leadership

From The editor of the L.A. Times, James E. O'Shea, left Monday after refusing to carry out another round of newsroom budget cuts sought by publisher David Hiller — 15 months after Hiller fired the paper's previous editor over the same kind of dispute. The showdown and O'Shea's parting comments made for a remarkable statement by an editor - especially one who had been seen as a Tribune loyalist, sent to Los Angeles to calm a rebellious staff.

"Even in hard times, wise investment — not retraction — is the long-term answer to the industry's troubles," O'Shea wrote, while suggesting that Tribune executives have been unable to see the logic of anything but budget cuts.

"Journalists and not accountants should seize responsibility for the financial health of our newspapers," he wrote, "so journalists can make decisions about the size of our staffs and how much news remains in our papers and Web sites."

Monday, January 21, 2008

A new voice at the Contra Costa Times

This week the One Big BANG campaign ramped up to a new level as CCT reporter Sara Steffens publicly announced that she is co-chair of the East Bay organizing campaign, along with Michael Manekin of the San Mateo County Times.  Read Sara's inspiring letter to our colleagues.

St. Paul, Denver MediaNews journos come to EBay

More than a dozen working members and Guild staff from around the country will gather in Oakland next week for a novel mobilization project spearheaded by Eric Geist, organizing director at The Newspaper Guild-CWA sector headquarters in Washington.  Geist will join John Dugan, head of organizing for the Communications Workers of America District 9, in leading a series of mobilization workshops and field projects focusing on MediaNews Group, the nation's fourth largest news chain.

Delegates from the St. Paul Pioneer Press and Denver Post will join representatives of Guild locals and field staff from Los Angeles, San Jose and San Francisco. The NorCal Media Workers Guild is playing host for the first-time event, being held at the union-represented Courtyard Marriott Hotel in downtown Oakland.

Much of the focus will be on the "One Big BANG: One Guild Universe" campaign being led by Sara Steffens of the Contra Costa Times and Michael Manekin of the San Mateo County Times. They are recently named co-chairs of the BANG-East Bay organizing committee, building a new bargaining unit here amongst our colleagues.

Members of the San Francisco Chronicle newsroom -- key early participants in the BANG organizing along with the San Jose Mercury News staff -- also are joining in the sessions, including two full days of seminars followed by meetings and one-on-one visits with BANG employees.

"Our members will come out to the Bay Area, learn how it's done, learn and share as much as they can about the company, and then return back to their home newsrooms to continue the mobilization work," Geist said.

Along with the daytime sessions, the agenda includes a dinner meeting Monday night with presentations by leaders of the BANG organizing committee. On Tuesday night, January 29, an informational meeting will be held in Walnut Creek where the St. Paul and Denver delegates will share their insights about achieving productive bargaining relationships with the MediaNews company.

On the last night, Thursday January 31, members of the Chronicle Guild Unit are hosting a party to thank the out-of-towners and toast their East Bay colleagues. That event will take place at the House of Shields on New Montgomery Street in San Francisco, from 6-9 p.m., with free food and beverages. A very special musical treat is in the works.

Check back here for more details on the upcoming events. For further information, call local representative Carl Hall at the Media Workers Guild at 415-421-6833.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Shake Up, Pt. 2: Another MediaNews Exec Steps In

What's going on here?  Close on the heels of last week's replacement of Merc editor Carole Leigh Hutton, the Bay Area shakeup continued today with George Riggs suddenly stepping down from his post as executive of the California Newspapers Partnership. Both he and Hutton have been replaced by high-ranking MediaNews execs from Dean Singleton's inner circle (both are V.P's, one is the Chief Operating Officer of the entire company).

From E&P's Joe Strupp: 

"Asked about speculation that his departure had something to do with the surprise resignation earlier this month of Mercury News Editor Carole Leigh Hutton, whom he hired last year, Riggs said only, 'she is an outstanding journalist and editor, so I was sorry to see her leave.'  Reached by E&P today, Hutton declined comment.

The departure of Riggs came on the heels of Hutton's exit.  The San Jose Mercury News pointed out today, 'Hutton had been appointed by Riggs and had proposed a sweeping transformation of the Silicon Valley newspaper into a three-section publication.'

MediaNews named one if its executives as editor to replace Hutton. It's not completely clear that the Hutton move led, in turn, to Riggs' departure."

It's true, not much is clear. But one thing is for certain: the concentration of high-ranking MediaNews execs has increased significantly in the region in just this first month of 2008 - a year in which we're already seeing an escalating organizing drive in the East Bay and in which contract negotiations are upcoming in the South Bay.

Hold onto your hats, friends, it's going to be a lively year...