Fighting for Local Journalism


By Grant Glickson,
President, The NewsGuild of New York 

While the current political rhetoric, a constant attack on the Fourth Estate, has been extremely distressing and dangerous for our democracy, corporate greed has been harming our industry.  

Last month, media corporation Tronc dealt yet another blow to journalism, slashing half of the New York Daily News newsroom and bringing the total number of reporters covering a city of more than 8 million to just 45. This was an attack not only on the editorial workers who shine a light on the institutions of New York City, but a continued war of attrition on local journalists that is robbing New Yorkers of a source of accountability and information. Tronc continues to mine its newsroom for profit and profit alone.

There’s an abhorrent trend across our industry that is reminiscent of the one percent against the 99 percent. In our case, however, the 99 percent isn’t just workers, it’s readers — and it’s our democracy. We know that Tronc isn’t short on cash. Not only was the company’s former chairman Michael Ferro yielding a $5 million a year salary, but after allegations of sexual harassment were made against him, he was promptly bought out of his Tronc contract for a $15 million “consulting” fee. Most Los Angeles Times employees hadn’t gotten a raise in the seven years before they organized a union, and they were repeatedly told there simply “wasn’t enough to go around.” Thanks to their historic organizing drive and strategic research, now workers there know — and expect — better.

Gannett and Gatehouse are equally guilty—two corporations more concerned with short term revenue than preserving local journalism. Both companies have made a habit of slowly gutting their newsrooms (and they own hundreds of publications) around the country. Then there’s the hedge fund Alden Global Capital, which owns Digital First Media, who recently laid off 30 editorial workers at The Denver Post. For all of the damage the company is doing to publications across the nation, it’s benefiting to the tune of $160 million in profits and has reported the highest margins in the industry. A Neiman Lab headline described it best: “Alden Global Capital is making so much money wrecking local journalism it might not want to stop anytime soon.”

According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Employment Statistics, as reported by the Pew Research Center, newsroom investment is obviously on the decline. The Bureau reports that 39,210 people worked as reporters, editors, photographers, or film and video editors in the newspaper industry in 2017. For reference, that’s down 15% from 2014 and 45% from 2004.

These corporate attacks on local journalism and the workers who produce it are serious. But we know that by coming together to fight back collectively, we can claim our seat at the table to negotiate for what we — and our readers — deserve. We can’t accept that there’s not enough to go around. We must fight to protect our local publications and journalists. We need them.

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