Newsroom Bargaining: Session Seven

22 Mar

DENVER POST NEWSROOM Guild representatives and management met March 21 to continue collective bargaining talks.

Denver Post Editor Greg Moore joined us to give us his perspective on the current situation and the future of our newsroom. He emphasized that we need to dramatically change what we do. Revenue is in decline and legacy costs continue, resulting in layoffs going on not just in the newsroom, but throughout the company.

Two areas that were mentioned as needing to be addressed during bargaining are the possible collapse of job titles and layoff language. Collapsing some job titles would enable workers to do multiple tasks. For instance, a reporter may be asked to write a story, edit a colleague’s story and post still someone else’s story online. Or we may need more people who can do both copy editing and design. Greg stressed that he was throwing out possibilities and wants to hear all ideas.

Regarding layoff language, Greg stated that our current language keeps the company from moving quickly and that our competitors are more flexible in responding to a quickly changing business climate.

We then asked Greg to summarize some of the other corporate strategies we have been hearing about. He gave us a brief rundown on Digital First’s Project Thunderdome and spoke about regional hubs, similar to what has been done at the Bay Area News Group. The real key, he emphasized, is cost. For instance, while we have the quality and talent here, we must have an effective cost structure if a design desk is to be housed in Denver, Greg said. But he doesn’t know if we can match the efficiencies of other areas.

After Greg left, Missy Miller, Senior Vice President, Human Resources and Labor Relations, reiterated that revenues continue to decline, but that we can’t just chop away at our current structure. We need to step back, she said, and reassess. She suggested that we might ask how we would build the company if we were starting from scratch today. The current structure is not the newsroom of the future, she said, and emphasized again the need for flexibility and cost effectiveness.

Our next bargaining session has been scheduled for March 27.

As always, feel free to leave your comments below or speak to any of the bargaining committee members.

Thomas McKay
Sara Burnett
Kieran Nicholson
Jim Ludvik
Kyle Wagner
Kevin Hamm
Tony Mulligan

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9 Responses to “Newsroom Bargaining: Session Seven”

  1. Joe March 24, 2012 at 11:11 AM #

    If Dean hadn’t stupidly bought a bunch of papers like the Detroit News for wildly overpriced numbers right before the industry started to crater, none of us would be in this big a mess.

  2. Tom McKay March 23, 2012 at 11:50 PM #

    It is important to realize that we didn’t ask for restoration of concessions. The company was obligated to restore based on the language of the contract. When that restoration language was crafted by the unions and the Company, no one could predict what has happened since. We got two rounds of restoration because of one good quarter.

    Simply put, in the first round of restoration the company paid us the profit they had through December 2010. When we later reviewed the company’s finances covering the next six months, there was a profit on the books for the four quarters, but the money had been spent — paid to us earlier. Even though they didn’t have the money anymore, the company was obligated to pay us because of the contract language.

    In fact, all of the unions at The Post were prepared to forego the second set of restorations in exchange for contract extensions. The company declined and, after looking at the legal obligation, conceded to pay the restoration to us.

    I believe that company revenues have declined steadily since the end of 2010. This latest round of layoffs seems to have been caused by something rather sudden that the company didn’t feel it could fix by pay cuts and furloughs. Nor did the company seek any concessions before they started laying people off.

    Finally, it was pointed out to me that even if the employees offered to give back a portion of their pay, it would not necessarily save any jobs. I think this is true. An employer won’t hire more people than they think are needed to do the work. And it is the employer that decides what work needs to be done. Our employer has stated that the work we have been doing is not the work that will need to be done in the future.

    This doesn’t mean we should just meekly wait for the company to attempt to figure things out. Our concerns and ideas should be heard. But let’s not obsess too much on how we go about maintaining the status quo. The handwriting is on the wall — and posted on the internet — newspapers are changing into something else. Let’s be the ones to come up with the great ideas of what that something else will be.

  3. Jen Brown March 23, 2012 at 10:36 AM #

    Seniority, of course, should count for something. It should count for a lot, actually. But I think it’s reasonable to also have job performance matter when the company is deciding who to keep. What management has initially proposed is way too vague for anyone’s comfort level. There must be a model to follow from another newspaper, a system that specifically weights seniority versus job performance and clearly spells out how many bad evaluations (at least two?) justify a poor score when it comes to layoffs. Like most of us, I have never had a job evaluation here. In seven years. Setting up a fair evaluation system would need to happen prior to management using job performance to get rid of people.

  4. reporter March 23, 2012 at 10:34 AM #

    The problem for reporters is we don’t have the equipment and training necessary to do our jobs. I purchased my own iPad two years ago so I could file stories remotely because our laptops were too heavy to walk two miles a day with and they had cameras which were not allowed in courtrooms. The 3G costs $29 a month and then of course the cost of the computer.
    So then I noticed that other media outlets and reporters at other newspapers are frequently posting video with their stories. I taught myself how to shoot video (using my husband’s iPad because his has a camera) and watched YouTube to learn how to use the app to shoot video. This took hours of my own time and my own equipment that I paid for.
    Another thing is when I got back to the newsroom to ask someone about how to post to the blogs and what the best way was to get it online, I was sent to several different people who didn’t have time to show me, told there was a “procedure” to follow (which is fine, but I didn’t know there was a procedure). This won’t work in a breaking news situation and it doesn’t make learning video attractive to a reporter who may not want to adapt to this genre.
    And next week, we are having a class about how to shoot breaking news photos with your iPhone or iPad2. I don’t have those devices, but I am going to learn and borrow my husband’s computer again. But someone has to meet me halfway.
    Also, before you guys start bashing young reporters, there are several here who are willing and very capable of helping us learn some of these skills.

  5. Small-Town Newspaper March 22, 2012 at 11:21 PM #

    If The Post wants to operate like a small-town newspaper, fine, we can do a variety of jobs. But let it be noted: During my stint at a small newspaper, there were only two big-wigs — a managing editor and a publisher. That’s it. So if the small-town paper is the new reality, let it apply to the entire operation. Do we need 50 cooks stirring a cup of soup?

  6. How to do this better? March 22, 2012 at 8:50 PM #

    Again what other jobs/people outside the newsroom are being laid off? Why do we need so many managers? Can we ask for job descriptions of managers? Can we consolidate some of the managers jobs? How much is digital making vs. print? Can we see those numbers? If we got concessions back must mean $$ is being made, right?

    Helen makes a good point. Why do we see increases and job loses?

    I can see collapsing job titles, but can you imagine some reporters editing stories? But have reporters tweet out stories with l links to the post. I can see that.

    Seriously how can we build a better product/model and save jobs?

  7. Joe March 22, 2012 at 5:54 PM #

    Classic management technique. The sky is falling, we all need to cut back (except us in management, of course, it’ll be the status quo) and you all need to either take our only offer or else. Don’t believe ’em. Post is making a lot of money online right now – which is why management people are paid in the six figures and employees in the low 5s.

  8. Fed up March 22, 2012 at 4:52 PM #

    Just close the paper already. Or just pay everyone $4 an hour. So I have to write a story then edit the next guy’s, and write the headline?
    Like I said, just close the paper and put everyone out of their misery.

  9. Helen March 22, 2012 at 4:22 PM #

    So I have a question. Why do we keep asking for concessions back when the company is losing money? It seems like the last time we got compensation back there was a round of lay offs shortly thereafter. It doesn’t make sense to me that we ask to not have furloughs and to get more money back at the expense of people losing their jobs. It actually makes me worried when they agree to a raise or re-compensation for pay cuts it makes me feel like the next thing down the pike are layoffs!! Of course I would love a pay increase and not to have furloughs but on the other hand if it meant keeping my job I would choose to have them.

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