Tag Archives: Los Links

Los Links | Unions: The End is Nigh

25 Jan

IN CASE YOU missed it, unions are in their death throes. The Bureau of Labor Statistics released a report showing in 2012 union membership declined by 400,000 to 14.3 million workers, or 11.3 percent of the workforce, down from 11.8 percent in 2011.

That the decline that began in the 1950s is continuing isn’t really earth-shattering news.

A collection of somewhat random links and snippets:

Share of the Work Force in a Union Falls to a 97-Year Low, 11.3% | The New York Times

Labor specialists cited several reasons for the steep one-year decline in union membership. Among the factors were new laws that rolled back the power of unions in Wisconsin, Indiana and other states, the continued expansion by manufacturers like Boeing and Volkswagen in nonunion states and the growth of sectors like retail and restaurants, where unions have little presence.

Al Lewis: America hates unions more than CEOs | The Denver Post

Americans hate organized labor, but somehow they do not hate organized management.

As the labor unions have declined, professional corporate managers have formed increasingly powerful guilds of their own. They belong to elite groups, such as the Business Roundtable or the Trilateral Commission, to name a couple. Many are even having a little cabal in Davos, Switzerland this week.

Raw Data: The Union Premium | Mother Jones

To give you an idea of what this means in real-life terms, here’s the latest data on the difference in wages between unionized and nonunionized workers.

Was the decline of American unions inevitable? Not if you ask Canada | The Washington Post

Between the 1920s and 1960s, both countries saw a similar surge in union membership, thanks to changes in labor law and the growth of sectors ripe for organizing, such as automobile manufacturing. But around 1965, something changed. The two countries diverged. Union membership held steady in Canada, but plummeted in the United States.

Labor Unions: Declining Membership Shows Labor Laws Need Modernizing | The Heritage Foundation

Such sharp drops in union membership indicate that U.S. labor laws are out of step with the modern economy. Traditional unions no longer appeal to workers the way they did two generations ago. Outdated restrictions in labor laws are now seen as holding back both employers and employees.

If Labor Dies, What’s Next? | The American Prospect

For many Americans, the death of labor would doubtless seem the natural order of things, the dinosaur finally shuffling off to the graveyard. Unions have no presence in the hottest and hippest sectors of the economy, in high-tech, fashion, and finance. The public’s image of labor is a memory of a memory that’s anywhere from 50 to 100 years old—the Yiddish- and Italian-speaking seamstresses of the Lower East Side, the goons in On the Waterfront, and, for the historically sentient, George Meany puffing a cigar and damning the Vietnam peaceniks.

It doesn’t seem to matter that these images don’t conform to present reality. Today, there are millions more unionized teachers than unionized truckers. Of the six unions with more than a million members, two are headed by lesbians and one by an African American, a level of diversity in these troglodytic institutions not to be found on Wall Street or in Silicon Valley.

But labor’s anachronistic image persists, and for a reason: It stubbornly represents blue-collar workers long after they’ve gone out of style and their numbers have diminished. It speaks for autoworkers and steelworkers, for the cutting-edge industries of 1935. To the young, even to most campus activists, unions are a holdover from their great-grandparents’ generation, speaking a language as incomprehensible as Old English: solidarity, shop stewards, seniority, strikes. Where are unions in the new economy? Can a union do anything for a temp? A part-timer? A software writer? A barista? Will anyone under 30—will anyone over 30—even notice if unions cease to be?

Perhaps not. But everyone will notice the consequences. Absent a substantial union movement, the American middle class will shrink. Absent a substantial union movement, the concentration of wealth will increase. Absent a substantial union movement, the corporate domination of government will grow.

Union Membership In America Continues Its Long Decline | Business Insider

But if you’re thinking about this like an economist, you may be thinking, a) we can’t support these union premiums in a competitive, global economy, and b) the declines in unionization I bemoan here must be associated with more job creation, right? We’re squeezing out an inefficient market interference and thus moving down a demand curve, getting workers’ wages more aligned with their efficient market wage and thus generating more jobs.

I disagree. There are many other advanced economies with far more union coverage that are extremely competitive—more so than we are.

Unions, inequality, and faltering middle-class wages | Economic Policy Institute

If we want the fruits of economic growth to benefit the vast majority, we will have to adopt a different set of guideposts for setting economic policy, as the ones in place over the last several decades have served those with the most income, wealth, and political power. Given unions’ important role in setting standards for both union and nonunion workers, we must ensure that every worker has access to collective bargaining.

The Data | Bureau of Labor Statistics

And since you made it this far you deserve a song. Hint: It’s from the Simpsons.

Los Links: More on Journal Register’s Bankruptcy

7 Sep

For your reading pleasure, more stories in the wake of Journal Register Company’s bankruptcy announcement.

In Denver Post & MediaNews Group: Fallout from partner Journal Register Company bankruptcy? Westword’s Michael Roberts reports that, according to “an insider,” there was some dissension in the ranks once the bloom was off the Digital First rose:

By summertime, however, our source reported grumbling over what was perceived as top-heaviness at Digital First Media, with new senior executive hires during a time of layoffs at MediaNews Group papers around the country. The fear: MediaNews Group was being used as a cash cow to build up DFM. Our source also noted tension between MediaNews Group types and folks imported by Paton, many of them with Journal Register Company roots.

GigaOM’s Mathew Ingram writes in Newspaper restructuring — think steel, cars and airlines, the newspaper industry’s transformation will need to be measured in decades:

If there is a poster child for the “digital first” newspaper movement, it is probably Journal Register Co., which manages a chain of dailies and weeklies in the eastern U.S. John Paton took the helm as CEO after it emerged from bankruptcy in 2009, and implemented a wide range of digital-first moves — and yet parent company Digital First Media just announced that Journal Register Co. is filing for bankruptcy for a second time. The not-so-hidden message in all this is that despite all the pain of the last few years, the restructuring of newspapers isn’t even close to being over: as we’ve seen with the large structural changes in the steel industry, car makers and the airline market, transforming an industry with massive legacy costs is a long and bloody process. What emerges at the end remains to be seen.

In Journal Register, future-of-news star, is bankrupt again, Ryan Chittum writes for the Columbia Journalism Review that the numbers John Paton mentioned in his announcement are meaningless without some context:

The reason we don’t know more about the numbers is that JRC, as a closely held company, releases financial information only selectively—in sharp contrast to its “open journalism” philosophy.

>snip<

Paton, for instance, has repeatedly said digital revenues at JRC were up some large percentage since he took over. He does so again in his bankruptcy note. Yes, but from what to what? Those are big numbers all right, but 235 percent of not much is still not that much, and its worth noting that JRC’s digital revenues were far below industry average when Paton took over. It’s much easier to grow fast off a low base, and Paton has used the company’s privately held status to cherry pick positive numbers without having to paint a full picture—one that definitely didn’t include an imminent bankruptcy.

A former Journal Register employee wrote a letter about the bankruptcy announcement that is posted on Romenesko:

From RACHEL JACKSON, former Journal Register employee: The [Journal Register] Chapter 11/sale announcement does not surprise me in the least – and the employee you quoted as calling this “horseshit” is exactly right.

Lastly, in the wake of the bankruptcy announcement there has been some grumbling (perhaps it’s contagious) about the fact that Project Thunderdome is located in Manhattan rather than, say, Willoughby, Ohio, where real estate costs are presumably less. Jim Brady explains the reasoning in a piece by Adrienne LaFrance for Nieman Journalism Lab, Why does Project Thunderdome have to be in New York City?

“You want to be in a position to get the best possible people you can,” Brady said. “I’d love to get in an argument with anybody who says there isn’t a lot of journalistic talent in New York City.”

Carry on.

Los Links: Break The Chains, But Don’t Wait Too Long

8 Jul

Want to save local newspapers? Then break the chains that hold them back
In this piece for OJR: The Online Journalism Review, Robert Niles writes that economies of scale don’t work in the newspaper business anymore and it’s time to break up the chains.

Locally-focused news publications must become truly local, with local information, produced by local reporters with local ties, sold to local advertisers by a local sales staff who work for a local owner.

News Corp Split, Buffett’s Bet Top Year of Big Media Ownership Changes
The Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism has a nice wrap-up of media transactions over the last couple of years.

According to the investment banking firm of Dirks, Van Essen & Murray, which monitors newspaper transactions, a total of 71 daily newspapers were sold as part of 11 different transactions during 2011, the busiest year for sales since 2007.

There’s a mention of Alden Global Capital’s acquisition of the Journal Register Company, and “Alden Global has also invested in several other newspaper organizations,” including MediaNews Group (two of the seven MediaNews Group directors are from Alden Global Capital).

And be sure to check out the list of Who Owns the News Media that covers newspapers, TV and radio.

The Fissures Are Growing for Papers
The New York Times’ David Carr writes about “cracks in publishing operations,” one of the bigger ones being underfunded pensions that threaten companies’ financial health. “There are smart people trying to innovate, and tons of great journalism is published daily, but the financial distress is more visible by the week.”

Those of us who work inside the racket like to think of our business as unique, but with underfunded pension plans, unserviceable debt and legacy manufacturing processes and union agreements, the newspaper industry looks a lot like, well, steel, autos and textiles.

Report: How to Build Trust In the Digital Age
Mediabistro’s 10,000 Words column has a piece by Mona Zhang about a report that examines the quality of journalism in the digital age, which “investigates the notions of objectivity and impartiality in the digital world, and whether or not we can trust the new forms of journalism that are emerging as a result of new technologies.”

He (Richard Sambrook) writes that as the traditional business models erode, there has been an increase in “journalism of assertion” and “journalism of affirmation”—models that rely on immediacy and volume, and affirming the beliefs of its audience.

Newspapers Chronicle Lives of Returning Veterans
Nu Yang wrote a piece for Editor & Publisher about the American Homecomings project by The Denver Post and Digital First Media.

The site is really a public service project,” (Lee Ann) Colacioppo said. “We’re doing it for the veterans who are returning and to serve that community … the feedback we’ve received so far is from readers thanking us for sharing these stories and veterans who appreciate the attention to the subject.

And a link to the American Homecomings project since there doesn’t seem to be one in the story.

Lastly, here’s a fun little infographic about the consolidation of media in America.

Los Links: At Least You’re Not A Lumberjack

15 Jun

I’m starting a new feature on the site: Los Links, a (probably) weekly collection of stories about goings-on in the brave new media world. If you run across something that you think should be included, post it in the comments or shoot me an email.

Why Your News Organization’s Social Media Policy May Be Illegal
In the context of the recent brouhaha about Colorado Springs Gazette journalist Barrett Tryon being ordered by management, citing the company’s social media policy, to remove a post from his personal Facebook page, Poynter’s Jeff Sonderman writes such actions have drawn the attention of the National Labor Relations Board. He writes the NLRB has found provisions of employer social media policies to be unlawful in six recent cases, labeling such restrictions “an ‘overly broad’ gag order on workers’ rights.”

The NLRB seems particularly concerned with any restriction that might impair employees’ rights to discuss employment terms and conditions publicly or with each other. The guiding law here is Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act, which gives workers the rights to organize, unionize and bargain collectively.

Note: The Denver Post’s social media policy can be found in the Ethics Policy document on the intranet.

The Importance of Trustworthiness
In the American Journalism Review, Carl Sessions Stepp writes that while newspaper executives make a convincing case that readers see content as a “real-time work-in-progress that can be instantly corrected and updated,” those executives should be mindful that cutting copy editors could also damage a newspaper’s reputation as more mistakes get through.

The more alarming risk is that the cumulative cutbacks undercut the all-important trustworthiness, a nearly unique selling point. Instead of the recognized, essential site for reliable material, a news operation becomes just one among many semi-satisfactory options.

Why Newspapers Were Doomed All Along
Justin Fox, editor of the Harvard Business Review Group, writes that we’re witnessing the death spiral of many metro dailies that react to lost revenue by cutting back on news-gathering resources and raising prices, making them less attractive to readers. He writes the post-World War II business model was: establish monopoly, milk monopoly.

But the sustainable online business model for serious local reporting has yet to be discovered. … If former monopoly newspapers are to succeed in remaining part of that (sustainable media) mix, they’ll probably need owners who don’t really care about making money. That is, they’ll effectively become non-profits.

The 10 Worst Jobs of 2012
And by the way, according to CareerCast, newspaper reporter is now one of the 10 worst jobs around, coming in at No. 196 out of 200. What’s number 200? Lumberjack.