Turmoil at the TU

tu newspaper boxAccording to a post on the Albany Newspaper Guild's blog, the publisher of the TU has told the union that Hearst is threatening to cancel the union's contract:

In an effort to get employees to swallow all of its demands, the Company today filed notice it would cancel our contract on April 9.

"The message to members is that if you don't allow the Company to gut your contract, it will launch an unprecedented assault on your union," Guild President Tim O'Brien said.

Canceling the contract would mean the union would no longer be able to take grievances to an independent arbitrator. The Company also claims it will be able to cease deducting dues from your paycheck. The union disagrees and will seek help from the Guild International.

It appears that this development has been building for awhile. The guild announced two weeks ago that Hearst wanted to make job cuts at the paper based on performance -- not on seniority, as the union contract requires. Hearst recently won this right during negotiations with the union at the San Francisco Chronicle.

All newspaper companies have been having a tough time recently and Hearst is no exception. It looks like it will soon be shutting down the paper version of its Seattle Post-Intelligencer. And the head of the company's newspaper unit said this week that Hearst will probably start raising subscription prices at its papers and pulling back some of its content from its free web sites.


"Hearst will probably start raising subscription prices at its papers and pulling back some of its content from its free web sites."

Yeah. That kind of forward thinking is sure to save the industry.


I was thinking exactly the same thing. Sounds like it would be smarter for them to more efficiently monetize their electronic content than retreat into their increasingly expensive and irrelevant presses.

IMO paper news is a dying format. Why read news that's at least 12 hours old when you can get up to the minute news on a website?

I know there's people who still like to have the newspaper in their hand. Howard Stern was talking about it a few days ago and mentioned this. But I think it's a generational thing. 20 years from now I wouldn't be surprised if daily newspapers are a thing of the past.

We once got a free subscription to the TU through the apartment complex we were in. The newspapers would pile up inside the door, never to be read and just became a nuisance to get rid of.

"The guild announced two weeks ago that Hearst wanted to make job cuts at the paper based on performance -- not on seniority, as the union contract requires. "

I'm sorry, but shouldn't this be the way things happen? This could be why there have been so many issues within other agencies and high level employees. I support unions, I am a member of one, but I still think logic should prevail. MHO

I can't comment on the events at the TU, but I can say: I LOVE the photo you chose for this entry. The empty bottle says it all.


20 years? Try 5. Trust me on this one.

@Matt - at present, I don't trust "up to the minute" news. Each news outlet is so concerned with beating another, that oftentimes fact-checking is an afterthought, in an effort to "get the story out." I generally don't trust something unless I've seen it hit a few different sources.

Having said that, if there is now a 24 hour news cycle, I hope that media outlets will learn that no one is going to be first all the time, and that people will learn to trust the place that has it RIGHT, rather than the place that has it first. I think we're still a ways away from that right now, though.

I'd just like to stress that Hearst does not necessarily want to lay off people based strictly on performance.

Layoffs are certainly used to get rid of dead weight, but they're also a way to get rid of people who are older and make more money, or to settle grievances (how likely is it that Hearst will want to keep the people who are fighting for decent working conditions?).

I know many extremely talented, hard-working people whose heads are on the chopping block right now because Hearst wants to outsource things like page design. It has nothing to do with their performance.

If you'd like to learn more, I suggest reading some of the comments on the Guild blog, or reading Romenesko.

And while I love blogs like AOA, I also wonder what it will be like when newspapers cease to exist and people realize that Google News is just an aggregator.

Thank you N! You speakst the truth!
From one journo to another...

The whole seniority vs performance thing is a problem in far more places than newspapers. One need only look at schoolteachers, state employees, factory workers, pretty much any unionized 'shop'.

And, it's a mixed blessing. Seniority protects those who have worked hard for a long time. It also allows for an enormous waste of money on a few employees who abuse the system and do little or nothing or just plain have lost the fire needed to do a good job.

As an employer, it makes sense to try to keep those who do a good job and those with seniority who have the institutional memory to avoid the mistakes of the past. It also makes sense to have a way, some way, any way, to get rid of dead weight.

Tough call every time you eliminate a position or fire someone for non performance.

I think most of the points people have been making here are part of the same whole: the media models that have worked for so long will soon stop working AND we will probably miss parts of that old model.

Clay Shirkey just posted an essay about all this. Here's a snip:

That is what real revolutions are like. The old stuff gets broken faster than the new stuff is put in its place. The importance of any given experiment isn’t apparent at the moment it appears; big changes stall, small changes spread. Even the revolutionaries can’t predict what will happen. Agreements on all sides that core institutions must be protected are rendered meaningless by the very people doing the agreeing. (Luther and the Church both insisted, for years, that whatever else happened, no one was talking about a schism.) Ancient social bargains, once disrupted, can neither be mended nor quickly replaced, since any such bargain takes decades to solidify.

That seems like a pretty accurate representation of where we're at.

When/if the TU layoffs off a bunch of people, it's going to hurt -- the employees and their families, obviously, but also this community. But hopefully we (that is, everyone in this community) can eventually figure out a way to move forward. And maybe, if we're lucky, the future can be a little bit better than what we have now.

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