From Don Day in Boise. Don has been covering news in Boise for 20 years. He is a National Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a Stanford University John S. Knight Fellow.
‘All eligible editorial staff in the Idaho Statesman newsroom intend to for a union, the group said Monday.
In a letter signed by 16 non-management members of the Statesman’s news staff, the journalists said the intent of the union is to “preserve Idaho news and give our staff a seat at the table.”
Each of the members signed a mission statement and said they delivered it to Statesman publisher Rusty Dodge’s assistant.
The union hopes McClatchy, which owns the Statesman, will voluntarily recognize the organizing effort. Several other McClatchy papers, including the company’s flagship Sacramento Bee, use union labor. If not, the group says it will vote in the next several weeks to form a union among eligible employees. The NewsGuild, part of the Communications Workers of America, will represent the Idaho News Guild, as the group calls itself.
A message to Dodge seeking comment was forwarded to McClatchy’s corporate PR department. A spokesperson did not respond to specific questions, but did provide a statement:
“The Idaho Statesman and McClatchy are reviewing a letter from our journalists in Boise sharing their intention to form a union. We appreciate the right of our journalists to be represented by the News Guild-CWA and will consider their request and respond shortly.”
McClatchy, which entered bankruptcy protection last month, repeatedly cut the newsgathering capabilities of the capital city’s oldest news organization. It faces pressure for a severe downturn in print advertising revenue, plus intense competition for digital advertising from Google and Facebook. The company in recent years aggressively turned to build a stronger digital subscription business to stem the losses.
Idaho is a so-called “right-to-work state,” which means a union can’t require employees to join or pay dues in order to get a job. If McClatchy recognizes the union, or a vote to form proves successful, the guild could gain collective bargaining rights over issues like wages, healthcare costs, and other labor issues.’
Idaho News Guild:
Thus far, our union has unanimous support from our 16 eligible members. Each of us signed our mission statement, which we delivered to our publisher today.
Maintaining public media infrastructure should be non-negotiable for a democratic society. We have to be bold.
The McClatchy newspaper chain’s recent filing for bankruptcy is one more data point showing that US journalism is dying. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the newspaper industry has lost more than 50% of its employees since 2001. While several big national papers like the New York Times are healthy, more typical are the closures, bankruptcies, and extreme downsizing that increasingly leave cities, towns and rural communities without local news.
Meanwhile, little evidence suggests that any new market-driven model can rescue newspapers or sustain the journalism that democracy requires. For many areas across the US, there’s simply no commercial option. The market has failed us.
This carnage has attracted opportunistic pathologies, from hedge funds buying up distressed papers and selling them for parts, to news outlets resorting to increasingly dubious forms of advertising and clickbait. A degraded product gives readers even less reason to support local news.
ut tackling the journalism crisis at a systemic level – bringing sustenance to “news deserts” where rich benefactors and foundations are unlikely to go – requires a large public media fund. How do we create it?
Ideally, we’d massively increase federal support for public media. Whether we expand or replace the PBS model is an open question, but this new system must provide for information needs across all types of digital media and platforms.
Maintaining public media infrastructure should be non-negotiable for a democratic society. Short of paying directly out of the treasury, government could help facilitate multiple revenue streams into one large fund. Two objections typically arise: its cost and its relationship to government.
Regarding independence from government, opposition to public media is often ideological, not grounded in empirical evidence. An extensive record shows publicly-subsidized media existing comfortably in democratic countries around the world. Research suggests that public media often are no less critical of government than their private counterparts, and they correlate positively with strong democracies.
Even the US has long subsidized media infrastructure, from the postal system to the internet. Nonetheless, there are legitimate concerns about state capture – just as there are with commercial capture – and yet many democracies have figured out how to make this work. Safeguards and firewalls are both necessary and feasible.
The next question is how do we pay for it? Many options exist. We could raise funds from taxing platforms like Facebook and Google, placing levees on communication devices, and repurposing international broadcasting subsidies. Other sources include spectrum sales and individual tax vouchers. We could leverage already-existing public infrastructures such as post offices, libraries, and public broadcasting stations to provide spaces for local news production.