Pérez-Peña responds

New York Times media reporter Richard Pérez-Peña has responded to my post of earlier today:

I enjoy your work, and obviously I’m biased, but I thought your critique of my piece was a little odd and beside the point. The point of citing those examples was that there was a lack of communication on even the basics. I think you agree with that.

I really don’t understand why you bring up the dollar figures, since I can’t quite figure out what (if anything) you’re claiming is the “questionable assertion.” You wrote, “there doesn’t seem to be much doubt that management has, in fact, been telling Globe employees that the paper lost $50 million last year,” as if I had cast doubt on that. I hadn’t. As far as I know, no one disputes that this is the number the company has cited. But it wasn’t cited to “Globe employees.” It was to union leaders, in private meetings, and maybe to a Globe reporter (I don’t know), but not to employees at large or to the public.

You note that the company publicly owned up to the $85 million figure for this year. But did you know that for three weeks, the company would not acknowledge that figure, either, even after it had been reported everywhere? An executive said it at the April 23 shareholders’ meeting (a slip, apparently), which I believe triggered the required SEC filing.

The point wasn’t whether these were the numbers being used; everyone knew that they were, and I never wrote anything to the contrary. The point was that the company wouldn’t state them publicly.

I confess that I wasn’t aware of Mathis’ June 4 e-mail to the Phoenix, but it doesn’t undermine the point. The e-mail does not explicitly acknowledge that the company had threatened the unions with closure of The Globe if they did not make serious concessions. As far as I know, there hasn’t been such an acknowledgment. I know first-hand that when asked to confirm it, the company declined. The e-mail says “closure is a very real path for the company to take” — a hell of a statement, I admit — but without explaining how or why that path might be taken. Also, that shut-down threat was first made in early April; the e-mail came two months later.

My comment: I stand by what I wrote. But, yes, I absolutely agree with Pérez-Peña’s assertion that there has been “a lack of communication on even the basics.”

One thought on “Pérez-Peña responds

  1. InsiderNegot

    As a general rule, labor negotiations are a confidential sometimes secret process. However, when negotiations are held on such a public entity as the Globe, one must expect media coverage. The Globe or NYT decision to not provide, or at the very least confirm or deny, some basic information to the public invites the type of scrutiny Dan is talking about and rightfully so.Richard Pérez-Peña’s claim that the Globe did not disclose the information to the employees may be technically correct, but as he admits: “It was to union leaders, in private meetings, and maybe to a Globe reporter (I don't know), but not to employees at large or to the public.” The Union leaders, who represent the employees, had the information and were authorized to use it. So, yes for those outside the process, it must have been frustrating and difficult to follow with the Globe refusing to talk. But the Globe did get the information to those who needed it, the representatives of the employees. In the article Pérez-Peña makes the following points:…nothing compared to when the chairman, Arthur Sulzberger Jr., responded that, well, yes, as the employees well knew, the company had asked their unions to agree to deep cuts. It had? In fact, most of them knew nothing of the kind. Some unions had told their members, but the largest, the Boston Newspaper Guild, had not. “We were saying ‘Whoa, whoa, what? Tell us more,’ ” said Scott Allen, a Globe reporter who was present. The union pursued a strategy of “frustration and delay,” according to several people who heard the leadership discuss it, while the company publicly said little about The Globe. As word tore through the ranks of Globe employees by phone and e-mail, the shock was compounded by the fact that for many, it was the first inkling that the paper was in such serious trouble. “We were completely blindsided,” said Patricia Wen, a Globe reporter. Until the shutdown threat, the guild mostly kept quiet, too, and it did not look at The Globe’s financial data until nearly a year after the other unions did, because the guild’s leaders had refused to sign a confidentiality agreement. In membership meetings, guild leaders were clear that their major strategy was stalling, but most of the nearly 700 members did not attend those sessions, and many did not know that the company was seeking concessions. Bernie Lunzer, national president of the Newspaper Guild, seemed to acknowledge members’ criticism of the Boston guild, telling the trade publication Editor & Publisher that it had been a “flawed process” that left the national union “very concerned about the tenor of the talks.” Perhaps the motive of this analysis is more clear?

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