Newspaper Guild blasts Boston Globe management over contract woes

This just in: Sounds like some major strife between Boston Globe management and the Boston Newspaper Guild, the union that represents the Globe’s newsroom employees as well as many on the business side.

Globe management’s hardline stance will be the subject of Emily Rooney’s rant tonight on “Beat the Press” (WGBH-TV, Channel 2) at 7 p.m. The full text of the union’s message follows. The video should be up on our YouTube channel later this evening.

Dear Guild members,

We need your help — The company has hired a prominent attorney from D.C. known for union-busting in the media industry.

During negotiations for a new contract with the Guild, the company has presented a ridiculous and draconian proposal that would strip away essential protections and provisions in the contract like overtime, seniority, pay scales, job descriptions, severance as well as limit the time and scope of issues members can grieve and  arbitrate, and more. The paltry offer of 2 percent raises, an increase to 401k and paid parental leave (by reducing sick time for everyone) is frankly insulting.  We are offended by their offer and we know many of you are too.

We’ve told them as much, now they need to hear it from you.

To show our disgust with their offer and our unity in fighting for a fair contract, we’re asking all members to wear your bright red BNG T-shirts on Tuesday. If you’re out of the office, drape it over your desk chair. After Tuesday, keep your shirts visible around the office.

If you don’t have a T-shirt already let us know and we’ll get you one by Monday. Boxes are on their way to State Street and Taunton so we can hand them out.

Also, please follow and stay tuned to the Guild’s Twitter and Facebook accounts.

This is just a first step. More actions are being planned and we’ll send you information about those soon.

We need to show the company their proposal is unacceptable.

In Solidarity,
BNG Negotiating Committee & BNG Action Committee

Scott Steeves
Maria Cramer
Matt Rocheleau
Carrie Blazina
Christine Spaziano
Jenna Russell
Tim Flynn
Aimee Ortiz
Andy Rosen
Victoria McGrane
Stacey Myers

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Herald reporter suspended for violating social-media policy

Boston Herald reporter Chris Villani was given a three-day suspension for violating the paper’s social-media policy. According to Chris Sweeney of Boston magazine, Villani tweeted out some breaking news on the Aaron Hernandez case without first seeking permission from the higher-ups. (Note: This post has now been updated with a message to the staff by Herald publisher Pat Purcell and a response to Purcell by the Newspaper Guild. Just keep scrolling.)

A number of Herald reporters are boycotting Twitter in response to Villani’s punishment. Here’s a statement from the union that represents Herald employees:

The policy is the policy. But having to get permission from a top editor before tweeting seems unworkable for a news organization hoping to make an impact in the digital space.

Adam Vaccaro of The Boston Globe has more. An interesting side note: Herald editor Joe Sciacca declined to comment to the Globe even after providing a rather fulsome statement to Boston magazine.

Update: Herald publisher Pat Purcell has weighed in.

Update II: The Newspaper Guild has now responded to Purcell.

Guild members are grateful to Pat Purcell for keeping the Boston Herald alive and thriving during a difficult time for the newspaper industry. We respect his leadership and his decades of experience.

No one is more concerned with matters of reputation and accuracy than his Guild employees. After all, our names go on the stories; our reputations are on the line if any of the information is wrong. The same holds true for our social media accounts, where our names, pictures, and occupations accompany every single post. We are well aware that if we were to use social media recklessly, we would lose the trust both of sources who help us do our jobs as well as our readers.

We agree with Pat that there is a need for a policy, but we have deep reservations about certain aspects that Herald Media Inc. has incorporated into its policy. In our view, the response our members have expressed about this recent enforcement is an opportunity to open the door to discuss making changes.

We remain committed to providing Boston Herald readers with the best quality journalism in the city and look forward to speaking with him.

The Guild

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Your Saturday media round-up

No, not the debut of a new feature. But there’s a lot going on today. So let’s get to it.

• Jason Rezaian is coming home. Rezaian, who’s a Washington Post reporter, is being released by Iran along with three other prisoners as part of a swap. Meanwhile, Iran is moving closer to compliance with the nuclear deal, and, as we know, it returned without incident a group of American sailors who had drifted into its territorial waters even as the Republican presidential candidates were calling for war or something.

What President Obama’s critics refuse to acknowledge is that Iran is complicated, factionalized, and slowly lurching toward better (not good) behavior. Obama has invested a considerable amount of his moral authority into trying to nudge along a less dangerous Iran, and his efforts are paying off.

And kudos to Post executive editor Marty Baron, who has kept the spotlight on Rezaian’s unjust imprisonment for the past year and a half.

• The routes are at the root. Boston Globe reporter Mark Arsenault today has the most thorough examination yet of what went wrong with the Globe‘s home-delivery system when it switched vendors at the end of December. Arsenault takes a tough look at the decisions made by the paper’s business executives, who clearly did not do enough vetting of the plans put together by the new vendor, ACI Media Group. And he opens with Globe publisher John Henry amid thousands of undelivered papers at the Newton distribution center, sending a message that, yes, the owner is engaged.

As has been reported previously, but not in as much detail as Arsenault offers, ACI’s routes just didn’t make sense. And what looked like a mere glitch at the end of day one turned into a catastrophe as drivers walked off the job once they realized there was no way they could make their appointed rounds.

It’s the Globe itself that has to take primary responsibility, of course. But based on Arsenault’s report, ACI officials—who did not speak to him—clearly sold the Globe a bill of goods. If ACI has a different perspective on what happened, we’d like to hear it soon.

• Digital First workers revolt. Employees at Digital First Media are fighting for their first raise in seven to 10 years, according to an announcement by workers represented by the Newspaper Guild. These folks have been abused for years by bad ownership as hedge funds have sought to cash in.

The effort covers some 1,000 Guild members. It’s unclear whether employees at non-Guild papers—including the Lowell Sun and the New Haven Register—would be helped.

Memo Friday I: Herald editorial workers approve contract

The word went out Thursday evening: after months of negotiations, union editorial employees at the Boston Herald approved a new contract, while commercial employees rejected it:

And here is a copy of an email to those editorial employees from Herald staffer and Newspaper Guild official Bill Brotherton, which begins with a statement from John Flinn, the union’s vice president of human resources:

The Boston Herald is very pleased that the Company and the Union have come to an agreement on the Editorial contract following 18 very difficult and protracted negotiating sessions. We thank the Editorial Bargaining Committee for their time and effort and the Editorial Union members for ratifying the agreement. We are very disappointed that the Commercial Guild members rejected our best and final contract offer.

The email continues:

And now, a word from your negotiating committee: Thanks again to everyone who voted and those who assisted the negotiating team with tireless behind-the-scenes efforts. It is much appreciated. Laurel [Sweet], Jim [Lazar], Brian [Whelan] and I give you our heartfelt thanks.

We will continue to support our Commercial brothers and sisters as they resume negotiations; here’s hoping the company is reasonable and bends a little. Commercial members took a 10 percent pay cut and were hit with 5 unpaid furlough days in the last contract; they expected that all or some of that would have been returned this time around. More givebacks were unacceptable; that is why Commercial rejected the tentative agreement.

And even though we in Editorial have a new contract in place, there are many other issues in our workplace that must be addressed and dealt with. I am encouraged by the enthusiasm, commitment and activism shown by all of you during the last 15 months; our union local is stronger than it has been in a long time.

And now that I’m 62 years old, I’m looking for volunteers to play a larger role in union activities. I expect to be involved and here at the Herald for many years to come, but the time is now to train and prepare the next generation of union leaders, to take part in grievance procedures and learn how to keep the company honest. There’s no money involved and it’s a thankless job, but it is rewarding and well worth the time. It’s very easy to become a shop steward, and the Newspaper Guild offers seminars online, in Washington, D.C., and TNG officers are more than willing to come to Boston to teach Union 101 classes and show us the ropes. If interested, please let me know.
Again, thank you all for your support and patience.

Bill

Earlier: Guild reaches tenative agreement with Herald.

Guild reaches tentative agreement with Herald

The Newspaper Guild and Boston Herald management have reached agreement on a new two-year contract, according to a copy of an email sent to Media Nation. Members of the Guild will vote next Thursday, with union leadership recommending approval.

The vote comes after some turmoil earlier this year, when the Herald’s editorial and commercial employees voted against accepting management’s offer.

I’ve attached a PDF of the agreement. The new language comes at the end. What’s striking — though not surprising — is the flat acknowledgment by John Flinn, vice president of human resources, that all is not well at the Herald. In a letter to Brian Whelan, president of the Newspaper Guild of Greater Boston, Flinn writes that both sides “have recognized the deteriorating economic trends in the newspaper industry and at the Boston Herald, particularly advertising revenue and circulation, which continue to decline and disappoint.”

Of course, it’s in management’s best interest to paint as dark a picture as possible. Still, it’s undeniably true that the newspaper business continues to struggle. And it must be particularly challenging to be one of the last number-two dailies in the country.

What follows is Herald union official Bill Brotherton’s message to his members.

A reminder that the Guild and the Herald have reached a tentative agreement on a two-year contract. Voting will take place Thursday, Oct. 1, noon to 7 p.m. in the Record Room on the fifth floor. If you will not be here on Thursday, see Bill Brotherton or Jim Lazar for an absentee ballot.

The Guild Negotiating Team (Brian Whelan, Jim Lazar, Laurel Sweet and Bill Brotherton) is recommending a YES vote.

The committee got the Herald to scale back its attack on the severance (All Guild members currently employed by the Herald keep all severance earned to date, plus accumulates an additional week of severance each year up to a maximum of 62 weeks; future hires will get one week of severance per year up to a max of 26 weeks) and to delay the start date of reopening the contract in case of economic disaster to Feb. 1 (the company has said on the record it has no plans to reopen the contract unless the financial picture turns dire).

Attached is a copy of the tentative agreement. Current language is on top; new language is on the bottom. The language deletions are either elsewhere in the contract or are obsolete; both sides agreed to clean up the contract by eliminating old language.

Questions and comments/suggestions are encouraged.

Thank you for your support and patience.

Bill

Boston Herald lays off six, according to union

Update, July 27: Just got word that four, not six, Boston Herald employees were laid off last week, none in editorial.

Awful news coming out of the Boston Herald this afternoon. The Newspaper Guild tweets:

Herald commercial employees reject offer; Purcell responds

Labor and management continue to be far apart at the Boston Herald, as the Newspaper Guild reports that employees on the commercial side have rejected the company’s contract offer by a vote of 35 to 12. This follows last week’s 32-26 no vote by editorial employees. The Guild tweets:

The Guild also tweeted a copy of a statement by Herald publisher Pat Purcell, which reads in full:

We are disappointed that the Boston Herald Commercial and Editorial units of The Newspaper Guild of Greater Boston failed to ratify new collective bargaining agreements. We have been, and will continue to be, negotiating in good faith. We look forward to the next round of discussion, and hope it results in a fair and equitable outcome.

Earlier: Boston Herald editorial employees reject contract.

About those Herald parking and medical fees

If you were surprised to learn from the Newspaper Guild announcement that Boston Herald employees pay $190 a month for parking, here’s a bit of background. The fee was imposed in 2011, when the paper moved from the South End to the Seaport District.

“Free parking in Boston is a rarity,” Herald publisher Pat Purcell wrote to his staff at the time, “and, sadly, there will not be free parking for any employee — myself included — when we move to the Seaport Center.” The former Herald property is being transformed into a luxury mixed-use development known as the Ink Block, and Purcell is one of the investors. So I’m guessing Purcell can afford parking.

As for the 93 percent of health-insurance costs that union employees have to pay, the Herald has long been notorious for its low medical benefits — although it sounds like it’s gotten worse since the 1980s, when Ed Cafasso was one of the political reporters.

“Employee share of healthcare has to be the highest in the state among white collar employers,” tweeted Cafasso, now a public relations consultant. “You’d be better off in the ACA!”

Finally: I posted the union’s statement because it was sent to me. If Herald management wants to send out its own statement, I’d be happy to post that too.

Boston Herald editorial employees reject contract

(Note: Follow-up here.) This just in — a statement from the Newspaper Guild of Greater Boston on contract negotiations on behalf of the Boston Herald’s editorial employees:

Boston Herald editorial employees tonight rejected a proposed contract that offered no increase to pay or benefits and cuts to the employees’ severance plan.

Editorial guild workers — who pay for 93-percent of their own health care costs, and $190 per month in parking — have not demanded relief for any of the costs they bear to work at the paper, nor did they expect or seek a raise.

While guild members are aware of the financial constraints facing newspapers the company is oblivious to the economic hardships of its employees. Herald workers have slowly shared more of the burden of running the newspaper over the years, in the form of parking, health care, furlows and paycuts, while the company has only used this generosity to line the pockets of its management and increase the number of non union employees.

While employees asked for no changes to the existing contract, the company wanted cuts to the severance plan, a direct attack on those employees who have spent a good portion of their lives building the Herald. It was all the more surprising since it recently expanded financial benefits for non-union employees in the form of a matching 401(k).

There are 66 editorial employees eligible to vote, 58 cast ballots, 32 voted no, 26 voted yes.

The commercial unit votes next week on this same contract.

Follow @HeraldWorkers on Twitter for updates.

Billionaires’ bash: Big moves by Henry’s Globe, Bezos’ Post

Screen Shot 2014-09-03 at 10.40.06 AM

Previously published at WGBHNews.org.

Tuesday may have been the biggest day yet for billionaire newspaper owners John Henry and Jeff Bezos. Henry’s Boston Globe launched the long-anticipated Crux, a free standalone website that covers the Catholic Church. And Bezos replaced Katharine Weymouth as publisher of The Washington Post, bringing an end to the 81-year reign of the Meyer-Graham family.

At a time when the newspaper business remains besieged by cuts (including 22 Newspaper Guild positions at The Providence Journal this week, according to a report by Ian Donnis of Rhode Island Public Radio), Henry and Bezos are taking the opposite approach.

“You can’t shrink your way to success,” new Washington Post publisher Frederick Ryan told Michael Calderone of The Huffington Post. “Growth is the way to continue to build a strong news organization.” Ryan’s words were nearly identical to those of the Globe’s chief executive officer, Michael Sheehan, at the unveiling of the paper’s weekly political section, Capital, in June: “You can’t cut your way to success. You can only grow you way to success.”

First Crux. To my non-Catholic eyes, the site appears to offer an interesting mix of the serious and the not-so-serious. The centerpiece is John Allen’s deeply knowledgeable reporting and analysis, some of which will continue to appear in the Globe. (In late August, Publishers Marketplace reported that Allen is writing a biography of Pope Francis with the working title of “The Francis Miracle.” No publisher was named, but according to this, Time Home Entertainment will release it in March 2015.)

Crux national reporter Michael O’Loughlin has weighed in with features on Native American Catholics who blend tribal and Roman traditions and on the Vatican Secret Archives, whose contents turn out to be not as interesting as the phrase makes them sound. Vatican correspondent Inés San Martín covers stories such as Pope Francis’ call for peace in Gaza. WGBH’s Margery Eagan, a former Boston Herald columnist, is writing a column called “On Spirituality.” The events calendar makes it clear that Crux is a very Catholic venture.

There’s a lighter side to Crux, too, such as a trivia quiz on the saints and updates on football teams from Catholic colleges. Crux’s own reporters are supplemented with wire services, including the Associated Press, Catholic News Service and Religion News Service, as well as personal essays such as the Rev. Jonathan Duncan’s rumination on life as a married Catholic priest with children (he used to be an Episcopalian). Crux is also asking readers to write brief essays; the debut topic is illegal immigration.

Two quibbles. An article on the suffering of Iraqi Christians was published as a straight news story, even though the tagline identifies it as coming from “the pontifical organization Aid to the Church in Need.” When you click to “learn more,” you find out that Church in Need is an advocacy organization that is actively seeking donations. The disclosure is sufficient, but the placement strikes me as problematic. If Crux were a print newspaper, the article could have appeared on the op-ed page. Crux needs a clearly marked place for such material as well.

My other quibble is that content is undated, leaving the impression that everything is now. That can cause confusion, as with a John Allen Globe piece on immigration that refers to “Friday night” — and links to an Associated Press story published on Aug. 2. (Dates do appear on author bios.)

The site is beautifully designed, and it’s responsive, so it looks good on tablets and smartphones. There are a decent number of ads, though given the state of digital advertising, I think it would make sense — as I wrote earlier this summer — to take the best stuff and publish it in a paid, ad-supported print product.

Globe editor Brian McGrory, Crux editor Teresa Hanafin, digital adviser David Skok and company are off to a fine start. For more on Crux, see this article by David Uberti in the Columbia Journalism Review and this, by Justin Ellis, at the Nieman Journalism Lab.

***

A torrent of punditry has already accompanied the news that Frederick Ryan, a former chief executive of Politico, will become publisher of The Washington Post on Oct. 1.

The irony is thick. When Post political reporters John Harris and Jim VanDeHei proposed launching Politico under the newspaper’s auspices in 2006, they were turned down. Today, Politico often dominates the political conversation in a way that the Post used to (and, of course, sometimes still does). I’m not always a fan of Politico’s emphasis on politics as insider gamesmanship, but there’s no doubt the site has been successful.

As the Post’s own account makes clear, Ryan is a longtime Republican activist, and was close to both Ronald and Nancy Reagan. That shouldn’t affect the Post’s news operations, though it could affect the editorial page — hardly a bastion of liberalism even now. In another Post story, Ryan “endorsed” executive editor Marty Baron and editorial-page editor Fred Hiatt. Baron, a former Globe editor, may be the best newspaper editor working on this side of the Atlantic.

What concerns me is the strong scent of insiderism that is attached to Ryan. In an address to the staff, Ryan said one of his goals is “winning the morning,” according to a series of tweets by Post media blogger Erik Wemple (reported by Jim Romenesko). That might seem unremarkable, except that it sounds like something right out of the Politico playbook — um, make that “Playbook.”

A New York Times account by Ravi Somaiya dwells on Ryan’s obsession with the annual White House Correspondents Dinner, and quotes Ryan as calling it “an important event.” Those of us who find the dinner to be an unseemly display of Beltway clubbiness might agree that it’s important, but for different reasons.

Then again, if Ryan can fix the Post’s business model and show the way for other news organizations, all will be forgiven. The Post, like the Globe, has been expanding under new ownership. On Tuesday, the Post unveiled its most recent venture, The Most, an aggregation site.

Bezos’ track record at Amazon shows that he’s willing to take the long view. I suspect that he’s still just getting started with the Washington Post.