News Guild, N.Y. Gov. Cuomo blast cuts at ‘Daily News’
New York Daily News staff reporter Chelsia Rose Marcius weeps as she is hugged by staff photographer Todd Maisel after they were both laid off, July 23, in New York. AP | Mark Lennihan

NEW YORK—What do you do when your employer suddenly cuts your staff in half?

The answer for the New York Daily News, the city’s long-running leading and feisty tabloid, is raise hell and consider next moves.

That’s what the NewsGuild of New York, TNG-CWA Local 31003, was forced to do on July 23 when the Chicago-based holding company that owns the paper, Tronc, called “a 30-second meeting” in the newsroom and said it was firing approximately half the 85-person staff, including both top editors.

“Today Tronc delivered yet another devastating blow to the media industry,” the New York Guild stated. “In its decision to lay off 50 percent of The Daily News editorial staff, Tronc’s management has sent a dangerous message to the public: journalism doesn’t matter.

“As we’ve seen across the country, from the L.A. Times to the Chicago Tribune, Tronc is intent on mining its newsrooms for profit and profit alone. This latest move is yet another reckless act by its disgraced ownership — one which will harm the communities of New York City.

“Gutting newsrooms is an attack on all those who hold local institutions accountable, as we lose the watchdogs we so greatly need. This is a sad day for journalism.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, D-N.Y., called the layoffs “a drastic move” and demanded Tronc reconsider them. That appears unlikely. Tronc blamed the layoffs on “a changing media landscape” – management words for declining print revenues.

“We are fundamentally restructuring the Daily News,” Tronc’s e-mail to the staff said. “We are reducing today the size of the editorial team by approximately 50 percent and re-focusing much of our talent on breaking news — especially in areas of crime, civil justice and public responsibility.”

The e-mail went on to praise the staffers being canned, including editor Jim Rich and managing editor Kristen Lee. It said their talent would be missed. “If you hate democracy and think local governments should operate unchecked and in the dark, then today is a good day for you,” Rich responded in a tweet.

News Guild President Bernie Lunzer said the union was forced to strike the Daily News several years ago. He added the New York NewsGuild has been in informal contact with the Chicago NewsGuild, which now represents workers at Tronc’s flagship paper, the Chicago Tribune, to trade information about how to combat the firm.

The firings at the Daily News are part of a pattern from Tronc, formerly the Tribune Company. When upset and disgusted workers at another large Tronc-owned paper, the Los Angeles Times, unionized with The Guild, Tronc responded by selling the paper. Tronc also battles workers at yet another Guild-represented paper, the Baltimore Sun. And there were layoffs at the Tribune, too, HuffPost reported.

On a happier note for the NewsGuild, the union picked up its third paper in Florida, when staffers at the Florida (Jacksonville) Times-Union voted 18-9 several days before to unionize with the Guild. They follow the staffs at papers in Sarasota and Lakeland, who are about to reach first contracts, Lunzer said.

“This vote was about continuing strong local journalism by considering the needs and goals of the people who create it,” said Times-Union reporter Steve Patterson, an organizing committee member. “Today’s vote happened after a lot of discussion and debate in the newsroom. Not everyone agreed on the choice. We all agreed we want to keep the Times-Union healthy and indispensable to its community.”

“This is exciting. It’s our third” unit “at Gatehouse Publications, “and Gatehouse has been reasonable in terms of willingness to bargain,” Lunzer added.

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CONTRIBUTOR

Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of Press Associates Inc. (PAI), a union news service in Washington, D.C. that he has headed since 1999. Previously, he worked as Washington correspondent for the Ottaway News Service, as Port Jervis bureau chief for the Middletown, NY Times Herald Record, and as a researcher and writer for Congressional Quarterly. Mark obtained his BA in public policy from the University of Chicago and worked as the University of Chicago correspondent for the Chicago Daily News.

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