Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Union shops

I'm a fan of unions (always wanted the "Unions: The folks that brought you weekends" T-shirt). I'll admit that I sometimes cringe at the strict contract delineations ("no, copy editors can't write a story; contract won't allow it). But I've gotta give three cheers to the Newspaper Guild for putting its foot down in this case.

Gannett papers are moving away from newsrooms and to "information centers." What does that mean for copy editors?
"Look, we've got some hurdles to get over, as an industry and as a company. Cultural hurdles and technological hurdles," said Gregory Korte, an investigative journalist with the Cincinnati Enquirer who has been working to implement some of these ideas at the paper. At some point, he says, it's going to get painful. "The newspaper of the future is going to need more programmers than copy editors, and we're going to have to figure out how to make that transition."
Everyone will be rethinking their roles, learning to do more jobs. I get it.

But at the Indianapolis Star, the transition is hitting a snag. The union is on board, it says. But there are some sticking points:
The union said it was stunned to hear suggestions from Editor Dennis Ryerson ... that reporters could be assigned to write for advertorial sections, a proposal later amended to include only copy editors and other newsroom employees who do not get bylines or photo credits.
No way, the union said. From its memo:
o editorial employees -- this includes but is not limited to reporters, copy editors, editors, photographers, designers, graphic artists, editorial writers, paraprofessionals, online editors/producers/staffers, librarians, clerks and copy messengers -- will be involved in any advertorial work. We cannot stress how important this is, both for the integrity of the entire staff and the credibility of The Star. We were stunned that the company proposed this, at first suggesting that newsroom reporters could write advertorial copy. When we protested that strongly, the company said, "Well, what about copy editors and designers?'' All editorial employees are held to the same, high ethical standards, not just those with bylines or photo credits.
That's really basic stuff. I'd be worried about a management team that wasn't on board.

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12 Comments:

At 8:12 AM, December 21, 2006, Blogger Andy Bechtel said...

We need more programmers? What is that guy from Cincy talking about?

 
At 4:28 PM, December 21, 2006, Blogger Metro said...

1) Don't these papers have any respect for some sort of integrity? Once your writers can be made to write advertorial at your order, then how are people supposed to trust the rest of your content?

2) Ad writers make some fairly good coin. I see "in-housed" advertorial as a way to "provide the same service at a fraction of the cost". A fraction which nonetheless will not find its way into the writer's pocket.

I grew up in a union household. I had cooled off on unions until I looked into the unnatural and unfair disaster the current POTUS and his friends have made of the economy, their gutting and avoidance of safety and work law, and their total willingness to sacrifice everything to ensure that the never-need-to-work class stay that way.

Now I dream of the day that there's a union for every job on the continent. They're more badly needed now than ever.

 
At 7:16 AM, December 22, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Emil anonymously said, " I'm with Metro. I used to think that unions had succeeded in the areas they covered and my solution was de-unionize (not a word?) all union jobs and unionize all non-union jobs. Definitely that's no longer the case. Everyone needs a voice that owners will hear.

 
At 3:24 PM, December 23, 2006, Blogger Mark Friesen said...

We need more programmers? What is that guy from Cincy talking about?

He means we need more people in newsrooms who can do journalism by writing code and creating database-driven web applications to give readers access to all sorts of information. Adrian Holovaty, journalist/programmer with washingtonpost.com (and the creator of the Chicago Crime Map) makes this point often.

 
At 5:36 PM, December 23, 2006, Anonymous Vince Tuss said...

Here is one way to get them: Train them. Or pay for them to be trained. Why shed capable people with many of the skills just for someone else with some of the skills?

 
At 5:46 AM, December 25, 2006, Blogger Phillip Blanchard said...

" ... we need more people in newsrooms who can do journalism by writing code and creating database-driven web applications to give readers access to all sorts of information. "

No. We need programmers to write programs that will code stuff that we edit and make other complicated technical matters simple.

 
At 6:19 AM, December 27, 2006, Blogger Metro said...

My workplace is supposedly bringing on an html content management-system this year. Writers should be able to upload work to a sort of master database of articles and other content, from which we will withdraw bits as needed for various products and publications.

Initially the tech department was a bit worried by this; they'd been more-or-less manually inserting the text into web pages for us, keeping one or two of the bodies gainfully employed. Then it was discovered that the new system means we need more IT types to help manage the system, and now everyone's happy.

 
At 10:52 AM, December 27, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm really tired of hearing about Adrian F***ing Holovaty.

 
At 9:20 AM, December 30, 2006, Blogger Paul said...

alliance.org.au membership matters

 
At 9:14 PM, December 30, 2006, Blogger Mark Friesen said...

No. We need programmers to write programs that will code stuff that we edit and make other complicated technical matters simple.

I'm not saying programmers should replace copy editors. But the Web is a different medium, and we need people with programming knowledge to help do journalism that takes advantage of what the internet can do.

Anonymous: I'm really tired of hearing about Adrian F***ing Holovaty.

Perhaps that because he's got actual ideas about the future of journalism. As opposed to, say, anonymous pot-shots on a blog.

 
At 10:32 PM, February 04, 2007, Anonymous rknil said...

Good to see this discussion has gotten away from the original point: Someone in a newsroom FINALLY took a stand on a copy desk issue. It only took a decade or so. Of course, now copy editors will pat themselves on the back (missing a spine, of course) for a few years while management continues to eat away at the craft.

 
At 12:31 AM, February 10, 2007, Anonymous rknil said...

"Perhaps that because he's got actual ideas about the future of journalism. As opposed to, say, anonymous pot-shots on a blog."

I don't think anyone needs a lecture from someone who trumpets the main pervasive lie in newsrooms today: That design matters to any readers.

Anyone who keeps buying into that baloney needs to realize it doesn't matter how many great ideas are conceived if the foundation for them is excrement. A million times zero still equals zero.

 

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