Tuesday 6 June 2023 - 12:24

Hundreds of US Journos Protest Top-level Mismanagement

Story Code : 1062259
Hundreds of US Journos Protest Top-level Mismanagement
The strike was staged on Monday by the employees of Gannett, the United States' biggest newspaper publisher, which operates more than 200 dailies countrywide.

The industrial action was launched by workers from about two dozen newsrooms, including USA Today, The Palm Beach Post, The Arizona Republic, and The Austin American Statesman.

The strike is expected to continue on Tuesday for some newsrooms. It has been described as the biggest labor action in Gannett’s century-old history.

Explaining the reason behind the strike, the NewsGuild, the union which represents more than 1,000 journalists from Gannett, took aim at the company’s 2019 acquisition by New Media Investment Group, also known as GateHouse Media, which bought it for $1.2 billion.

Since the merger, newsrooms "have been hollowed out, local news coverage has dwindled, and Gannett's share prices have fallen nearly 70%," the union said in a letter.

It also accused CEO Mike Reed of mismanagement of the company's affairs in a way that has "demoralized newsrooms and made it impossible for reporters to have the resources to produce quality journalism."

The union said Gannett cut nearly 20% of its journalism jobs last year, instituted unpaid furloughs, and suspended company contributions to retirement plans.

"Gannett has created news deserts everywhere you look," Peter D. Kramer, a reporter for the USA Today Network, was quoted by The New York Times as saying. "That’s Mike Reed’s Gannett," he added.

The industrial action was timed to coincide with Gannett’s annual shareholder meeting on Monday morning. The union had asked shareholders to pass a vote of no confidence against Reed.

However, during their Monday meeting, shareholders voted to retain Gannett’s board of directors, including Reed. Susan DeCarava, president of the NewsGuild of New York, described the meeting's result as a “slap in the face” to the striking journalists.

Defending the company's conduct, however, a Gannett spokesperson said, "Despite the work stoppage in some of our markets, there will be no disruption and we will not cease delivering trusted news to our loyal readers."

The industrial action comes as US regional and local newspapers are already struggling, with readers taking to digital news producers.

According to a 2021 study by the Pew Research Center, newsroom employment in the US plummeted from 114,000 to 85,000 journalists between 2008 and 2020.