The media today: A unionization wave across the industry

Across the media landscape, as consolidation and technological advancements drive rapid change, a mainstay of 20th century labor battles is having its moment. Staffers from numerous outlets, both legacy print and digital-only, are unionizing.

At the Los Angeles Times, long a bastion of anti-union sentiment, staffers have engaged in a public-facing unionization drive, challenging its parent company Tronc. For CJR, Shaya Tayefe Mohajer traces the paper’s history with labor, which includes a bombing of the Times office by a pair of brothers hired by unionists. Writing on the current state of play, she contrasts the huge raises that Tronc executives have given themselves, even as they demand cuts across their newsrooms, with the pay cuts taken by New York Times executives over the same period (the NYT newsroom has long been unionized). Mohajer writes that “the successful formation of a union at the Los Angeles Times would have been largely unimaginable in the last century,” but Times national correspondent Matt Pearce tells her, “We think this can be successful. We’re the dominant publication in the most populous, wealthiest state in the country, one that is driving the direction of the country in many ways.”

ICYMI: Headlines editors probably wish they could take back

A wave of unionization has taken place across the digital media landscape in recent years, with journalists at Vice, Gizmodo Media Group, HuffPost, and other outlets organizing. Last week, staffers at Vox Media—the digital startup that runs eight sites, including Eater, Recode, and Vox.com—announced their intention to do the same.

The dismal financial picture for media outlets is well known. Last week’s news that BuzzFeed and Vice would fall significantly short of their revenue targets only added to the gloomy prognosis. Facing that uncertain future, it’s no surprise that journalists would opt for the collective bargaining rights and employee protections that unions offer. Management at many of those outlets, however, is pushing back. One week after DNAinfo and Gothamist staffers voted to unionize, the sites’ billionaire owner Joe Ricketts shut down his entire operation. Even at liberal sites, like Slate, resistance from management has been stiff.

ICYMI: Breitbart’s “sinister” response to Washington Post’s recent bombshell

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Below, more on unions and the press.

 

Other notable stories

  • Alabama residents woke Sunday to a front-page editorial in the state’s three biggest newspapers urging opposition to Senate candidate Roy Moore. “This election is a turning point for women in Alabama. A chance to make their voices heard in a state that has silenced them for too long,” read the Alabama Media Group’s editorial.
  • In a Washington Post column adapted from a speech he gave to the International Center for Journalists, Fox News’s Chris Wallace laments President Trump’s attacks on the media, but says journalists have to take some of the blame for a widespread lack of trust. “We are not players in the game. We are umpires, or observers, trying to be objective witnesses to what is going on,” Wallace writes.
  • Josh Dawsey’s swan song for Politico (he’s headed to The Washington Post) is an entertaining look at the rise and fall of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.
  • The Economist’s “World in 2018” hits newsstands today. A sneak preview press release highlights battles between Trumpism and Macronism, as well as a coming “techclash” as government regulators take a hard look at Facebook, Google, and Amazon.
  • Charles Manson is dead at 83, and The New York Times’s Margalit Fox once again demonstrates why she’s the best obituary writer in the business.

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Pete Vernon is a CJR staff writer. Follow him on Twitter @ByPeteVernon.