Saturday, August 27, 2011

Indy | Union launches 'Save the Star' campaign

The Indianapolis Newspaper Guild has just launched a website urging readers to contact Publisher Karen Crotchfelt and protest cutbacks at The Indianapolis Star, austerity moves the union says threaten the paper's viability. The labor group is publishing office phone numbers and e-mail addresses for Editor Dennis Ryerson and for Crotchfelt.

"Tell her the Star’s profits need to stay in Indianapolis,'' the union says. "Tell her it’s time to reinvest in the Star by adding more journalists, not cutting them, and to pay them competitive wages. Tell her you want more local news, not less."

The chapter says it represents more than 120 employees.

The site, which appears to have launched yesterday, warns readers: "Pressure is building to run messages produced by private businesses and advertisers in news positions. If the line blurs further, readers will start questioning what’s real news and what’s an ad."

The site also warns about plans to outsource page design and production to one of the five News Design Studio hubs:

"Gannett wants to move some of the Star’s newspaper production jobs -- people who proofread the stories, write the headlines and design the look of the news pages -- from Indianapolis to Kentucky. Gannett wants people in another state who know nothing about Indianapolis to design the Star’s news pages. This is sure to hurt the quality of the Star. This could also give the paper more of a franchised feel -- less local."

To be sure, this isn't the first time the Indianapolis chapter has tangled with management. In September, Gannett agreed to pay a financial settlement to eight former Star employees represented by the Newspaper Guild in return for their dropping a lawsuit against the company, challenging their layoffs in July 2009."

But in trying to draw public pressure, this latest move sharpens the rhetoric even more. Could a boycott effort be next?

Related: The Indianapolis chapter's Facebook page.

Earlier: Settlement reported in union strike against Newsquest.


  1. In an e-mail, a reader says: "I hear there also might be billboards to the same effect."

    Can anyone verify this?

  2. Oh please. Unions care about collecting dues and union members care about telling their company What they won't do. Neither cares about saving anything but their own interests. Want proof? Look at the City of Detroit. Union stronghold fir 100 years, now a ghost town with no jobs and no hopes. Yeah the unions cared!

  3. I think they need some ads that talk about the pay raises in McLean versus the layoffs, cutbacks, etc. Contacting local advertisers with stories about ads being created on the other side of the world would help, too. Some of this in every large GCI market would be good for what ails us.

  4. Good for them. The public needs to know what Gannett is doing to local papers. This blog is a good start but we need more local blogs and campaigns that point out what Gannett ownership has meant in communities like Indianapolis or Des Moines or Louisville or Westchester.

    People should be applauding and copying the Indianapolis effort. After all, if corporate can copy others' initiatives (i.e. Groupon) employees can come together to counter their corrupt, shortsighted efforts.

  5. Wish someone in ROCHESTER had the balls to let the local folks know how the Democrat&Chronicle is doing the same here. Bob Lonsberry would do a great job! Anyone know him?

  6. To the guild members in Indy: I salute you for taking a chance on something that would have gotten your non-union brethren in the vast majority of GCI markets fired.

    Corporate will do its best to keep a lid on everything; the more it is exposed for its evil-doing, the better.

    And so starts the beginning of Atlas Shrugged, Gannett version?

  7. Does anyone really believe your "heroes" care about local news. Their "campaign" will result in home delivery cancelations and reduced advertising. That results in layoffs and then fingers pointed at leadership, ooops and reduced dues. Now that is what fries the butts of union leaders, reduced dues. Respect and dignity. They've done wonders for the state of Michigan!

  8. Oh I get it now. The union "local" campaign is about hiring more reporters which wait for it ........ Results in more dues. And here I thought it was about the customer. Here is what the Guild leadership should do, eliminate dues for two years so members can put that money to support their families. Let's put that on a billboard.

  9. Wow. If only every Gannett paper were unionized...

  10. This sounds dumb. The critical factor is the paper won't look the same?

    Sorry, not something to go to battle over. No support here. Pick a real battle, and then fight it. But newspaper employees never do that.

  11. Interesting timing. In a June 22 article in the Indianapolis Business Journal about layoffs at The Star, Crotchfelt said that The Star’s suburban coverage will get a new look by fall.

  12. No, this is NOT about union dues. This is about editorial integrity, strong journalism, and a viable newspaper.

    As the treasurer of the Indy Guild, I can state we have no paid staff, no perks for union officers and no big expenses to support. Our officers and workers are all volunteers.

    Yes, we want a fair contract, after major concessions in past years. We want to continue to retain good journalists. We believe in strong journalism. Should any other metro newspaper want otherwise?

    John Russell
    Business Reporter
    The Indianpolis Star
    Treasurer, Indianapolis Newspaper Guild
    SPJ Indiana Journalist of the Year 2010

  13. 4:51 then don't collect dues if you are not getting paid. It's ALWAYS about the money. Professionals don't need unions. You've done NOTHING for your membership for years and yet dues is still there. Nope not about the money. Next!

  14. Whoa now Jim is demanding approval of posts! Me thinks you are excluding free speech.

  15. SavetheStar should dial back the expected union centric pitch and go much further in getting average readers to care…

    - Spell out in more detail what local residents have specifically lost and what’s at stake in terms of future coverage losses.
    - Provide a standalone page of Where the Jobs Have Gone (including what was tried in India) and where more are expected to go.
    - Use economic sources by name, to quantify exactly what each job loss and never-ending furlough – in dollars, has cost the local community to date and total it for greater impact.
    - Saying the union gave up 10% is strong, saying exactly how much by dollar amount is stronger.
    - Citing union losses alone really smacks as self-serving so share non-union job losses as well especially given where most of that savings went…to Dubow, et al.

    Add a few simple tweaks like those and readers will better see why it really does matter to them.

    Doing it for all Gannett papers would be better…adding by the numbers pages for just those papers under Kane would be a great start.

  16. John:

    This battle should have been fought long ago. When you choose to march to battle with "look of the paper" as the flag of your cause, then you prove you are a joke.

    Have fun losing.

  17. What John says is very true about the Guild. It's the most democratic union with members having a voice on issues.

  18. How can journalists be so clueless about basic economic realities?

  19. Michael Pointer8/27/2011 8:22 PM

    Ditto what John said. He said it beautifully and I'm honored to call him a colleague.

    Michael Pointer
    Sports Reporter
    The Indianapolis Star
    Vice President, Indianapolis Newspaper Guild

  20. When a union speaks, it's all about union dues. Unions produce no products, they service no customers, they deliver nothing. They promise a "group" voice on behalf of members and a promise of higher wages part of which go to... Union dues. This means unions drive up wages in part to cover dues not positive in a difficult economy and dying industry.

    That said, I'd still like to know what Crotchfelt "has up her sleeve" as she mentioned several weeks ago.

  21. 4:51 is right. Newspapers need the Guild these days in order to stop rapacious executives from looting the properties. The message: loot away, and we will organize your papers and bring forth all sorts of labor havoc. Since the Guild is on its last legs anyway, it needs a boost from union dues that would come with Gannett contributions. P.S. the head of the AFL-CIO Rich Trumpka is a former lawyer who grew up in the coal fields of Pennyslvania. I hold out great promise for his leadership. Look up Nemacolin, Pa. on wikipedia and you will see what he's doing with his hometown and the people still living there.

  22. Hmmm lots of speeches by the union leader but hmm no response to suspending the dues so the membership can feed their families. Why is that?

  23. Dude, how much do you think dues are? Hmmm? Here's a hint: Not as much as the benefit received.

  24. 6:51 reduction in salaries, benefits, working conditions and positions. Yep worth ever cent.

  25. I truely believe Gannett employees are delusional and unknowningly in self-destruct mode. In the face of all the cuts, consolidations and bonuses flowing to higher-ups, they would rather place their trust, their jobs and their futures in a company that so obviously could care less about them. They hope and pray that if they do what they're told, accept what meager promises management doles out, that they will, somehow, survive and be spared the ax. Gannett is counting on you, the singular employee, to remain alone, mute, unsupported and most of all, unrepresented. If you're counting on Gannett to come through for you, cross your fingers Gannett employees, rub that rabbit's foot. Get out the Ouija board, tea leaves and tarot cards. Because that is all you've got.

  26. The issue, of course, is not the union's motivation in this, or even what the union expects to get out of this campaign.

    The issue is simply: Is what the union saying true?

    And we all know that - of COURSE it is true, every word of it and far more.

    In fact, the concerns the union has for content quality and integrity could also apply to MOST - although not all - media companies in the U.S. today.

    Sadly, the need to content quality as a means of increasing circulation and advertising revenue has been lost on accountant-background managers who don't know or care that quality content drives business.

    My small daily non-Gannett newspaper is doing more than $100,000 in website advertising revenue annually. How much would we be doing in ad revenue were there no CONTENT on our website? No news? features? Photos?


    Try throwing that stat at the beancounters, however, and they will just shrug their shoulders.

    They care only about the immediate gratification of a short-term expense cut - news staff and pages.

    Look at the pitiful little Gannett-owned papers like Chillicothe - 8-page editions Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Yep, you will sure grow revenue and circulation with editions like that, alright.

  27. I see that conservative, anti-union politics has entered this conversation. That's too bad.

    I worked for a non-unionized Gannett paper for several years and was let go in the recent layoffs. As I departed, people were openly worried about how they were going to keep up with all the demands placed upon them. Even when I was there, after several cuts over the last couple of years amid no reduction in expectations, we were working unpaid overtime, being told repeatedly how we weren't keeping up and all the while making numerous mistakes, all of which of course were placed sqaurely on our shoulders.

    We never EVER saw corporate announce any kind of concessions they themselves would be taking, never EVER saw them communicate anything other than typical rhetoric from upper management. Morale was worse than low and continued to slide. It got so bad that while I was driving home after getting cut, I actually was relieved.

    While I admit unions at times have too much power, they are necessary to prevent these snakes from raping companies to benefit their own immediate self interests.

    It's too bad that some people have chosen to bash all unions. And it's even worse that some political factions disguised as news entities are duping so many people these days as the news industry continues to devolve into propaganda.

  28. Maybe so, 4:29, but the Star union makes fraudulent claims in this one.

    I see failure in the future. Massive failure.

  29. To those who think what Indy is doing is a membership building effort, let me say I hope that our folks who are sitting on the sidelines do see how important their leadership thinks the situation is and join the cause. We can't stand many more cuts and maintain decent local news coverage. We need to do something to staunch the bleeding of good talent leaving -- two more casualties just this week. But that's not why we're doing this. Our all-volunteer leadership team deeply cares about the future of the newspaper and local journalism. Moreso, it seems, than Gannett. Our message is edgy, but it is accurate. And we would be doing more harm to the paper if we just sat by limply and said nothing. And, like my other team leaders who have commented here (John Russell, by the way, is the SPJ's Journalist of the Year in Indiana), I'm willing to sign my name to this post, unlike some of our critics.
    Bobby King
    The Indianapolis Newspaper Guild

    P.S. And yes, there will be billboards. Great big ones. And that's just the start...

  30. Well at least Bobby King told us where some of the dues goes, billboards, big ones! At least Bobby's got his priorities straight!

  31. God Bless the Union for having the guts to say what we all should be saying! Gannett is gutting the papers to ship as much money back to corporate. If a paper is not making money, shut it down and don't force the money making papers to prop up the dogs!

  32. Bobby:

    Jim's negligent and irresponsible moderation of this forum makes it foolhardy to sign with a name.

    But, if you like, I can pass along a signed message to you.

  33. Dues for billboards? How 'bout a six percent paycut going straight to a bonus for Dubow? My God people! Get a clue!

  34. 9:14 did the Union approve that paycut? Yep dues for paycuts and "Big Billboards!"

  35. I have never felt strongly about unions one way or another. But as a copy editor being faced with a choice of relocating hundreds of miles away to a design studio or going on unemployment, I applaud the Indianapolis Newspaper Guild. And I now understand the power and the purpose of unions. They have given voice to the anger, anxiety and despair that I, along with my colleagues, have been expressing among ourselves for months. And for that, we are deeply appreciative. So keep fighting the good fight, Indianapolis, and know that you have a silent legion of supporters in this non-unionized newsroom.

  36. I repeat: How can professional journalists — ostensibly hard-nosed realists — be so clueless and in such deep denial about the basic economic realities of their own profession?

    They never wanted to know where their paychecks came from. Well, nobody else in the world has that luxury. A rude education is overdue.

  37. My point "billboards" is that you missed the point. While everyone is forced to tighten their belts through wage & benefit cuts and paying more for health insurance in this terrible economy, Gannett leadership is not. Gannett has no problem finding the money when they want it. They employ full time lawyers and seem to generate a new VP position every other week... But YOU malign a union for charging dues? Gannett has spent millions on worthless endeavors, money that was once in your pocket. And you rail against union dues? You are wholy ingnorant of what goes on within a union. It shows! You do need to get mad, but not at your co-workers. Get mad at Gannett for not leading by example. If ours is an industry truely in flux or on the downside, Gannett execs need to share our pain, your pain, not lap at the trough of executive excess. But yes, get mad at a union for calling Gannett execs out for the frauds that they are. Take the easy way out.

  38. I completely support Indianapolis about the job cuts and whatnot. I hate to see any newspaper disintegrate but the design studio is a bad springboard to rally for your cause. If it gets relocated, it would only be relocated to Louisville. Louisville really isn't that far away. It's maybe an hour and a half away. I know, I travel between the two all the time. :/

  39. Dubow likes jetting around to different properties, but I've yet to hear him visit Indy.

    Maybe because he knows his buzzwords would get blasted to pieces by the very employees he's stealing from by pocketing their paycuts.

  40. I believe that Dubow has, indeed, visited Indy. Corporate paid a visit in July 2010, and I'd imagine Dubow was in that delegation.

  41. 3:40, you're right on a lot of stuff. As a frequent visitor to Indianapolis for Colts games, I thought I'd offer my two cents... for a city going on 800,000 people that has a thriving college scene, plenty of local and government news to report and a strong sports landscape that encompasses preps, colleges and pros, the Star is absolutely too thin for a city that size.

    It's almost like management is trying to cut its way to prosperity by trimming jobs and whacking space. They say "Oh, the public won't care." Like hell the public will roll over! People have already said "hey, what the hell is this?" when confronted with papers that barely touch 40 pages in a city this size. I think the Star does a GREAT job with its special sections, but I wonder if corporate would love to take a hatchet job to those too.

    Sooner or later, something's got to give.

  42. Heard a 'supported by Save the Star' tonight on WFYI-FM, local NPR station during All Things Considered.

  43. So did anyone ask how much of our union dues was spent on billboards? Most people in Indianapolis think it is a circulation effort. All I can say .....really?


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