Here’s What’s at Stake in Newspaper-Union Battle Over Seniority

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The Newspaper Guild’s stance on the seniority question can be found on sarcastic stickers in PMN’s Market Street newsrooms — and on the web.

Who gets to be part of the future of Philadelphia’s biggest, most venerable journalistic enterprise? Young, eager newbies ready to stake their claim to the city? Or older workers who’ve already spent 20, 30 years or more adapting to sweeping changes they never could’ve anticipated at the beginning of their career?

That’s one of the big questions at the heart of the dispute between Philadelphia Media Network — owner of the Inquirer, Daily News, and Philly.com — and the Newspaper Guild that represents the company’s journalists, ad sales staff and other support staffers. Most of the focus on the jammed-up negotiations between the two sides has been about the medical benefits those staffers will receive, but another question — seniority — looms just as large.

The essential conflict is this: The union wants to keep long-held “last-hired first-fired” seniority rules in place, so that long-tenured (read: older, more expensive) journalists aren’t tossed overboard in favor of cheaper, younger labor should the company do layoffs again in the near future. The company, though, says it needs flexibility to keep the workers who contribute best to its vision of 21st century journalism (read: younger, more tech-savvy) — and to more easily shed workers who don’t.

Thus, the impasse. Read more »

Laying Off Jewish Exponent Staff a Necessary Evil

No, the Jewish Exponent is not dead.

No, the Jewish Exponent is not dead.

Sometimes, tough business decisions need to be made.

There’s no denying that the Jewish Exponent was in serious financial trouble over the past 10 years — so when the paper laid off its entire editorial staff last week, I was not surprised. And I think the paper’s editorial takeover by Mid-Atlantic Media is a step in the right direction.

Read more »

Newspaper Guild Votes to Begin Strike Preparations

Newspaper Guild leaders Regina Medina and Diane Mastrull, left, count paper ballots for strike authorization, while Bill Ross and Howard Gensler, right, tally up e-mailed votes. The action took place  Wednesday night on the 33rd floor of the Loews Hotel. (Picture: Joel Mathis)

Newspaper Guild leaders Regina Medina and Diane Mastrull, left, count paper ballots for strike authorization, while Bill Ross and Howard Gensler, right, tally up e-mailed votes. The action took place Wednesday night on the 33rd floor of the Loews Hotel. (Pictures: Joel Mathis)

The Newspaper Guild on Wednesday overwhelmingly voted to begin preparations for a strike against Philadelphia Media Network, the parent company of the Inquirer, Daily News, and Philly.com.

There were two votes — one by employees of the newspapers, and one by workers for Philly.com, who have a separate but similar contract with PMN. Neither vote was particularly close: 263-19 in favor of strike preparations by so-called “main unit” employees; 24-7 in favor by Philly.com workers. Sixty-nine percent of guild membership voted.

“It wasn’t unanimous,” said Howard Gensler, the guild’s president and a gossip columnist for the Daily News, “but it was a very strong, supportive vote we hope sends a message to the company we’re not fooling around.” Read more »

Jewish Exponent Lays Off Editorial Staff

The Jewish Exponent is moving in a new editorial direction.

The Jewish Exponent is moving in a new editorial direction.

The Jewish Exponent laid off its editorial and production staff on Wednesday — a total of 15 people. The paper had been in serious financial trouble, losing $300,000 per year, said Steve Rosenberg, publisher for the Jewish Exponent and chief marketing officer for its owner, the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia.

Jewish Exponent editorial content will now be driven by Mid-Atlantic Media, which publishes the Baltimore Jewish Times, Washington Jewish Week and other titles. Mid-Atlantic will hire a managing editor and four writers — all based in Philadelphia — and continue to publish the weekly print edition and its online content at jewishexponent.com. Read more »

Internet Meets Caitlyn Jenner, Immediately Sexualizes Her

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I was getting coffee when Caitlyn Jenner met the Internet. Not fancy coffee — regular drip, black, get that cinnamon-sugar shaker away from me — so we’re talking maybe 15 minutes away from my desk. And yet that was enough time for seemingly the entire world to chime in on the Vanity Fair cover story documenting her transition.

Many were supportive and respectful, from Lady Gaga to Rick Santorum. Others, of course, were decidedly less so. (Tell me, how does it feel to be behind Rick Santorum in the Evolution line? Or don’t you guys believe in that yet? As you were.) But lurking through it all — the Facebook comments, the coverage from major outlets, even Vanity Fair’s presentation and promotion of the story — was an ugly subtext: After less than a day of revealing her new identity, Caitlyn Jenner had already been objectified and sexualized for our entertainment.

Which makes sense. She is, after all, a woman. Read more »

Comcast to Buy Vox Media?

rvlsoft/Shutterstock

rvlsoft/Shutterstock

Comcast is reportedly in talks to purchase Vox Media (owners of SB Nation, Eater and The Verge). It would make Comcast a major player in the blog media world, but apparently the cable giant thinks Vox’s price valuation is way too high. Quartz has the story:

Comcast has been engaged in halting negotiations to acquire Vox Media, according to several people close to the talks. The sticking point, as always, is price, with Vox Media seeking a valuation close to $1 billion. Negotiations fell apart when it became clear Comcast didn’t want to pay that much, but the two sides have talked again recently.

Read more »

Could Philly Newspapers Survive a Strike?

The Newspaper Guild has already printed picket signs in case of a possible strike.

The Newspaper Guild has already printed picket signs in case of a possible strike.

Philadelphia’s two major daily papers — the Inquirer and Daily News, along with their online cousin Philly.com — have survived one calamity after another over the past decade: A radical decline in revenues and circulation, bankruptcy, repeated changes of ownership and repeated airings of dirty laundry.

But can they survive a strike by the Newspaper Guild?

As others have noted, newspaper strikes used to hit this town all the time. But that was back when the newspaper industry was relatively flush. These days? Not so much the case. Yes, employees at Philadelphia Media Network are getting a profit-sharing check this year, but nobody would argue that the business, in Philly and elsewhere, is anything but fragile, and perhaps brittle.

Which raises a question for the journalists, ad sales personnel, circulation and support staffers who are now contemplating walking off the job: Would they have a job to return to?

Outside observers aren’t so sure. Read more »

Inquirer Journalists Launch Health Care Petition

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Members of the Newspaper Guild negotiating committee.

Members of the Newspaper Guild have launched a petition to pressure the Philadelphia Media Network — owner of the Inquirer, Daily News and Philly.com — to improve its health care proposals to the company’s journalists.

The Change.org petition had 129 signatures as of 8 a.m. today. A strike authorization vote by Guild workers is expected the first week of June. Read more »

PHOTO: Philadelphia Newspaper Strike a Real Possibility

See updates below with PMN’s memorandum to journalists, and the guild’s commentary on that memo.

[Original] We’re still waiting to hear back on the progress of today’s scheduled negotiations between the Philadelphia Media Network and the Newspaper Guild, but we received some photographic evidence this afternoon that the guild is serious about its intent to call a strike authorization vote next week:

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That was the scene this afternoon inside 8th and Market, where Philadelphia Media Network maintains the newsrooms of the Inquirer, Daily News, and Philly.com. The guild represents journalists at those outlets. Our tipster was clear: No strike has been called as yet. But the signs have been printed. Read more »

The Lines in This Fox 29 Story About Poop Falling From the Sky, Ranked

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Monday night on Fox 29, reporter Brad Sattin covered quite the story: A Sweet 16 party in Levittown was interrupted by an airplane releasing its bathroom waste overhead. Shortly, the party was covered in poop.

As you might expect with such a story, Sattin delivered multiple poop puns and other similar lines during his report. Here they are, ranked from best to worst: Read more »

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