Philly Newspaper Guild Files Grievance Over Inquirer Reassignments

Interstate General Media, the company now running the Inquirer, Daily News and, recently reassigned a bunch of longtime Inky reporters, seemingly hoping that they’d take a buyout offer and leave the company. Theater critic Howard Shapiro took the bait after being reassigned to South Jersey. He spent 42 years at the Inquirer. Now, the Philadelphia Newspaper Guild has filed a grievance, calling the reassignments “irrational and seemingly punitive.” The folks in the guild also take the time to express their opposition to the elimination of the video department, suggesting that the move seems “backward-thinking.” Read the full grievance below. [Romenesko]

From: “Guild Bulletin”
Date: October 18, 2012 10:23:58 AM EDT
Subject: Guild grieves irrational reassignments of veteran Inquirer journalists, also announces Interstate General Media’s backward-thinking decision to eliminate the video unit.

Dear Guild member,

The Newspaper Guild, on Wednesday, filed a grievance with Interstate General Media, over the Philadelphia Inquirer’s irrational and seemingly punitive reassignments of 12 veteran journalists.

The Guild asserts the reassignments are improper and asked the employer provide an explanation and justification of the selection of journalists, and the basis and rationale for each individual reassignment.

The fact these highly-skilled, professional journalists were reassigned, many to different regions, days before a buyout program was announced, suggests these reporters and editors were targeted by Inquirer management with the hopes that the shake-ups may inspire these individuals toward applying for the voluntary separation program.

The Guild asks the employer to reconsider the transfers which it made on the hard to believe argument that a focus group decided these changes in coverage were better for the community.

On the topic of the company making stupid decisions its blaming on third-parties, Interstate General Media informed the Guild on Wednesday that the video unit is being eliminated on Nov. 2.

Rather than have its’ own in-house, professional video unit that has provided quality content to on behalf of the Inquirer and Daily News for five years, a consultant advised the company that it would be better to rely on YouTube and other such embeddable videos from elsewhere on the web.

In today’s media landscape where the company should strive for originality and to differentiate itself, eliminating original, journalistic content that relates specifically to Philadelphia seems like an unwise and shortsighted decision to us. But we’re sure visitors won’t see the “Gangnam Style” parodies, cute kittens, or whatever silly viral videos are coming, as transparent ploys for pageviews.

As a result of the department’s elimination, one full-time video producer, two full-time video editors and two part-time multimedia content producers who comprise the Video Unit will be laid off as of Nov. 2.

Unfortunately, the contract allows the company to layoff these members, and doesn’t require the employer to consider quality over a quick way to save some cash.

In solidarity,

Dan Gross, President
Bill Ross, Executive Director and the Executive Board of the Newspaper Guild/Communications Workers of America Local 38010