Guild vs. Godzilla story makes Editor & Publisher

Dateline: Fri 15 Dec 2006

A blog reader notes that Wednesday's Editor & Publisher also wrote n a piece about the ham-handed techniques by management at the Star. The issue is Gannett forcing journalists to write ad-type copy for the Star's numerous "products."

Here's the link:

http://www.editorandpublisher.com/eandp/news/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1003521603

And here are excerpts from E&P's story by Mark Fitzgerald:

"Newspaper Guild officers at The Indianapolis Star say they aren't resisting the implementation of Gannett Co.'s 'Information Center'-style newsroom -- just management's vague proposals that so far include having copy editors write advertorials.

"We don't want this to be a make-or-break issue, but we're fervent in our belief that you can't have a foot in each world (of the newsroom and advertising), and still have credibility and credence in the community," the Guild's local treasurer, Judy Wolf, told E&P in a telephone interview.

"In interviews and a memo of their own, Guild officers reacted to a stinging memo from the Star's Vice President Ali Zoibi accusing the union of dragging its feet in accepting the Information Center concept that Gannett is rolling out across its 96 daily newspapers.

"'(W)e cannot wait for people to change who don't want to change," Zoibi wrote in a memo he first e-mailed to Wolf, and then -- 24 minutes later, according to Wolf -- to the entire newsroom. "Competitors are launching new products everyday. While waiting for the Guild to respond to us two new, direct competitors, launched products."

..."But Wolf says the union's contract, which extends until the end of 2008, specifically includes many online positions as covered by the contract."

"Wolf said the union had given its 'general buy-in' to the Information Center concept: 'We've repeatedly said we understand that things change, and we've repeatedly said we want the paper to do well. We didn't get into journalism to be on a dying paper.'

In the two sessions Guild leaders had with management representatives over the Information Center idea, the union said it was stunned to hear suggestions from Editor Dennis Ryerson suggest first that reporters could be assigned to write for advertorial sections, a proposal later amended to include only copy editors and other newsroom employees who do not get bylines or photo credits.

"No Guild-covered editorial employees of any type should be involved in advertorials, the union said in its memo Wednesday evening.

"We cannot stress how important this is, both for the integrity of the entire staff and the credibility of The Star," the Guild said. "All editorial employees are held to the same, high ethical standards, not just those with bylines or photo credits."

Wolf is of course correct. The issue is an ethical one. I personally am stunned and disappointed that Ryerson would be a part of proposing these changes -- where is his loyalty to his staff? He's a candidate for the yellow dog of the year award for betraying journalists.

By the way, insiders say the Star has imposed a blanket of silence since the initial flap made Jim Romensko's Poynter Institute web site. That's also no way to run an information center -- shutting down opinion and differences of view.

But what else is new?

comments: ruth@ruthholladay.com

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