Wearing o' the red

Dateline: Fri 17 Jul 2009

Indianapolis Newspaper Guild vice president Vic Ryckaert posted the following on his Facebook page last night, regarding Thursday's employee meetings at the Star with publisher Michael Kane. The Guild had asked employees -- without a contract for seven months now -- to wear red to the meeting in support of the newspaper union.

Sez Vic:

"Red Thursday update: We entered en mass, wearing red or lanyards. I didn't count and I was at the front, so I can't say exactly how many. I would guess about 50.

We filled part of the front section. Way outnumbered by non-guild employees. We asked most of the questions.

Michael Kane talked about the economy and how The Star is struggling. He gave a lot of specific numbers about how far the paper is falling short of projections and last year's earnings. He asked us not to share those numbers, so I won't.

I'm confident that they saw us and they heard us."

The numbers are depressing.

Before the last round of layoffs -- 37 people gone -- the Guild had, by my count, 106 members. The newsroom -- what Gannett calls its information center, or its profit center -- used to have about 177 employees, again, before the last round of layoffs.

So It must be down to 150 staff members, or less.The good news is that the Guild represents the majority of those people, or so it seems by my calculations. But the bad news is that the Guild lost 14 members in the latest firings last week.

When it comes to a show of solidarity, I wish there had been more individuals in red. Of course, one wishes a lot of things...

A friend questioned the "red" strategy; talk is cheap, he argues. Why not take action? His sentiment was that wearing of red is like poking at a bear. All you do is piss the bear off, and accomplish nothing.

He (and I) would rather see a more proactive stance: call in sick, walk out for a day, whatever.

If any of these numbers are bad, please holler. My sources are the Inkling (on the June 30 contract vote, 97 Guild members voted no, 9 voted yes) and some older emails. I am unsure of the strength of the newsroom. Lat I heard, it was at about 177 employess, down from the 200 or so when I retired in 2006.

Your thoughts?





das [unverified] said:

That meeting was a joke; similar to the last three we've had with Kane. It's the same format...he gives us the numbers (revenue, profit, etc.) then tries to rally us by saying we need to change what we've been doing but he doesn't offer any concrete ideas or plans. And I'm tired of hearing Gannett and the Star's financial woes blamed on the economy - that may be part of it - but the industry as a whole is dying.

2009-07-17 09:59:02

das [unverified] said:

Another thing I noticed, one half of the room was newsroom/building services people, the other side was the ad/marketing people. Pretty much sums up how we are divided.

2009-07-17 10:00:09

Old Grouch [Member] said:

If "the industry as a whole is dying," the antics of current managements (not just at Gannett) have been like pushing a cancer patent off a cliff. Bad decisions, missed opportunities, mindless cost-cutting, forgetting the readers, cheapening the product, misallocation of resources... the list is endless.

2009-07-17 12:09:25

Whitebeard [unverified] said:

"My mommy always said there were no monsters - no real ones - but there are."

--Newt in Aliens 2

2009-07-17 13:19:35

photog [Member] said:

Here is the unfortunate and very sad truth as I see it.
If (a very big if!), the economy was clipping along at full tilt, unemployment was at 1.5%, Gannett was the best newspaper owner in the business, employee moral was high and the newsroom was full of veterans again... what would change? Sure, everyone would be happier, but the light at the end of the tunnel is still a train. The Gannett train is just bigger and faster and will get here (wherever that is?) faster. Be it Pulliam, Tribune, Knight Ridder, McClatchy, Hearst, Cox, just pick one, the train is coming unless something changes. I'm not a negative person, and my heart just aches for the industry and my friends in it. Society will miss newspapers. If a newspaper executive tells you "we see light at the end of the tunnel" you had better get out of the tunnel!

2009-07-17 13:46:51

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