May 4, 2017 – NewsGuild-CWA members at 28 digital media companies owned by Gatehouse Media and Digital First Media (DFM) observed World Press Freedom Day on May 3 with coordinated actions to support quality journalism at the papers and to highlight the damage wrought by severe cuts in their newsrooms and other departments.
The activities, which included rallies and displays of signs and banners at work stations, aimed to raise awareness of the growing threat that “vulture” hedge funds pose to the nation’s community newspapers. Union leaders say the newspaper owners’ excessive profiteering threatens journalism at a critical time of politicized attacks on the news media. The events marked the first coordinated acts of solidarity by GateHouse and DFM workers.
“The focus on profits threatens journalism at a critical time of politicized attacks on the news media. Reliable information is the foundation of our democracy,” said NewsGuild-CWA President Bernie Lunzer. “Corporate owners have a duty to invest in the essential work done by newspaper workers and not to simply strip-mine newspapers for profits.”
The May 3 activities were part of an ongoing campaign to demand that corporate owners invest in quality jobs and fair contracts after years of layoffs, furloughs, pay freezes and benefit cuts. Contract negotiations are underway or expected to resume soon at both companies, but managers have shown little interest in changing course, union activists say.
Workers at GateHouse and DFM have endured some of the most severe staff reductions in the news business.
Employees at many other publications expressed support for GateHouse and DFM workers, posting photos with messages of solidarity, including the San Francisco Chronicle, Santa Rosa Press Democrat, Minneapolis Star Tribune, Cleveland Plain Dealer, Pueblo Chieftain, Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News, Philly.com, and the NewsGuild of NY. Each of those groups, except NY, are part of locals that have brother-sister units owned by either DFM or GateHouse. The NewsGuild-CWA Local in Detroit, which represents workers at the Macomb Daily and The Daily Tribune, sponsored a noontime rally.