Sunday, October 30, 2005

Three Things for Sunday Night

Hello Everyone,

Before I brave the wilds of the grocery store on a Sunday afternoon, I wanted to get in a quick message to you folks regarding a few things on the union front. After my time in the wilderness, it's been a busy week, so I'll update you on the highlights then let you get on with your weekends.

Firstly, after sending out that email regarding not letting bad things go unchecked at work a few weeks back, I got an unusual complaint about a malfunctioning phone. After doing some digging around, it turns out that the phone service from office to office varies dramatically, depending on the set-up. Up in Santa Clarita and in Glendale, in particular, it seems there are problems with the voice mail, where there's no indicator light or beeping noise to alert you when there's a message waiting.

While this has apparently been the case for as long as anyone can remember, it's not how it's supposed to be-- the SAC phones should blink and theoretically, the Glendale phones should beep. After a conversation with Theresa, then Ron, they're going to have the tech services dudes look into it to see how to rectify the problem. It may take awhile, but Ron thought it shouldn't be much of a big deal to get it taken care of.

While that will hopefully iron out the problems with the phones, that's a good reminder for all of us that we don't have to put up with busted equipment or backwards situations. If you've got something that doesn't work (aside from the junky computers, which they insist will be taken care of in January or so when we switch to the new system), speak up about it-- it's no big deal to get it fixed.

When I was having this conversation with Theresa, she mentioned that she'd recently sent maintenance to repair a manager's desk. The desk had been broken, no joke, since 1990, but no one ever requested to have it fixed since "they just assumed no one would fix it."

Well, they will fix it-- and if they don't, tell us and we'll badger them until they do. No one should have to work in subpar conditions just because they assume the company's going to be too cheap to make the repairs. If you need something new, talk to your manager; if they can't fix it, go directly to Theresa. We may not have top of the line stuff, but we can certainly expect the things we're given to work correctly.

Ok, that's enough of The Great Phone Caper. Moving on, it's high time we had ourselves a Happy Hour. So, if you're free on Wednesday night (11/2), let's meet up at The White Harte Pub (22456 Ventura Blvd.) for some appetizers and drinks. We'll talk union business, eat fried food, maybe toss a couple darts-- just a chance to get away and relax outside of the office.

And finally, for those of you who haven't sent in your dues yet or given to me, let's finish paying up for October. If you could make those checks out to CWA 9400 for 2.25 times your hourly wage and remit 'em, that'd be swell. Thanks again to all of you-- I know it's an added cost that none of us relishes, but given what the union's done for us over the years, it's worth it.

That oughtta do it for now-- hope to see ya on Wednesday and let me know if you need anything in the meantime.


Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Add One to That List

Hey Guys,

In my hurry to get the message out last night, I accidentally left out a member deserving of kudos in my quick list of shout outs. If you've still got last Saturday's paper laying around, check out John McCoy's pics of the Orange Line bus drivers.

I mention this because it was a lousy assignment-- and I can say that with full authority, 'cause it was me who made it. John had the thankless task of shooting three distinct portraits of these busdrivers and the new MetroLiner. There were no passengers, each bus looks exactly the same and the paper's shot the hell out of those mammoth things. Asking for a good picture out of those circumstances is like giving a chef three carrots, a chicken wing and some oatmeal and asking them to make a gourmet dish.

But in true Daily News fashion, John made the best of it and brought back three good shots, all of which looked remarkably different from each other. That's what this paper and especially our members thrive on-- making the best out of challenging circumstances. So while it's his turn to shine right now, we all oughtta take heart in the fact that we've all learned to put out great work under conditions like we're faced with. Thanks, John, thanks everyone. As always, you guys rock.


Monday, October 24, 2005

Sorry for that Extended Break


Sorry for that messageless message there... anyhow, I wanted to pass the word that I'm now finally free from the fun of jury service and will be back on the union front Tuesday. Here's some odds 'n ends...

Once I get settled and squared away, we should have those couple of things outstanding taken care of-- to those of you who've been waiting, many thanks.

I don't have a specific time or date yet, but it's been far too long since we gathered for a little happy hour relaxation. Let's see how next week works out for folks and I'll send 'round an email.

Nice work by you guys in the paper as of late-- too much to mention, though Jason's piece on the circus, Evan Henerson's Banderas/Zeta-Jones Q&A and Dana's heartbreaking tale of the Wizard of Oz-less kids (with the LA Observed stamp of approval, no less) all caught my eye as particularly excellent. Man, this paper and its staff rock.

Alright, that's all I've got for now-- thanks again for everything.


Wednesday, October 12, 2005

The Daily News Way

Hey Gang,

Hmm-- my computer appears to be playing tricks on me again, making the email I was just working on disappear halfway through. So if you guys got a half of a message about morale at work, I apologize. And if not, I'll try to repeat it here.

In my job as the union steward, I hear a lot of your concerns and complaints about the workplace. I'm always glad to hear you speak up and glad to work with you on whatever the issue is. Sometimes there's nothing we can do, but mostly, we're able to figure something out that improves the situation. Though we've endured endless challenges as a staff in the five years I've been here, we always seem to find a way through them and still put out a great paper. That's all because of you-- the fact that we can put out such great work with so few resources is a testament to your skills and sharpness as journalists.

In talking to people over the years, I've noticed a pervasive attitude, one that started a long time ago from the top and filtered its way into every level of the newsroom-- I've heard it called the Daily News way. I first got a whiff of it when I interviewed for a job here and I was told by someone in senior management that people are overworked, underpaid and quit frequently at the Daily News. Rather than trying to do something about all three of those issues, people just get it beaten into them that we're this kicked around underdog that'll never have the money, the people or the equipment it needs to compete.

This mentality trickles down to everyone and as a result, a lot of good people have left and a lot of others have gotten used to the bizarre, broken down ways that sprung up. Colleagues don't communicate, bad conditions get tolerated, we get used to dealing with situations that would have never come up if someone had spoken out.

It reminds me of something that happened to me as a kid-- I hurt my wrist once playing football. Instead of going to the doctor and getting it taken care of in the proper time, I ignored the pain and just got used to not bending it certain ways. Eventually, it didn't hurt anymore. And my wrist didn't move the way it was supposed to. It still doesn't.

And that's what happens here at the paper-- when things go wrong, someone leaves, something gets screwed up, something seems amiss, all too often, no one says anything or does anything about it because they've become conditioned that it'll never get better. Like my screwed up hand, if we don't find a way to fix things in a timely fashion, they really will never improve.

In the past, it was very easy to get caught up in that mentality, but we've got a rare opportunity now. With new management in place at the top, we can work to get rid of the things that didn't function before and find new ones that do. We're never going to get that huge investment of capital that this place sorely needs, but we can at least improve what we've got.

And that'll never happen unless we speak up and stand up for ourselves. If you're overloaded with work, tell your manager. If you don't have the right gear, request it. If you see a way things could run more smoothly, an area of the paper that's lacking, a way to improve morale, make your voice heard. If you don't feel comfortable saying it yourself, tell me-- that's what the union's here for. We're here to lobby for those changes and work with management to make sure they get enacted fairly.

It's always hard to be the one to open your mouth, but if you don't, you validate the situation. Every time someone leaves, we all take up a little of their slack and stretch ourselves a little thinner. While that's certainly part of being a team, there are also limits to how long you can do that. Every time a manager makes a bad decision and you just take it, rather than letting them know, you send them the message that it's ok to do so.

That's how this place got itself so far in the hole-- when problems arose, people just got frustrated and quit, rather than making a stand and solving the problem. That just fueled this defeatist attitude that there was something inherently wrong with the workplace and that it would never get better. It'll take a long time to dig ourselves out of that hole, but we can do it.

I'm not saying that every time you're asked to do something that you complain-- far from it. But when you see something happen that's not right, whether it's getting put on a comp-time shift without being asked or an editor fooling with your copy without running it by you, speak up. Don't just complain, but tell them how things should be done. Do so firmly and politely and almost all the time, that'll fix the situation right there. If not, don't be afraid to take it to us-- that's why we've got a whole detailed grievance procedure for situations exactly like that. In my conversations with Ron and Melissa, they seem interested in changing the culture of the newsroom, so let's find a way to change it so it works for all of us.

So I'll close now with a final anecdote, then get off my soapbox and let you get on with your evenings. A much admired former editor shared this with me at a going away party once-- it was loud and late when he told me, so I may get a couple details wrong, but the substance of the story really encapsulates the nature of the problem here.

Many years ago, the Daily News' Sacramento bureau had an ancient, perpetually broken fax machine. It conked out regularly, necessitating frequent repair. At the time, the corporate policy (and I believe this was several coporations ago) was that in order to prevent waste, any salvageable machine would be fixed, rather than replaced.

The only trick was, this thing was so old and so crummy and so far away, each repair cost hundreds of dollars. But since the order was that it would be wasteful to throw out the old machine and buy a new one for a few hundred bucks, the company ended up spending thousands of dollars on a machine that kept breaking. Rather than upset the company policy, people kept signing off on it and kept throwing money away. The practice finally ended when a departing reporter from the Associated Press bequeathed their ancient, but slightly less junky, machine to the bureau, thus stopping the breakdowns and the endless waste of dollars.

Let's not let ourselves get trapped in that illogical mentality. Just because things were messed up here in the past doesn't mean they have to always be that way-- we can either work together to make it better or we can watch this place keep breaking down like that old, patched up machine. Let's make that the new Daily News way.

Thanks for listening,

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Goodbye to one, one more open job.

Hey Everyone,

I'm about to run out the door for a quick little vacation, but I wanted to leave a few things with you before I do...

First of all, we should all bid a fond farewell and good luck to Les Jacobs of the Sports Department. Today's his last day before heading off to beautiful Brooklyn, where he'll take a job working in graphic design. He's been a good guy to know and a strong supporter of our little club, so while we'll miss him, it's good to hear he's on to bigger and better things. Best of luck, dude-- make sure you try the Gray's Papaya juice and watch out for those New Yorkers. They're tough customers, but hey, after the Daily News, you're ready for just about anything.

Secondly, there's another job posting to pass along (and thanks for the responses regarding the 10-day hold, I'm still exploring things, so more input is welcome). Sports has an opening for a copy and layout editor, who'll edit, write headlines, layout and pagination. 40 hours a week, including nights & weekends. College degree required, preferably in journalism, plus 1 year of editing with strong performance. Apply in writing to Jon Clifford by 5 p.m., October 10. No phone calls. Supply resume, samples of editing work, names, addresses and phone numbers of 3 most recent immediate supervisors.

This leaves three open jobs in sports-- they're recruiting for them, so if you know of someone looking for a gig, pass the word. Those folks are getting hammered back there 'til those slots get filled, so if anyone knows of a qualified candidate (or wants it themselves), go for it.

That's about it for now. To all of you who paid dues for Sept., I put them in the mail today. The rest of you, if you haven't mailed them already, I'll try and get some envelopes to you when I'm back in town, but feel free to send them in the meantime. Thanks for your help on that.

Ok, gotta hit the road-- if you need anything, I'll be in sporadic email contact by e-mail until Wednesday morning, then back in the city and available by phone (310)562-4315 for the rest of the week. Other than that, ask Kerry Kandel in metro or Vicki DiPaolo down at the union office (562)259-9430.