Tuesday, January 31, 2006

The Road Ahead.

Hey Gang,

This started out as a reminder about our Wednesday writers' group-- so yeah, don't forget, if you're around Woodland Hills and want to talk stories at noon tomorrow, drop by the Zebra Lounge-- but evolved into something more important. It's something that's been bugging me for awhile, but like everyone else, I have precious few spare moments to actually address it. That will have to change.

I was having a chat with Richard Perkins back in Sports the other day and he made an excellent point: we're pretty good at responding to reporters' concerns and have a good feel for what's going on in Metro and Business. No surprise there-- that's where the bulk of our membership is. But while that's a good start, as Rich noted, we've still got to be far more inclusive. This isn't just a union thing, either-- this is something that concerns all of us, whether we're paginators, photographers or copy editors.

While we've gotten much better about spreading out into the bureaus and other sections, we're still a very reporter-centric and Woodland Hills-focused group. That's only part of what it's going to take for us to build this union and, more importantly, to make this paper better. We've got to find ways to bring in the layout folks, the copy desk, the features people, the photographers. We may not be able to get everyone on board, but the more ideas and heads we have working together, the better we'll all be.

So we'll keep having our writers' discussions, but as Mr. Perkins pointed out, we've gotta bring designers and photographers into 'em, so we can discuss the total package. Copy editors, clerks, managers, anybody-- the best ideas always seem to come from someone who's a step removed from whatever you're working on.

It's been encouraging in recent months when we've held non-union-related meetings, such as Rachel's diversity workshop or the Behind the Scenes/My Story discussion that Evan and I put on (and I swear I'll get my notes together on that to hand out to all of you who wanted to know more), there's been turnout from other sections beyond just Metro and Business-- we've got to keep reaching out to the people who haven't made that step and bring them along.

I know I get up on my union soapbox a lot, but indulge me for a moment-- this is something where our membership can really help each other out. Through our organizing and newsroom surveys, I've gotten to know people who I'd probably have never interacted with much beyond passing them on the way to the Coke machine. That contact creates friendships, a professional bond and, most importantly, a relationship that helps strengthen the paper.

Knowing that we're all pushing toward the same objective not only gives us a reason to show up every day, but a sense that we can work through it together. I know I may come across as a little pollyanna-ish here, but as I've seen time and again, when we work as a team instead of as a bunch of individuals thrown together, we get better stories, better pictures, better layouts and, ultimately, a better paper and a better workplace.

How do we do we harness what we've got? First, we've got to keep bringing new people into the union. I've gotten lazy about this in recent months and take full responsibility for any lapses, post-contract, but I'm gonna need your help to get back on track. Secondly, we've got to remind people of the reason we exist: to make their job better. We can do that by showing them that we're not just there to go to happy hour and get the phones fixed, but by that we care about the total package.

And to do that, there's going to be more hard work ahead. I know everyone's giving just about all they can to their jobs and all the other stresses of life, but you've reached back for that extra reserve and come through so many times in the past, I know you can do it again. We're going to have to.

Ok, ok, that's enough editorializing for one night, at least on this one subject. I'll quiet down for a bit and let you return to your regularly scheduled lives, but let me close with this thought: The Daily News could be a fantastic place to work. The hours are lousy, the carpet's ugly, the pay needs to be better, but we've got just about the best job in the world. It's got the potential to get better _ and believe me, I know there are plenty of places that need to get fixed soon _ so let's seize that potential and make it into the place we want it to be.

Thanks for listening, as always,


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