Wednesday, August 29, 2007

A Time to Come Together


After all the angst over layoffs and realignment in the last month, I know the last thing most of us want to think about is more job strife. But, as we all know in the newspaper business, things never let up and life is never easy. While we survived the latest storm and y'all have done an amazing job of putting out the paper and growing the Web site under tough conditions, our journey isn't over yet.

Several of you have mentioned this story on the Huffington Post to me recently and someone posted an anonymous comment on the blog worrying that we'd be the next target of MediaNews Group's cost-cutting attacks on its workers. It's not an unfounded worry, either. This company can be absolutely ruthless in its methods of trying to make a dollar and we're definitely monitoring the situation to the North carefully.

Let me put some fears to rest, however. We don't believe there's any imminent threat to our jobs or livelihoods here at the Daily News, owing to our strong partnership and mutual respect with management. On the union level, we're also reaching out to our brothers and sisters in Northern California and I've spoken with both our local president and representatives from the Guild about the situation. We're all working together to make sure the company realizes it will be best served by working with its employees for mutual benefit rather than driving them away. I have full confidence that we'll succeed.

And while that reassures me, we can't do it alone. We'll need you.

There are two things you can do to help us keep this paper alive and bring back some measure of sanity to this industry. First off, keep doing the great work you're currently producing. No matter how challenging things get, you always do an amazing job with very little to work with. Your dedication and craftsmanship is our saving grace.

Secondly, you can join the union. To those of you who've already signed up, thank you, you're the strength that keeps us going. To those of you who haven't come aboard yet, please help us.

In the past year, our scrappy, little gang at the Daily News has seen its greatest challenges since we started turning things around six years ago. But we've also met those challenges and lived to see some of our greatest successes. Throughout all the cutbacks and chaos, we've managed to stick up for you hard-working folks who put out the paper every day. We've worked with management to minimize the damage, help folks who've lost their jobs, incorporate new technology and skills into our work and, most importantly, helped bring about a more positive, creative atmosphere.

If we're going to keep fighting our way down this road, we need your help. The more creative minds we get working on how to stay afloat in the future, the easier the task will be.

So sure, things are a long way from perfect right now and the industry conditions are far from ideal. But just as we labor together to put out a great paper, we can join again to keep it alive. Please join us in our mission to help us all.


Monday, August 13, 2007

Moving On and Ahead

Hey gang,

This has been an incredibly hectic, incredibly stressful month, one that has shown tremendous ups and downs. It seemed like the picture changed by the hour and while we had plenty of discouraging days, we managed to survive.

While the layoffs, buyouts and bureau closings were a dark, sad time that took away good friends and longtime colleagues, they also served as a reminder of the fine caliber of people with whom we work. Rather than put other people out of jobs, photographers Jeff Goldwater and David Sprague, reporters Jim Skeen, Gideon Rubin and Eric Leach all chose to take the buyout and move on to other things in life. They're all longtime, dedicated employees and their selfless act in a tough time will not be forgotten. I'll miss working with each one of them, along with the other folks who've left, and can't thank them enough for all they've done.

For the folks who choose to stay and keep putting out the paper under challenging circumstances, as well, I salute you. The cuts and daily grind of the paper have whittled us down to the hardest of the hardcore, so for everyone who keeps fighting to keep this thing alive: thank you. I can't think of a better group of people to keep good quality journalism alive.

It was also gratifying to see that through all this that, in spite of the corporate pressure to make numbers, that people remembered the human toll. My old boss, Dan Anderson, called to offer support and passed along several job leads for the folks who left the paper. Ron Kaye handled the cuts with a level of sensitivity and care that went far beyond what his job demanded. And even Jim Janiga, the company's HR director who was once such a frustrating opponent, proved to be tremendously helpful in straightening out benefits and taking care of everyone.

Unfortunately, at the same time this brought out the best in some, it brought out the worst in others. I was furious to read the insulting comments of some anonymous poster on The Paper Trail who suggested that we should somehow be grateful to MediaNews for treating its workers so well and that this was a smart move to get rid of unnecessary coverage. Only the worst corporate hack would say such a thing and I was glad to see subsequent posters jump on them.

The shame of it is that this anonymous company partisan is not alone in their petty, small-mindedness. That's pretty much the corporate line at the moment, as we saw today in Oakland. Moves like that and the political infighting in the company will only drag us all down in the long run. In months ahead, we're going to have to join with our fellow workers throughout the company to fight back that short-sighted mentality.

And while I think that struggle will go on for some time, it appears that we've cleared our most immediate hurdle at the Daily News. Throughout all this chaos, you guys have performed phenomenally, producing sharp coverage in every section and a product that we can truly be proud of. While we have our occasional off days, I can honestly say that this is the best staff and best paper we've had since I started working here. You guys are truly an inspiration and it's a pleasure to work with you.

So please join me in thanking our friends who are saying farewell for everything they've done for this paper and the rest of us. While we may find ourselves working in different places, different towns and different jobs, we won't forget you and what you mean to us. And for those of you who are sticking around, congratulate yourselves for enduring another rough patch with grace. Situations like this bring out the best in us and you've all definitely met the challenge like champs. Keep up the fine work and thank you for everything.