Newsworkers United: Labor, Convergence, and North American Newspapers

By Brennen, Bonnie | Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, Spring 2003 | Go to article overview

Newsworkers United: Labor, Convergence, and North American Newspapers


Brennen, Bonnie, Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly


Newsworkers United: Labor, Convergence, and North American Newspapers. Catherine McKercher. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2002. 232 pp. $75 hbk. $27.95 pbk.

As the first president of the American Newspaper Guild, Heywood Broun fought for the rights of editorial workers and encouraged Guild members to cooperate and work with other labor unions. When newspaper publishers rejected collective bargaining efforts by the Guild, Broun understood that the Guild needed the help and support of labor, and he led a movement to affiliate with the American Federation of Labor. Concerned with the growth of media chains and the power of newspaper publishers to influence government legislation, Broun and other early Guild leaders in the 1930s voiced labor-related concerns particularly important in a contemporary era of conglomeration and convergence.

Envisioning convergence as more than the influence of new technologies on the production of news, in Newsworkers United: Labor, Convergence and North American Newspapers Catherine McKercher connects convergence to the social, political, cultural, and economic strategies of capitalist accumulation. McKercher's thoughtful emphasis on the social relations within the production and consumption of news helps readers to understand human consequences of convergence and showcases the role of labor in the development of journalism. Linking technological convergence with media conglomeration, this text illustrates the current potential for deskilling and controlling labor and ponders the political implications of the integration of formerly distinct media forms via the Internet. In a series of newspaper case studies from the United States and Canada, McKercher shows how the development of computer technology deskilling has prompted territorial battles between individual unions and has resulted in fights between labor and management over the preservation of job-specific skills.

Currently an associate professor of journalism and communication at Carleton University, McKercher worked as a journalist throughout the 1970s and 1980s and witnessed first-hand aspects of technological change and corporate concentration. It is clear that her experience in both union and nonunion newsrooms informs McKercher's well-researched, interesting, and thoughtful analysis. This labor history is well-writ-ten and accessible to a general scholarly audience. …

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