Magazine article St. Louis Journalism Review

Pulitzer Net Income Up by 20%; Newspaper Guild Charges Hiring Freeze, Lack of Contract Is "Demoralizing." (Pulitzer Publishing Co.; St. Louis Newspaper Guild)

Magazine article St. Louis Journalism Review

Pulitzer Net Income Up by 20%; Newspaper Guild Charges Hiring Freeze, Lack of Contract Is "Demoralizing." (Pulitzer Publishing Co.; St. Louis Newspaper Guild)

Article excerpt

The St. Louis Newspaper Guild took its Campaign for Justice to the Pulitzer Company's annual shareholders meeting on May 11. Workers present branded the Pulitzer Company and family as hypocrites.

Guild members contrast the company's claimed commitment to good journalism with cutbacks in the newsroom staff. They contrast the credit the company takes for the charitable and volunteer community work of employees with the company's failure to support such work or match employee contributions. They contrast their wage freeze last year with the 29 percent increase in salary and bonuses for Michael Pulitzer, chief executive officer of Pulitzer Publishing Co.

The 517 members of the St. Louis Newspaper Guild at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch began the Campaign for Justice after more than one year of negotiations failed to budge management from initial demands for 108 union concessions. The employees' intervention at the Pulitzer stockholders' meeting was the latest of half a dozen public actions by Guild members.

A two and one-half hour rally outside the Post building launched the campaign. Virginia Hick, Post reporter and overall coordinator of the campaign, says the rally was as much an effort to "sign people up" as it was a message to management. Over 100 members signed up to work on a campaign committee. Three hundred and three employees signed an open letter to the directors of the Pulitzer Publishing Co. Seventy signed up to handbill the St. Louis Cardinals home opener. It was rained out, but they passed out leaflets at the April 17 game. Guild members also distributed informational cards to visiting journalists at a regional meeting of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) held in conjunction with national writing workshops co-sponsored by the Post. One hundred members signed up to raise money for Walk America under the Guild's name instead of the Post's. Employees donated to SPJ's legal defense fund auction as Guild members. And the Guild sponsored and presented writing awards at the St. Louis Science Fair. Hick explains "we were irritated at the Post-Dispatch for taking credit for employees' charitable work, when they don't even match our contributions."

The idea of going to the stockholders' meeting, says Tim O'Neill, reporter and member of the Guild negotiating team, originated with reporters in the financial section. A shareholders committee was set up with Jerri Stroud, financial reporter and owner of 220 shares of Pulitzer stock, as the chairwoman. Forty-two other Guild members also own stock in the company.

The Guild's presence at the annual meeting, says O'Neill, is part of a strategy of going wherever Pulitzer hosts an event to remind management that it still must resolve issues with its employees, and the employees are not willing to sit quietly until management finds it convenient to deal with them. Stroud says the specific purpose of attending the shareholder's meeting was to "let the shareholders hear the people who make Pulitzer great, and tell them that if they don't treat those people well, they are jeopardizing the profitability of the Post-Dispatch."

Approximately 12 Guild members attended the meeting, but only half of them went inside. The rest stayed outside to distribute leaflets to shareholders. Joe Pollack, president of the St. Louis Guild, says the union wanted "an appearance, not a mass demonstration." The reason, he says, was "to keep this on a professional basis."

Hick, who did not attend the stockholders' meeting, says the profitability of the Post is endangered by management draining money from St. Louis to buy TV stations elsewhere. "They're putting less" into the paper, she says, and quality already has suffered with less news and a sloppier published product. "More typos are getting into the paper, and you see repetitions and disjointed sentences" because overworked copy editors don't have time to finish editing every story. Even worse, she says, is that management is replacing beat reporters with stringers. …

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