Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Guild Balks at TV Appearances

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Guild Balks at TV Appearances

Article excerpt

UNIONIZED REPORTERS AT the Detroit News and Philadelphia Inquirer say they are being shortchanged in the much ballyhooed arrangements their newspapers have with local television channels.

In Detroit, Newspaper Guild Local 22 has filed an unfair labor practice complaint against Gannett Co.-owned Detroit News, after editor and publisher Robert Giles posted a memo claiming the right to order reporters to appear on news shows on WKBD-TV, Channel 50.

Right after the union complaint was lodged, the News filed its own grievance, arguing that the guild's advice that reporters not volunteer for the TV show amounted to an illegal partial work stoppage.

In Philadelphia, too, the guild is urging its members "to refrain from participating in any way" with "Inquirer News Tonight," an hour-long show produced by a Knight-Ridder Inc. subsidiary that runs WPHL-TV.

Guild Local 10 and the Knight-Ridder subsidiary, KR Video Inc., have been unable to agree on compensation for reporters who appear on the news show.

The separate disputes come as increasing numbers of newspapers are mulling similar arrangements with local television news shows, or are starting their own cable or broadcast news programs. And there may be compensation implications for the many newspapers involved in online services.

Detroit News editor and publisher Giles, however, says his paper's arrangement with the local station WKBD might be an innovative partnering of television and print -- but it's nothing new in the use of journalism.

"I think there's a clear tradition of multiple use of stories," Giles said.

"We share our stories with [the Associated Press (AP)] .... [W]e share stories with the Gannett News Service. A number of our people have cut their own deals with other media .... We have people who are commentators on NPR [National Public Radio] and so on," he added.

Giles noted, too, that News reporters produce many audiotex pieces and get no compensation.

The News arrangement with WKBD, which is owned by Paramount Communications Inc., began with the Nov. 7 broadcast.

Virtually every night during the 10 p.m. newscast, a News journalist talks with the WKBD anchors about a story that is to appear in the next day's newspaper.

WKBD approached the News last fall after the local CBS affiliate announced it was joining the Fox network in November. WKBD, which had been the Detroit Fox affiliate, is to join the United/Paramount network when it begins next year.

The moves gave WKBD its first news competition during the primetime, 10 p.m. slot.

"So Channel 50 (WKBD), in trying to react to that, wanted to establish a relationship with the Detroit News because of our credibility and the depth of enterprise it will bring to their news coverage," Giles said.

Before the two news organizations agreed to a six-month experiment, the Detroit Newspaper Agency, which negotiates with the guild for the jointly produced Detroit News and Detroit Free Press, began talking with the union about compensation for the appearances and other issues, Giles said.

The News proposed that reporter appearances on the TV shows would be voluntary, and that overtime would be paid if the appearances took place outside normal work hours, Giles said.

But the two sides remained divided about whether reporters should be paid extra if they appeared on the show during the course of their normal working day.

The guild wanted a "talent fee" for any on-air appearance, Giles said.

Local 22 president Louis Mleczko, News reporter, did not immediately return a phone message for comment. …

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