Philadelphia group launches campaign to save newspapers

The Newspaper Guild of Greater Philadelphia | | Philadelphia Inquirer
A group called Save Philadelphia Newspapers has launched a petition drive “in support of the papers and the journalists and other workers who produce it,” a notice from the group on the Philly Guild page says.

The coalition, whose slogan is, “A Great City Needs Great Newspapers” is responding both to the threat on the part of the new owners of the papers, IGM, to “liquidate” them if their demands are not met and to IGM’s efforts to replace established journalists with younger, inexperienced, and less costly replacements. Members of the coalition were moved to act when, even after the Newspaper Guild agreed to the requested $7.1 million reduction in compensation to its members, IGM demand the right to fire long established writers at the newspapers.

“[I]magine opening up your paper and reading an article about politics written by a new arrival to our city who doesn’t know the difference between Frank Rizzo and John Street,” reads a post on Save Philadelphia Newspapers’ website. “Or an article on the Phillies by a kid fresh out of college who doesn’t know the difference between Mike Schmidt and the Philly Phanatic.”

Petitioner comments include:

  • “The problem of our misinformed public will not be solved by less experienced reporters being paid less”
  • “A daily newspaper is a prerequisite for a healthy democracy.”
  • “The printed press is the only resource to really get the news. The crap on cable is biased rhetoric for both sides. The Inquirer gives clear unbiased reporting along with opinions from all across the political spectrum.”

“Further actions are planned,” says the group.

The Guild and Interstate General Media, which owns the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Daily News and agreed to negotiate in mid-January after IGM reportedly threatened to sell the news organizations’ assets if the Guild didn’t agree to cuts.

Last Friday the Guild filed an update on those negotiations: “A daylong effort by the Guild to help the company reach its economic goal blew up at 5 p.m. Friday when negotiators from IGM made a proposal to undermine seniority.” The note said negotiations would resume this week.

The Teamsters local at the Philly papers signed off on a new contract with IGM Sunday. Union head John Laigaie told Inquirer reporters Jonathan Lai and Bob Fernandez “he hoped the other unions would do what they could to ‘keep the papers going for a couple of years, and let’s see what happens.’”

Related: Plain Dealer journalists plan pre-emptive campaign against reduced print, staff cuts

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  • David Woo

    When these media properties become the vanity project of some robber baron or the profit center of a hedge fund, does the invisible hand of the market at that point benefit the society and community as a whole? When stripping away the value of a company to extract wealth and profits, does the investigative reporting go on at a level that is necessary to protect the community? Newspapers and the experience of the reporters is vital and will not be missed until its gone. We need to speak out and organize to buy these legacy papers and do it under the economic model of Cooperative Enterprise. A reporter owned paper or a consumer owned paper is not beholden to faceless and detached shareholders whose prime goal is profit. Service to a community would be the prime goal of a cooperative and we could keep it as long as we could pay the bills. Who’s in with me on this, a few hundred thousand people can chip in $100.00 each and we could each buy our share. Well, it’d be a little more complicated that this but you get the point, so get some creative juices flowing on how this can happen.