August 12, 2016

A newspaper joined the recent spate of mostly digital newsrooms unionizing in the United States on Thursday, calling itself the first of its kind to do so in Florida.

The Lakeland Ledger, a Central Florida newspaper owned by GateHouse Media, voted 22-3 to unionize and be represented by the NewsGuild.

Reporter Gary White, a 14-year veteran of the Ledger, led the leadership drive and praised the unionization process with fellow reporter John Chambliss in a statement.

The hard-working and dedicated staff of the newsroom wants The Ledger to continue its important mission of informing Polk County residents. We welcome a new role in collaborating with the company to establish journalistic and financial success.

In the statement, employees at the Ledger said the unionization drive was a response to layoffs at the newspaper, which have claimed 21 jobs since GateHouse took over in January 2015. The ledger staff has also gone more than eight years without pay raises.

The Ledger’s unionization drive comes on the heels of several similar efforts at digital newsrooms throughout the United States. In the last year, Gawker Media, The Huffington Post, Salon, Vice, Al Jazeera America, Guardian US and Law 360 have all voted to become union shops.

New Media Investment Group, which owns GateHouse Media, has embarked on an expansion strategy that entails buying newspapers and pursuing cost-cutting efforts at its various properties.

Ownership by GateHouse has spurred collective bargaining at other newspapers, according to Columbia Journalism Review, which last month profiled Lakeland’s unionization effort.

The Ledger is not the first paper to move to unionize after being purchased by Gatehouse. Employees at two Illinois publications, The State Journal-Register and the Register Star, voted to unionize after their papers were bought by the company. (Meanwhile, a veteran journalist at another Gatehouse paper in Florida, when asked about the mood there, told me, “I really can’t tell you anything, which should tell you something.”)

The Ledger, which has a daily circulation of 45,900, will negotiate a contract with GateHouse over the coming months.

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Benjamin Mullin is the managing editor of He previously reported for Poynter as a staff writer, Google Journalism Fellow and Naughton Fellow, covering journalism…
Benjamin Mullin

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