After consolidating, MediaNews busts union in Bay-area newsrooms

Trib's Owner Busts its Union with a BANG
[via East Bay Express/92510 blog]

As expected, the union at the Oakland Tribune and its sister papers has been busted as a result of today’s merger between those former papers of the Alameda Newspaper Group and the non-union Contra Costa Times, its sister papers, and the former Hills newspapers. Operations for those papers have been consolidated under a new banner, Bay Area News Group-East Bay, or BANG-EB, for short. In an e-mail this morning to all ANG and CC Times employees, publisher of BANG-EB John Armstrong noted that members of the Guild bargaining unit at the former ANG newspapers now constitutes “significantly less than 50 percent of the newly consolidated editorial group of BANG-East Bay.” He added: “Accordingly, we withdrew recognition from the Guild effective today.”

As 92510 previously reported, members of the Northern California Media Workers Guild, which represents reporters, photographers, and copy editors at the former ANG papers, worried this would happen after plans for the creation of BANG-EB was announced on July 25. Armstrong concluded saying the consolidation will “dramatically improve our newspapers and Web sites, to the benefit of all of us.”

Also announced was a $7 million investment into a new electronic front-end system that will link all the Bay Area newspapers of the California Newspapers Partnership, including the San Jose Mercury News. Which begs the question: Will the Merc’s union also get busted?

The full e-mail:

From: Armstrong, John Sent: Mon 8/13/2007 10:09 AM To: All ANG; All CCN Subject: Employee Update

Colleagues:

A new era in Bay Area journalism was ushered in today with the consolidation of Contra Costa, Hills and ANG Newspapers into Bay Area News Group - East Bay. The consolidation better positions our editors, reporters, columnists, photographers, graphic artists and support personnel to meet the challenges of a 24/7 print and digital multi-media world.

On the eve of this consolidation, the Board of the California Newspapers Partnership, representing owners MediaNews Group, Stephens Media and Gannett Co., took two important actions to support this move.

At a meeting last Thursday, the CNP Board approved an operating budget for the 2007-2008 fiscal year and a $7 million investment in a new electronic front end system that will provide the technology to support our new mission.

About the budget: We project our revenues will decline by $8.9 million or 14 percent from the previous fiscal year as we continue to cycle through hard times in the real estate and automotive markets and some softness in retail. We expect some of these core losses will be offset by double-digit growth in advertising revenues in online and targeted publications.

With some savings in newsprint due to reduced volume and lower price and lower costs stemming from the East Bay consolidation begun last year, we project that the operating profit of BANG-East Bay will grow by 3 percent. While it's an improvement from our profit in the 2006-2007 fiscal year, it still puts profit at 10 percent below what the separate Contra Costa/Hills and ANG groups accomplished in 2005-2006, before the industry was hit by such severe revenue challenges.

About the front end system: Executive Editor Kevin Keane, Managing Editor Pete Wevurski and their team are excited about what can be accomplished through a state-of-the-art system linking all the CNP newsrooms in the Bay Area. Three systems are under consideration, and they all provide the technology necessary to succeed in a multi-media landscape. We expect a contract to be signed next month.

The approval of an achievable budget and a new front end system is an expression of confidence by the CNP Board in what we can achieve working together in the months and years ahead in the East Bay.

Working together began in earnest today with the migration of more than 20 editors, reporters and photographers to new locations and, in some instances, to new and expanded responsibilities. Another seven will move in the next week or so.

Working with local editors, AME's/News Carolyn McMillan, Kat Rowlands and Martin Reynolds now have more than 80 local reporters and 12 editorial assistants to build our leadership in local news and information, the heart of our franchise.

Mike Oliver, BANG-East Bay's special projects editor, now can call on as many as 18 seasoned investigative and regional specialists to create the kind of journalism that makes headlines.

In features, sports, business news and photography, AME's Lisa Wrenn, Tom Barnidge and Drew Voros and Director of Photography Nick Lammers, respectively, now can now call on staffs that dwarf in size those of all competitors in the East Bay.

AME/Production Bob Nishizaki, with the help of associate editors/news production Al Fields (Pleasanton) and Kerry Young (Walnut Creek), will oversee two copy desks until installation of the front end system next year allows for the consolidation of the desks in Walnut Creek.

Very importantly, this consolidation frees our newsrooms to put much more emphasis on our Web sites. Over the next several weeks we will establish digital breaking news and multi-media hubs in Walnut Creek and Oakland as well as an expanded online entertainment hub in the Features Department.

AME/Online Content Ari Soglin, Online Entertainment Editor Kari Hulac and multimedia editors Kathleen Kirkwood and Ray St. Germain will lead the digital charge. Prior to the consolidation, our East Bay newsrooms had four "digital first" staffers; now we'll have 13 to 16.

Finally, we have carefully considered the impact of the consolidation on the Guild bargaining unit at the former ANG newspapers. That group now constitutes significantly less than 50 percent of the newly consolidated editorial group of BANG-East Bay.

Because of this and the fact that the ANG bargaining unit has been completely integrated into BANG-East Bay, we can no longer recognize the Guild as the representative of, and here I quote from the contract, "(a)ll full-time and regular part-time employees of the Employer employed at its Editorial Department at its Alameda, Hayward, Fremont, Dublin, Danville, Tracy, Martinez, Livermore, Pleasanton, Oakland and San Mateo locations . . ."

Accordingly, we withdrew recognition from the Guild effective today.

With this consolidation, readers will see some relatively unimportant changes: Staff writer and staff photographer designations, new names in the mastheads, a common email domain (bayareanewsgroup.com), to name three. Much more significant is the capabilities this consolidation gives us to dramatically improve our newspapers and Web sites, to the benefit of all of us.

As always, your questions and comments are welcomed.

John Armstrong
President and Publisher
Bay Area News Group-East Bay

article originally published at http://blogs.eastbayexpress.com/92510/2007/08/union_busted_at_oakland_tribun.php.

The media's job is to interest the public in the public interest. -John Dewey