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Newspaper Union Members Approve Contract with New Owner

Newspaper Guild union members at the Ulster County, New York-based newspaper “The Daily Freeman” have agreed to a contract with the newspaper’s future owner. “The Freeman” and other Journal Register Company papers are slated to be under the new ownership next month.

Kingston-based “Daily Freeman” employees who are members of the Washington, D.C.-based Newspaper Guild, the media union that represents 60 journalists, advertising staff, and support staff at “The Daily Freeman,” voted 21-18 to approve a two-year pact that will take effect when the deal closes. The future owner - 21st Century CMH Acquisitions, a subsidiary of Alden Global Capital LLC, which owns Journal Register - was the only bidder for the Journal Register Company in a Chapter 11 bankruptcy auction. Patricia Doxsey is president of the Kingston Newspaper Guild and a reporter at “The Freeman.”

She says the 11 who will be let go when 21st Century CMH closes on a number of Journal Register Company newspapers include four clerks, three district managers, and four copy editors, including the editor for the weekly Spanish-language newspaper “Las Noticias,” which the “Freeman” publishes. Doxsey says she has been told “Las Noticias” will be shut down.

She says there are some small victories in the new contract, including an increase in the amount paid for mileage reimbursement, and a 3-percent contribution of weekly pay into a 401k plan, but with no match. She says “Freeman” employees have been without a pay raise for five years.

She describes the deal as having been negotiated with guns to their heads, figuratively speaking. Officials at Alden Global Capital declined to comment.

“The Daily Freeman” follows four Philadelphia Newspaper Guild units in ratifying new contracts earlier this month with 21st Century CMH Acquisitions. The Saratogian and the Troy Record, also Journal Record Company holdings, are not union shops. It is still unclear what effect the sale will have on employees there.

Separately, there’s a report out Monday entitled “The State of the News Media 2013 - An Annual Report on American Journalism”.  Amy Mitchell is acting director of the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism. She says the report shows that financial strain in the newspaper industry continues to impact newsrooms in terms of declining employment.

She says this drop in newsroom power sends people elsewhere for their news.

She says that while not evident in the statistics, there are signs the newspaper industry is experimenting, and trying innovative ways to adapt to the new technology and to a new era of how revenues will work. Again, the report is “The State of the News Media 2013 - An Annual Report on American Journalism,” from the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism.

You may view the report at http://stateofthemedia.org/2013/overview-5/

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