Lee Enterprises-owned Casper Star-Tribune votes in the Guild

Feb 28, 2018 by

Congratulations are in order for the newsroom of the Casper Star-Tribune, an award-winning newspaper in the Lee Enterprises chain. Journalists there voted overwhelmingly Feb. 27 to join the Denver News Guild.

The United Media Guild represents employees at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the largest newspaper in the Lee Enterprises chain. Our members there have benefited from having a strong voice in the workplace during these challenging times in our profession.

Now the journalists at the Star-Tribune will have a voice in their newsroom, too. The Casper organizing committee posted the following statement through social media after the election:

“We at the Casper News Guild are pleased with the result of this vote. As we have said from the beginning, our goal is to protect and strengthen the future of the Star-Tribune, as well as Casper and Wyoming’s news, for many years to come. Since filing for an election earlier this month, communication between newsroom employees and management has been open and respectful. We look forward to furthering that cordial relationship in the months to come as we bargain with the Star-Tribune’s corporate owner, Lee Enterprises, to reach a collective bargaining agreement that benefits both the newsroom and the company.”

The Star-Tribune is just the latest newspaper to join a local within the NewsGuild, which is a sector of the Communications Workers of America. Recently journalists at the Los Angeles Times voted in the Guild.

“Journalists are taking a stand across the country,” TNG-CWA president Bernie Lunzer said. “We are fighting for quality journalism and a voice in our future.

“The media landscape is changing. Corporate owners are slashing staff and cutting resources as ad revenue shifts to Google and Facebook. But in this time of turmoil, quality journalism at the national and local level is more important than ever.”

read more

Related Posts

Tags

Share This

Lee Enterprises loses revenue, cut staff, rewards top executives

Feb 22, 2018 by

As you would expect, Lee Enterprises executive chairman Mary Junck offered optimistic spin on the state of the company Wednesday at its annual shareholders meeting.

“We have proven ourselves to be flexible and nimble at rethinking, repositioning and redeveloping all aspects of our business,” Junck told shareholders. “We see a bright future for Lee.”

Chief executive officer Kevin Mowbray was similarly upbeat. “With our proven track record of transformation, we are well-positioned and experienced to seize new opportunities and thrive in the future,” he said.

That sounds great, but revenues keep plunging. The company keeps unloading employees while still managing to pay its top executives more — including a $900,000 boost for Mowbray.

Here is the state of the company in a nutshell:

  • Revenues keep plunging due to the precipitous decline in print advertising across the industry.
  • Digital revenues were up 8 percent in the year ending Sept. 24, 2017, but not nearly enough to offset the loss of classified (12.2 percent decline) and retail advertising (10 percent). Digital advertising represented just 28 percent of total advertising. No thanks to Facebook and Google, the digital advertising boom has never arrived in the newspaper industry.
  • Circulation revenue is becoming a bigger piece of the revenue pie, 34 percent in 2017. That revenue source has remained stable, for now, but the company keeps charging more for a print product that keeps getting smaller. Digital and full access subscriptions offer some growth potential — but, again, newsroom staffing cuts keep reducing the quantity and quality of content.
  • Because Lee primarily publishes in small to mid-sized markets, its properties face less competition for content and advertising. So its revenue losses aren’t as severe as newspaper companies focused on metropolitan markets.
  • Aggressive cost-cutting across the board — news gathering, production, administration — has kept Lee profitable. The company reduced its workforce by 8.5 percent last year.
  • The company uses the bulk of those profits to pay down its debt, which shrank to $532 million at the end of 2017. Lee paid down $67.5 million in debt last year, $313 million since its last refinancing, in March of 2014 and more than $1 billion since the 2005 purchase of Pulitzer Publishing. Interest payments continue to shrink, including a $6.6 million reduction last year.
  • Lee hopes refinance some or all of its debt in the near future, with a First Lien Note due next year.
  • Lee’s stock continues to flounder. It closed at $2.55 per share Wednesday, down from a high of $5.42 in early 2014 but up from $1.15 in early 2016.
  • Lee continues to reward its executives well for all of that cost-cutting. According to its Proxy Statement, Mowbray collected more than $2.2 million in salary, stock awards, bonuses and such last year — up about $900,000 from the year before. Junck collected a shade under $2 million, up about $100,000 from 2016.

The UMG represents employees at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Lee’s only metropolitan newspaper. Our ongoing challenge is to maintain the best possible news-gathering operation and most effective advertising sales force possible under difficult industry circumstances.

Our members produce the content and our members monetize that content by selling print and digital advertising and marketing services. They are the Post-Dispatch, after all, and Lee must keep investing in them to enjoy the “bright future” Junck speaks of.

read more

Related Posts

Tags

Share This

Lee Enterprises newspaper in Wyoming votes to unionize

Feb 20, 2018 by

The United Media Guild salutes employees of the Casper Star-Tribune for seeking representation from the NewsGuild.

The Star-Tribune has absorbed staff cut after staff cut ordered by its parent company, Lee Enterprises. Journalists realized they needed to gain a strong voice in their newsroom.

“We appreciate some of the benefits of being part of a large media corporation,” the organizing committee stated after filing for an election with the National Labor Relations board. “However, Lee Enterprises’ obligations to its shareholders often clash with the interests of our readers in Casper and Wyoming, who rely on the Star-Tribune for vital news and information.

“Organizing the newsroom is our way – as journalists dedicated to the communities we cover – to strengthen the local control over Wyoming’s largest media organization.

“Negotiating a collective agreement for the Star-Tribune’s newsgathering staff will allow us to create more stable reporting jobs in Wyoming, attract more experienced journalists and incentivize them to stay longer. It will also allow us to have a voice in the event of future layoffs or cost-cutting measures. Finally, it will enable us to speak directly to our readers so that any business decisions by Lee Enterprises that hurt Wyoming will not go unnoticed.”

The UMG can appreciate Casper’s concerns. We represent employees at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the largest newspaper owned by the Davenport, Iowa-based Lee Enterprises.

read more

Related Posts

Tags

Share This

UMG negotiates raises, increased benefits at Jobs with Justice

Feb 20, 2018 by

The United Media Guild achieved many economic gains with its tentative three-year agreement with Missouri Jobs with Justice.

“The staff of Jobs with Justice works very hard to advance the rights of workers,” unit chair Richard von Glahn said. “Having an employer that recognizes and values that work only drives us to work even harder and build JWJ into a successful and powerful organization.”

Business representative Shannon Duffy and von Glahn negotiated the new contract which, if ratified this week, will include:

  • A new minimum base pay of $40,000, which will result in significant raises for several employees.
  • Average salary increases of 15 percent over three years.
  • Family health and dental insurance provided with no premium costs to employees.
  • The employer will contribute $800 a year into the CWA retirement and savings account for each employee and match up to an additional 4 percent.
  • Part time employees will be eligible for health and retirement benefits at a pro-rated basis.
  • Employees will get $1,000 every Jan. 1 in a Health Savings Account.
  • Employees will receive a cell phone on the JWJ plan or up to $65/month in reimbursement for the cost of their personal plan.
  • Employees can sell back up to 40 hours of unused vacation a year at a rate of $15 per hour.
  • Employees working in “campaign mode” will earn 8 hours of vacation for every week they are in such mode.
  • The employer will establish a pre-tax flexible savings program if feasible.

Also, Jobs with Justice and the UMG will establish a labor-management process to help resolve concerns.

read more

Related Posts

Tags

Share This

UMG honors Bill McClellan, top activists

Feb 7, 2018 by

Bill McClellan and previous Hughes winner Joel Currier.

Guilder of the Year Joe Holleman addresses his fellow UMG members.

Stanley Jackson accepted the Solidarity Award on behalf of our Fight for 15 unit.

Steward of the year David Blackford.

The United Media Guild honored its top activists and celebrated great journalism at its Local Meeting Feb. 6.

Longtime St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Bill McClellan won the UMG’s Terry Hughes Award, which is judged each year by a panel of former winners of the award.

Ms. Hughes, a columnist for the Post-Dispatch, was 36 when she died of breast cancer on July 22, 1991. Her writing was clear, witty and descriptive, with a flair for portraying society’s underdogs. The same could be said for McClellan’s work.

He sat near Hughes in the Post-Dispatch newspapers and was a great admirer of her work. If she were still alive, McClellan said, “she would have served as a mentor for our young journalists, especially the women.”

McClellan received his award from last year’s winner, Post-Dispatch reporter Joel Currier.

Columnist Joe Holleman, chair of our Post-Dispatch unit, was honored as Guilder of the Year. He has long been a strong advocate for all of our members at the Post, not just those in the newsroom.

David Blackford of the Pekin Daily Times was named Steward of the Year. There have been no shortage of issues to address at that newspaper — it is owned by GateHouse Media, after all — and he has helped us resolve many problems. Blackford noted that as a former UAW member in the auto industry, he learned the value of unionism and the need to step up for co-workers.

Rockford Register Star reporter Kristen Zambo was named Activist of the Year. Like Blackford, she works for GateHouse. Like Pekin, Rockford has had no shortage of problems to address while continuing its fight for a fair first contract. Zambo stepped as acting unit chair after the previous chair, photographer Max Gersh, moved on to a new job in Florida.

Our members of the “Fight for 15” campaign were honored with the Solidarity Award. That is a new UMG unit with members spanning the contiguous United States. The unit’s St. Louis-area steward, Stanley Jackson, took a bow for the group.

read more

Related Posts

Tags

Share This