Vol XI, No. 50 TNG/CWA Local 31041 June 12, 2000


The Guild yesterday concluded a weeklong byline strike that demonstrated broad union support and provoked public interest in labor issues at The Providence Journal.

For seven days, most local bylines were absent from the newspaper.
In the place of familiar names above stories, there was the ubiquitous mark of "Journal Staff Writer."

Journal Staff Writer seemed to be everywhere.

He or she covered scads of General Assembly hearings, chronicled business trends, showed up at town council meetings and chased down police news in Providence and in the suburbs.

Meanwhile, that ace shooter, known as "Journal Photo" on picture credits, similarly raced from assignment to assignment and place to place.

While two previous byline strikes have been held as a way of signaling the Guild's desire to conclude contract negotiations with the Journal, the earlier ones had lasted only two days each.

The union's executive board called for a longer one this time, not only because of the Journal's heavy-handedness about negotiations, but because it was thought a longer strike would catch more attention.
That's what happened.

Guild officials were asked to appear on a number of radio talk and news shows to explain what was going on - WPRO, WHJJ and WNRI were among the stations that called the union for comment - and The Providence Phoenix took notice.

Editor & Publisher noted the action in a June 12 article headlined "Nameless in Providence."

What is noteworthy is that the Guild itself made no announcement and issued no press statements about the byline action. The media coverage was solicited by the outlets themselves.

In addition, the newsroom and bureaus received numerous calls from readers, wondering why names had disappeared. And as reporters and others went about their assignments, they were peppered with questions about what was going on at the paper.

The effort was not without sacrifice.

During the week, writers and others had to withstand the pressure of editors who tried to cajole them to use their bylines on stories.

But the Guild members stuck to their principles and withstood the lobbying, and there were numerous profiles in courage of men and women who resisted.

A two-year intern reporter kept a byline off an important story scheduled during the byline strike, despite an editor suggesting that it should be on the story.

At least in one case, a reporter's declaration that he wished no byline was overridden by editors.

Jerry O'Brien, Newport bureau manager, stated on copy submitted for publication that he wished no byline in a Saturday Journal story about art photographer Spencer Tunick taking portraits of 72 nude area residents at a Middletown beach.

The story noted that its author was among those shedding their clothes, although it was mostly a third person account of the photo session.

O'Brien earlier told an editor that he wanted his byline off the story. But he told the editor that because of his participation in the event that he would understand if the paper disagreed, and that he would not press the issue.

In general, the Guild's view is reporters and photographers have the right to veto the use of their byline or creditline.

The Guild has not asked columnists or critics to withhold their byline, because those opinion pieces cannot be understood without knowing who the author is.

Also participating in the byline strike were many of the two-year reporter interns, who are dependent on clippings to be used in looking for new jobs.

But many interns honored by the byline strike anyway. Thus, even the most vulnerable of writers joined with seasoned veterans to make the effort work.

Bylines are important to writers, photographers and artists. Not only does the label signal professional ownership of work, a byline is also a tool for getting leads on follow-up pieces.

In addition, bylines give a newspaper a unique quality: showing that they are written by people, not institutions, and that the men and women of the newspaper stand publicly behind their work.

While the byline strike was underway, a small number of Guild members - 10 to 25 each day - gathered outside the Journal Building at noon to demonstrate and hand out leaflets.

The purpose again was to signal the Guild's determination to move contract talks along, and to alert the public that all is not well at the state's largest newspaper.

Guild members, as well as members of other Rhode Island unions, will rally outside the Journal Building on Fountain Street this Friday to support the bid by circulation workers to join the Guild, and to back the drive of the union to reach a contract with the Journal.
Protect Our Voice@Work

Karen Senerchia, of pre-publishing, and Brian Jones, of the news department, have been newly- elected to the Guild executive board. Incumbent Steve Sloan was not reelected.

The tally for seven seats: Brian Jones, 146; Claire LaRue, 136; Kerry Kohring, 135; Felice Freyer, 127; Ellen Liberman, 118; Tom Bunn, 107; Karen Senerchia, 95; Steve Sloan, 76.

Reelected without opposition were the union's officers: Bob Jagolinzer, president; Jeff Andrade, vice president; Greg Smith, treasurer; and John Hill, secretary.

Copyright © 2000 The Providence Newspaper Guild
TNG/CWA Local 31041
270 Westmister St., Providence, Rhode Island 02903
401-421-9466 | Fax: 401-421-9495