BYLINES SPARK PUBLIC INTEREST
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
RALLY SET FOR FRIDAY
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.
TNG/CWA Local 31041
270 Westmister St., Providence, Rhode Island 02903
401-421-9466 | Fax: 401-421-9495