Vol XI, No. 67 TNG/CWA Local 31041 October 18, 2000


Not just a fight for this year, it is a fight for the next decade'

By John Hill

I agree with Mark Patinkin that a circulation boycott is a serious, and possibly hurtful, step for us to take. But I see no other choice.
I think he missed the point of the boycott plan, though.
The objective is not to make people cancel, but to make them renew, after we have a deal we can live with. We want to show the company that we not only represent the power to punish, but the power to reward.

As an officer of the Guild, I can promise you that if we get a good contract, and it comes time to get those subscribers back, our union will work as hard or harder than we did to get them to cancel in the first place. Because if we can do that this year, the simple threat of it happening again may give us bargaining leverage for years to come. This is not just a fight for this year, it is a fight for the next decade.
For a year now, we have tried negotiating. Our proposals have been fair and reasonable. The Journal has responded with illegal actions. It took away a personal day. Those with three to five years here lost a vacation week and we all got an inferior health care plan.
I do care about how this company does. I just wish the people who own it cared about me. I don't know how many little handouts we've gotten from Belo, describing some happy-family outfit I don't recognize. Whenever I get one, the hypocrisy is so huge it makes me want to scream.

We are supposed to worry about hurting these people financially? They have no regrets about hurting us. I have friends who are paying hundreds of dollars more a month for prescriptions, people who have run out of dental coverage and are hoping that a cracked crown holds until January 1, when they start a new coverage year.
All of this while the company is millions -- millions -- of dollars ahead of the profit pace it has set for this year.

I am tired of caring more about the quality of this newspaper than the people who own it. I am tired of the unctuous `Dear Fellow Employee' letters from people who rarely even walk though the newsroom let alone try to understand what it is we do for this company.

They aren't in this business because they care about contributing to democracy, or about making this state a better place to live in. They just want to make money. If making them make less money is the only way they will value us, so be it.

The Guild Leader encourages members to express their views in the union newsletter. Letters will be published if they are from members who are in good standing. To submit letters, contact Brian Jones in the newsroom, 7360; at home, 847-0307; and by email at brijudy@ids.net.


Belo boasts of Journal's revenues but skips over labor, sales troubles

Circulation continues to fall at The Providence Journal, even as A.H. Belo Corp. boasts about the newspaper's "revenue growth."

Annual reports of the newspaper's sales published recently indicate that circulation has fallen nearly 3 percent in the past year for the daily paper and more than 2 percent for the Sunday Journal.

Daily Journal

"Indicate" may be too generous, because the newspaper continues to be tightlipped about the sorry aspects of its own business.

The paper published this year's figures in table form - but without an accompanying news story to indicate any trends.

A Guild analysis of 1999 figures published last year with this year's tallies indicates an alarming decline. Here's what our reading shows:
  •   The daily Journal's average circulation declined 4,719 between Sept. 22, 1999 and Sept. 28, 2000. That means circulation (total paid and requested) is now 161,029.
  •   The Sunday paper, responsible for a huge share of the paper's income, slid 5,443 in the same period, to a new level of 232,357. Since 1997, when Belo took over, daily circulation has slipped nearly 5 percent, Sunday more than 4.5 percent.
  • This is a disturbing development, given that Rhode Island is enjoying unprecedented prosperity, and comes during a period in which many newspapers are at last gaining in circulation.

    It's logical to believe that part of this slide is due to the terrible mess that management made out of delivery service at the beginning of the year when the paper reportedly switched to a new computer system and was slow to deal with the resulting snafus.

    It's the same management that is bent on breaking the Guild and which has unnecessarily stretched out negotiations.

    You won't, of course, get discussion of this in the news pages of the Journal itself. And internal communications from A. H. Belo to its employees feign candor and concentrate on the rosy side of the business.

    "In publishing, The Dallas Morning News, The Providence Journal and The Press-Enterprise have all experienced growth this year at the high end of
    all newspaper companies," wrote Robert W. Decherd in a Sept. 5, 2000 bulletin to workers.

    No mention here of the company's hard-hearted tactics in contract negotiations. Nor of rumors circulating about budget worries because of rising newsprint prices and possible decisions to not fill some vacancies.

    Decherd correctly states that Belo attempts to raise stock prices might be paying off. Coming back from a $12.31 per share price earlier in the year, Decherd noted that at the time of his bulletin, the price was over $19. (It was down to about $17.56 this week).

    The chairman went so far as to note that "as the stock appreciates in value, the company and its shareholders, who include 80 percent of Belo's employees through the 401k plan, will ultimately benefit."

    Interesting that he didn't note that one of the major contract disputes is Belo's and the Journal's refusal to offer Guild members what other Journal workers enjoy: a chance to move into the Belo 401k.

    Must have slipped his mind. Just like he forgot to mention the circulation slide.

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