Rally to protest new fees
Journal makes money by charging fees for news items;
Guild members still go without raises and retro pay
The rally will be from 12:15 p.m. to 12:45 p.m., rain or shine.
This rally draws attention to the company's new "Celebrations" feature, a classified-advertising vehicle in which the Journal is charging the public to print announcements that were once part of the paper's regular news reporting.
The Journal will no longer publish announcements of births, engagements, business promotions, retirements and wedding anniversaries as free news items, as it has for decades.
Instead, Rhode Islanders have to pay if they want such news to appear in the Journal. "Celebrations" charges $2.59 a line, and requires a minimum of eight lines. Photos cost $50.
Readers are infuriated, and the Guild leadership is concerned because the fees diminish the Journal's important role as the newspaper of record and alienate readers at a time when the paper should be wooing them.
"We in the Guild are disheartened that the company cares so little about informing and serving the public," said John Hill, Guild president, in a statement distributed to the media today. "For years, people have relied on the Journal for their community news, and now the company is taking advantage of them. It's sad that the Journal looks at these small but popular features, which help make the Providence Journal a Rhode Island paper, as a just another chance to make a quick buck."
"It makes you wonder what's next," said Jordan Malik, a member of the Guild's Executive Committee. "Will the Journal start charging a fee to police departments before it will report on arrests? Will Governor Carcieri have to ante up if he wants the Journal to cover his news conferences?"
Hill noted that Guild members have sold the ads and fielded readers' embittered complaints -- but, obviously, they have not seen any of the profits from Celebrations.
"It seems Belo and the Journal have no trouble putting a price on the news, but are unable to appreciate the value of the workers who actually put together the newspaper," Hill said. "Tomorrow's rally is a chance to tell the company how much this upsets us."
Regular rallies are one of several strategies the Guild is employing to pressure the company to return the bargaining table.
"Rallies are one way to show that we're still hanging together and still seriously want to negotiate a contract," Hill said. "We've had good turnouts and good spirits. Even those who are uncomfortable with these noisy public displays should not underestimate their effectiveness. We know the company is paying attention."
Additionally, the Guild's last rally attracted considerable media attention, with a Guild spokesperson interviewed on several radio stations, a news clip on Channel 10, and notice in the print media.
Rallies are the most visible, so far, of a multi-pronged strategy that the Guild's new action committee is working on. Guild members interested in helping out should contact Jordan Malik (7060) or Felice Freyer (7397).
TNG/CWA Local 31041
270 Westmister St., Providence, Rhode Island 02903
401-421-9466 | Fax: 401-421-9495