Rumors circulating in the L.A. Newspaper Group newsrooms talk of the papers and their staffs eventually being mashed into one universal operation with cookie-cutter front pages and, for journalists at the Long Beach Press-Telegram, a particularly unhappy trip down memory lane. Ten years ago, when Dean Singleton bought the P-T, he broke the union and required newsroom staffers to reapply for their jobs. Successful applicants had to take pay and benefits cuts. The District Weekly in Long Beach revisits that episode and says current contract negotiations between the paper and its new union are headed for federal mediation.
“There are only 11 news reporters left, and they are supposed to cover 19 cities,” says local union president Joe Segura, whose 33 years with the P-T make him one of the few remaining reporters with long-term knowledge of the Long Beach area. “All of our contract proposals are designed to bring stability to the newsroom. The main thing we’re asking for is that the company be restricted from reducing the staff any more.”
Unfortunately, the small union local is negotiating with the Press-Telegram’s huge corporate parent, MediaNews Group, a national chain whose holdings include a cluster of suburban daily newspapers throughout Southern California.
These papers commonly share content—frequently at the expense of truly local coverage. For example, the recent campaign for Long Beach’s congressional seat was covered by a reporter from the South Bay Daily Breeze. This approach is consistent with Singleton’s longstanding philosophy, which he most memorably expressed in a 1995 interview with the American Journalism Review: “If I had my choice between pleasing one banker or 1,000 journalists,” said Singleton, “I’d rather please the banker.”
The author, Dave Wielenga, used to be president of the Newspaper Guild at the Press-Telegram.
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