Friday, February 22, 2013

The New York Times' Decision To Sell The Boston Globe: A Pressman's Perspective

News of the New York Times’ decision to sell the Boston Globe has stirred considerable angst among Globe employees.  While this is completely understandable, if there is one thing we have learned in this business it is that the only constant is change.  After all, when the New York Times made the decision to close the Globe’s satellite production facility in 2008, resulting in the loss of over 60 Pressmen we soldiered on.  And then, when the New York Times extracted millions of dollars in savings under the threat of closing the Globe, we survived.  Others in our great union have not been so lucky.

Declining circulation and advertising have taken its toll on our industry.  A proud industry that has investigated, informed, entertained and enlightened the public for years.  The newspaper was a legacy business that has provided a fine standard of living for generations of our families.  For those us of us that produce newspapers it has been a challenging era, and it certainly doesn’t appear to be getting any easier.  As I originally posted in July of 2011, the constriction in our craft has been nothing short of catastrophic.  The trade journal Newspaper and Technology maintains a stunning info graphic tracking these changes across the country. 

While it is understandable that newsrooms are the focus of attention when the public discusses newspaper cuts, keep in mind that there are thousands of pressmen and other craft unionists who have lost their trade.  A trade most of them studied and honed for 20, 30, or even 40 years.  Working weekends, holidays, and blizzards to manufacture a product that does not exist at 10 PM and get it on thousands of door steps by 6 AM.   We are the unseen faces of the newspaper, and for the most part, we like it that way.

In my sixteen years’ experience as the President of this proud local, I have had the privilege of representing some of the finest people I have ever known. I have found it incredibly painful to sit at the bargaining table and negotiate the elimination of, not simply a job, but a way of life for these fine craftsmen in their 30s, 40s and 50’s.  For most of them, this is the only work they have done for their entire working lives and 99% of them will never do it again.  Men and women from the Boston Herald, Boston Globe, Worcester Telegram & Gazette, Lynn Item, Salem News, Brockton Enterprise, Patriot Ledger, Woonsocket Call, Fall River Herald News, and more.

Despite the trouble and uncertainty, under the leadership of Publisher Chris Mayer, the Globe has been actively seeking and acquiring additional products for us to produce on our presses (Mayer assured employees at a meeting this morning that these efforts would continue).  The same can be said for the Providence Journal where our members also print numerous publications.  These products have saved jobs and provided millions of dollars to each paper’s bottom line.   

It is clear that the only constant for us is change.  Changes that have devastated so many newspaper employees across the country and change that, for the most part, is out of our control.  For those of us that remain, as Pressmen, the most important thing we can do for ourselves is do what we do best; produce multiple, high quality, timely products.     

*I began my newspaper career as a Plateboy, Paperhandler, and Pressman at the Boston Globe in 1978.

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