The point of most consolidations is efficiency — and that means fewer journalists, less content and less diversity in both content and staff.
Since roughly 2006 there has been a bloodletting in most American newsrooms. Anecdotal evidence suggests that most newsrooms have been cut by roughly 40 percent. Many are smaller than half the size they were in 2000. There are fewer women and minority journalists, despite the relaxation of several seniority provisions. The scarcity of coverage of minority communities remains an issue; many managers remain committed to these values – they just don’t have the resources.
Unfortunately the prevailing myth is that consolidation is necessary because of tough economics, and that somehow it will save mastheads and jobs. But cities such as Tampa and Chicago, which already have joint ownership because of historic agreements, have not managed to hold onto jobs. In Chicago, where there’s always been a lot of sharing between broadcast and print, The Chicago Tribune newsroom has had at least 12 rounds of layoffs within the last few years. Repurposing stories for use in other mediums arguably has allowed the Tribune to do more with less, actually reducing coverage. In Tampa, Media General just sold the Tampa Tribune and kept broadcast. It’s too early to know the effects.
The Newspaper Guild-CWA remains concerned about further consolidation. It’s likely to stifle innovation, which is what’s most needed. We’re also concerned that reporting on Citizens United’s effect on the election will not happen as print publications choose not to offend possible suitors in broadcast, who are making huge profits from the decision.
Bernie Lunzer is president of The Newspaper Guild, CWA. The Newspaper Guild-CWA represents 26,000 print and broadcast workers in the U.S., Puerto Rico and Canada.