Now in the News: NYT Union Files Grievance Over Plan To Close Sports Desk

July 28, 2023

NYT Union Files Grievance Over Plan To Close Sports Desk

The union representing the New York Times newsroom filed a grievance Thursday challenging the company’s announcement that it plans to shutter its sports section and rely on the Athletic for its sports coverage in print and online. Only two months ago, the paper reached a historic deal with its bargaining committee after tense negotiations. But now, the NewsGuild said in a statement that the contract has been breached by “unilaterally removing bargaining unit work and by assigning such work to non-bargaining unit employees”—aka The Athletic, which is not unionized.

What One Journalism School Learned After Taking Over A Rural Weekly Newspaper

In 2021, the owners of The Oglethorpe Echo — with offices in Lexington, Georgia — planned to close the paper after 148 years. Within hours of hearing the news, an alum of the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia, Dink NeSmith, had hatched a plan. Instead of shutting the paper, would the Maxwell family consider donating it? The nonprofit org Oglethorpe Echo Legacy, Inc. was born and the paper has been running as a news-academic partnership since.

Amanda Bright, assistant editor and instructor at The Echo, outlines some of the hard-won lessons she and her students have learned since the j-school took over. For most of our journalism majors, reporting for The Oglethorpe Echo is akin to studying abroad. With only 15,000 residents served by a single stoplight and grocery store, Oglethorpe County is quite different from its neighbor Athens, home of the University of Georgia, or the Atlanta suburbs from which many of our students hail.

We started this news-academic partnership — stepping in to prevent a news desert — because we knew it would be mutually beneficial. Students would gain exposure to (and perhaps learn to love) community journalism, and the residents of a rural county would continue to have local news.

In the first 18 months, we added six digital products, won awards, tripled advertising, and doubled subscriptions to the 149-year-old weekly newspaper. An unmitigated success, right?

As our nonprofit chairman Dink NeSmith would say, “the devil’s in the details.” Combining our observations with a survey of 75 Echo readers by my UGA colleague Kyser Lough, we have the first snapshot of what building a newsacademic partnership to avert a news desert looks like. Some parts of the old news product are sacred, while other parts require courageous (and incremental) change. We wanted to make adjustments at The Echo, but knew some aspects would be untouchable, like the nameplate, county seat office space, obituaries, and local calendar.

‘Santa Barbara News-Press’ Files For Bankruptcy

Publisher Ampersand Claims Few Assets and Many Creditors

More than 150 years of history ended on Friday when the Santa Barbara News-Press declared bankruptcy in a Chapter 7 filing by Ampersand Publishing, LLC. The online edition that day was the last news Santa Barbara will receive from the newspaper, founded as the weekly Santa Barbara Post in 1868, once the recipient of a Pulitzer Prize in 1962 for its editorials outing the John Birch Society, and owned by the New York Times before being bought by onetime billionaire Wendy McCaw in 2000 for a reported $110 million.

Thc Chapter 7 filing is for liquidation, not reorganization. Though a creditors’ meeting is set for September 7, 2023, the bankruptcy filing states, “No property appears to be available to pay creditors. Therefore, please do not file a proof of claim now.”

That appears to include the newspaper’s employees. In an email to staff, Managing Editor Dave Mason wrote: “I have some bad news. Wendy filed for bankruptcy on Friday. All of our jobs are eliminated, and the News-Press has stopped publishing. They ran out of money to pay us. They will issue final paychecks when the bankruptcy is approved in court.”

Local News Is Good For Business

It’s no secret that recent years have been tough on small businesses and on newspapers. A bipartisan bill, the Community News & Small Business Support Act, that has been introduced in Congress would offer relief to both newspapers and local businesses. For too many newspapers, help can’t come soon enough. Economic challenges have resulted in too many communities seeing their local newspapers being forced to lay off staff, cut back on publication days or — worse yet — close. On average, two newspapers are closing each week. That hurts local businesses and residents in the long (and short) run. However, despite the challenges, what remains true is that local newspapers make a difference in their communities.

A recent national study of 5,000 Americans over the age of 18 was conducted by the independent research firm Coda Ventures for America’s Newspapers, and provides compelling evidence of the importance, relevance and vitality of today’s newspapers in the American media landscape.

Readers told us that their local newspaper makes a difference. The study shows that 79 percent of Americans read/use local news “to stay informed” about their cities, counties and communities. They also said they rely on their local paper to feel connected to their community, to decide where they stand on local issues, to find places and things to do, to talk with people about things happening in the community, because they find it enjoyable/entertaining and to be a better citizen.

And, contrary to popular belief, readers across all age groups turn to local newspapers and their digital products to stay informed about their communities.

Readers also told us they need more local news from their community paper. As one survey respondent in California said, “Our paper keeps getting smaller. I would like to see more news items, what’s happening in town, what’s new in politics, etc. And they need to be quicker to respond to breaking news.”