Now in the News: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Strike Approaches 8 Month Mark, Negotiations Remain Largely Stagnant

June 23, 2023

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Strike Approaches 8 Month Mark, Negotiations Remain Largely Stagnant

Negotiations during the strike, which was originally initiated by the Communications Workers of America, Teamsters and the pressmen unions due to “unfair labor practices by the management of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, including unilateral changes to their health care plan,” have largely been unproductive, and this has continued, per a release from the Newspaper Guild after a bargaining session held on Friday, June 9.

That session, which lasted two-and-a-half hours, saw members from all five striking unions meeting with two Post-Gazette attorneys, the Guild said, though bargaining only occurred for the advertising and mailers units.

On Friday, Post-Gazette spokesperson Allison Latcheran stated that, “the company met in effects bargaining over health care with the advertising units and the mailers units today. At those meetings, the company asked questions about the unions’ proposal on health care. The parties agreed to meet again to further discuss health care next Tuesday, June 13.”

Friday’s meeting ended without discussing the health care agreement pertaining to the Guild. There was disagreement between the Post-Gazette and the Guild regarding how the meeting ended, with Latcheran noting that “members of the NewsGuild were present during the advertising unit negotiations, however they were representing advertising as part of the advertising unit effects bargaining committee. Guild issues are not discussed during those meetings. The Guild meeting scheduled for later that day did not happen because the Guild members left.”

The Guild argued that the negotiations ended when the Post-Gazette’s lawyers left, as “it was clear there was no more bargaining happening that day.”

In its release, the Guild detailed the stagnant nature of Friday’s session, stating that the Post-Gazette attorneys “asked follow-up questions to a health care proposal that the unions had sent the previous week. Both attorneys refused to agree to any points of the union proposal, and at times, asked questions that had already been asked by the other attorney.”

“All five unions came to the table today ready to work through a health care proposal that the company had for well over a week, but instead of having substantive conversations about that plan, the two company attorneys continued to play games while avoiding agreeing to anything,” Zack Tanner, Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh president, said in the release. “The Post-Gazette attorneys once again made a sideshow of the bargaining process and showed zero interest in resolving the strike.”

Gannett To Test Gen AI In ‘USA Today’: Report

Gannett, the largest newspaper publisher in the U.S., will introduce generative AI later this year in a careful deployment that will include oversight by humans. The company will roll out a pilot program that will use AI to identify the important points of a story and create buffeted summaries at the top in USA Today in the fourth quarter, Reuters writes.

The program will also require human vetting. “The desire to go fast was a mistake for some of the other news services,” says Renn Turiano, senior vice president and head of product at Gannett, according to Reuters. “We’re not making that mistake.”

Fears exist that AI will help big companies like Gannett further cut journalistic jobs. Last week, hundreds of Gannett staffers nationwide walked conducted a one-day walkout to protest what the NewsGuild union calls the hollowing out of newsrooms.

Gannett is relying on Cohere, training its large language model on 1,000 stories with reporter-written summaries, Reuters continues. Cohere competes with the Microsoft-backed OpenAI.

For its part, Reuters is using AI for voice-to-text transcription to produce scripts and subtitles for video, but it is not publishing AI-generated stories, videos or photographs, the story continues.

Canada Passes Law Forcing Facebook, Google To Pay Media For Links

Canada’s Parliament approved legislation to compel digital companies to compensate domestic media outlets for links to their articles, a move Facebook said would force it to block access to news reports on its platform for Canadian users as it did two years ago in Australia. Google, owned by Alphabet, also has signaled possible restrictions of news content on its search function in Canada as a result of the legislation.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the government wouldn’t back down, and accused Facebook, a unit of Meta Platforms, and Google of deploying bullying tactics to get their way. “It’s not going to work,” Trudeau said this month.

The legislation’s passage Thursday marked the second time in roughly three months Canada’s Parliament had endorsed new measures to regulate activity in the digital field, irking leading technology companies that worry other countries might mimic Ottawa’s approach. Ottawa passed legislation in April that would order streaming platforms, like Netflix and YouTube, to feature more Canadian content to users in that country.

The new law passed by Canada’s senate requires digital platforms to strike commercial deals with news publishers, which incorporate print, online and broadcasting outlets, for their content. The goal is to provide media outlets with a financial lifeline to offset the loss of advertising revenue that has migrated to the digital sphere. Should negotiations fail, the legislation calls for the two sides to enter binding arbitration to determine appropriate compensation.