MediaBistro's Hunter Walker files this weekend, noting that "if you were looking for a single anecdote to illustrate the sad collapse of print media, this is it." At first I read this as hyperbole, and then slowly realized he was right.
In an effort to drum up publicity for their cause, members at the Boston Globe newspaper guild are having some kind of sad barbecue they've cheekily titled the "Farewell to Fair Wages" party, when the paycut goes into effect tomorrow afternoon. They'll have a bluegrass band and hot dogs, which, as previously mentioned, they'll be trimming by 23%. Per their release:
On the day The Boston Globe plans to impose a 23 percent pay cut on nearly 700 reporters, editors and other employees — and the day before the New York Times Company and the Boston Newspaper Guild return to the negotiating table — union members and their families will gather in a reporter's backyard for a barbecue in the name of camaraderie and solidarity. There will be pot luck fare, a kiddie pool, a keg of beer, bluegrass music, and hot dogs — trimmed by 23 percent. Globe union members will be available to talk about the pay cut's effect on their lives. They will also discuss their hope that both sides can reach an agreement Monday that doesn't harm families so deeply — and that allows everyone to concentrate on producing the agenda-setting journalism that makes the Globe so vital to Boston and New England."
Walker also noted that the above release came from the PR/lobbying firm the guild hired for "strategic messaging," O'Neill and Associates. Sure, it's great to get the word out there, but wouldn't the Guild's cash be better spent on, say, subsidizing some of the more in-need members, or hiring lawyers to sort the entire thing out?
Apparently not. Instead, you've got newspaper people trying to drum up support amongst themselves after the first serious hit has already been taken. As opposed to, you know, getting with the times (pun unintended). Or creating some kind of strategy that would make their jobs less a relic of the past and more a profitable, necessary enterprise. Or at least a manageable one.
They've already taken the Boston Globe's owners, the New York Times Company, to task with the National Labor Relations Board for supposedly bargaining in bad faith. I'm almost willing to believe the Times' side, though, because maybe they're not paying attention to what's going on in New York, but their bosses' crystals balls don't exactly hold fiscal solvency in them.
The fact is: labor unions are great and important until they drive up the value of labor in dying industries unable to adapt to, well, the present. These are companies that can't afford to have anything overvalued because they spent the last five years ignoring the problems they're facing now. GM just went bankrupt. Sound familiar?
Then again, given the habitual pity-partying and more-than-sufficient self-interest Old Media types have in their own demise, pulling their shit together could prove impossible at this point. This might sound a little tough, but honestly guys? Put down the fucking hot dogs, and get to work. It's time to stop bitching and start figuring out how to keep the house up. And you can start by canning your terrible PR firm.