A bunch of news tapas on my media plate, so I thought I’d serve ’em up.
ITEM: The Star Tribune newsroom union approves a three-year labor deal by an ultra-large 210-27 margin.
I’ve typed so much about this one my fingers are bleeding and at least one reader fears I have obsessive-compulsive disorder. The issue, I’ve always said, is maintaining the state’s biggest and most influential newsroom. Does this deal save jobs? Only if you trust that Avista Capital Partners’ requested 10 percent budget cut — and pretty meaty healthcare cuts on top of that — truly forestalls reductions.
Six experienced employees can volunteer for buyouts; after that, it’s pink slips. The union didn’t get any layoff protection, and the contract makes it easier to chop by breaking a single seniority queue into position-specific silos.
Labor’s only hope is a business revival or editor Nancy Barnes baring teeth and keeping the financial types away. Those aren’t things I’d bet my mortgage on, but I’m glad the newsgatherers at least got the contract off their plates.
I still think it’s incredible that one of our major local newspapers — the one based in Minnesota’s capitol city with fine state-level political coverage — has no D.C. bureau whatsoever. For the PiPress, that went away when Dean Singleton’s MediaNews Group bought the paper. So this the Politico pairing is a logical response: outsource your deficiency to a third party.
The Politico is a generally well-regarded and well-trafficked website, so PiPress reporters such as Bill Salisbury and Rachel Stassen-Berger will get some deserved national pub. Although the PiPress can already reprint Politico pieces, officials of both organizations say their people will be working together. Politico plans to bring 30 staffers here.
One side note: Politico is a bit of a political football; Salon.com’s Glenn Greenwald has reported that President & CEO Frederick J. Ryan, Jr., a former Reagan aide, and his spouse gave $2,000 to George W. Bush nine years ago, before the site was born. Publisher Robert Allbritton’s dad had connections to to Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet. However, the site’s top two editors, John F. Harris and Jim VanDeHei, are mainstream media veterans not affiliated with a political movement.
ITEM: Some Metropolitan Media Group employees will get back pay and vacation pay after all.
Last week, I reported that local business titan Tom Petters was buying the local-lifestyle-mag chain, but stiffing employees out of a few weeks’ pay plus accrued vacation.
The mags themselves are of little consequence, but the Strib’s Chris Serres and Mpls.St.Paul’s Brian Lambert advanced the story and amplified the reverse-Robin-Hood angle: rich guy screws low-paid grunts.
Now, according to Petters Group spokesperson Andrea Miller, the 39 MMG employees being kept on will get “retention bonuses” equal to their back pay and vacation. The company still has not decided about making whole the 10-15 workers laid off; Miller says that annoucement will be made Friday or Monday.
Did media pressure get the retained workers their cash? Miller insists not. “We weren’t able to get the pieces in place quickly enough” to let workers know when the MMG announcement was made, she explains. “Tom Petters, a very active manager in our company, was traveling and we were unable to reach him for confirmation.”
Hmm … OK.
(Note: this column’s headline is an homage to Maury White, a great Des Moines Register sportswriter of my youth.)