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Star Tribune byline strike: The holdouts

In part because I made a big, hairy deal out of it, today’s Star Tribune byline strike has media watchers scanning for staffers who didn’t voluntarily withhold.

Those whose names appeared Tuesday: Reporter Paul Walsh, consumer reporter/columnist John Ewoldt, student reporter Carolyn Mann, sports columnist Pat Reusse and gossip columnist CJ.

Mann, a U of M student whose Strib assignment is part of a class, isn’t in the union so can’t withhold her name, since that’s a contractual right. (I suspect even the hardest-core unionistas are fine with that.)

The stakes are higher for Reusse and CJ. They are classified as columnists and their opinion pieces were more likely to be spiked if names weren’t attached. That moves the job action up a notch; unbylined reporting and graphics still appeared, after all. (Columnists such as Jon Tevlin, Gail Rosenblum and Neal St. Anthony weren’t scheduled to appear today.)

Other writers such as Michael Rand, whose “2-Days 2Cents” contains opinion but did run unbylined, don’t hold the columnist classification.

Walsh declined to comment, but Ewoldt provided this explanation:

“[A]s I said in the Friday meeting to vote on this issue, I think there are better ways to honor colleagues who are being terminated. [Arts writer] Mary Abbe suggested we pool money to take out an ad listing laid off employees (who are okay with their names being listed). I will contribute to that instead. To be fair, many writers who withdrew bylines will also be contributing, but I chose not [to] join the strike.”

It’s worth noting that the byline strike, while nearly universally observed, isn’t universally loved. I’ve heard from a few Stribbers (and members of the public) who view it as a pointless gesture, or one that generates unneeded negative publicity. Many others disagreed, obviously, supporting the tribute/protest or going along with colleagues who feel strongly that such a move deserved the public’s attention.

It will be interesting to see if workers, who took a pay cut last year, can raise the few thousand dollars for a tribute ad, and whether ownership will let it run.

Comments (7)

  1. Submitted by Michael Fraase on 01/26/2010 - 11:01 am.

    Just wondering, how does participating in a byline strike generate “unneeded negative publicity?” Serious question.

  2. Submitted by Stan Daniels on 01/26/2010 - 11:55 am.

    I’ll bet the vast majority of readers do not even notice this. For those of us who did (I was trying to figure out if Russo wrote the Wild coverage) it is pretty meaningless.

    Too much inside baseball to matter for most readers.

  3. Submitted by David Brauer on 01/26/2010 - 12:16 pm.

    Michael – I think the byline strike communicates that something’s wrong inside the shop. Dirty laundry and all that.

    Stan – inside hockey but not inside baseball? Hypocrite! (I kid.) Seriously, you may well be right, but we don’t really know, and for some striking folks, they did it for themselves and colleagues more than readers.

  4. Submitted by Jeff Goldenberg on 01/26/2010 - 12:21 pm.

    What the byline strike reinforced for me is that the majority of the content of our local paper comes from writers from other services and other newspapers.

  5. Submitted by Eric Wieffering on 01/26/2010 - 02:49 pm.

    Jeff: Not even close to being true or accurate. A1: 4 of 5 stories are staff written; Metro: 5 of 5 cover stories and virtually all of inside copy is staff written; Business: 3 of 5 cover stories staff written; Variety: 3 of 3 cover stories staff written; Sports: entire cover staff written.
    Wire copy makes up a fair chunk of world news, world and national business news, and sports news from other cities. Would you rather not see that at all in the paper, or are you suggesting the Strib should only carry stories that its people write?

  6. Submitted by Pamela Miller on 01/26/2010 - 07:59 pm.

    Eric is correct.

    I’m very proud of my coworkers today. They’re thoughtful, solemn, righteously angry, compassionate and unified. And the tears in the eyes of one person facing layoff thanking us for the byline strike tribute, which I proudly pushed, was all the proof I needed that we were right to do it. It was a tribute, pure and simple.

    Pam Miller
    Chief steward

  7. Submitted by Steve Brandt on 01/26/2010 - 10:07 pm.

    My money says the newspaper runs the ad, for two reasons. 1) The precedent set in 1978, when the Tribune ran an ad signed by many of its news staff, who disassociated themselves with the owner’s push for what became the Metrodome; 2) The paper is not in a position to turn away many ads.

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