Thursday, April 15, 2010

Memphis Newspaper Guild Pushes Back Against Commercial Appeal's "Final Offer"

Posted By on Thu, Apr 15, 2010 at 11:17 AM

The Memphis Newspaper Guild has hired GMMB, the consulting/advertising firm used by President Obama in the 2008 election, to help employees at The Commercial Appeal take their grievances to the public. After six years of fruitless contract negotiations the CA's bargaining team put what was described as a "final offer" on the table that removes employee protections against job loss resulting from outsourcing.

The Guild's now-expired contract -- which has remained in effect due to an evergreen clause that would also be eliminated under the new agreement -- allows the newspaper to outsource any job from any department, but prevents current employees from being outsourced out of a job.

CA reporter and Guild president Daniel Connolly hopes the advertising campaign will encourage the Memphis community to take an active role in supporting journalists and other employees at the CA in their efforts to keep certain longstanding employee protections in place.

Memphis Flyer: What is the message you hope to send with this advertising campaign?

Daniel Connolly: The ads have slightly different messages depending on format and location. One message is simply to inform people that the company wants the unlimited right to fire people and outsource work to India and other locations. The other message is that the outsourcing will diminish the quality of the news product that thousands of Memphians depend on.

Flyer: What does the guild hope to accomplish via advertising? For a long time -- at least since AFL-CIO organizer Shannon Duffy came to town -- there's been a push to raise awareness. But advertising's no good if its only aim is raising awareness. We advertise because we want people to do something: to buy our product, quit smoking, or test drive a car. What do you want the people who see your ads to do? And if they do it how do you expect it to impact management at the CA and Scripps?

Connolly: The beauty of this type of advertising campaign, which relies on the Internet and social networking, is that you can create a family of people who care about an issue and are willing to do what it takes to help out. At first, the ads will encourage people to contact the publisher. We might ask them to do different things later on. It depends how this process goes.

Flyer: Hiring an advertising firm is expensive. Advertising can be expensive. There are a lot of people in our community who are out of work or who have taken pay/benefit cuts who certainly can't afford to hire a top tier D.C. firm to help plead their case. Are you convinced that this is the route forward? Have you considered that you might be sending a mixed or confusing message?

Connolly: People care about The Commercial Appeal. It reaches more people than any news outlet in the region. It is a public trust. There is a serious risk that its quality will be diminished, which would affect thousands of people, including advertisers and readers. We have an obligation to tell people that. Yes, we are trying to save our own jobs, but we think it's appropriate to spend money to tell people about this critical moment in the history of news in Memphis.

Flyer: Is there anything else you want to bring to the table regarding the advertising campaign?

Connolly: I just want to emphasize again that people care about The Commercial Appeal. Every time I bring up these issues in public, the reaction has been overwhelming sympathy. This campaign is about harnessing that power and making a positive difference for the newspaper and Memphis.

To anyone out there, I would say the following: This newspaper is yours, and everyone who participates in this campaign makes a difference. Stand up for it.

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