The Indianapolis Newspaper Guild, which represents 45 front-line journalists and workers in the IndyStar newsroom and production plant, is fighting to create a better and safer workplace. But in contract negotiations with IndyStar’s parent company, Gannett, management has refused to acknowledge our very real concerns about inequities in our newsroom; the potential erosion of local journalism expertise; and the risks and dangers associated with our work during a pandemic.
On Tuesday afternoon, IndyStar employees took a 10-minute break to collectively storm Twitter and explain why this contract proposal is so important. We will meet at the virtual table with Gannett again Wednesday. These are our demands:
Build a more diverse workforce. Gannett pledged newsrooms would represent our communities by 2025. We’re holding them accountable.
We want to close wage gaps between white employees and employees of color, and between male and female employees. We want Gannett to commit to considering members of underrepresented groups when hiring, and to work to retain them by creating a mentorship program to help new employees thrive. We’ve also asked for a pay study, in part, to confirm the discrepancies we have discovered in our own analysis.
In response to our requests so far, the company argued pay studies don’t work. Any difference in wages is due to market forces, the company says, not decades of systemic racism or sexism.
Publicly, Gannett committed to creating a more diverse newsroom. It’s time to follow through on that promise. Representation matters. Diversity and inclusion should be a priority as IndyStar works to gain the trust of our Black, Latino and LGBTQ and all underrepresented communities we serve.
Commit to local journalists with expertise.
It can take years for a local journalist to develop the skills, sourcing and knowledge that our community demands of us. We are asking for a defined process for the times when management reassigns journalists from their positions. Sometimes they are even asked to take on jobs they have never been trained for. Our community expects better from us.
We are also fighting to keep our journalism in local hands. The company is creating a Midwest Digital Optimization Team (DOT). Gannett has not clearly defined what tasks the DOT would perform, but job descriptions for its employees overlap with some of the duties of our newsroom digital producers. This puts their jobs at risk. We saw a similar process play out when Gannett slashed numerous local design and editing jobs in the past.
Digital producers live, work and play in Central Indiana. They are Hoosiers like you. They keep track of the content you want to read. They write the personalized newsletters you love and find in your inbox every week. They give you a bird’s eye view of Indianapolis when needed as certified drone pilots. They send you weather, sports, traffic and other breaking news alerts and much more. And their jobs should remain local.
We deserve to feel safe, especially during a pandemic.
Many of our journalists continue to work on risky assignments despite the dangers associated with the ongoing pandemic. Some of us are considered at-risk. Earlier this year, many of us also covered events this year where pepper gas and riot gear were used.
All we’re asking for is to feel safe. We’re requesting basic employee rights to consider the safety of an assignment, and to receive a small amount of hazard pay when our committed journalists still dive into those conditions as we’ve routinely done in the past. It’s only fair.