‘They deserve a fair contract’: Former IndyStar editor speaks out

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Journalism is a noble profession. But it is also a business that needs to be healthy and sustainable. No one is disputing that. There isn’t one person at IndyStar who doesn’t want to be working for a successful, profitable organization.

The industry and Gannett ask more and more of journalists: Produce a video and a gallery on deadline? Check. Optimize stories for SEO? Check. Live tweet from an event and then turn around and write a sophisticated story? Check. Engage with readers on social media? Check. Analyze metrics? Check.

They do all this even as their profession is under attack. They do all this knowing there is no guarantee they won’t be laid off.

And what are members of the Indianapolis News Guild asking for in return? To be valued and treated with respect. It is unconscionable to withhold merit raises from journalists who excel at their craft. It is wrong for Gannett to contribute less to their health care than they do other employees.

I worked at The Indianapolis Star for almost 30 years. These journalists, both Guild members and managers, are dedicated to this community. They sacrifice time with their loved ones to be our watchdogs and storytellers.

They deserve a fair contract from Gannett.

I stand with IndyStar journalists.

Jenny Morlan worked for The Indianapolis Star for nearly three decades. She most recently served as the editor for the IndyStar North Team.

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Meet Daniel Bradley, vice president of the Guild

Daniel Bradley, a vice president for the Indianapolis Newspaper Guild, began working for The Indianapolis Star part-time in 2004 while attending Butler University. He was hired full-time in 2006. 

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1) Why are you in the union?

Given layoffs and other cutbacks in the newspaper industry, it is important for employees to organize and collectively support their own interests. As an officer, I appreciate the responsibility that comes with the position of representing my co-workers.

2) What could newsroom management do to be more friendly to journalists?

Hiring and filling empty desks should be a top priority of management. Filling positions will allow us to better serve the community, and also help lighten the workload of our over-stressed staff and improve morale. Also, in the age of people recklessly throwing around the phrase “fake news,” it is especially important for management to support the journalists on staff and be transparent with the public and explain how much we value accuracy.

3) What should they stop doing?

Valuing shareholders more than journalism (and journalists).

4) Name one journalist who inspires you to do your job every day.

Not to cop out on an answer, but it is impossible to pick one. I never cease to be impressed and inspired by the journalists I know at The Star and those I read in other publications.

5) What is one piece of career advice you’d give to a young journalist just starting out?

Read widely on many topics. You will be more versatile as a journalist, and you never know when learning a new topic will open new professional opportunities.

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Meet Ryan Martin, public safety reporter

Ryan Martin, secretary-treasurer of the Indianapolis Newspaper Guild, started working for The Indianapolis Star in July 2015. He covers public safety issues.

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1) Why are you in the union?

If journalism has taught us anything, it’s that those wielding unchecked power need someone to keep a watchful eye.

2) What could newsroom management do to be more friendly to journalists?

We’re enduring an unending era of change in our profession. Management could be friendlier to workers by showing leadership in this area — such as engaging in the change themselves — and by routinely sending journalists to workshops, conferences and other training. That investment is invaluable.

3) What should they stop doing?

Mistaking change (a job title change, for example, or an editor change) for innovation.

4) Name one journalist who inspires you to do your job every day.

David Simon.

5) What is one piece of career advice you’d give to a young journalist just starting out?

Read the damn paper.

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Meet Amy Haneline, mobile producer

Amy Haneline, a mobile producer, has worked at The Indianapolis Star for six years. She’s also an active member of the Indianapolis Newspaper Guild.

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1) Why are you in the union?

I joined mostly because I wanted to know what was happening in the company. Also, I’m a woman and a mom, so I appreciate having a united voice to ensure equal treatment and good, affordable healthcare.

2) What could newsroom management do to be more friendly to journalists?

There’s the obvious: raises, more vacation days, flexible schedules, kegs of craft beer in the office. But let’s be real: support efforts to increase diversity and consider creative ways to make a better work environment.

3) What should they stop doing?

They should stop being slow to fill crucial roles in the newsroom.

4) Name one journalist who inspires you to do your job every day.

I can’t think of a single person who inspires me. I’m inspired by a community that should know what’s happening so they can make informed decisions — whether that’s choosing a political candidate or a new restaurant to try.

5) What is one piece of career advice you’d give to a young journalist just starting out?

Learn to learn. The only constant in this industry is that it changes. Oh, and work to live, don’t live to work.

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Meet David Woods, sports reporter

David Woods’ prolific career in Indianapolis began in 1994, when he joined the sports desk of the Indianapolis News. He moved to The Star when the newsrooms merged.

Woods, a member of the Indianapolis Newspaper Guild, has covered the Olympics, Butler basketball and countless other stories over the years.

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1) Why are you in the union?

Without the union, the newsroom would be powerless to restrain Gannett, which is a giant corporation and lacks the commitment to the community and its employees that Indianapolis Newspapers once had. It is not just Gannett. I have worked at six newspapers (two joint operations) in three states, and the news industry has a deserved reputation for treating employees poorly. A former H.R. director of a large hospital told me he could never retain employees if he did what newspapers do — and that was before the industry went into decline.

2) What could newsroom management do to be more friendly to journalists?

It sounds like a cliche, but communication goes a long way. Editors and reporters should be teammates, not adversaries. And teammates sometimes disagree.

3) What should they stop doing?

Year-end reviews.

4) Name one journalist who inspires you to do your job every day.

Edward R. Murrow of CBS, Tim Layden of Sports Illustrated and former IndyStar sportswriter Phil Richards.

5) What is one piece of career advice you’d give to a young journalist just starting out?

I would tell a young journalist that our role is more important than ever, that versatility is desirable (be prepared to write, talk and be on camera), and to have a backup plan. Career paths now are so uncertain. The number of jobs continues to decrease. On the other hand, skills learned in journalism are applicable to other careers, most of them paying more.

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Meet Stephen Holder, Colts reporter

Stephen Holder, president of the Indianapolis Newspaper Guild, has worked for The Indianapolis Star for nearly five years. He reports on Colts football.

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1) Why are you in the union?

We as journalists do important work by informing the public and holding our leaders to account. But that work seems to be declining in importance to the companies that own newspapers/media outlets, exceeded by the pursuit of profits and satisfying Wall Street. Organizing helps ensure that we have protections in place that enable us to continue to carry out those critical duties despite today’s realities.

2) What could newsroom management do to be more friendly to journalists?

I think the goal should be to overcommunicate. These are difficult times in the publishing/media industry, and people are perpetually nervous about their jobs and futures. This should be something that I hope management will continue to be sensitive to. It would be a boost for morale and, perhaps, help the overall product we produce.

3) What should they stop doing?

I think the newsroom would benefit from more consistency in people’s roles. Obviously, there are always going to be departures, but there have been so many changes in duties — particularly when it comes to which editors staffers report to — that it’s hard to imagine it doesn’t have some negative effects.

4) Name one journalist who inspires you to do your job every day.

The work that Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times has done covering Africa and the developing world is nothing short of amazing — and unbelievably important.

5) What is one piece of career advice you’d give to a young journalist just starting out?

Don’t be afraid to defend your work or your reporting, so long as you can back up what you said or wrote with a supporting fact. We can and should be critical and raise questions where appropriate. Just make sure you do so with a factual basis.

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Meet Arika Herron, education reporter

Arika Herron is an education reporter at The Indianapolis Star and a member of the Indianapolis Newspaper Guild. She’ll hit her one-year anniversary at The Star on May 15.

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1) Why are you in the union?

This is my first union experience. I didn’t join right away, but when I saw everything the union did for the newsroom — like advocating for better working conditions and hosting fun events to boost morale — I joined to support those important efforts.

2) What could newsroom management do to be more friendly to journalists?

I know that many newsroom managers don’t have power to do the big stuff — better pay, benefits, hiring more people (which is all super important and would be great but is often out of the hands of editors) — but I actually think little stuff, like regularly recognizing employees for their hard work for a job well done, can go a long way. It takes little time and effort, but is always so appreciated.

3) What should they stop doing?

Newsrooms should stop abusing the mission-driven nature of its reporters, photographers, etc. Most people are in this business because they feel dedicated to the mission of journalism and it’s really easy to take advantage of that by not paying them what they deserve or encouraging them to work crazy hours without proper compensation for that time. That needs to stop.

4) Name one journalist who inspires you to do your job every day.

Nikole Hannah-Jones.

5) What is one piece of career advice you’d give to a young journalist just starting out?

Be honest, unmerciful and don’t work for free.

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