We want to be treated with basic respect: An open letter to Gannett.

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Yesterday, members of the Indianapolis News Guild delivered the following letter to Ronnie Ramos, the Star’s executive editor, and Ginger Rough, senior news director. It was written in the spirit of finding common ground and respect at the negotiating table later this week.

Dear Ronnie Ramos and Ginger Rough:

You have a hard-working, talented stable of journalists at The Indianapolis Star.

It’s evident during awards season, when we collect piles of hardware from APME, SPJ, IRE and APSE.

It’s noted by Star and corporate management, who routinely laud us for meeting and surpassing audience goals or hand us the Gannett CEO special citation.

It’s reinforced in the buzz of the newsroom, when we launch newsletters and champion search-engine optimization; when we host podcasts and appear on broadcasts; when we lead nuanced discussions in our Facebook groups; when we hit the streets to manage Best Things; when our work’s findings are echoed in the halls of the City-County Building, Indiana Statehouse and Congress.

And it’s most obvious in times of uncertainty and pain: When parents stay glued to their phones as we swiftly deliver accurate and timely updates about a school shooting or when we shine a light on secret statehouse investigations.

We have done this — all of this — while fiercely trudging through the external forces that threaten our livelihoods: a dwindling staff, unpredictable algorithms, evolving reader behavior, changing expectations, attacks on journalism. And attacks on journalists.

For the last six months, we’ve done all this while knowing that Gannett is contributing less to our health care than it does for non-guild members. While knowing that rather than reward our hard work, our company is bullying us by withholding merit pay raises as a bargaining chip.

It doesn’t have to be this way. We don’t want it to be this way. And we don’t think you, Ronnie or Ginger, want it to be this way.

None of us fly into Indianapolis every year or two.

We live here. Our homes can be found from Noblesville to Greenwood, in Irvington and the Old Northside. Our children walk the school hallways here. We join our friends by volunteering at nonprofits. We lock arms with our neighbors as we seek to build this community. We carry The Star’s values as we embed ourselves within our neighborhoods.

So please understand: We want to be treated with basic respect. Your own celebration of our work should be proof enough that we deserve this. And if that’s not enough, scroll through Facebook or Twitter to see what our community thinks.

Don’t force an unnecessary fight on merit raises. Don’t downgrade our health care. Instead, join us in quickly agreeing to a contract that is fair and just.

Reward and celebrate the hard-working, talented journalists inside your newsroom.

Then let’s get back to serving our community together.

Sincerely,

Members of the Indianapolis Newspaper Guild, CWA 34070

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‘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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