EDITORIAL: Unionization is the key to journalism’s survival

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(Illustration by Arsal Asif | Viewpoints)
By The Viewpoints Editorial Board

Enough is enough.

For years, journalists have endured the painful death of their careers and watched their friends and coworkers become another statistic while the people in charge, in this case a greedy hedge fund, count their blood money from the top of the journalism food chain.

Now more than ever, unionization has become the key to surviving the death grip that these Wall Street wolves have on local news organizations.

The employees of the Southern California News Group have come together and taken the first steps toward unionization and we affirm our support for their decision. 

The SCNG Guild’s announcement Feb. 24 emphasized how Alden Global Capital, a hedge fund many call the grim reaper of American newspapers, has stripped their newsrooms bare and devastated local journalism. 

“Media News Group and Alden Global Capital have cut our newsrooms to the bone,” the SCNG Guild said in a statement. “Layoffs and turnover have devastated our workforce. We face historic staffing shortages, and the exodus of journalists with decades of experience has hollowed out our newspapers.”

Alden is notorious for its ruthless culling of local and regional newspaper companies all across the United States. The hedge fund’s playbook is simple: Buy an economically crippled newspaper for cheap and maximize profits by slashing the company down to less than the bare minimum until it’s bled dry. The outcome is deadly for the Fourth Estate and adds more damage to the already fragile American democracy that journalists are tasked with defending.

The game plan has been executed on hundreds of publications, with the most recent acquisition being Tribune Publishing, owners of the Chicago Tribune, for $630 million just days prior to the guild’s announcement.

“Our journalists have labored for years under increasingly difficult conditions,” the announcement continued. “We believe that only a union … can ensure we get the fair pay and benefits we deserve.”

By creating this union, the SCNG Guild is taking an incredibly brave and necessary step in the right direction to protect the voice of our community and to create a better workplace for all journalists. It also serves to secure the future careers of Viewpoints student journalists. 

Unionization is the best way to provide protection and benefits for the hard working individuals within these companies. It gives the ability to negotiate collective bargaining agreements, fight for a diverse workplace and to feel comfortable with job security. 

And creating a union is nothing new in the world of journalism in recent times. Many publications that were under the same pressures that the SCNG Guild is reporting have successfully created unions and can attest to the importance of coming together during these tough times.

Journalists are a vital resource to society. By informing the public of the events happening around the world and their community, it empowers those citizens to make the best possible decisions. 

But how could they continue to provide that essential service when the fear of being laid off and the stress from increasing workloads is ever growing in the workplace?

It is unfair to force the hardworking individuals who dedicate their lives to finding the truth to have to endure the harsh conditions placed upon them by corporate overlords who don’t care about the value of journalism. 

The SCNG Guild’s fight for a seat at the table will be a long and hard fought battle. It definitely isn’t a decision that their owners will take lightly since it throws a wrench in their well-oiled money-making machine. However, no matter how much Alden may try to push back against this movement to unionize, the fact of the matter is that these hard working journalists deserve to be treated fairly.

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