Chaos at newly unionized L.A. Times

"Atmosphere of intense secrecy, distrust and anxiety” in the newsroom

On January 19th, newsroom employees at the Los Angeles Times voted 248 to 44 to unionize. Now, national media are looking into newsroom fears: management is setting up a secret, non-union “shadow” news operation that will apparrenty report to the business side, not the editorial side.

In a January 26 article, HuffPost described “an atmosphere of intense secrecy, distrust and anxiety” in the newsroom.

As one anonymous newsroom employee told HuffPost, “The newsroom has basically become a large-scale intelligence operation to figure out what the fk our managers are up to.” Staffers say they are being stonewalled when trying to get information from top management. Says HuffPost, “Staffers fear that tronc (the uncapitalized name of the old Tribune Co., owner of the Times and San Diego Union-Tribune) is building a shadow national newsroom — non-union, of course — that would duplicate not only parts of the L.A. Times union staff but that of other tronc properties as well, making the union employees expendable.”

A new management team is being assembled and most of the new managers haven’t been announced to the staff. And they have been hired under a company different from the one that hires current staffers. Current staffers are hired by Los Angeles Times Communications LLC. The new secret managers are hired under a newly named Los Angeles Times Network LLC. Other media such as the Washington Post and Nieman Labs are reporting on the tumult at the newspaper.

I got this information from the 919 Report,a publication for former and present Union-Tribune staffers.

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Typical of anti-employee management/owner. Business is conducted by contractual agreements except when it comes to employees. We all deal in contracts when we rent, purchase, lease, etc. except when it comes to our employment. The CEO's, CFO's, COO's, sports, TV, entertainment stars, etc have "personal services contracts" but when it comes to Joe & Jane Six-Pack they should be "at will" employees at the mercy of the whim of their employers. God forbid that they should organize and engage in collective bargaining agreement negotiations. If they want to have a voice at the table and a contract with their employer then they are just greedy and self serving. The decline of the middle class tracks with the decline in unionism.

AlexClarke: Broadly speaking, the decline of the American middle class tracks with the decline of unionism. It also tracks with the shocking escalation of greed. It doesn't seem to bother conservatives and the elite that the richest 1 percent controls almost 40 percent of the nation's wealth, according to the Federal Reserve. This is a ticket to disaster at some point.

Bernie Sanders got a lot of support quoting such statistics. Trump ran on Sanders's populism then, once in office, did exactly the reverse of what he was preaching. Shockingly, it seems that the bottom 50% hasn't figured that out yet. Best, Don Bauder

There were almost 300 employees in the "newsroom" bargaining unit? I"d have believed that some years ago, but still having 300 to me sounds high. Is there some sort of breakdown of that number, as in how many editors, how many beat reporters, how many investigative reporters, how many gofers, etc.? Back when all the big dailies had news bureaus all round the nation and world, they must have had huge staffs. But it's my understanding that most of those bureaus are gone, and the papers either depend on each other or the AP for news in other cities and countries.

If these folks thought that voting in a union would somehow protect them from arbitrary dismissal, they were mistaken. And now it looks as if it will have just the opposite effect. I'd not want to be in that industry now, either as a reporter, support staffer, or executive.

Thirty-five years ago I had a chance to work for the LA Times in an analytical staff job. It would have been a wonderful thing to land at the time, except for one thing: it meant moving to LA and working in downtown LA. I came to SD years earlier to escape from LA, and just could not bear the thought of going back to the smog, traffic and noise. I passed on the opportunity, and then for years wondered if I'd made the correct decision. All history now, of course.

Visduh: But if you would have taken the same job with, say, the U-T or the Orange County Register, you might have been facing the same hatchet now. Best, Don Bauder

I didn't take a job in the media or in analytical work at that time. Instead I ended up in corporate finance and accounting. But keep in mind my age. I'd be at least five to ten years retired by now, regardless.

Visduh: You were wise to turn down the LA Times job, but 35 years ago, few foresaw what was going to happen to metro dailies (and many small papers, too.) There is such widespread corruption in corporate finance and accounting today, maybe you got out at the right time. (You have previously said you wound up in teaching, an honorable profession.) Best, Don Bauder

NEW EDITOR AT L.A. TIMES: In an obvious response to newsroom chaos, tronc, the owner of the Los Angeles Times, replaced its editor, Lewis D'Vorkin, last night (Sunday, January 28) with Jim Kirk, a former editor and publisher of The Chicago Sun-Tilmes. D'Vorkin moves to become tronc's chief content editor.

D'Vorkin was distrusted by the L.A. Times staff because of his coziness with advertisers. Staffers believed he moved to protect Disney from negative coverage, for example. Staffers believed he would be bringing in non-newsroom -- and non-union -- writers, possibly with the intent to push out current writers. Best, Don Bauder

The real reporters who work for the Los Angeles Times don't need help from a lazy, conspiratorial fake reporter such as Bauder. The more you write, Bauder, the more you aid management's case. Don't you understand, bro, that you make the rest of us look bad? Please stop writing. Go skiing or eat steak or whatever it is they do in Colorado.

petezanko: This lazy, conspiratorial, fake reporter -- yours truly -- never applied to the LA Times and it never recruited me. You say I make "us" look bad. This suggests you got a job in journalism after leaving the U-T. Where did you get it? Please inform us. Best, Don Bauder

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