Gannett newspapers appeared to have embargoed coverage of a bid by editorial staffers to unionize, with no mention of the move by more than 90% of reporters and other employees at The (Bergen) Record, the Daily Record, and the New Jersey Herald to form a union.
A total of 72 employees of the three newspapers and NorthJersey.com signed on to form a union affiliated with the NewsGuild of New York and have asked Gannett to voluntarily recognize their new union.
Gannett has not publicly addressed the request, and no coverage of the move by their employees has appeared in their newspapers or on their website. Some reporters have tweeted the news using their personal social media accounts.
As a result, Gannett readers and subscribers are not receiving news about their local newspapers, even though executives promised strong coverage of news in their communities despite layoffs, furloughs and massive staff reductions.
“I’m struck by how unnecessarily adversarial a tone it sets to ignore a major labor relations development that the news organization would have covered in every other case,” said Micah Rasmussen, the director of the Rebovich Institute of New Jersey Politics at Rider University.
Journalists who work for The (Bergen) Record were also bothered by the lack of coverage.
“As a media institution that serves millions of Americans, if Gannet truly wanted to espouse its values — strong local news, democracy and service — then editorial management should change its rule to be among the first to not only cover this historic shift in media that showcases journalists standing together to strengthen their publications and diversify their newsrooms to better support the communities they serve, but it should recognize the union as well,” The Record Guild Organizing Committee said in a statement.
The Bergen Record has covered other bids by private sector employees to form labor unions, including Uber and Lyft drivers, United and American Airlines employees, and graduate students at Harvard University.
In recent years, The Record has even covered bids by non-Gannett journalists to organize, like the Los Angeles Times.
The Record and other Gannett-owned New Jersey newspapers essentially ignored a hostile takeover bid by a hedge fund in 2019 even as some news organizations that cover the media industry, including the New Jersey Globe, were sent talking points from Gannett.
At the time, The Record placed a gag order on reporters talking about buyout offers.
When Gannett was acquired by GateHouse Media late in 2019, their New Jersey-based newspapers didn’t cover any more than a final announcement – and some didn’t even do that.
None of Gannett’s New Jersey newspapers covered a report that the company would outsource 485 jobs to India in 2021.
Dan Sforza, the executive editor of The (Bergen) Record, did not respond to requests for comment a 9:49 AM and 8:28 PM on Wednesday and at 4:28 PM today.
Sforza has made dramatic pitches to readers in a bid to save local media in search of paid subscribers.
This story was updated at 6:13 PM with comment from The Record Guild Organizing Committee.