United Media Guild celebrates 80th anniversary

Mar 31, 2014 by Jeff

The United Media Guild turned 80 this year.

It formed as the St. Louis Newspaper Guild in January, 1934, joining a national movement to unionize newsroom and commercial operations employees. It began with 50 members from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and Associated Press, but immediately branched out to the other newspapers in town.

By the next month, the local included employees at the Globe-Democrat and Star-Times as well. It adopted a constitution and by-laws and affiliated with the American Newspaper Guild — now known as The Newspaper Guild, a sector with the Communications Workers of America.

We have tentatively scheduled an 80th anniversary party for June 1 at Creve Coeur Park. This event will be for all active members as well as all those Guild retirees and alumni that helped us maintain our strength over the years.

We will post more information on that event once we confirm all the details.

From Day 1, our local has played a vital role in protecting the quality of journalism and journalism jobs in this region.

At the initial St. Louis Newspaper Guild meeting, members elected Thomas B. Sherman as chairman, H.E. Douglass as secretary-treasurer and E. Roy Alexander, Joseph Hanlon and J. Roy Stockton as members of the executive committee.

The next month the expanded local adopted its constitution and by-laws. Members elected Post-Dispatch political writer Curtis A. Bettis as its first president.  David Brown of the Globe-Democrat was elected vice president and William F. Gould of the Star-Times became secretary.

In 1937, the Star-Times signed a “closed shop” agreement requiring all employees to become members of the Guild. Minimum wages ranged from $20 per week for beginners to $50 per week for those with five years experience.

In 1938, the Post-Dispatch unit signed a hallmark 18-month contract that established the best four-year minimum scales in the country. Reporters made at least $30 a week for the first year, $40 for the second year, $45 for the third year and $50 for the fourth year.

In 1941, Globe-Democrat employees agreed to a new contract – and the first agreement to cover editorial employees in addition to members of six commercial departments. It set new wage minimums of $50 for reporters, copyreaders and artists with five years experience.

There have been many memorable labor battles along the way. The Post-Dispatch ceased publication during strikes in 1945, 1973 and 1978-79. After the Guild’s strike in 1959 at the Globe-Democrat, that newspaper sold its building and presses to the Post-Dispatch.

The St. Louis Newspaper Guild changed its named to United Media Guild after merging with the Peoria Newspaper Guild. Currently the UMG represents employees of the Post-Dispatch, the St. Louis Labor Tribune, the St. Louis Review, KSDK-TV, the Peoria Journal Star, the Pekin Daily Times, the State Journal-Register in Springfield, the Rockford Register Star and the Freeport Journal-Standard.

We also represent workers at Missouri Jobs with Justice, the St. Louis Organizing Committee, Unicom ARC and the Workers Interfaith Network in Memphis.

It is impossible to list all the great activists who followed these pioneers, but Harper Barnes and Fred Faust were instrumental in operating strike newspapers in the 1970s.

Legendary critic Joe Pollock and veteran news reporter Tim O’Neil are two contemporary examples of journalists that worked tirelessly on behalf of their co-workers while serving as local president.

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Amy Goodman to speak at First Amendment Celebration

Mar 25, 2014 by Jeff

Gateway Journalism Review is hosting another First Amendment Celebration March 29 to raised funds for the publication.  Longtime St. Louis publisher and commentator Ray Hartmann will serve as the Master of Ceremonies.

Amy Goodman, host of “Democracy Now!” will be the keynote speaker. That show has been airing in the United States and other countries since 1996. As an independent global news program based in New York it is carried by the Pacifica Radio Network to more than 1,100 public television and radio stations.

Goodman has been a news director, investigative reporter, columnist, broadcast journalist and author. She has a reputation of ferreting out the facts, but also asking: “Who are we not hearing from in the traditional media?”

There will be a social at 6 p.m. Dinner will be served at 7 p.m. with the program following. The event will be at the Edward Jones Headquarters  at 12555 Manchester Rd. in Des Peres.

Tickets are $150 per person. Gateway Journalism Review will be offering a special student rate for high school and college level student journalists. Tickets for students are just $100.

In addition to attending the social, dinner and primary speaking event, students will have the opportunity to meet with Goodman in a special session. The student mentoring session will be at 4:30 p.m. in the Edward Jones headquarters.

Tickets can still be ordered here.

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A BOLD fashion statement!

Mar 24, 2014 by Shannon

 

 

The United Media Guild is now taking orders for shirts sporting our new logo.

We have tee shirts for $15 and polo shirts for $35. Both styles of shirt are offered in union-thug black, are available in men’s and women’s sizes, made in the USA, union made, and the silk screening (tee shirt) and embroidery (polo) are done with union labor as well. 

If you’re a fearless trendsetter who’d like to model the very latest in activism and mayhem, just call the Guild office at 314-241-7046 and place your order. Thanks!

 

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Assessing GateHouse, er, New Media Investment Group

Mar 20, 2014 by Jeff

GateHouse Media now operates within New Media Investment Group. It is a spinoff of Newcastle Investment Corp. -– a real estate investment trust affiliated with Fortress Investment Group LLC.

You can now buy stock in New Media Investment Group. If you owned GateHouse stock, you have the right to buy New Media stock at a discount.

So what do we know about New Media?

New Media still believes in newspapers, which is a good thing for the United Media Guild members working in Peoria, Pekin, Springfield and Rockford. CEO Michael Reed challenged the notion that his industry is a “melting ice cube” during a conference call for investors.

Analysts seem impressed by the current absence of debt, an anomaly in the newspaper industry. Analysts support the strategy of buying newspaper companies at their dramatically lower, post-recession prices.

After all, if Warren Buffett believes this is a good idea, it must be a good idea.

The opening New Media stock price seems to be in the ballpark of true value, although a price drop seems inevitable when Newcastle investors dump stock to get out of the media business.

Compass Point gave the stock a “buy” rating.

“At a high level, NEWM’s business strategy is simple: implement technological improvements and make strategic acquisitions,” analyst Jason Stewart wrote. “The company has several levers to pull for growth, and unlike some of its peers, a clean fair value balance sheet and minimal leverage.

“Our 2014 and 2015 estimates reflect declining circulation volumes and lower advertising revenue per publication, which is in-line with industry estimates. Currently, shares of NEWM trade at a ratio of enterprise value to 2015 EBITDA of 5.7x, compared to peers who trade at 7.5x, despite better growth prospects and a lower debt-to-equity ratio. In addition to higher growth prospects, NEWM is expected to be the only dividend-paying publicly traded newspaper company.”

Meanwhile the Clark Street Value blog was more guardedly optimistic last month.

“There is a track record here, as Newcastle/Fortress was able to buy Local Media from News Corp at roughly 3.4x EBITDA (after backing out the real estate value).  By doing this, Fortress projects they can earn 20-25 percent unleveraged returns, and 30-35 percent return on equity with leverage.  New Media will also get attention from investors as it plans to pay out a significant portion of their cash flow in the form of a dividend.”

But it also observed:

“New Media will be externally managed by Fortress Investment Group, a large private equity/alternative investment manager with little direct expertise with media companies.  Fortress is handsomely paid for this arrangement; it receives 1.5 percent of equity annually and 25 percent of adjusted profits (adding back depreciation and amortization, among other adjustments) above a 10 percent hurdle, so you’re essentially investing in a cheap media company with a private equity fee wrapper.  The advantage of having a private equity fund manage an operating business is the capital allocation, Fortress says they have identified up to $1 billion in potential acquisition targets in the near term, which would almost quadruple the size of the company (and presumably add operating leverage along the way).

“But external managers have their downsides, (1) the management fee is based on assets which essentially incentivizes them to increase the asset base irrespective of the price they pay for the assets, and (2) the incentive fee may cause the manager to take unnecessary risks as their payoff is skewed to the upside and they don’t participate equally in the downside.”

And . . .

“Another question I have is around the potential incentive alignments with an acquisition, to me New Media would best be run as a short term vehicle that would later be acquired by a true private equity investor or a larger media company.  But its unclear to me how that would benefit Fortress and if they’d really go for it?  Yes, they have a decent size equity position, but the fees they earn from keeping New Media as a separate entity far outweigh any premium they would get for their equity in a buyout scenario.”

Here are UMG’s concerns about the company:

  • Relentless cost-cutting has diminished the quality of New Media newspapers. While the company improved its cash flow by slashing newsroom staffing, it also invited readership decline.
  • Aggressive circulation pricing also contributed to readership erosion. We fear circulation revenue won’t stay nearly as stable as Reed predicted in his conference call.
  • Readership decline accelerates the migration of advertising to other media.
  • The debilitating employee churn extends to the very top of newspaper operations. At the State Journal-Register – one of the key properties in the company – publishers have come and gone at a dizzying pace.
  • Digital advertising will keep growing, but not fast enough to offset print revenue declines. More robust websites could speed that growth, but New Media has stripped many of its news operations to the skeleton.
  • Propel Marketing might or might not become a significant revenue source. As Reed noted, New Media is in the “top of the first inning” with this venture. Clark Street Value didn’t put much stock in it. Salespeople in the smaller markets are finding it especially hard to sell.

We hope New Media gathers steam coming out of its reorganization. But we fear it will lack staying power if it doesn’t reinvest in its operations at meaningful levels.

The company does a nice job with recruiting and training new employees, but it should place more value in experience, expertise, community knowledge and source relationships. To remain a trusted provider of valued local news, it must retain journalists, photographers, editors and digital specialists with the expertise and market experience to produce consistently compelling content.

If New Media loses those audiences, what will it have?

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UMG schedules Local meeting

Mar 17, 2014 by Jeff

The United Media Guild will hold a Local meeting at 6 p,m. April 24 at The Dubliner. This will be a happy hour social event for all of active members at all of our units.

The UMG will cover the cost of beer and wine and provide an array of appetizers. Members wishing to purchase mixed drinks may do so at the cash bar. Here is the meeting agenda:

  • Present a report of the Local’s finances.
  • Hear from Business Representative Shannon Duffy on our ongoing activities.
  • Bring proposed revisions to our by-laws to the general membership.
  • Answer any questions and address any concerns raised by our members.
  • Honor the 2013 Guilder of the Year, Activist of the Year and Steward of the Year. We will also give a Solidarity Award to a deserving group of our members.

The by-law changes are necessitated by UMG’s expansion to include a national Truthout digital publication along with our new units in Springfield, Ill. and Rockford, Ill. All the proposed revisions are posted on this site, under the menu item “By-Laws Revisions” under the blog logo.

The changes were made to achieve the following goals:

  • Ensure each unit of the UMG has a voice on the Executive Committee.
  • Adjust the allocation of E.C representation to reflect our changing unit memberships.
  • Define and refine how our larger units outside the St. Louis area will operate.
  • Slightly refine the role of the Administrative Officer to meet the changing demands of the job.
  • Adjust our unit, Local and Executive Committee meeting quorums to reflect our changing make-up.
  • Move two of our four Local meetings per year outside the St. Louis area to give our members in other areas a voice in our operation,
  • Adjust the election timetables and mechanics to accommodate our far-flung membership.
  • Adjust language regarding our dues structure to accommodate past and potential future mergers. 
  • Adjust the language regarding mandatory communication with members to reflect our use of a website and social media in addition to newsletters, bulletin boards and mailings.
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UMG endorses early voting ballot initiative

Mar 14, 2014 by Shannon

 

At its March executive committee meeting, the United Media Guild unanimously endorsed a ballot initiative that would amend the Missouri constitution to allow for six full weeks of early voting in regular elections.  Signatures are currently being gathered around the state and, if enough signatures are collected, the issue will be put to a vote in the upcoming November election.  It is worth noting that 30 states already have such a provision.

In the 2012 election – one that saw Missouri voters pick a governor, a U.S senator and a president – one-third of the registered voters stayed home.  Proponents of the initiative believe that by increasing access to the democratic process, the number of voters will increase as well.

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STL Organizing Committee forms unit, elects first chair

Mar 12, 2014 by Jeff

The St. Louis Organizing Committee has become a unit within the the United Media Guild.  During its first meeting Wedneday morning, members elected organizer  Celena Stien-della Croce as their unit chair and steward.

STLOC employees originally came into the UMG as members of our Jobs with Justice unit. They hired on as part of the national campaign to organize fast food workers.

The St. Louis region has seen one of the most successful campaigns to raise awareness about the plight of poverty-wage workers.

The STLOC is into its second year of operation. Since it runs independently of the JwJ operation — in another building, with different supervisors under separate funding — it needed to become a stand-alone unit.

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Elisa Crouch wins Terry Hughes Award

Feb 27, 2014 by Jeff

St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Elisa Crouch received the 2014 Terry Hughes Award from the United Media Guild during a reception Wednesday night.

A panel of former Hughes Award winners selected her work for this honor, given annually by the UMG in memory of one of the Post-Dispatch’s greatest journalists.

The Hughes Award is open to any journalist working for a newspaper, magazine or on-line operation in the St. Louis area. The UMG received a dozen outstanding entries from various media outlets.

But Crouch’s reporting on the Missouri school transfer program stood out. Her stories looked past the political infighting and explored the impact the program had on students, families and communities.

Post-Dispatch reporter Christine Byers, last year’s Hughes honoree, presented Crouch with this year’s award.

Terry Hughes was 36 when she died of breast cancer on July 22, 1991. Her writing in the Post-Dispatch was clear, witty and descriptive, with a flair for portraying society’s underdogs. Some of her columns chronicled the bouts with cancer that she and others faced. One column was credited with helping persuade the Missouri Legislature to approve a bill forcing insurers to pay for mammograms.

One of the many readers who wrote to the newspaper after her death described her work this way: “Her columns were full of real life stories that touched us all and even changed our way of thinking or even our lives.”

 

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