Notice something missing from today's Washington Post?
June 5, 2002 6:54 AM   Subscribe

Notice something missing from today's Washington Post? In a creative protest of management's latest contract offer, Post union members withhold bylines from news stories and columns in the June 5 edition. Most articles are written "By A Washington Post Staff Writer" and pictures are taken "By A Washington Post Staff Photographer." What other unique forms of labor protest have you seen where the union gets its point across without striking or compromising the quality of the product?
posted by PrinceValium (18 comments total)
Not exactly the same thing, but (SBC)Ameritech workers in Indianapolis circled the statehouse with their trucks and vans yesterday snarling downtown traffic.
Link 1
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posted by internal at 7:06 AM on June 5, 2002

Interesting that the guy that wrote the article on the strike didn't withhold his byline.
posted by emptybowl at 7:12 AM on June 5, 2002

It's an impressive show of unity but bylines, remember, were actively resisted by newspaper proprietors who quite rightly felt they would lead to higher pay and more professional mobility for journalists. So it feels strange. I wonder if it affected quality at all.

Perhaps qwerty can tell us what the guys at The Economist would do in the same situation, since it's the only major publication which remains unsigned and indeed anonymous. Or perhaps they're too conservative to do union stuff?
posted by MiguelCardoso at 7:13 AM on June 5, 2002

He's part of management perhaps?
posted by jedro at 7:15 AM on June 5, 2002

It's weird to see the washington post reporting on its own strike.
posted by ph00dz at 7:18 AM on June 5, 2002

Interesting, because either way (signed vs. unsigned) it looks as if the writer of the article is taking a certain position.
posted by PrinceValium at 7:19 AM on June 5, 2002

They've withheld their bylines. Management should withhold their paychecks. The mediocrity of America's mid-sized newspapers is in direct proportion to their unionization. The average newsroom in piled to the ceiling with barely literate time-servers, hacks and column-padders sleeping soundly in their secure union jobs. Throw 'em out, I say, and hire the kids from the local free paper. Then make the union hacks re-apply for their jobs. People may start reading newspapers again.
posted by Faze at 7:22 AM on June 5, 2002

They take their bylines out, which leaves them looking like nameless hacks working for a big media coinglomerate, I don't think the readers care that much, as they generally don't even notice the difference between original content and wire copy.
posted by Erendadus at 7:24 AM on June 5, 2002

Also interesting to note that the WP is running a pullout section today commemorating their 125th anniversary. You can't help but think that the strike is not coincidental to this event.

Erendadus - As the paper that produced Woodward and Bernstein, the Post is arguably the "serious" paper that is most dependent on its bylines for its reputation. (In general, the reign of Katherine Graham established the Post as a very personality-driven paper.) Perhaps if Knight Ridder or Gannett went on strike, nobody would miss the bylines, but this is actually a pretty good way to make an impact at the Post.
posted by PrinceValium at 7:41 AM on June 5, 2002

Nah, Frank Ahrens (or "Frank A-herns", as fans of DOn and Mike know him) ain't management. He used to write the radio column until he moved to a general reporter last year.
posted by emptybowl at 7:42 AM on June 5, 2002

They've withheld their bylines. Management should withhold their paychecks.

They are not paid to write bylines.
posted by Dirjy at 9:16 AM on June 5, 2002

Note: Withholding bylines is an old tactic in newspaper writer/management relations. The hacks, er, reporters at my local daily, The Montreal Gazette, withheld their bylines last year in protest over the ultimate owners of the paper, Israel Asper's CanWest television chain, imposing weekly editorials on the paper written at corporate HQ. It's also done commonly in Europe.

So, despite the write-up, it's not a "creative" or "unique" tactic. Whether it works is another question.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 9:20 AM on June 5, 2002

Throw 'em out, I say, and hire the kids from the local free paper.

A lot of local free papers are unionized, too.
posted by anildash at 9:44 AM on June 5, 2002

'Washington Post' had a fairly ugly strike in the seventies right? The descriptions in Catherine Graham's autobiography were quite vivid - though I think she said that only the printing staff were on strike at that time and the journalists and the management helped out printing ...

Way back in 1975-76, when Mrs Gandhi imposed a national emergency in India, threw the opposition leaders in jail and started censoring newspapers, some of the newspapers editors were absolutely disgusted and withdrew all editorials for a few days. The censors assigned to the newspapers didnt realize that withdrawing editorials would create such a huge impact among the readership.

I love reading ;Washington Post and get all my capitol gossip from 'In the loop'. Hope they manage to sort out their trouble (didnt realized that Al Kamen is unionized!).
posted by justlooking at 9:50 AM on June 5, 2002

I don't even understand what the point is. Do people buy papers because of certain bylines? Can someone explain this to a total dope?

I'm so confused.
posted by daveadams at 10:33 AM on June 5, 2002

In order to balance the county budget, the local school board came up with the concept of not paying school system employees for 2 days of work.

Needless to say, many teachers are taking a couple of sick days due to "Stierheim Flu", named for the school board superintendent.

Guess it's in the grand tradition of the "Blue Flu" known to afflict police union members in some cities.
posted by groundhog at 10:54 AM on June 5, 2002

I don't even understand what the point is. Do people buy papers because of certain bylines? Can someone explain this to a total dope?

I don't think it is as much for the people who are buying the papers, Dave, as it is a show of support and "in your face" action towards the management of the paper. It does increase awareness among readers, but they will still buy the paper. The writers & photogs are showing a united front to management by showing how many people are willing to remove their bylines.

It's a little bit like putting the American flag on your car or house as a show of support for the country.
posted by girlhacker at 11:02 AM on June 5, 2002

Fire them, or dock their pay. Whatever.

"protest" is just another term for a union not doing it's job in order to try and get a wage increase through a hostage mentality.

You don't like the job? They pay? Then go work for someone else who will pay you more...

Oh, wait .. no one will pay you more? Then maybe the news flash is that your skills aren't WORTH more.

Taking a hostage (a strike) is not something that is particularly heroic.
posted by soulhuntre at 1:41 PM on June 6, 2002

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