Monday, May 25, 2009

VOTE! RALPH AVIGLIANO FOR IBEW Local 1212 Business Manager

ELECTION DAYS: Tuesday, June 16th and Wednesday, June 17, 2009

TIME: 11am Tuesday to 2pm Wednesday (27 consecutive hours)

PLACE: Edison Hotel, 228 West 47th Street, Floral Room
(between Broadway and 8th Avenue)


Member in good standing of IBEW Local 1212 since 1980

Ralph Avigliano is a Union Representative that thinks like a member because he has worked as every kind of member: Freelance, Temp, and Staff.

Since 2003, as Business Representative then Senior Business Representative, Ralph Avigliano has successfully represented the interests of the members of IBEW Local 1212.

Help Ralph continue to fight for stronger jurisdiction, better wages, benefits, working conditions, employment, and training opportunities for all members.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Ch. 9 Could Cancel Weekend Newscasts

By Richard Huff

Here's the new reality of local news.

Advertising is in the dumper, and stations, looking for ways to cut, are thinking about things never dreamed of before.

For example, WWOR/Ch. 9 officials, as part of an ongoing, overall review on how to survive and cut costs, have raised the idea of eliminating weekend newscasts.

Nothing is in concrete, not even close, but cutting the newscasts - Saturdays and Sundays at 10 p.m. - is just one scenario being discussed at the Fox-owned station as executives race to find ways to pare budgets before the company's new fiscal year begins in July.

The change, if approved, could take place as early as this summer, sources say.

The weekend newscasts are officially anchored by Mike Gilliam, though Jennifer Jordan and Megan Vega, often co-anchor, or handle the shows alone.

In Ch. 9's case, if the change were to happen, it would likely result in on-air staffers remaining and continuing to work for Ch. 9 and sister station WNYW/Ch. 5, while the savings would come off-camera, where the company is now in negotiations with its unions to get cost concessions and, ultimately, reduce the staff.

Word is that when the dust settles at Ch. 9, there definitely will be cost reductions, though their exact nature has yet to be determined.

Cutting newscasts is already happening elsewhere. In Chicago, CBS' WBBM recently announced it was cutting all weekend morning newscasts as a way to adjust to new financial realities.

Ch. 9 is not alone. A rival who will remain nameless said the idea of cutting back weekend offerings was raised there, too, but ultimately dropped because the risks of not having something outweighed any incremental cost savings.

Last year, WCBS/Ch. 2 axed a Sunday night sports show because it was viewed as a safe cut.
Cutting straight news, however, raises the stakes a lot. And the fact that it has been discussed in any way is another example of the new, not-so-great reality in local television.


WNBC/Channel 4 Grounds News Helicopter

By Richard Huff

WNBC/Ch. 4 and WNYW/Ch. 5 have combined forces in the air through a new, official helicopter sharing agreement that means the end of Chopper 4 as viewers knew it.

Ch. 4, the first station in the market to have a dedicated helicopter for its coverage, is now sharing footage, a chopper and staff with Ch. 5.

It's part of a cost-cutting move by both stations in a market where every station has been battered by declining advertising revenues.

"This a strategic, smart example of how you can take a valuable resource and everybody wins," said an NBC Local Media spokeswoman. "This is part a local news arrangement that is working very well."

A Ch. 5 spokeswoman confirmed, that the "chopper share is up and running."

The two stations began testing the concept in March. And, in the past two weeks, Ch. 4 viewers in the morning have heard the voice of Ch. 5's Kai Simonsen from the station's SkyFox helicopter. The stations have shared footage from such recent news events as a brush fire in New Jersey and a building collapse downtown.

Cutting out one of the choppers and sharing the costs can shave $500,000 a year from the budgets of each station. WCBS, Ch. 4 and Ch. 5 all lease their choppers and crews from the same company.

There has also been talk of a potential sharing arrangement between Ch. 2 and WPIX/Ch. 11.

Separately, Ch. 5 and Ch. 4's parent companies are working on a video sharing cooperative, called Local News Service.

"It's been tough, I never though there'd be a day when I wouldn't be in the air," Dan Rice, Ch. 4's former chopper correspondent, told the Daily News.

Rice, who is married to Ch. 7's chopper reporter Shannon Sohn, told The News he'd learned he would lose his job in March, just after winning an Emmy Award for his chopper coverage of a crane collapse in Manhattan.

In Ch. 4's case, it is yet the latest step in belt tightening and a change in approach to producing and delivering news that has led to the departures of several well-known on-air staffers including Jay DeDapper, Kendra Farn and Carolyn Gusoff. Ch. 4 is not alone in making cuts, by any means, but none has gone deeper - yet.

For instance, WABC/Ch. 7 this week cut bureau chiefs at its bureaus. And Ch. 2, last year made on-air and off-camera cuts, and this year dropped sportscasters Ducis Rodgers and John Discepolo. Ch. 11 has cut a handful of off-air staffers and could trim more, while WWOR/Ch. 9 is expected to make cuts in its production staff before summer.

"Day one of no Chopper 4 is strange," Rice wrote in a Twitter feed to fans Friday. "First time in 16 years without a job.

Friday, May 22, 2009



GET WORK: The primary purpose of any union is to facilitate employment for the membership – Get Work! Until you have work, wages, benefits, and working conditions are not an issue. To that end, you will never hear me say, “ We are not a hiring hall.” The subtext for everything we do is to create jobs for our members. When you call the hall. We will put you in touch with the people who hire engineers at every IBEW Local 1212 signator. I will do anything
and everything in my power to get the word out to producers that IBEW Local 1212 is the place to come for the finest broadcast engineers in the industry.

JURISDICTION: Communication technology is an ever-changing art. From two cans and a string, to rabbit ears, to film, to tape, to DVD, to digital, HD, and the World Wide Web, the bottom line is that as much as technology has changed, the industry has not. Regardless of the acquisition and delivery format, you must still capture video and audio, edit the images and
sound, add graphics and effects, then transmit the finished product to the public. The fact remains that no matter how this is accomplished, whatever devices and methods are used, the jurisdiction, now and for all time, belongs to us.

ORGANIZING: I will work closely with IBEW District 3 and the IBEW International as we endeavor to organize the non-represented workers in every shop where an IBEW Local 1212 collective bargaining agreement is already in place. In addition we will promulgate a standard agreement with competitive wages, benefits, and working conditions to make it easy for production companies to work with IBEW Local 1212 crews when they shoot in the New York metropolitan area.

UNION DEMOCRACY: Going forward, any and all members with an interest in the issues on the table may participate in the discussion. All information regarding negotiations will be shared with the members at every step of the process. You get the union you deserve. We are only as strong as your willingness to participate. Your leaders have an obligation to make operating transparency and member participation a priority. To that end, we must revisit our local policies and make any and all changes necessary to increase operating transparency, member representation, open communication, and support union democracy in the way we conduct union business on behalf of this membership.

PROACTIVE REPRESENTATION: There will be regular shop visits by the business representatives to all shifts, regular shop steward training and meetings, monthly e-mail reports to the membership specifically stating how your union is addressing your concerns. Grievances and arbitrations will be filed, and followed up on, in a timely manner. We will seek out and publicize employment and training opportunities. Our temps and per diems deserve benefits, wages, and working conditions equal to those enjoyed by our members with staff positions. You work hard to earn the money to pay union dues and in return you have the right expect prompt, efficient, proactive representation.

COMMUNICATION: The privilege of representing the membership of IBEW Local 1212 is an honor that comes with the responsibility to aid, support, and protect every staff, temp, and per diem member of this Local. We must also reach out to our brothers and sisters in the other unions and guilds in our industry in a spirit of cooperation to help protect and expand jurisdiction, training opportunities, and promote employers and vendors bringing more production to the N.Y. metropolitan area. I pledge to continue to make myself available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to address the concerns of this membership.


Here's the deal on posting to the Broadcast Union News Blog

Bob Daraio
Broadcast Union News

If you want to post to the Broadcast Union News blog, here are the guidlines.

1) The comment must have something to do with the purposes outlined in the mission statement of this blog. It must pertain to the print, broadcast, film, TV, or theater industry.

2) No unusually rude or obscene language will be posted (DSF).

3) All comments must come with a contact e-mail and must be signed by an actual real person . You can ask that I don't post your name and/or e-mail on the blog, but I need to be able to contact you, privately prior to posting if necessary.

4)If your comment is not posted and you've supplied a contact e-mail, the reasons for rejecting your post will be provided.

5) You can contact me any time at to discuss the rules or make any comments, suggestions, and requests you'd like.


Member in good standing of IBEW Local 1212 since 1980

Ralph Avigliano is a Union Representative that thinks like a member. He has worked as a staff technician as well as a temporary and freelance technician.

Ralph Avigliano has successfully represented the interests of the membership of IBEW Local 1212 as a Business Representative then a Senior Business Representative since 2003.

Help Ralph continue to fight for stronger jurisdiction, improved wages, benefits, working conditions, employment, and training opportunities for all members.


917 991-0011

Numbers tell sad tale for 2008-09 season

By James Hibberd

Networks' ratings off a collective 16% from year ago

And broadcasters thought last season, the one with the WGA strike, was tough.

At the close of the 2008-09 season, which officially ended Wednesday night, the sum of average broadcast network ratings changes put the Big Four down a collective 16% in the demo (or about -4% per network).

Fox won the season in the adults 18-49 demographic, averaging 9.8 million viewers and a 3.6 demo rating in the "most current" Nielsen Media Research figures, which include DVR use.

CBS won in total viewers, averaging 11.8 million, and was the runner-up with a 3.1 in 18-49.The win marks Fox's fifth consecutive season victory in the demo. But the network dropped most among the Big Four compared with last season -- 13% in total viewers and 16% in the demo -- mainly because it did not have the Super Bowl and because of softening ratings for "American Idol," television's most popular show.

CBS was the only network to gain a larger audience this season, up 11% in viewers and 3% in the demo. Its gains were aided by new drama "The Mentalist" on Tuesday nights, which were up 33% in the demo this season.

ABC placed third (8.9 million, 2.9), falling 3% in both metrics because of ratings slippage by its popular scripted dramas.

NBC was fourth (7.8 million, 2.8), dropping 3% in viewers and posting a flat rating compared with last season. The network had this year's Super Bowl, though, and fell 8% in adults 18-49 without factoring in sports coverage. NBC was hardest-hit on Wednesdays (-26%) and Fridays (-29%) but showed gains on Tuesdays (9%) with reality hit "The Biggest Loser."The

CW (2 million, 0.9), whose rankings were not factored into the major-networks comparisons, suffered the harshest percentage drops: 22% in viewers and 18% in the demo. Among its target demographic of women 18-34, though, the CW was unchanged (1.4 rating). The network's standings improve further by taking off the board Sundays, where the CW fell 25% this season after outsourcing its programming.

The season's final night was won, appropriately, by "Idol," which wrapped its eighth campaign with its lowest demo rating for a finale. The two-hour-plus Wednesday extravaganza -- featuring performances by Kiss, Rod Stewart, Cyndi Lauper, Steve Martin and the surviving members of Queen -- drew 28.8 million viewers and a 10.0 rating in adults 18-49. It peaked at 34 million viewers during the final half-hour countdown to Kris Allen's upset victory.

Those would be astonishing numbers for any other series. For the "Idol" juggernaut, though, they are good only for last place in the demo among its finales -- behind the Season 1 ender, when an average of 23 million viewers (10.8/30 in 18-49) tuned in to see Kelly Clarkson crowned as the first American Idol. (In total viewers, this finale ranked second-to-last, surpassing the first-season closer.)

Compared with last year's results finale, "Idol" was down 12% in adults 18-49 and 9% in viewers. That follows similar all-time lows for its final performance show Tuesday.Fox notes that "Idol" has dominated its competition this season by a wider margin of victory than ever before. "Idol" finished the season 72% ahead of ABC's "Desperate Housewives," the No. 2 entertainment program in the 18-49 demo.

The Tuesday and Wednesday "Idol" editions have ranked first or second for six consecutive seasons, the most consecutive No. 1 rankings for a broadcast-network program since Nielsen began its continuous adult-demo measurement more than 20 years ago.Nellie Andreeva in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

The Story Out of 3 Washigton DC Area TV Stations: They'll Create News-Sharing Service To Cut costs

By Paul Farhi
Washington Post Staff Writer

Three local TV stations -- Channels 4, 5 and 9 -- will create a common newsgathering operation that will share daily news footage, in another sign that the financially pressured industry is moving to reduce its costs.

WRC (Channel 4), WTTG (5) and WUSA (9) said yesterday they will begin operation of the local TV news service next month.
Each station will contribute two news videographers to produce "pool" footage of breaking news stories and news conferences.
The stations will then be free to use the commonly produced footage on their newscasts, which will continue to maintain their own newsgathering operations. No reporters or anchors from each of the stations will be involved in the cooperative.

The agreement among the three Washington stations is the most extensive to date in the market; in January, NBC-owned WRC and Fox-owned WTTG began sharing the cost of a news helicopter. That follows a similar news-sharing operation in Chicago that involves three stations. In addition, the NBC- and Fox-owned stations in Philadelphia have been sharing some coverage since January.

As advertising dries up and news audiences scatter, local stations have been frantically searching for ways to save money. Over the past two years, they have been cutting costs through layoffs, salary reductions and other arrangements.

"We're in an economic time when [we] have to look for every efficiency we can," said Duffy Dyer, WTTG's general manager. "It's never made a great deal of sense to have 15 cameras at some scheduled news event or ribbon-cutting. This is a good place to start making some inroads" in the news budget.

WJLA, Channel 7, which already shares newsgathering resources with NewsChannel 8 (the two stations are owned by Allbritton Communications), is not participating in the pool service. "We prefer to go our own way and remain as independent as possible," said Bill Lord, the stations' vice president of news. "I'm not convinced it's more efficient to [cover news] as a pool. I can't think of a story I want to share with anyone."

Financial pressures led WRC, whose newscasts have perpetually led the local ratings, to release several of its on-air reporters and anchors over the past two years; longtime sports anchor George Michael left the station because of deep budget cuts.

WJLA laid off 26 news staffers in January.

WTTG has reduced its employee count through a combination of layoffs and attrition.

In December, Gannett-owned WUSA -- the lowest-rated among Washington's four largest news stations -- signed an unprecedented agreement with its labor unions that will do away with multi-person news crews, and turn most of its news staff into solo cameramen and reporters, with each journalist handling sound, photography, reporting and editing on stories.

In announcing the new cooperative operation, to be called Local News Service, the stations said management of the service will be "independent" of the stations, and will determine which stories are covered each day. LNS will be housed in the basement of WUSA's building on Wisconsin Avenue NW.

The arrangement foretells a day when images of a major traffic snarl, parade or news conference are standardized, appearing the same way on three stations.

But Camille Edwards, WRC's news director, said the pool will make more footage available to all the stations and enable them to free their own reporters for stories that are unique to each station's broadcast.

The Washington Post has a cooperative news-sharing agreement with the Baltimore Sun in which the two newspapers make non-competitive stories available to each other.

Greg Guise, a shop steward at WUSA for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, which represents the station's videographers, was skeptical of the agreement. "This is much greater in scope than what was discussed" in contract negotiations last year, he said. "We have to look at the it. The devil is in the details."

AFTRA Approves New Commercial Contract/ SAG Members Mixed On New Feature Deal

AFTRA Approves New Commercial Contract


Three-year deal ratified by landslide vote

SAG and AFTRA members have given overwhelming approval to a three-year commercials contract with a 93.8% endorsement -- a marked contrast with the current bitter battle within SAG over the feature-primetime contract.

The ratification, announced Thursday afternoon, came seven weeks after the unions reached a tentative deal with the ad industry. Since then, no significant opposition to the deal, which covers about $1 billion of blurb work annually, had emerged.

"I think this is a win-win for everyone," said AFTRA president Roberta Reardon. "It's no secret that the ad industry's been under attack for the past six months, so getting this deal done is very helpful to everyone."

About 132,000 members of the unions received ballots with a 28% return. The endorsement was above typical levels while the participation was in line with previous ratification votes.

The unions estimated Thursday that the new deal, retroactive to April 1, will generate more than $108 million in increased earnings, including $24 million in increased contributions to the unions' health and pension funds. They also touted the pact's inclusion of the first-ever payment structure for ads for the Internet and new media, which goes into effect in the third year.

The deal also preserves the current pay-per-play class A residuals structure while providing for a pilot study on a compenasation model based on ratings.

"I am pleased that SAG and AFTRA were able to work together to reach an agreement that will benefit actors who work in the advertising industry," said SAG president Alan Rosenberg, who's been battling the ratification of SAG's feature-primetime deal.

The easy ratification of the commercials deal comes nine years after the unions started a bitter six-month strike against the ad biz. The threat of another SAG-AFTRA strike against the ad industry emerged in mid-March with the leak of a draft letter seeking a strike authorization vote from members, but that letter was never sent out to the members.

The tough economic times plus a shift in control of SAG's national board to a more moderate faction last fall provided strong signals that a strike wasn't in the offing in 2009.
The ad biz managed to hold down annual salary gains to about 2%, or 5.1% for the life of the pact, significantly below the 3% and 3.5% gains in Hollywood union contracts last year, and it won a first-ever cap on employer contributions to pension and health.

"It's a great contract that gives every actor who does commercials a healthy raise and sets vital minimums for internet and new media ads," said Sue-Anne Morrow, who chaired SAG's portion of the joint negotiating committee. "It's also a fantastic example of what can be achieved when SAG and AFTRA work together for the good of performers. The members' overwhelmingly positive response is a clear indication that they appreciate the results of that solidarity."

SAG Members Divided Over New Features Deal


The deep divides within the Screen Actors Guild came into sharp focus Thursday evening as 600 thesps attended a raucous town hall meeting over the contentious ratification vote on the feature-primetime deal.

The members-only meeting at the Hollywood Renaissance Hotel featured opponents of the deal giving a standing ovation for president Alan Rosenberg and booing interim national exec director David White. At one point, former SAG president Ed Asner invoked the Holocaust to describe the impact of the tentative deal, prompting a member to sharply criticize him for making the comparison.

"There were plenty of strong expressions of feelings about this from both sides," said Ned Vaughn, a leader of the Unite For Strength faction that backs the deal. "The room was pretty divided."

Ballots were sent out Tuesday to about 110,000 SAG members with a June 9 return date. Hardliners, who are concentrated in Hollywood, are opposing the deal -- largely over the rates in its new-media provisions and SAG not receiving guaranteed jurisdiction for new-media work. The three-hour event started with a presentation by White but most of the evening was taken up by questions and answers.

Scott Wilson, who's been among the most active opponents of the deal, was critical in his speech of the moderates have insisted the two-year deal will help get members back to work by removing uncertainty. He accused the current board majority - a coalition from New York, the regional branches and Unite For Strenght in Hollywood -- of defying the will of members in Hollywood, noting that those members perform the majority of the work.

"What would the founders of this union think of members agreeing to work non-union?" he told the crowd. "If this goes through, thousands of members will lose their health coverage and that pisses me off."

Vaughn said deal supporters asked Rosenberg repeatedly to explain how voting the deal will lead to a better agreement when the congloms have said repeatedly they won't sweeten the terms. Rosenberg replied by saying that if that occurs, SAG will have to ask members for a strike authorization - which would require 75% support from those voting.

"I think a lot of members don't believe that voting no is going to get us a better deal," Vaughn said.

Former SAG prexy Melissa Gilbert, who supports the deal, attended the meeting along with husband Bruce Boxleitner but did not speak. Others in attendance included Patricia Heaton, board members Clancy Brown, Gabrielle Carteris, Frances Fisher and France Nuyen.

James McCauley, a member opposing the deal, said that most of the members attending were in agreement with the "No for Your Future" flyer he was distributing. "I'm finding that people have a pretty good understanding of these issues and a lot of them have already voted," he added.

SAG's national board approved trhe deal on April 19 with 53% in favor. SAG's TV-film contract expired last June 30.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

IBEW Local 1212 Members Supporting Ralph Avigliano For Business Manager

From Bob Daraio
IBEW Local 1212 Members Supporting Ralph Avigliano For Business Manager

Just so you don't think IBEW Local 1212 has cornered the market on apathy, below is a recent letter Paul Vasquez, President of NABET-CWA Local 16 sent to his membership.

Much of organized labor in Broadcasting has been plagued for a very long time with poor leadership and apathetic memberships. This lack of competent officers and business agents combined with a lack of member participation has undermined both NABET and IBEW's ability to effectively organize new members and jurisdiction. A series of increasingly weakened contracts has eroded jurisdiction, wages, benefits, and working conditions at both NABET and IBEW represented shops.

We now face the worst economic climate in our lifetime at the same time as automation and consolidation is dramatically reducing the number of available jobs for our members.

It is often said that "you get the union you deserve", much like the biblical "you reap what you sow".

It is time to turn this situation around. It is time to do the hard things necessary to save our union. Paul Vasquez is attempting this at NABET Local 16. Ralph Avigliano wants the chance to turn around IBEW Local 1212.

It's time for a change. It's time for organizing the non-union people who do our work. It's time to stand up and say enough! No more! No more unsafe working conditions. No more inadequate benefit plans the employers can change at will. No more withholding of training opportunities save for the select few.

It's time for members to hold their leaders accountable for their mismanagement of our local. Vote them out!

Support Ralph Avigliano for Business Manager of IBEW Local 1212.


Bob Daraio
IBEW Local 1212 Members Supporting Ralph Avigliano For Business Manager



May 14, 2009

I was sworn in as President of NABET-CWA Local 16 on April 10, 2008.

I am writing to you about what has happened since then and what is planned for the future. Simply put; we are moving in the correct direction, but not nearly quickly enough.

This letter is evidence of both of those things.

I had planned to finish writing this by April 9, post it on our web site that day and then e-mail the membership a notice of its posting on the 10th. The existence of this letter is a good example of the improvement in Local 16. It will be both honest and frank about our condition and our problems. It will be realistic about our prospects. It was also late.

That is due to the coincidental timing of my anniversary as President with the SL24/HH buyout/layoff process we are going through in BO&E and the already overwhelming workload it greatly added to.

The purpose of this letter is to inform the membership but I hope it also provides a starting point for members to think about their future and ours and to discuss how to improve both.

I hope each of you takes the time to read this and speak with each other about it. I look forward to speaking with many of you directly.


The election for President went into a run off which extended it into April. I was in Washington DC at the CWA National Legislative and Political Conference as part of Local 16’s delegation when the runoff ballots were counted on Monday, April 7.

I received word of the results that evening but remained in Washington until Wednesday evening for the rest of the LP conference. The next Executive Board meeting was scheduled for the following day, Thursday, April 10, and after the Election Committee report on the results, new officers, Unit 5 E-Board Rep Artie Mazzacca and I were sworn in.

That was my transition period- approximately sixty-four hours, fifty or so of which were spent in Washington - and absolutely no preparation by anyone to take over the job.

This had numerous negative effects on the Local and the membership. Some of them were tangible like the extra cost of keeping former VP Jim Joyce on the Local payroll

longer than should have been necessary. Most were intangible but more damaging in the long run. Principally, the lost time and momentum at the start of a new administration as both new Local VP Jim Nolan and I had to figure out the day to day routine workings of our new jobs. That was time that should have been spent on fundamentally changing the nature of Local 16 and we are still suffering from the slower and later start then we should have had.

The major events of the last year has been the loss of staff jobs, principally through multiple uses of SL24/HH and a significant cut in the amount of Daily Hire work. Those will be dealt with separately from this letter.

My first year in office has been devoted to internal rebuilding of Local 16 with, honestly, poor results. Examples follow.


Among the changes I instituted were the creation of some new, and a revival of some old, committees of members. These committees will consist of members, not just officers and stewards, and each will have responsibility for a particular area of the Local’s work.

Each committee will have genuine authority in its area to make decisions on policy, subject to E-Board review, that will determine the direction of the Local and actions we undertake.

The previous paragraph is written in the future tense because none of the committees are truly functional. No member, not a single one, has come forward on his or her own to volunteer for any committee. Some members have agreed to serve on a committee after being approached by myself or another member of the E-Board, but even those few committees with members are not functioning well. Yet.


I established as a simple tool for any member to communicate any idea he or she may have about improving the Union to the Executive Board. I committed that every idea submitted would be discussed by the Executive Board at a monthly meeting.

At first this was a major success with many submissions from various members. The Board has discussed each suggestion and some have and will lead to improvements.

Unfortunately, the flow of ideas has nearly stopped with submissions coming only after a monthly reminder e-mail is sent and with the majority of the submissions not being ideas at all but rather comments or complaints. Each of those is welcome but it would be better if they were sent to individual people rather than the ideas address. It would be even better if ideas continued to flow from members.


I promised to visit members in their workplace one on one without an agenda simply to hear from members directly about their experience at work and with NABET.

I started these talks my second week. They shortly came to a crashing halt. I had anticipated some positive reactions simply because I took the time to listen to members directly and personally.

I had anticipated negative reactions about both ABC and NABET for obvious reasons. What I did not anticipate was members refusing to speak with me at all.

That however happened - and more than once. It stumped me and I pursued several members over weeks with telephone calls and/or e-mails, because I could not understand why any member would simply refuse to speak with me - in private- about how to make Local 16 better. Frankly, I still do not understand but I will no longer let it concern me. I will make three attempts to contact the members randomly selected for member time talks and then move on to another member. With that change, the number of members I speak with in this manner will increase substantially.


A way to welcome new members to the Union and integrate them into the Local has been on our collective radar screens for years. Early in Gene Maxwell’s first term the Board discussed developing a new member’s welcome packet. I wrote a several page document for Gene about what I believed should be in that packet.

Nothing came of our efforts.

After I became President I returned to the idea of the welcome packet and was pleasantly surprised to discover the Sector was developing a packet as well. That project is still unfinished but I did not want to wait for the Sector to complete their version to begin the process of new member integration so I decided to hold new member luncheons once a quarter. I scheduled a date and invited all the people accepted into Local 16 for the three previous months to come to our office for lunch with the local’s Executive Officers where we would explain who we are and what we do while answering any questions the members had.

Exactly one person out of more than twenty who were invited even responded to the multiple invites and he said he could not attend.


I committed to visit every shop, every shift, during my term. VP Jim Nolan readily agreed to the idea and has been with me for every visit we have made. There have been a number though not nearly as many as I would like. We have asked Stewards to arrange these visits so their knowledge of their shops would allow us to schedule the visits when the most members would be available.

When we asked Stewards to do this only a handful responded. A second (and third) reminder did produce a total of about a dozen appointments which we have kept. Better results than the other attempts described above but not nearly good enough.

As we have just been through Steward Elections, we will shortly ask Stewards to arrange visits again.


Among the ways to involve members I wanted to use was individual planning sessions for each of our eight Units. I began my attempts with Unit 7, WABC-TV. There were two reasons for this Unit being first. I came out of it and had the most and best contacts among members of any Unit and the problems there were more numerous and severe.

I invited more than twenty members to a barbeque that I would pay for, not the Union.

The event was social both to relax people and remove it from any formal union structure. It was away from work so there would be no concerns about speaking freely. Those invited were told we would discuss how we would address the problems at WABC-TV.

Only six members even responded and only two said they would come. I cancelled the event and have not attempted another.

If you read all of the above, two things should be apparent.

1- I have spent the entire year attempting to involve members in every aspect of Local 16.

2- Few, almost none, responded.

The obvious conclusion is the Union is broken. That is the bad news.

The good news is it does not have to stay that way.

Most unions that fail do so because the leadership fails first. They fail to plan for the future. They fail to adapt to a changing environment around the union, whether it is specific to their employer(s) or the world at large. They fail to meet their members changing needs, and most of all, they fail to involve their members in every level of the union, including decision making.

You probably thought of examples of each of those failures as you read the last paragraph. You could because each of those failures has occurred at Local 16.


None of the above describes the current leadership’s attitude or approach.

We ARE planning for the future. We ARE willing to change our methods to fit the different environment we face now and expect to face later. We will employ our members directly, which is the best single example of the two previous statements. We want nothing more than to not just meet our members’ needs but to become a vital asset in each member’s management of their careers.

The essential missing ingredient is member involvement.

The first part of this letter listed the many ways I have attempted to involve our members in Local 16. I will continue these and any other things I can think of to give this Union back to its members just as I promised during my campaign. I will not give up.

Next year, I will write another letter like this. It will list another year of failures or it will detail the revitalization of Local 16. Which it is up to you.

If you respond and get involved we will succeed. If not, we will fail.

You may wait for someone else to fix the Union but you may lose your job while you do.

Or, you can take responsibility for helping to fix the Union and give yourself the best chance to have a long, successful, rewarding career in our industry.

The choice is yours.

President, NABET-CWA Local 16

Monday, May 11, 2009

Join IBEW Local 1212 Members Supporting Ralph Avigliano For Business Manager

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Support Ralph Avigliano for IBEW Local 1212 Business Manager.

If you support union democracy, fair and proactive union representation, active organizing, better wages, benefits, and working conditions, if you are tired of the same old lip service, if you are ready for change, then support Ralph Avigliano for Business Manager of IBEW Local 1212.

It is time for a change. Our union is only as strong as our willingness to participate. Be part of the change. Go to the website, join in the discussion, let Ralph know what's important to you, he'll take it to heart.

Join IBEW Local 1212 Members Supporting Ralph Avigliano For Business Manager


Bob Daraio

Saturday, May 9, 2009

A Heartfelt Farewell

To my friends and colleagues at WPIX,

Yesterday, I received word that this will be my last week as a WPIX employee. All good things come to an end. I am grateful for having had the privilege and pleasure to work along side the nicest group of people and finest broadcast professionals in our industry for over a decade.

I started as a PA at Sesame Street in 1978 as a tough skinny kid without a clue about television, but with a passion for the medium. My athletic build has long since vanished– I still have six-pack abs, they're just hidden under the keg. It has been a good run, I've loved being a video engineer at WPIX more than I can put into words, and am sad to see it end. But the idealist and optimist in me refuses to walk gently into that good night.

While it has taken me some time to process the damage these harsh economic realities and technological changes have done to the business I love, I recognize that I have the opportunity for a whole new adventure: I get to start again!

The only thing I like doing as much as shading cameras is working with the union. I've served as an elected officer of NABET, IATSE, and IBEW over the years and I believe I can make a difference as a union rep. To that end, I'll be taking the LSATs and applying to law school, while looking for a job in organized labor.

I will continue to moderate my blog that serves as a clearing center for information of interest to people working in television, film, and theater. A chance for IATSE, CWA-NABET, IBEW, DGA, AFTRA, SAG, AEA, WGA, Newspaper Guild, and non-represented entertainment industry workers to share information with an eye towards improving wages, benefits, and working conditions for all.

So, to all of you that have made my time at WPIX truly a joy, thank you for your inspiration, your kindness, and your friendship. Keep in touch.

All the best,

Bob Daraio

Robert R. Daraio
45 Hunter Street
Ossining, N.Y. 10562-4612
914-944-9626 home
914-774-2646 cell

Bacon-flavored Capitalism

This opinion piece really seems to say it pretty well. Another global problem brought about by greed and willful ignorance with plenty of blame for Democrats and Republican lawmakers alike. What do you think?


Bacon-flavored Capitalism
By David Sirota

The swine flu scare was just the latest example of why an economic theory that mixes subsidization, consolidation and deregulation endangers us all.

Even if you don't dig on swine, it has become impossible to avoid them. If you're not pummeled by television reports about Wall Street oinkers, you're bombarded by talk-radio rants about congressional pork and newspaper dispatches about swine flu.

The bacon-flavored themes probably aren't purposefully repetitive, but that's OK because these seemingly unrelated story lines share a common bond: They are each part of what might be called piggish capitalism -- an economic theory that mixes subsidization, consolidation and deregulation and that now endangers us all.

Take the pandemic scare: The Associated Press says scientists suspect swine flu began in a Mexican town that "has been protesting pollution from a large pig farm" partially owned by the Smithfield company. That's the same Smithfield that used three decades of lax antitrust enforcement and corporate welfare to become one of the few mega-corporations now controlling global agribusiness.

Whether or not swine flu is ultimately attributed to this company is less important than the
justifiable reason factory farming is a suspect. As Pew Charitable Trusts documented in 2008, researchers have long warned that industrial agriculture means high concentrations of waste, overuse of antibiotics and "continual cycling of viruses and other animal pathogens in large herds" -- all factors that increase the possibility of diseases like swine flu.

Yet, Congress has repeatedly rejected bills to mandate vigorous health inspections, stop
agribusiness consolidation and halt subsidies underwriting that consolidation, meaning these companies are now so huge and unchecked that they can pose a worldwide threat when livestock-borne disease strikes. It's easy to understand why: A virus that might have been constrained by small herds in our family-farm-dominated past can now exponentially metastasize in our factory-run present.

Thus, Wired magazine's article noting that "scientists have traced the genetic lineage of the new H1N1 swine flu to a strain that emerged in 1998 in U.S. factory farms, where it spread and mutated at an alarming rate."

Unregulated, taxpayer-subsidized oligopoly spreading risk ... Sounds familiar, right? It should, because at the very moment agribusinesses were vertically and horizontally integrating themselves, so too were financial firms.

In 1999, five days before Congress rejected a proposal to temporarily halt agribusiness
consolidation, President Clinton signed a landmark deregulation measure that "ushered in an era of aggressive bank mergers," as Reuters reports. The result was what critics like Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., predicted at the time: Wall Street created "a group of institutions which are too big to fail" and that "taxpayers are going to be called upon to cure."

Mass producing mortgage-backed securities that were quickly infected with subprime mutations, these financial factory farms became so enormous and unregulated that they spread toxic assets throughout the entire economy. Like the swine flu outbreak, risk might have been confined in a diversified industry of small firms, but that risk went global because the behemoths that created it now dominate the entire financial sector. And when losses mounted, the government made banks whole with trillion-dollar bailouts.

Incredibly, our government hasn't learned from these crises. Regulation-wise, there have been no serious initiatives to replace factory farms' voluntary self-inspections with mandatory government probes, and new financial rules have yet to move in Congress.

Additionally, the much-vaunted bank "stress tests" have been shrouded in secrecy, which experts say created the potential for rampant insider trading. Likewise, in terms of pork-barrel subsidies and mergers, agribusiness handouts and consolidation continue unabated.

Meanwhile, the White House seems loath to break up financial firms, preferring instead another bank bailout -- even as analysts warn that such bailouts fuel merger mania.

Pigs may, in fact, be the smartest domestic animal. But when charged with managing capitalism, they clearly have trouble comprehending the simplest lessons.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Witness To An Execution

By Bob Norman

I give you retired Sun-Sentinel reporter Joe Kollin, who details how employees' nest eggs were cracked and eaten to help finance Sam Zell's purchase of Tribune (and pay former executives obscene amounts of severance money). Here's Kollin's informed take, inspired by John de Groot's recent post.

Hold it! Stop the presses! You can't talk about the selfishness of Dennis FitzSimons and his friends without mentioning how they screwed every Tribune employee when they negotiated the company's sale. Rather than keep their promise to fund employee 401k plans, they quietly diverted company money to pay themselves.

Remember, the company's benefit package in 2006 and 2007 included two types of contributions to the 401k plans. In 2006, the company put the equivalent of 7 percent of our pay into each plan. Of that 7 percent, 4 percent was placed into our accounts every payday during the year; we could look online to confirm the company was keeping its promise. The remaining 3 percent, called profit sharing or cash balance, was to be put into our accounts as a lump sum at the beginning of the following year, 2007. Despite the company's finances, we got the money in February 2007 as promised.

The 2007 plan was split a similar way. The company promised us a total of 6 percent of our pay (I can't swear to the percentage). It put 3 percent (I think) into our 401k plans every payday as promised. The remaining amount, about 3 percent, was to be put into our 401k accounts in early 2008.

Along came February 2008 and the money wasn't put into our accounts. Employees began asking why. It turned out, we were told, that Fitz & Friends rescinded the 401k contributions as part of the terms of the sale even though they managed to find company money to pay themselves the millions that deGroot mentions.

The official company reason given for reneging on the promise was financial problems. The company also may have said that the promised 3 percent was profit-sharing and there wasn't enough profit to pay us, but I don't recall that being used as an excuse.

Zell, at one of the town hall meetings, reportedly said he wasn't aware that the 401k contributions had been cancelled and to show what a good guy he was, said he would try to make good on the original promise to pay us. He found money to do that in the overfunded employee pension plan. He said the plan had a surplus and he raided it to get enough to give each employee 2 percent (I'm sure of that figure, which was only 1 percent less than promised, so it wasn't too bad for us.

The pension fund, of course, contains employees' money, not company money, so it didn't cost Sam anything. And although the pension fund was over-funded then, what would happen if the economy crashed and the value of the fund's investments decreased. Oh, that happened, didn't it. Since then, Sam has also taken severance pay for terminated employees out of the employee pension fund. I don't believe it is overfunded now.

So, don't talk about all the money Fitz & Friends took from the company without mentioning how they got -- by showing complete, utter, arrogant, callous and total disregard for the employees who worked to earn that money for the company.

LAT Pressmens Union Negotiates Severance For Workers

The Union for the LA Times pressmen have been battling with management since February over the decision to lay off 63 press room workers without severance pay. Finally the two sides have come to an agreement. Below is a letter from from union president Ronnie Pineda about the negotiation:

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

The union and the company met yesterday to discuss severance for the recently laid off workers. The union accepted an enhanced version of the company's last proposal offered in February.

Our decision to accept will undoubtedly draw fire from some people, but it was obviously the right thing to do based on the 63 workers who were laid off receiving nothing in the form of severance or consideration for years of service with the company. Therefore, the union and the company agreed to the following:

The 63 employees who were laid off will receive up to 12 weeks of severance pay with recall rights as outlined under the contract; the company did not agree to any benefit continuation.

In return the union agreed to withdraw all pending grievances and 4 of the 5 pending Unfair Labor Practice charges.

Again, we realize this will bring out some critics of the union, but we felt this was the right thing to do at this time, and to the critics of the union, you should consider this, did the company do the right thing by not agreeing to treat its union and non-union employees equally?


Ronnie Pineda

The letter above was posted on Save Our Trade, the blog for the pressmen's union.

Previously on FBLA:
Pressmen Protest At The LA Times
LA Times Response To Pressman's Protest
Pressman's Union Talks Back To LAT Management
Pics From Pressmen's Protest of LAT

Sun staffers to withhold bylines to protest job cuts, Tribune's "heavy-handed tactics"


Reporters, photojournalists and other newsroom staff members, angered at shabby treatment and Tribune's dismantling of the paper, say no to bylines.

More than 50 Baltimore Sun newsroom staff members, including reporters, photographers and other bylined content producers, launched a byline strike today protesting layoffs and heavy handed tactics by owner Tribune Co.

Newsroom staff members informed their managers today that they would withhold their bylines to protest last week's surprise layoffs of roughly 60 newsroom employees. Tribune, last week, slashed the newsroom by about one third, reducing the staff to 148 employees, a fraction of what it was in 1999 when the Chicago-based company acquired The Sun, which then boasted a newsroom staff of about 420 employees.

Some employees last week were fired while they were in the midst of writing and editing stories. Others were told to pack up their belongings immediately, and others were escorted out of the main newspaper building by security guards.

"Tribune's tactics are deplorable," said Cet Parks, Executive Director of the Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild. "Employees who poured their hearts and souls into putting out a great newspaper every day were told to get out and stay out. No fanfare, no thank you, no outplacement help, just hit the streets. Maybe that's big business Tribune way, but it isn't right."

"Through its actions Tribune has demonstrated that it has little regard or respect for its employees."

"These decisions were made without any discussions on alternative costs saving methods," added Brent Jones, a Sun editor and Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild representative. "We wanted to do something to show our former co‑workers that we're upset with how they were treated last week. We produce this paper and expect our voices to be heard."

Gus Sentementes, a Sun reporter and Guild representative, said "The wisdom and experience that has left The Sun in this period is shocking. Out‑of‑town and out‑of‑touch ownership has extracted a heavy toll on the newspaper."

Sentementes criticized Tribune Chairman Sam Zell for miscalculating the accelerating decline in the newspaper industry, jeopardizing The Sun's future by racking up $13 billion in debt, driving the company into bankruptcy and "degrading our 172‑year‑old institution."

"As we saw so vividly last week, the way our colleagues were so callously treated is not the way one of Baltimore's top corporate citizens ‑‑ and a civic watchdog ‑‑ should treat its own employees," Sentementes said.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

IATSE Local 1 Apprenticeship Program Test August 29, 2009

The test for applicants to the IATSE Local One Apprenticeship Program will be conducted by the Personnel Sciences Center on Saturday, August 29, 2009 in the Gershwin Ballroom of The Westin New York at Times Square, 270 West 43rd Street (43rd Street and 8th Avenue) New York, NY beginning at 8:00 a.m..

Applicants, at least 17 years of age by December 31, 2008, desiring to take this test must report to the Union office on one of the following dates: Monday, June 22, Tuesday, June 23, Wednesday, June 24, Friday, June 26 or Saturday, June 27 between the hours of 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. to register for the test.


A test-taker earning one of the top forty (40) scores will be placed as a candidate on the Union’s Apprenticeship List.

For further information, please call IATSE Local 1 Vice President William Walters at 646-522-6718, Chairman, Board of Trustees John M. Diaz, Sr. at 646-522-6716, Trustee Daniel D. Dashman at 646-522-6714 or Trustee William Ngai at 646-522-6717.

IATSE Local One is the premier stagehand union of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (I.A.T.S.E). We are the Brothers and Sisters who construct, install, maintain, and operate the lighting and sound equipment, the scenery and special effects which thrill and delight audiences attending Broadway shows, concerts at Radio City Music Hall, Madison Square Garden and Carnegie Hall, the magnificent, spectacular productions at The Metropolitan Opera and throughout LIncoln Center, and the many entertaining broadcasts from CBS, NBC, ABC, FOX, and PBS. We work at numerous cable TV studios and make possible the presentation of major corporate industrials and special events.

IATSE Local One was one of the first theatrical unions to have pension, welfare, vacation and annuity funds paid for completely by management. It has always been a leader in the just demands of the working theatre trades. Its apprentice and organizational programs show Local One to be as innovative in its thinking now as its founders were in first creating a union.

IATSE Local One does it all -- lights, sound, video, scenery and rigging, special effects. Whatever your production needs may be, however big or small, nobody can make your dreams come true better than the skilled, talented professional stage employees of Local One. We are famous for our dedication and unique abilities.

The members of IATSE Local No. One continue in the forefront of their profession and have earned many awards including a number of Tonys and Emmys.

We only hope to carry the torch lit by our forefathers in bringing enlightenment to our future. Shows may come and shows may go, but the men and women in the shadows behind the scenes remain to serve.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Trib News Today

Tribune Picks Up HBO’s 'Entourage', 'Curb'
By Paige Albiniak - Broadcasting & Cable

Tribune Broadcasting has picked up HBO’s Entourage and Curb Your Enthusiasm for all of its 23 stations to premiere in fall 2010, according to Sean Compton, Tribune’s senior vice president of programming and entertainment, Scott Carlin, HBO’s president of domestic distribution and Ken Werner, president of Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution (WBDTD).

“I think these shows match up perfectly with some of our most successful shows, such as Two and a Half Men and Family Guy,” says Compton. “These HBO programs allow us to bring something fresh and original to the majority of our viewers, given HBO’s limited distribution.

Advertisers also will have their first chance to associate their brands with these shows.”
Curb and Entourage each will air as strips, running five days a week in late fringe. Each show will have one weekend run as well.

“Tribune stations have a long tradition of successfully programming adult sitcoms in late fringe,” said Werner. “Curb Your Enthusiasm and Entourage represent ‘A’ sitcoms for that audience. We are thrilled during these challenging times to have crafted an arrangement that offers stations flexibility and tremendous upside.”

Werner also points out that with the broadcast networks and TBS sticking with talk in late fringe, it makes sense for stations to counter-program with adult comedies. “Curb Your Enthusiasm and Entourage were produced specifically for the 10 p.m. hour on HBO. They are attuned to the late-fringe audience. For the syndicated marketplace, these shows are perfectly oriented towards independent TV stations that have run sitcoms in those time periods for decades with great success.”

Tribune has secured each show for three years in all-barter deals, with a three-minute national and four-minute local advertising split in each show.

“That’s an accommodation to the times,” says Carlin. “A few years ago, we would have gotten significant cash license fees and less barter for these shows. But the economics of the station business dictated coming up with a creative alternative to the old model. This way, Tribune gets to leverage an asset they have in excess right now, their inventory, without having to write a check. There’s tremendous upside for these guys because they can make a lot of money on the show without putting their own cash at risk.”

Meanwhile, HBO will earn $600,000-plus per episode on its sale of Entourage to MTV Network’s Spike and Comedy Central, according to sources. Entourage premieres on Spike in January 2010.

Entourage, executive produced by Doug Ellin and based very loosely on the life of movie star Mark Wahlberg, debuted on HBO in 2004, and will have 78 episodes ready to go when the show premieres in broadcast syndication. The show’s sixth season, in production now, will debut in the middle of this year.

Curb Your Enthusiasm, created by Seinfeld’s Larry David, debuted on HBO in 2000. Season seven is in production and expected to premiere on HBO this fall, making 70 episodes available by fall 2010.

As per Tribune’s contract with HBO, Tribune is not renewing HBO’s Sex and the City, and the show will leave Tribune’s air this fall. It will remain on TBS, however, which has licensed the show through 2012. After that, “I expect a very robust second cycle for that show,” says Carlin.

Broadcaster CW Weighs Giving Up Sundays

Hurt by Ad Slump and Competition From Cable, Network Moves to Put Programming in Affiliates' Hands

The CW is close to pulling the plug on its Sunday-night programming, echoing moves by other network broadcasters to trim costs as viewers defect to cable networks.

The network, a joint venture of CBS Corp. and Time Warner Inc., said Tuesday that the plan would allow it to focus its "resources on Monday through Friday nights," when its viewership is heaviest. The deal would give local stations control over filling the Sunday schedule and selling ads beginning next fall.

The move is likely to be finalized within the next two weeks, said people familiar with the matter.

The CW's shift comes as broadcast networks are under increasing pressure to cut costs, with advertisers pulling back spending and viewers scattering to the nether reaches of the cable dial. General Electric Co.'s NBC, for instance, plans to replace its weekday 10 p.m. dramas with a new talk show from "Tonight Show" host Jay Leno starting in the fall -- a move NBC executives say allows them to devote more resources to developing shows for other time periods.

The CW, which targets younger women with shows like "Gossip Girl" and "America's Next Top Model," has averaged 1.8 million prime-time viewers for the season starting in September to April 26, a 25% drop from the same period last season, according to Nielsen Co. Sundays average less than half as many viewers as weekdays.

The network appears to be making progress with its target audience. On weeknights an average of 467,000 women between 18 and 34 watched through its shows' commercials within three days of airing, up 6.6% from the year-earlier period, the network says. The measure, which includes delayed viewing on digital-video recorders, is what networks and advertisers use to set prices.

Many CW affiliates have been pushing the network to surrender Sundays, where it has never had much success, say people close to affiliate groups. Last fall, it turned over the evening to independent producer Media Rights Capital, whose shows, such as "Easy Money," bombed. Since November, the network has been airing reruns and old movies in the slot.

Giving up Sundays alone won't alone make the CW profitable, according to a person close to the situation. The network lost about $57 million in 2008 and is projected to lose $69 million in 2009, according to estimates from Deana Myers, a senior analyst for media-research firm SNL Kagan.

TV stations seem happy to program Sundays locally. Ed Wilson, president of Tribune Co.'s Tribune Broadcasting, which owns 13 CW affiliates, says he expects to expand local news and add movies. Doug Gealy, president of Acme Communications Inc., which owns five CW affiliates, says he is also looking at local sports.

Write to Sam Schechner at

Courant's Top Two Editors Leaving The Newspaper
The Hartford Courant

The top two editors of The Hartford Courant, both longtime journalists at the newspaper, will leave their jobs today and be replaced by an interim editor, the newspaper's new senior vice president announced Monday.Cliff Teutsch has been the editor and Barbara T. Roessner has been managing editor since 2006.

Roessner's position was eliminated, and she was not offered another job at the paper. Teutsch said he chose to leave.Naedine Hazell, who has held several editing positions at the newspaper, most recently as the top editor of The Courant's website, will be interim editor, said Jeff Levine, senior vice president in charge of news content at The Courant and WTIC-TV, Channel 61.

Hazell, 50, will report to Levine, who began in his newly created position last week.The changes come one month after Tribune Co., which owns The Courant and WTIC-TV, replaced former publisher Stephen D. Carver with Richard Graziano, general manager of WTIC-TV and WTXX-TV, the Chicago company's two Hartford-area television stations.

Under Graziano, who oversees the newspaper and TV stations, The Courant and WTIC-TV Fox 61 are merging into one news operation and will occupy the Broad Street building where The Courant has been located for many years.

Teutsch, 59, of Simsbury, who joined the Courant in 1980 as a reporter, called The Courant "one of the great places to do journalism" but said he no longer felt the job fit him."Important work demands to be done here by an editor who is in synch with those above him," Teutsch said in a memo to the staff. "My best assessment is I'm not that editor ... leaving now is my call."

Roessner, 55, of West Hartford, has been with the newspaper since 1978."Cliff and Bobbie have been guiding forces here at The Courant for more than two decades. I have known both of them for several years and have always been impressed with their passion for quality journalism," Levine said in a memo to the staff.

Teutsch and Roessner presided over a tumultuous period in The Courant's 245-year history, including deep staff reductions and a wholesale redesign — along with work that gained national recognition. The series "Mentally Unfit, Forced to Fight," showed that the military was sending unfit soldiers into combat and led to reforms in Congress and the Pentagon.

Roessner, a former columnist, said she was not leaving of her own initiative."I don't think I'm capable of leaving this place voluntarily," she wrote to the staff. "I'm so invested here on so many levels."

Roessner said in an interview that she considers the integration of the paper, the television stations and their websites "long overdue. We've lost so many people," she said of The Courant. "We've been in a long period of contraction. This is going to be a new era of expansion."Levine said there are no plans for further job cuts at The Courant, which has shed 45 percent of its news employees since the start of 2008.

The selection of a permanent editor for The Courant is "still to be worked out," Levine said."If we do not create a business model that allows us to succeed and thrive, the important work that journalists do could be in jeopardy," Levine said. "Newspapers haven't adapted well to the Internet, to the way readers use media."

DeGroot Shoots Down Tribune's Golden Parachutes

By Bob Norman

Now former Sun-Sentinel reporter and writing coach John de Groot lays out the audacity -- and outrageousness -- of the severance packages paid to former Tribune executives at the time they unloaded the company to Sam Zell in a doomed, debt-laden deal.

Let's put it this way: It's a lot better than this one-week's-pay-for-every-year-of-service BS. Good de Groot knows the power of juxtaposition, and the Tribune financial figures complete a portrait of a corporate train robbery.

"Gold? We Don't Need No Stinking Gold!"
By John de Groot

Knowing they'd soon lose their jobs, Tribune executives outfitted themselves with diamond encrusted platinum parachutes, after brokering a deal to sell the giant communications conglomerate to real estate investor Sam Zell for some $8 billion in March of 2007.

Take Dennis FitzSimons, Tribune Co. Chairman and CEO who walked away with a total benefits package worth nearly $40 million when he resigned from his post following the Zell take-over.

A severance package of this stunning magnitude may offer a unique perspective for the 30-some Sun-Sentinel newsroom employees facing cost cutting pink slips this month - their stone parachutes totaling one week's salary for every year they worked for the south Florida paper.

In contrast, Tribune staff reporter Julie Johnsson outlined the details of the platinum parachutes her bosses negotiated with Sam Zell in a story published in the April 7, 2007 edition of the Chicago paper:

"Severance for departing executives will equal three times the highest salary they were paid during the previous three years, as well as 200 percent of their target bonus paid in the year (2007) the deal occurs.

"The severance packages established by the Tribune for its executives, none of whom have employment contracts, also pay them up to 25 percent of their base pay and other perks for three years after they leave the company."

Johnsson goes on to report that FitzSimons "stands to gain an additional $22.9 million by selling his Tribune holdings, restricted shares and stock acquired by option exercise in the merger, filings show."

The following reflects the total compensation the Tribune Company's then top executives* received during fiscal years 2006 (when the company was still publicly held) and 2007 (when Zell became owner):

Dennis J. FitzSimons
Chairman and CEO
2007 $26,973,645
2006 $6,336,407

Donald C. Grenesko
Senior VP Finance/Administration
2007 $4,787367
2006 $2,519,164

Scott C. Smith
President Tribune Publishing
2007 $4,513.747
2006 $2,607,029

John E. Reardon
President Tribune Broadcasting
2007 $3,972,806
2006 $1,425,222

(*All four are no longer with the company, having been replaced by Zell's management team.)

As a further bit of Tribune trivia, consider the following "bottom line" operating profit comparisons for the media conglomerate after Fitzsimmons became Chairman and CEO in 2003

Division Operating Profits for:

Publishing - 58% decrease
2007 $368,191,000
2003 $878,388,000

Broadcasting - 38% decrease
2007 $357,341,000
2003 $491,733,000

Tribune Company
Total Net Income
- 90% decrease
2007 $86,945,000
2003 $891,379,000

Shareholders' Equity
Tribune Company - 150% decrease
2007 ($3,513,940,000)
2003 $7,028,124,000


Friday, May 1, 2009

'Chicago Trib,' 'LAT': Editorial Clashes With Biz Side

by Erik Sass

When Sam Zell led a buyout of the Tribune Co. in April 2007, he promised that management would respect the integrity of the editorial operations, but newsroom staffers evinced skepticism. Two years, hundreds of layoffs, and one bankruptcy later, newsrooms at the company's biggest papers are in a state of ferment about breaches of the boundary between editorial and advertising operations.

Indeed, as Zell and his minions look increasingly like an unwanted foreign regime, a bona fide newsroom uprising may be in the offing.

In the latest controversy, 55 reporters and editors at the flagship Chicago Tribune signed an email to editor Gerould Kern and managing editor Jane Hirt accusing the paper's marketing department of surveying subscribers about unfinished stories to gauge their reaction -- laying the groundwork for deciding which articles get published based on market sentiment.

According to the Associate Press, which first reported the email, the editorial staffers still don't know whether articles were changed or canceled because of responses to these surveys.

Either way, they wrote, the marketing surveys set a bad precedent, as it's hard to imagine any other use for the information. "It is a fundamental principle of journalism that we do not give people outside the newspaper the option of deciding whether or not we should publish a story, whether they be advertisers, politicians or just regular readers." In the wake of the email, Kern said the marketing surveys were an experimental project that would now be suspended, following a brief period of operation.

The fracas at the company's flagship paper comes just weeks after the newsroom at another big Tribune paper, the Los Angeles Times, lashed out at management for allowing an ad resembling an article on the front cover of the newspaper.

The ad, for NBC's new LA police drama "Southland," was run over the objections of editor Russ Stanton and a dozen other senior editors. In an interview with TheWrap, LAT executive editor John Arthur called the front-page ad "horrible," "unfortunate" and "a mistake." In the interview, Arthur also took issue with an ad for "The Soloist" that appeared to be a supplement using LA Times-style font from section fronts.

The conflict between editorial and business operations at the LAT has been long simmering. Last summer, the original Los Angeles Times Magazine was closed and replaced by a new publication, with a new editorial staff, entirely under the control of the Los Angeles Times Media Group. In short, control of the magazine came from the business -- not editorial -- side.

For ethical reasons, Stanton requested that the Media Group not call itself the Los Angeles Times Magazine, since it is not under the control of the newspaper's editorial staff. The new publication was given a slightly different name: L.A. Los Angeles Times Magazine.

In a memo to employees last month, John T. O'Loughlin, the executive vice president and CMO for target media at the LAT Media Group, referred to the magazine as a "flagship publication" of the newspaper -- appearing to negate the earlier, mostly semantic distinction.

Help Make Corporate Greed the "The Biggest Loser" at NBCU!

Jim Joyce

Subject: Help Make Corporate Greed the "The Biggest Loser" at NBCU!NBCU, and its corporate parent General Electric, are playing a new reality game with union employees and shareholders alike.

The game is "Corporate Greed", and the goal is to make those who contribute to the success of the company into "The Biggest Losers", while senior executives and corporate board members line their own pockets.

In current negotiations with its workers, NBCU is pushing to change the 75 year relationship NABET-CWA has had with company.

The contract expired on March 31, and union negotiators are working to reach a new agreement, but NBCU is insistent on making draconian changes. The quality of these jobs and associated benefits would be significantly reduced, and would greatly impact union workers in New York, Chicago, Burbank, andWashington, D.C. who have been loyal to the company throughout their careers.

Click on the link below to tell GE CEO Jeff Immelt and NBCU Chairman Jeff Zucker that NABET-CWA members deserve a fair contract at NBCU and that workers and shareholders will not be the "The Biggest Losers" at GE!;