Thursday, December 14, 2006

When lands were disputed and misgoverned
Came ministers commended as loyal
--Lao Tzu

Newspapers seem to be going crazy all across the country (must be that politicians-developers-unionists cerberus wants to end all newspapers as we know them!)--the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News, Boston Globe, Wall Street Journal--all of them have labor-managment tussles of one sort or another going on right now.

Still, none of them have resorted to demanding a loyalty oath the way Wendy McCaw has done recently at the News-Press. You can read the entire missive that she sent to her employees dated December 5, but here are the key sentences:

We are also going to protect our management right to expect the loyalty of our employees. Public disparagement/disloyalty of the management of Santa Barbara News-Press and/or the newspaper it produces will not be tolerated, and appropriate discipline will be imposed.

Those "/"s are doozies, no? Yeah, it's probably not best to talk about how bad your place of work is, or to belittle its product; when things stink that much, you should change things, or in the case of immovable management, get out. But disloyalty of management sounds like some kind of regal fealty. The second slash sets up some weird separation between the idea of--perhaps the business of--the News-Press and its product, oddly enough also called the News-Press. If the News-Press didn't put out a newspaper, would it exist? (Hey, no jokes about whether it really exists right now.)

It's pretty simple, as any parent, teacher, coach, heck, even lover learns, you can't demand loyalty. You have to earn it. Do a little something that makes people think you've got their ass covered, too, and you'll earn undying allegiance. Barking, "Be steadfast, or else!" tends to only work if you're trolling for bottoms and insist you're a top, and I'm paraphrasing Village Voice personal ads, not Cole Porter.

From the "there are other ways department" we have this story in the New York Post about the goings-on at Newsday:

More than 100 Newsday reporters and editors signed a letter of protest blasting Tribune boss Dennis FitzSimons for widespread cuts that have sliced about one-third of the paper's editorial staff over the past three years.

"In its six years of ownership, Tribune has damaged Newsday as an instrument of public information and accountability and, for that matter, as a business," the letter said. The protest was organized by the rank-and-file editorial workers.

Newsday Editor-in-Chief John Mancini, who was not among the signers, pledged there would be no retaliation against the 113 newsroom employee who signed the letter. They amount to about one-third of the total.

"That has never happened here and it won't happen here," Mancini told The Post yesterday when asked about potential for retaliation.

What's more, further down the article Newsday Publisher Tim Knight said, "We'll continue to discuss these issues with all employees in open forums."

Open forums? No retaliation, let alone "appropriate discipline"? And to think it's New Yorkers who have the reputation of being pushy and high-strung and Santa Barbara is supposed to be the capital of the laid back life.


Anonymous allegro805 said...

The difference may be that Newsday brass have an iota of management training and/or skill and/or common sense.

9:27 AM  
Anonymous Michael said...

Just read about Eric Zahm, the shop owner who received a threatening letter from one of Wendies hired hands. It is rumored that King Christian X of Denmark chose to wear a yellow Star of David along with his countrymen when the nazis came in from Germany and were "compelling" the Jews to wear them. Normally, I wouldn't care, but if McCaw is going to have some lawyer intimidating people for expressing their opinions, then we should all put that very same sign in our windows! She can sue the whole town for their opinions. Where can I get one of those signs?

12:44 PM  

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