In an area rocked by persistent declines in central industries, like automobile manufacture, a group of Detroit journalists are being asked to accept a 12% wage cut. Unwilling to do so, they're publishing their distress to 100 Facebook friends and interested visitors.
Matt Helms, a journalist with the Detroit Free Press, explained the situation.In his Sunday introductory post, page administrator
"We're in negotiations now with the Detroit Media Partnership, which wants 12% pay cuts, a wage freeze (which we've had for two years) and higher worker payments for a crappier health care plan than we've already got. We've already kissed raises goodbye, switched to a less-than-good health care system ...and took furloughs while the higher ups in corporate get raises and bonuses. Enough is enough."
"While Gannett CEO Craig Dubow slashed thousands of jobs last year without regard to newsroom quality, he took home $4.4 million, up from $3.1 million in 2008. And he wants to cut the salaries of hard-working journalists by 12% and gut health care coverage while he pockets a 41% raise? Dubow, that's how you spell the demise of newspapers."
Is this page just a place to air grievances and blow off steam, or can it be used to sway public opinion? Will it prove to be a powerful way to funnel unwelcome attention on the Gannett chain's demands or a less-than-passing annoyance? As much as Facebook has grown, does the management of an old-guard chain even understand how much attention it can focus on a labor dispute most won't have been aware of?
Rich Harshbarger, Vice President for Consumer Marketing and Communications for Detroit Media Partnership, the company that manages business functions for The Detroit News and Detroit Free Press, responded. Sort of. (The first sentence is strange, but the second is pretty standard.)
"Social media is a communications tool for companies and organizations to share information almost immediately. It would be inappropriate for Detroit Media Partnership to comment further while negotiations are ongoing."
What do you think of the use of social media in labor issues? Valuable tool or time-out room?