Cuts at Philly papers will hurt coverage, says Black journalists association
Tara Miller, John N. Mitchell and Sarah Glover. All talented African-American reporters and photographers — and now all gone from the Philadelphia Daily News and Philadelphia Inquirer — thanks to frightening layoffs that, according to the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists, will effect newsroom diversity and the bottom line of Philadelphia Media Network, the parent company of both newspapers.
Glover, the long-time, award winning photographer, first with the Inquirer then with the Daily News, released a statement on her Facebook page about her departure and the climate she and the others worked in.
“Tuesday afternoon, I was told by my supervisor that I was being laid off and that I should talk to Human Resources; one of the newsroom editors said the same thing to me,” read Glover’s statement. “I spoke to the Guild on Tuesday after those brief meetings and they told me my position was vulnerable for layoff. On Wednesday afternoon The Guild confirmed that I was going to be laid off. It was suggested to me that I apply for the buyout by the Wednesday deadline so I could receive a better package… with my years of service the difference between a layoff and a buyout was $10,000 and an additional month of healthcare.
“I submitted the paperwork for the buyout on Wednesday afternoon,” Glover’s statement continued. “I received an email that my voluntary separation was accepted Wednesday.”
Glover’s acceptance of the forced buyout — which this is generally considered — is a mighty blow to an already fractured newsroom; for the sitting president of the PABJ to be ousted in such a manner shows how much diversity isn’t valued in either newsroom.
“This is a sad day for Blacks in journalism; as you know, the PABJ is the founding chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists, and these are all friends of mine who no longer have jobs,” said PABJ Vice President for Print Chris Murray, who also serves as adjunct professor of journalism at Temple University. “The sad reality is that we have to start considering diversity when it comes down to making these cuts.”
PMN plans on eliminating 45 positions this month, on the heels of the 20 positions cut last year. This coming soon after a New York Times’ report stating that PMN is trying to sell the papers — which would give the paper multiple owners over the past few years; the same report says both papers may only be worth $70 million — after being sold for a whopping $515 million just six years ago.
But to lose Glover, Mitchell and Miller is particularly damaging.
“Sarah knows more about multi-media journalism than anyone I know, and Mitchell is an outstanding professional, a guy just starting to get his shot,” Murray said. “It’s really an appalling situation all the way around. You’d think they would be indispensable.”
But if PMN is truly conscious of its bottom line, it would look to create diversity, not cut it.
“A city like Philadelphia, with a minority-majority, its in [the owners’] best interest to consider diversity, no matter how difficult this economic transition may be,” Murray said, noting the PABJ will do all it can to support its comrades and help them find work elsewhere. “They have to consider the community [journalists] work in. In the future, minorities will become the majority, and they have to realize it’s really economically in their best interests to have a diverse staff.
“They want people to read the paper, and they want to create an audience to read the paper, when it’s right here,” Murray continued. “It breaks my heart to see this happen to Black press; we’re always the last one hired and the first one fired.”
The National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ), of which Glover is a former secretary, sounded off as well.
“The journalism industry as a whole has suffered tremendous losses during this time in transition,” NABJ President Gregory H. Lee Jr. said in a statement. “Newsrooms suffer greatly when they lose individuals who have the journalistic impact of Sarah Glover. We view her departure from the Daily News as another unsettling attack on diversity. She is a leader in the newsroom and the community. She was among the first photojournalists at the Daily News to develop and hone video skills that she also taught others. Her departure sends a disturbing message.
“As I stated in my President's column in January: Diversity is a mindset and a business imperative,” Lee added. “It is NABJ's job to change the mentalities of media executives who are not attuned to the economic and moral value of newsrooms that reflect their communities."
The union representing journalists at Philadelphia's two largest newspapers might challenge the latest round of newsroom cuts, which coincide with the company's possible sale.
PMN plans to cut 45 positions at The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Daily News and Philly.com this month. The newsrooms lost 20 jobs last year.
Meanwhile, New York creditors that took over the company in a bankruptcy auction are seeking to sell Philadelphia Media Network after 18 months.
It was reported that Bill Ross, executive director of the local Newspaper Guild, is seeking more information on company finances to see if the job cuts are necessary. The union might otherwise challenge the 19 union layoffs, he said.
"They're now saying it's economic, most likely I would request for them to prove it's economic," Ross said on Friday.