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., according to the Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild.
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.