SPJ Florida condemns Gannett leadership for conflicting information
In a new letter signed by SPJ Florida’s officers and Board of Directors, the chapter unanimously condemns Gannett leadership for resisting efforts to recognize Florida newsroom unions.
As noted in the board’s letter, journalists at three Florida newspapers that announced intent to unionize haven’t been able to hold elections because of tactics from parent company, Gannett. But when reporters covered the issue, they revealed conflicting information from the company’s president of news, Maribel Perez Wadsworth.
For that reason, SPJ Florida Pro Chapter is calling on Gannett leaders to voluntarily recognize these unions or make a mail-in election possible. We encourage other local SPJ chapters as well as our national organization to do the same.
This is SPJ Florida’s latest of many efforts to support newsrooms unionizing. Read more about that on our union page.
Find the full letter below:
Full letter text:
May 6, 2020
Dear Paul Bascobert, Mike Reed, Maribel Perez Wadsworth and Samantha Howland:
As journalists, our most foundational role is to seek truth and report it.
Journalists at three Florida papers have announced their intent to unionize, but have been unable to hold an election because of resistance from leaders of their parent company, Gannett.
Reporters who covered the efforts found conflicting information from Gannett’s president of news, Maribel Perez Wadsworth.
The Philadelphia Inquirer quoted Wadsworth as saying the company “did not and do not oppose a mail-in election” for the union campaigns.
However, the company filed three motions titled “opposition to motion to order mail ballot election.” The company told The Inquirer the motions incorrectly stated its position, but its actions paint a different picture. A CNN article described the company’s tactics as “stonewalling.”
Journalists at The Palm Beach Post announced their intent to unionize on Feb. 18. Gannett would not voluntarily recognize the union and its members have been unable to vote since then.
In contrast, the Tribune-owned Orlando Sentinel staff announced their intent to unionize on Feb. 26, and Tribune agreed to hold a mail-in election. The McClatchy-owned Miami Herald staff announced their intent to unionize on Oct. 2, and held an election on Oct. 30, which included mail-in ballots. If those companies can make it happen, why can’t Gannett?
At the very least, Gannett, the largest newspaper owner in the country, should hold its executives to the same standards as its journalists and demand honesty and transparency from Wadsworth and any other company spokespeople.
SPJ Florida Pro Chapter officers and its Board of Directors support journalists by supporting unions. We believe that journalists have an important job to do, and they can do it better if they have a collective voice in how they’re treated. And we bristle when we hear that the leaders of news organizations are trying to take away that voice.
We are once again calling on Gannett leaders to voluntarily recognize the Palm Beach Post, the Southwest Florida News Guild and the Delaware News Guild or at the very least, hold a mail-in election as soon as possible. News organizations lose when their journalists must go to battle for their rights. And now more than ever, news needs a win.
We look forward to hearing when in the near future these journalists will be able to cast their votes.
President, SPJ Florida Pro Chapter
The Society of Professional Journalists Florida Pro Chapter Board
Emily Bloch, president
Cassidy Alexander, vice president
Lulu Ramadan, VP of programming
Michele Boyet, VP of membership
Brendon Lies, secretary
Christopher Persaud, treasurer
Christiana Lilly, past president
Kristen Grau, student rep
For more on SPJ Florida’s work to support journalists, visit spjflorida.com