Meet Mark and Mike, newest executive committee members

They’ve been hard at work in their positions for six months already, but it’s not too late to introduce them.

Mike Harrington and Mark Sommer are the newest members of the Buffalo Newspaper Guild’s Executive Committee,  appointed to fill vacancies on the board in November.

Mark also recently became the Guild’s vice president for contract compliance, taking over the post formerly held by Phil Fairbanks.

We thought it would be a good idea for each of them to introduce themselves to the rest of the Guild, for those who might not know them. Here they are in their own words.

Mike Harrington

Age: 46
Job title: Sportswriter
Coverage: Sabres/Bisons-MLB beat reporter/baseball columnist; Bisons-MLB since 1993, Sabres since 2007.
Tenure at The News:  Started part-time in 1984, full-time in  1987.
Previous beats: High schools 1987-1992, colleges 1992-2007.
On joining the Executive Committee:  “I have always been a bit of a contract watchdog in our department in an unofficial role. These are exciting times and highly challenging times in journalism and at The News in particular. Because of that, I felt it was important as a longtime staffer to take on more of a defined role in support of younger members just as many previous Guild leaders have done for me over the years.”

Mark Sommer

Age: 57
Job title: Enterprise reporter on the city desk
Coverage: The range of topics includes the waterfront, preservation/architecture, the West Side, the Elmwood district, social movements and cultural organizations.
Tenure at The News:  I started at The News Aug. 9, 1999.  I was arts editor my first three years before becoming a full-time writer.
On joining the Executive Committee:  “I needed to contribute more. These are tough times, and we’re all needed to do our fair share if we expect the union that’s served us so well to remain strong.”
Background:  I didn’t stiudy journalism in college,  After graduating, I managed two independent movie theaters (and sometimes was the projectionist) in Harvard Square.  I also taugt myself to freelance on the side, and eventually worked parttime as an on-air news reporter at radio station WBCN. Several years later, and resolved to make a career out of journalism, I worked at the Topeka Capital-Journal in Kansas for four years and the (Albany) Times Union for two before joining The News.
First involvement with a union:  As a teenager living in southern California, I read about the mistreatment of farmworkers, and volunteered with the United Farmworkers Union, which was still under the leadership of  Cesar Chavez.  None of my friends were interested in doing this, and my parents were perplexed.  But my mom would drop me off at a church, and with other volunteers we would canvass neighborhoods, or leaflet or hold picket lines at supermarkets (usually getting kicked off the premises), to urge people not to eat nonunion grapes (and later, nonunion lettuce). Doing so made me feel like I was part of something bigger than myself, and I was doing something right. It was years before I could eat grapes again with a clear conscience…