The Guild and The News in the digital age: Our role in the era of the Internet, social media, cell phones

May 28, 2015 — The need for The Buffalo News to reinvent itself in the digital age is a reality that no one denies.

And as the newspaper tries to figure out how to succeed in the era of Facebook and Twitter, members want to know how the Guild views its role.

This is particularly so in light of recent discussions in the newsroom and elsewhere regarding what the future holds for us and the paper we work for.

The need to create a successful online and mobile presence is a priority that should be addressed with creativity and in partnership with management. The Guild’s commitment to this process is evident in our willingness, past and present, to come to the bargaining table to address digital and other new media issues.

The Guild has shown time and again it will work with management when asked to do so.

However, The Guild is also committed to protecting Guild members’ rights to proper training, to the provision of necessary job-related equipment, and to fair compensation for work done on The News’ behalf, regardless of how news and advertising is delivered.

We will not embrace the future in a way that jeopardizes our members’ ability to be part of it. And, we hope The News will approach The Guild and its members as partners and not problems.

“We have a history of reaching compromises that give The News more flexibility but still protect the rights of Guild members,” said Guild President Henry Davis.

For instance, an agreement in 2013 between management and The Guild made it possible for sports reporters Jerry Sullivan and Bucky Gleason to host their own sports television show. The Guild also made one of the biggest concessions ever in its contract protections when it agreed in 2007 to waive exclusive jurisdiction rights to online work to help The News succeed on the web.

The Guild in current contract bargaining has continued to attempt cooperation by tackling three News proposals related to digital, mobile and new media issues.

First, we negotiated a tentative agreement to codify, as a template for future situations, the terms of the outside media agreement for Guild employees along the lines of the agreement known informally as the Bucky-Sully agreement.

Second, we negotiated another tentative agreement to expand the cell phone allowance. The monthly allowance, if The News determines an employee should have a cell phone, would equal the per participant cost The News pays its cellular provider.

Third, we rejected a News proposal to allow work produced online by excluded non-employees to also be used in the print newspaper, a violation of our jurisdiction. The Guild does not intend to be a party to its own demise.

However, we addressed the larger issue behind that proposal – The News’ desire for more content — by reaching a tentative agreement over the creation of a new Guild-represented position in the newsroom known as News Aides, whose work could appear both online and in print.

Guild leadership will continue to keep an open mind in regard to issues that arise as a result of changes in the way people obtain and consume news and advertising.

Both sides must work together to ensure a long and stable future for The News, as well as The Guild. We believe our perspective is reasonable as we all struggle with the challenges confronting news organizations and their employees.