CWA convention delegates take stand on press freedom

CWA President Chris Shelton speaks at the 76th CWA Convention in Pittsburgh. (Photo courtesy of CWA)
CWA President Chris Shelton speaks at the 76th CWA Convention in Pittsburgh. (Photo courtesy of CWA)

Times for journalists were difficult enough before November 2016 rolled around.

But a battered industry received more bad news with the election of an anti-press administration, which came amid a rising tide of attacks on journalists across the United States.

Press freedom was a central topic of conversation among those who attended the NewsGuild-CWA sector conference and the subsequent 76th CWA Convention in Pittsburgh from Aug. 4 to 8.

The Buffalo Newspaper Guild was represented at the sector conference by Guild President Sandy Tan and Administrative Officer Kim Leiser and at the CWA Convention by Guild Vice President for Mobilization Colin Dabkowski. Leiser served as an alternate to the convention.

Chief among topics of importance to Guild members at the CWA Convention was the presentation and passage of a resolution in support of press freedom submitted on behalf of members of The NewsGuild and the National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians.

The resolution, which argued for laws that would make it a felony to attack a journalist, passed with resounding support on Aug. 8 after Guild members made rousing speeches about the importance of protecting reporters’ rights and ability to report the news.

“Make no mistake. They are coming for us,” said John Hill, president of the Providence Newspaper Guild, CWA Local 31041, before the body of the convention. “The resolution before you calls for laws that make it a felony to attack a journalist like those in NABET or the NewsGuild while he or she is simply doing their job. This is necessary, because such attacks are not merely an attack on another person, they’re an attack on our right to know what the powerful in our governments are up to and it’s an assault on the first amendment to the United States constitution.”

Toledo Newspaper Guild President Nolan Rosencranz spoke out about the Trump administration’s charges of “fake news.”

“Our members are not just on the front lines fighting against hedge funds, greedy corporations and inept publishers who are attacking the industry from within by slashing staff and budgets, eroding our ability to do our jobs,” Rosencranz said. “We are fighting against a president who uses outrageous attacks on our members for his own disingenuous purposes. We are fighting against fake news bullshit, reminding our communities that Guild members are professionals, and that a Guild-CWA shop and a NABET shop is a real news shop.”

The convention body also considered a controversial amendment to the CWA constitution repealing age limits for national officers, which passed despite opposition from NewsGuild members.

In a win for print journalism, NewsGuild members also led pushback against another amendment that would have all but eliminated the print version of CWA’s member newsletter in favor of a largely digital outreach effort that would have reached far fewer members.