Members protest The News’ overreliance on freelance writers

guild-holiday-01Buffalo Newspaper Guild members who work at The Buffalo News rolled out a special red-and-green logo on Twitter last week, in keeping with the holiday season, to protest the paper’s dramatically expanded use of freelance writers to cover core news beats.

The Twitter protest, organized by reporters and editors at The News, is intended to cast a spotlight on the importance of quality journalism in our community and who is best equipped to deliver that vital public service.

Guild members at the paper used their popular Twitter feeds to express opposition to The News’ overreliance on freelance writers, particularly in sports coverage.

“We have repeatedly appealed to managers at The Buffalo News to partner with the Guild in the production of its online content,” said Guild President Sandra Tan. “The best way to safeguard the paper’s credibility and high-caliber journalism is to invest in its dedicated and highly skilled staff writers.”

By switching their Twitter images to the special holiday Guild logo, writers and editors showed their solidarity in issuing that message.

Last week’s protest, the second in two weeks, began at the Bills-Patriots game when Guild members in the sports department changed their avatars to the Guild logo. It was expanded last week to the rest of the newsroom.

As one sportswriter said in a tweet, “The Guild logo reflects our union’s continuing efforts to maintain integrity and professionalism in our Bills’ coverage and throughout the newsroom.”

The union also wants the public to be aware of what is happening at the largest news gathering organization in Western New York and the risks it poses to the future security of members and their families, most of them longtime members of the local community.

The protest follows months of in-house efforts by the Guild to work with News management on improving quality and professionalism by using and hiring Guild employees instead of independent contractors. Numerous efforts have been made to show how management can improve coverage quality while saving on payroll costs and building administrative efficiency.

So far, The News has rejected overtures to engage in serious talks about adjusting its current sports coverage model, and the Guild is concerned about how such a model may become standard across the newsroom.

Aside from increasing awareness, the Guild is not asking the public to take any action to support their members at this time, but please stay tuned as the struggle for quality journalism in Buffalo continues.