Providence's Alternative Source!

Bylines set to diminish on Fountain Street


The old saw is that the only people who notice bylines are reporters and their mothers. But judging by the reaction to three previous byline strikes, the Providence Newspaper Guild sees pulling the names as an effective way to publicize the union's protracted stalemate with Belo-backed management at the Providence Journal.

"Our experience is that the public does notice," says Guild administrator Tim Schick. "The news media notices -- the fact that you're calling me right now. The people who are covered by the reporters notice. And we've also discovered that the general public notices something is wrong. I was [recently] out at a social event, and when people found out I work for the newspaper Guild, they started asking me" about the shrinking number of bylines in the Journal.

Although West Bay reporter Tony DePaul has conducted an individual byline strike for more than a year, the number of "wildcatters" has expanded in recent weeks, particularly after Karen Lee Ziner was taken off a domestic violence story following a complaint from the alleged victim, to at least 13 reporters and photographers (see "Wishful thinking," News, August 16). Seeking to make the most of the situation, the Guild has called for a general byline strike from next Monday, September 10 through Sunday, September 16. "What we want to accomplish is to raise public awareness that the situation is not normal at the Journal and cause people to ask questions," says Schick.

Columnists like M. Charles Bakst are contractually precluded from pulling their bylines, but Guild officials still anticipate a high degree of participation. This means, at least for a week, that the entire Journal may closely resemble the South County edition, where the presence of three wildcatters means that the local pages are sometimes devoid of bylines.

Indications are that such actions do have an impact. "Management attempts to put on a game face," says Schick, "but the last time we did this, [executive editor] Joel Rawson tried to strong-arm several people into putting bylines onto their stories, and the individuals resisted. The pressure tactic used by management indicates it does bother them."

Issue Date: September 7 - 13, 2001