Providence's Alternative Source!

Guild takes issue with NENA's plaudits for paper


It's usually a source of collective pride for staffers when their newspaper wins an award, particularly a big regional recognition. But in a sign of the acrimony of the ongoing dispute between management at the Providence Journal and the Providence Newspaper Guild, Guild members last week protested plans by the New England Newspaper Association to cite the ProJo as Newspaper of the Year in the metro category.

The Guild's effort began with the sending of letters to members of the committee that was judging the contest. Then, prior to the start of NENA's March 15 award presentation at the Omni Parker House in Boston, three Guild members posted a banner near an entrance to the hotel, distributed fliers at a breakfast for attendees, and then passed out more handbills to those going to the recognition event.

Using full-page house ads, the Journal has touted the Newspaper of the Year designation, pointing to the way the paper outdistanced the Boston Globe, Boston Herald, and Hartford Courant. The ProJo, which also won NENA's Publick Occurrences award for environmental reporter Peter Lord's lead paint series, cited NENA's description of it as "a paper that impresses with its newsiness, even in its features. They demonstrated how events and issues touched people's lives."

The Guild flier, though, said union members were "astonished to learn that the New England Newspaper Association may be about to honor the Providence Journal as `Newspaper of the Year.' Your award would come at a most unlikely time - when this once-award winning newspaper has taken a very public dive in quality. Such an award would strike every Rhode Islander as bizarre. Readers tell us time and time again that the newspaper is much diminished since a bottom-line-focused Texas company took it over."

Guild-management relations entered a tailspin about two years after the Belo Corporation bought the Journal in 1997 (see "Sinking feeling," News, March 8). Among other things, the Guild flier pointed to a "self-destructive union-busting mission that has driven away many of [the paper's] most talented reporters," and the ProJo's censorship of news about the conflict, including the absence of coverage about a recent National Labor Relations Board hearing that considered 44 allegations of federal labor violations by management. The handbill concluded, "Law-breaking management, diminished newspaper, betrayed readership, demoralized staff - this is your Newspaper of the Year? What does this say about the rest of the NENA newspapers?"

Ian Donnis can be reached at idonnis[a]

Issue Date: March 22 - 28, 2002