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]phx.com.
Issue Date: March 22 - 28, 2002