Roanoke Times criticized for coverage of sexual harassment suit

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ROANOKE, Va. — Journalists of The Roanoke Times and Laker Weekly are united in denouncing The Roanoke Times’ recent news coverage of a wrongful termination suit brought against the newspaper by a former human resources worker who alleged a current newsroom manager sexually harassed her and others.

The Roanoke Times coverage of the lawsuit, which was settled on May 27, did not live up to the newspaper’s longstanding ethical guidelines for reporting about ourselves. Two weeks ago, members of the Timesland News Guild’s executive committee met with the paper’s regional editor to express concern over the allegations and disappointment with how the lawsuit’s filing and settlement were covered in the paper. The company has violated the trust of our readers and damaged the credibility of this institution and everyone who works here. The regional editor:

Broke precedent by delaying coverage of the lawsuit after it had been made public, taking 20 days from the lawsuit’s discovery by a court reporter until publishing a story;

Forbade a reporter assigned to the story from seeking comment from pertinent sources, an editorial decision that was made based on advice from a company lawyer (a partner at the same law firm that was defending the company in court);

Removed from a draft story all details enumerating the sexual harassment allegations and claims of company inaction and retaliation, in a meritless claim that the sexual misconduct allegations were not relevant to the lawsuit;

Mandated the placement of the story at the bottom of the business page and headline wording that made no mention of sexual misconduct or wrongful termination in an extraordinary instance of editorial overreach;

Directed staff to delete Twitter and Facebook posts that promoted the story of the lawsuit’s filing, hiding the story from potentially thousands of additional readers.

These editorial decisions further erode the trust of readers in an age of rising suspicion about the reliability of news coverage. The journalists of The Roanoke Times want our readers to know that we reject these editing decisions and continue to fight for the highest journalistic standards in all our coverage. We are deeply disappointed that some of the newspaper’s leadership does not share our commitment to full and fair coverage of our company.

On June 15, the guild’s executive committee, representing about 50 journalists and staff, sent a letter to management calling for the company to commission a thorough and independent investigation into the sexual misconduct allegations described in the lawsuit. The company responded and insisted it had “followed the guidelines of our policy and conducted a full and thorough investigation.” It did not provide, as requested, a detailed copy of the company’s complaint procedures, nor respond to a request for an independent and transparent investigation of the sexual harassment allegations.

Given the manner in which The Roanoke Times handled news coverage of this lawsuit, we question the thoroughness and credibility of the company’s investigation into the claims.

We publicly call on Lee Enterprises to commission an independent, transparent investigation into these allegations and to share an unredacted report of the findings with all newsroom employees. Nothing less will ensure workplace safety.

### About The Roanoke Times: Serving Roanoke and Southwest Virginia since its founding in 1886 by M.H. Claytor, The Roanoke Times publishes a daily print and online newspaper to about 30,000 print subscribers and more than 40,000 daily digital readers. Widely recognized for hard-hitting investigative stories on subprime lending, urban renewal, segregation, poverty, immigration and government corruption, the paper has been a Pulitzer Prize finalist three times. In the mid-2000s, The Roanoke Times was ranked as the best-read newspaper of its size in the country, according to market research firm Scarborough. It remains the largest professional news outlet in Southwest Virginia, employing roughly 50 journalists.

### About The NewsGuild-Communications Workers of America: The NewsGuild-CWA represents more than 24,000 journalists and other media workers in the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico, including The Charlottesville Daily Progress, The Virginian-Pilot, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Reuters, The Los Angeles Times and The Chicago Tribune.

Statement on Police Violence Directed at Journalists

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June 1, 2020

Shock and dismay cannot begin to describe our reaction to reports we have seen from around the nation showing police directing gratuitous violence at journalists. These reporters, photographers, and producers, were on the scene covering the protests sparked by the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Journalists and others have photographed or shot
video of numerous instances of the police targeting journalists at work on the scene.


In one instance in Louisville, a local TV news crew with a van and the full complement of production equipment caught on video an officer firing pepper spray directly at them. The reporter was hit with pepper spray and reacts in disbelief as the officer points the pepper gun right at the camera.

No such violence has been directed at working journalists represented by the Washington-Baltimore News Guild, to the best of our knowledge. We thank District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser and the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department for exempting credentialed media from the curfew order issued May 31. We call on mayors, police departments, and other civil
authorities around the country to follow their example and recognize the role of working journalists in covering these events. They must exhibit zero tolerance of police violence toward working journalists.

Washington-Baltimore News Guild

Steven D. Cook
President

Elise Bryant
Vice President

David DeJesus
Secretary

Justin Moyer
Treasurer

Front Page Awards Postponed

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Dear Washington Baltimore Newsguild Members:

We hope that all of you are staying safe and healthy in the current circumstances.  The Front Page Awards committee has met and discussed the current situation and we are sorry to announce that we need to postpone our Front Page Awards Ceremony.  We hope to still announce the winners on April 30, 2020 but the awards ceremony itself will need to be postponed to at least the fall. 

In Solidarity,

Front Page Awards Committee

Indivisible Staff File for Union Representation

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WASHINGTON D.C. — Today, the staff of the Indivisible Project, an organization built to work for and support thousands of grassroots groups across all 50 states in the fight for real progressive change, formed a union.

A supermajority of Indivisible employees in Washington D.C. and across the country filed a union election petition with the National Labor Relations Board to request representation by the Washington-Baltimore News Guild, Local 32035 of The News Guild-Communication Workers of America, AFL-CIO. Because employees believe the Indivisible Project has an obligation to embody its values, the Indivisible Union organizing committee requests that leadership voluntarily recognize the Union and work in good faith with employees to create a workplace where everyone is valued and employees have a meaningful stake in the future of the Indivisible Project.

The values that have guided the work of Indivisible are the same values that inspired the formation of this union. In just a few years, Indivisible transformed from a concise guide to help people resist the Trump administration into an organization that, through its grassroots activists, is successfully pushing for lasting progressive change at all levels of government. The union is a continuation of this work. 

“We ask Indivisible’s leadership team to respect and support their employees by honoring our resolve to form a union and to gain a stronger say in the decision-making process of our organization,” the organizing committee said. “We believe in Indivisible and we believe that through collective bargaining the work we do together can only become more impactful.”

“Indivisible understands that we are all made stronger when we ground ourselves in solidarity.” the organizing committee said. “From the vendors we work with to the organizations that we’re proud to call our partners, Indivisible has always supported unions. We call on Indivisible leadership to support us too.”

To keep up with the Indivisible Union follow us on Twitter @IndivisiUnion.

To contact Bruce Jett with the Washington-Baltimore News Guild, call 703-627-4547 or email bjett@wbng.org.

Southern Poverty Law Center Staff Vote to Unionize

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

December 17, 2019

Contact: union.splc@gmail.com

The SPLC Union Organizing Committee is excited to announce that its effort to unionize the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has prevailed. On December 16, 2019, the National Labor Relations Board conducted a ballot count. A majority of staff across 11 offices in five states and Washington D.C. voted in favor of representation by the Washington-Baltimore News Guild. The SPLC Union won the election by an overwhelming majority, 142 to 45. 

 

The SPLC Union is the third largest unit in WBNG and the largest non-profit unit in WBNG.

 

Below is a statement by the SPLC Union Organizing Committee:

 

“We celebrate this momentous victory, which comes after nearly nine months of tireless organizing by a diverse coalition of staff in varying positions, from all departments eligible for union representation, and in every office – who are committed to the values and principles upon which this union organizing drive was founded. The committee engaged colleagues around the Center and garnered the support of a supermajority of staff, who filed a union election petition with the National Labor Relations Board on November 8, 2019. Workers from across the Center helped us bring the overwhelming victory home with incredible voter turnout.

 

“This is a historic moment in the history of the Southern Poverty Law Center, and in the history of labor organizing in the Deep South.  We value the contributions of our colleagues at the Center, past and present, who laid the groundwork for our efforts. 

 

“From the beginning of this union organizing drive, our values and principles have been clear:

  • We believe in the power of collective bargaining.
  • We believe in equal rights, respect and dignity for all workers.
  • We are committed to creating a more equitable, just, diverse and inclusive workplace.
  • We are committed to anti-racism and acknowledge union organizing as a tool in dismantling systems of white supremacy in the workplace.
  • We believe in workplace democracy and recognize union organizing as a tool to ensure a participatory decision-making system.
  • We are committed to economic justice and recognize union organizing as a tool to secure fair wages.
  • We are committed to gender equity and recognize union organizing as a tool to ensure a workplace free of discrimination, including sexual harassment and transphobia.
  • We are committed to disability rights and recognize union organizing as a tool to create an accessible work environment.
  • We are committed to immigrant justice and recognize union organizing as a tool to ensure no worker is disadvantaged, regardless of their national origin.

 

“We look forward to working in the coming months to negotiate a collective bargaining contract that works for the benefit of all workers, regardless of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, physical ability, and national origin. Though we were disappointed in the response of SPLC’s senior leadership to our union organizing drive, we stand ready to work together with them during the contract negotiation process.”