Why Wall Street Journal Reporters didn't show up for work today
Even long-time readers might be surprised to hear that I worked full-time for three years (through the end of 2006) as an information graphics journalist at the Wall Street Journal, initially for the Money & Investing section and more recently for the Economy page. I made 2-5 daily charts and graphics, mostly tracking economic indicators and analyzing trends in the stock and bond markets. I also did the occasional medical or technical illustration, including a graphic about abdominal aortic aneurysms that accompanied a Pulitzer-Prize-winning front page series. (Read old blog post here...)
I was also part of the union, and participated in several union actions regarding benefit cuts, pay cuts and large-scale layoffs (I'll spare you the slogans, but it was pretty damn cool to see financial reporters carrying signs and chanting old-school labor song-type lyrics).
The Wall Street Journal is a top-notch paper with reporters and editors of the highest caliber and in-depth investigative reporting and features you can't find anywhere else. Aside from the New York Times, it's the only paper I read almost cover-to-cover every day (with the notable exception of the editorial page, which I take in very small doses on a strong stomach).
So as you can imagine, I've been following the news about Rupert Murdoch's attempts to add Dow Jones to his stable of faux news outlets with growing horror and disbelief. Does anyone REALLY think he would allow the WSJ to preserve its editorial integrity? For example, via CNN I read that even the "editorial integrity protection" deal would give Murdoch sole discretion to pick top editors. I can just see Bill O'Reilly leading the Politics & Economy team!
Via Romanesko, I just heard that many of my former colleagues chose to stay home today in protest. From the union's release:
Wall Street Journal reporters across the country chose not to show up to work this morning.
We did so for two reasons.
First, The Wall Street Journal's long tradition of independence, which has been the hallmark of our news coverage for decades, is threatened today. We, along with hundreds of other Dow Jones employees represented by the Independent Association of Publishers' Employees, want to demonstrate our conviction that the Journal’s editorial integrity depends on an owner committed to journalistic independence.
Second, by our absence from newsrooms around the country, we are reminding Dow Jones management that the quality of its publications depends on a top-quality professional staff. Dow Jones currently is in contract negotiations with its primary union, seeking severe cutbacks in our health benefits and limits on our pay. It is beyond debate that the professionals who create The Wall Street Journal and other Dow Jones publications every day deserve a fair contract that rewards their achievements. At a time when Dow Jones is finding the resources to award golden parachutes to 135 top executives, it should not be seeking to eviscerate employees’ health benefits and impose salary adjustments that amount to a pay cut.
We put the reputation of The Wall Street Journal and the needs of its readers first. That's why we will be back at our desks this afternoon, producing the day's news reports. But we hope this demonstration will remind those entrusted with the future of Dow Jones that our publications' integrity must be protected, and sustained, from top to bottom.
I hope it makes a difference. But my guess is, Dow Jones current owners just see dollar signs and will salve their consciences with lies about "preserving editorial independence" until its too late.