‘Spread far too thin’: Virginian-Pilot, Daily Press striking Thursday

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Journalists at The Virginian-Pilot and Daily Press are asking readers not to cross the digital picket line Thursday as they go on strike against “vulture” hedge fund owner Alden Global Capital.

During the 24-hour strike, Tidewater Media Guild members say they’ll join more than 200 other Tribune Publishing journalists at seven newsrooms across the country in demanding fair wages and a protection of their current 401K match, which Alden plans to eliminate.

They say Alden, which bought Tribune Publishing in 2021 and gutted newsrooms like the Pilot and Press’ at twice the rate of their competitors, has refused to provide any across-the-board pay increases despite a lack of raises for most since 2018. They’ve also failed to address long-standing wage inequities across race and gender lines.

“Journalists don’t really go into this job for the money, but continuous cuts are making it nearly impossible to continue doing the important work of keeping our communities informed and holding power to account. Staff here are spread far too thin,” said Natalie Anderson, a city government reporter for the Pilot and vice chair of the guild. “This is about standing up for sustainability so we can continue to provide our local communities with the journalism they deserve.”

“Alden’s attempt to eliminate their matching contribution to our 401ks represents an active divestment from our futures at this paper. This, combined with their refusal to offer meaningful wage increases, will send reporters out the door – and hurt Virginians who rely on journalists to keep them informed and engaged with what is happening around them,” added breaking news reporter Gavin Stone, a co-chair of the guild.

Stone said the guild doesn’t have data that shows exactly how much Alden has had an impact on staffing, but between Sept. 2018 and June 2021 (Alden bought Tribune in Feb. 2021), their full-time staff went from 101 to 46, with another eight staff members leaving through buyouts. They’re currently at 38 full-time staffers, nearly all of which will strike on Thursday.

The staffs plan to strike out in front of the Pilot’s former building, which was turned into apartments after being sold by Alden, at 150 West Brambleton Avenue on Thursday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The Pilot’s since found a new location in downtown Norfolk, but the Daily Press still doesn’t have a workspace on the Peninsula, says veteran public safety and court reporter Pete Dujardin.

“Alden Capital’s ownership of the Daily Press has been bad news for the newspaper and the readers it purports to serve. We still have a masthead, but the once-proud Daily Press is a shell of its former self,” said Dujardin, who started with the Press in 1997. “We no longer have reporters covering York County, the Middle Peninsula, or Isle of Wight — and reporting in Newport News, Hampton, Williamsburg and elsewhere is stretched beyond thin.”

This also comes at a moment in which democracy in America is in the balance, and quality journalism is as important as ever, the guild emphasizes.

“We’re watching a systematic chipping away at one of the pillars of our democracy. They are literally sucking the life out of our communities’ newspapers right before our eyes. If we’re not vigilant, these vital community institutions will be gone,” said Dave Roknic, a print production specialist on the Design and Production Studio team.

It also comes as journalists across the news industry are facing major layoffs.

In just the past few weeks, there had been significant cuts to staffs at The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, local Gannett papers and more. Meanwhile hundreds of staffers at Condé Nast, Forbes and other media outlets have staged walkouts ahead of planned cuts. The Alden-owned New York Daily News held a walkout last week.

In the meantime, the staffs say you can support them by not accessing Pilot/Press content on Thursday, and by sending an online letter to Alden.

You can read more about the walkout and Alden’s impact on Tribune newsrooms here and donate to the fund for Tribune journalists here.

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