By MALLORY GRUBEN
The union at the daily newspaper in Longview, Washington, joined nine other NewsGuild locals to condemn extraordinary cuts at Lee Enterprises papers across the country. Lee, the Iowa-based company that owns The Daily News in Longview, is reducing the print publication schedule to three days a week at most of its 77 newspapers, and replacing delivery drivers with delivery by the U.S. Postal Service.
“This is another example of short-sighted cuts and a lack of investment in local journalism — the main product that supports the company and its investors,” the 10 union locals said in a June 28 statement.
In Longview, the decision cuts publication of The Daily News, Cowlitz County’s only daily newspaper, to just Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. The new publication schedule started June 27.
“These decisions are not coming from our Longview office,” said reporter Katie Fairbanks. “We are still working just as hard as before to cover the local news and get those stories in the paper and online out to the community as fast as we can.”
The cuts means readers have to wait longer for most local stories to appear in print, Fairbanks said. Reporters continue to post articles online, but those local pieces can be difficult to find on the website, which in-house staff have little control over. Fairbanks said online “e-editions” released on the other days are now designed by staff outside of the area and feature only national news. The company eliminated one copy editor’s job, saying there was no longer enough local work. Pacific Northwest Newsguild, which represents eight workers at the paper, negotiated a severance for him.
Reporters at The Daily News voted in May 2021 to unionize, and signed a one-year first union contract a year later.
Three workers in the The Daily News advertising department tried to join the union too, asking in December for a union election, but Lee Enterprises objected and dragged out the process with the National Labor Relations Board. By June 8, the date of the union election, one of the three had been laid off and another had resigned. The last remaining ad department worker left after casting the sole vote — Union Yes.
The unionized reporters of The Daily News are currently in bargaining for their next contract. Members want to increase wages, which currently start at $17 an hour, and boost the mileage reimbursement rate, which at 35 cents a mile is just over half the federal rate set by the Internal Revenue Service.