Why employees of the Springfield News-Leader formed a union

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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — The newsroom at the Springfield News-Leader announced Monday it would be forming a union in response to the recent merger between Gannett, the paper’s owner, and Gatehouse Media.

Employees who are part of that union are letting us know why they decided to form that union.

Steve Pokin, a columnist at the Springfield News-Leader, says they’re main concern is that they want to have more of a say in how layoffs are conducted.

“We want to have more of a voice, in terms of when there are layoffs, can we do it in a more humane way?” Pokin said. “What happens now is you can be at the News-Leader for 20-30 years and you get a call or a tap on the shoulder to go see human resources and later in the day, you pack up your belongings and leave.”

Pokin says while employee numbers have gone down over the past 33 years, they’ve dropped even more in the last 20 years.

“In 1987 there were 87 full-time people in the newsroom, in 2004, there were 68; Today there are 17,” Pokin said. “Our concern is, no union can prevent a company or an owner from reductions in staff.”

Communication Department Chair at Drury University Jonathan Groves says as a company, Gannett is still worried about making money.

“You’re driven by quantitative metrics,” Groves said. “You’re driven by the bottom line and so, you are probably driven by short-term decision making because you are a publicly-traded company. Large corporations are beholden to shareholders and they have to fulfill economic requirements as a result of being market-driven.”

But what happens to news coverage when the number of journalists starts to decline at a media outlet because of cost-cutting?

“You have shareholders to report to,” Groves said. “You have to make money, but what does that mean for journalism? It means journalism is going to take a backseat to the profit imperative.”

We reached out to Gannett for comment on the new union and they did not respond.

KOLR 10 wants to fully disclose that we do have a content-sharing agreement with the Springfield News-Leader and that Pokin does appear once a week on our Daybreak show.

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