The new Los Angeles Times union is demanding that management provide answers on an alleged “shadow newsroom” forming that may be an attempt to circumvent the bargaining unit.
In a note posted today to latguild.com by the Los Angeles Times Guild organizing committee and addressed to “Dear Colleagues,” the union said, “As journalists, we demand transparency from the people we cover. As employees of the Los Angeles Times, we demand the same of the executives who run our company.”
Reports have surfaced this week that parent company Tronc is building a new company called Los Angeles Times Network that is not part of the exisiting LA Times. The new entity has made several editorial hires that report to the business side, a development which has raised eyebrows among the journalists. There have also been reports that management is concerned about leaks from within about the new strategy and is monitoring phone and email conversations.
“We have grave concerns about this matter and have requested information from Tronc’s management team — which they have declined to provide. Why a communications company built on the idea of publishing the truth wouldn’t be truthful with its employees is beyond comprehension.”
The note also rattled a sabre. “Rest assured our newsroom remains mobilized and powerful and we are covered by legal protections.” It went on to tell workers that they can have a union representative present during any attempt to “grill” staffers about media leaks or “anything else.”
Harvard’s Nieman Lab, a prominent journalism analysis outlet, said recent hires by the business side are being framed as part of a “reorganization.” Nieman reports that editor-in-chief D’Vorkin has brough on former Fox Sports executive Steve Miller as an assistant managing editor for digital; Louise Story, a former NY Times reporter. as managing editor; the Washington Post’s Sylvester Monroe as an assistant managing editor; and Will Tacy of Good Media and Bruce Upbin (affiliation unknown) as editors. All report to Rob Angel, the Times’ chief business development officer.
The 136-year-old Los Angeles Times editorial workers had their union certified by the National Labor Relations Board earlier this month. The union was voted in by an overwhelming 248-44. The employees will be represented by the Washington-based NewsGuild-Communications Workers of America.
The issues come during a turbulent period for the newspaper, whose owner re-branded from Tribune to Tronc in 2016 and installed Ross Levinsohn as publisher and Lewis D’Vorkin as editor. Both have talked of sweeping operational changes as the paper, like all print outlets, battles to stay ahead of seismic changes in consumer habit and the advertising business.
Tronc’s stewardship has unsettled the newsroom, especially given D’Vorkin’s stint heading Forbes, which has relied on editorial posts from brands and other contributors with a bias in a bid to drive online traffic.
Levinsohn has been placed under investigation this week by the company after an explosive report by NPR detailed a long pattern of sexual harassment and inappropriate conduct in several workplaces over many years.
While the Times has diminished as a national force in recent years, it remains an important regional outlet for Hollywood. The long-complicated relationship between company and company town was highlighted by Disney’s ban of Times journalists last fall in the wake of an investigative series about Disneyland and its close ties with the city of Anaheim.
The Times, controlled for decades by the Chandler family before a sale to Times-Mirror, has long had a reputation for adamantly resisting union activity. That stance can largely be traced to the 1910 bombing of the newspaper’s downtown headquarters, which was blamed on union activists. The massive explosion caused a fire that destroyed the building and killed 20 Times employees.
A request for comment from the Los Angeles Times has not been immediately returned. Deadline will update when received.