News Journal/Delaware Online reporters will not be part of a job action next week.
Meredith Newman, speaking for the Delaware News Guild said the reason is a no strike clause in its current contract.
Newman noted that a large number of Gannett guild/unions will not be part of any walkout.
Staff from about two dozen Gannett papers in larger metropolitan areas are expected to be part of the job action protesting the leadership of CEO Mike Reed as the company holds its annual meeting.
Gannett is largely union-free and operates about 200 newspapers and websites, often in smaller communities.
A few years ago, News Journal staff successfully gained recognition for the Delaware Guild, affiliated with the Communications Workers of America. The CWA is organizing the current job action.
Like other Gannett papers, it came after The News Journal saw deep cuts in its staff, which now numbers around 35, down from estimates of 100 or more at its peak. The editorial staff headcount has been relatively stable in the past couple of years, although turnover has been on the high side.
Gannett had enjoyed double-digit profit margins with the News Journal, due in part to the lack of a northern Delaware local TV station competing for advertising dollars and a long-time decision by Philadelphia papers not to compete aggressively for New Castle County readers. Gannett also kept a union out of the News Journal newsroom.
As advertising and circulation declined, most veteran staffers were let go, retired, or took company buyouts and were replaced by lower-paid reporters coming out of school or taking a step up from smaller papers. The Delaware paper had always been a stop for reporters and editors moving to a mid-tier market in hopes of landing jobs at a metro daily.
Younger News Journal alumni were able to land positions in public information positions in state and local government and at the University of Delaware.
Gannett was the topic of a harshly critical story earlier this year from NiemanLab carrying the headline – The scale of local news destruction in Gannett’s markets is astonishing.
The story pointed out that circulation at Gannett newspapers has dropped more rapidly than at other newspaper chains amid corporate-ordered cuts that included abolishing business news departments and the position of business editor.
The current Gannett is a product of a merger with Gatehouse, which had newspaper properties in Delaware through the purchase of the Dover Post Co., a family-owned operator of weekly newspapers.
Under Gatehouse and the new Gannett, papers like the Dover Post and Middletown Transcript operated with a skeleton staff. They later ceased to exist, creating “news deserts” in places like Middletown, a rapidly growing town of 25,000 in southern New Castle County.
Gannett also owns the Daily Times across the line in Salisbury, MD and has seen its share of cuts.
Gannett, unlike some of its peers, is dealing with a heavy debt burden, brought by the merger with Gatehouse, a factor that contributed to staff and expense cuts.