Lawrence Journal-World journalists formed a union to advocate for fair compensation and to have a role in decisions being made about local news in Douglas County, the Lawrence Journalism Workers Guild announced Monday in a statement.
The decision comes after Ogden Newspapers, a West Virginia-based company that owns roughly 40 newspapers across the county, bought the Journal-World in 2016. Before 2016, the Journal-World was owned locally by the Dolph Simons family for almost 125 years.
Guild members said this led to an increasing number of layoffs and cuts to the newspaper’s coverage, “which are noticeable to our readers and detract from our mission to inform the community,” according to the statement.
“We are organizing in order to have a seat at the table and to protect our community’s interests when decisions are made about its local news source,” Guild members said in the statement.
Ogden is owned by Robert Nutting, who has a net worth of over a billion dollars and also owns the Pittsburgh Pirates baseball team.
“Despite having a billionaire owner, the company’s actions have not demonstrated a true commitment to quality journalism or adequate support of the people who produce it,” members said in the statement.
Members of the union said they believe they are one of the first Ogden newspapers to unionize. The union’s goals include fair compensation for increasing workloads and a rededication of the newspaper to its mission of serving the community.
The staff of the Journal-World consists of five full-time news reporters, one part-time news reporter, two full-time sports reporters, three full-time copy editors and designers and one digital editor. Staff members are overseen by an editor-in-chief, managing editor and sports editor.
The newspaper moved out of its longtime newsroom at 645 New Hampshire St. in 2019 after the lease expired and it was sold to Blue Cross and Blue Shield.
“We are a small staff, but we are overwhelmingly united in these goals,” members said. “And we are asking Ogden Newspapers to voluntarily recognize the United Media Guild and the Communications Workers of America as our representative.”
The Kansan reached out to editor Chad Lawhorn and managing editor Kim Callahan but did not receive a response by time of publication.
“Reliable local news is more important now than ever,” members said. “A global health crisis is changing our community, showing no signs of abating. Misinformation spreads at frightening speeds, easily going unchecked. And people around our community and country are raising their voices, fighting to create a better world for all who live in it.”
“We are organizing to ensure that the Lawrence Journal-World is there to cover our community at this pivotal time and grow with it into the future,” they continued.
This is a developing story.