Mary Hall: Union-paper standoff looks like a ‘lose-lose’

Published: 5/11/2021 12:33:34 PM

I must acknowledge, I believe the family that owns the Gazette today includes members who lived next door to my childhood home. Back then, the Transcript-Telegram was doing all right. Holyoke was more prosperous than it may be today. The city still had industries that could afford to pay people well. With less disposable income, folks might forego a newspaper subscription that they had enjoyed. Print subscriptions and print advertisements have been newspapers’ bread and butter until now.

Economic and social conditions have changed around the country, such that it’s tough for newspapers to survive. In my view, newspapers with local reporting and editing are very important to maintaining our democracy. When local newspapers go away, we lose important resources for obtaining reliable information. It is important to ask how can newspapers be viable today.

I do not know who is in charge now of the company that owns the Gazette, or what their thinking is. In a family operation, you will have successive generations who may not always have what it takes to carry on. Newspaper profit margins can be thin to nonexistent. I suspect some families with newspapers may have decided to cut their losses. And no, that ain’t fair to employees, especially when buyers are vulture hedge fund operations.

Newspaper owning families have traditionally been responsible actors. The family that owned the Transcript-Telegram would know about death spirals in newspapers. They might be scared, and may not know what to do.

I would consider it best that the Gazette’s union resist all temptation to treat the newspaper’s owners as bad guys. Instead of using its energies to demand resources that the owners might not have, I would recommend the union study the business model of newspapers, and apply members’ creativity toward finding how the Gazette might adapt to changing conditions in ways that work well for people.

If the owners can see the union as collaborating with them toward finding win-win solutions, economic prospects may be better for all concerned. The current standoff looks to me like a lose-lose endeavor for all.

Mary Hall

South Hadley




Daily Hampshire Gazette Office

115 Conz Street
Northampton, MA 01061
413-584-5000

 

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