How the MediaNews Group Destroys Journalism, Jobs, and Democracy
You probably haven't heard of Dean Singleton or his MediaNews Group,
but you've most likely read one of his 57 daily papers. Singleton is
in the business of buying and restructuring local newspapers. But his
goal is not just to turn a profit - Singleton squeezes every drop out
of a paper to bring in money.
When Singleton buys out a paper, he guts it: huge staff layoffs,
lowered wages for remaining staff, and community beats eliminated.
Then he buys more papers in the community and consolidates: combining
staff positions so that one staff writes for 5-10 newspapers.
Singleton also has a sophisticated strategy and record of breaking up
unions at the newspapers under his ownership, and doing all he can to
prevent his workers from having any control over their work and lives
Dean Singleton's media consolidation destroys a free and independent press and denies workers their rights.
Singleton's Strategy of Unionbusting
Singleton specializes in breaking up unions at papers owned by
MediaNews Group. The steps are virtually the same at every paper where
he effectively eliminated the union:
Step 1. Purchase a small, but struggling local newspaper cheaply.
Step 2. Buy all the local papers in a single geographic region.
Step 3. "Cluster" to combine the operations of the small papers
in a single geographic region under one roof. This way all the papers
share the same staff, advertising, editors, and printing presses.
Also, combining staff makes it easier to eliminate "wasteful redundancies," MediaNews Group's name for newspaper staff members.
Step 4. "Consolidate" all of the papers of a region under one media group, essentially a subsidiary of the MediaNews Group. This media group houses only one staff writing for 5-10 papers.
Step 5. Break up the union. Through clustering,
union-represented positions are typically eliminated first, resulting
in a smaller, weaker union. When consolidating, MediaNews Group
combines union-represented staff papers with non-union papers. The
tactic is usually the final step in killing the union - as the
union-represented workers are now in the minority and cannot overcome
the barriers that MediaNews puts in place to stop the union.
Mean Dean's Latest Attack: Northern California
July 26, 2007: MediaNews Group announced consolidation of several
union-represented papers and non-union newspapers in northern
California. Papers are consolidated into a 'new' media group: Bay Area
News Group-East Bay. BANG-EB is a subsidiary company of the larger
On August 13, 2007, MediaNews Group unilaterally withdraws
recognition of the Northern California Media Workers Guild as the
bargaining representative for 125 union-represented copy editors,
photographers, and reporters at five Northern California newspapers: Oakland Tribune
, The Daily Review
, The Argus
, Tri-Valley Herald
, and San Mateo County Times
. The union had been in place since 1987. A letter from MediaNews Group's attorney simply states, "We can no longer recognize the guild
Later that week in response, the union files charges with the
National Labor Relations Board against MediaNews Group to protest the
company's clear violation of labor law in withdrawing union
recognition, despite the union's 20 year history at the papers.
August 20, 2007: Northern California Media Workers Guild announces new organizing campaign to help win back union rights and attract new members who now work for the Bay Area News Group-East Bay.
Dean Singleton's record of unionbusting dates back 25 years:
August 2007: Press-Telegram, Long Beach, California
MediaNews Group refuses to negotiate a new contract with the union
represented employees. In 10 years, the number of employees fell from
220 to 90, and salaries decreased by 30%. In 10 years, the number of
union-represented employees fell from 220 to 90 due to firings and
resignations, and salaries decreased by 30%.
July 2007: St. Paul Pioneer Press, Minnesota (ongoing)
The union's contract expired and MediaNews Group freezes staff pensions
and announces plan to cut staff members. Union asks for 401k matching
plans to replace the pensions.
: San Jose Mercury News, California
In 2006, Singleton purchased the San Jose Mercury News
Less than a year after assuming control of the paper, over 40 employees
were fired. In July 2007, 15 additional staff members resigned,
protesting Singleton's moves to dismantle the paper's staff.
June 2003: Brattleboro Reformer, Vermont
Pro-union workers harassed, and one illegally fired during a union
organizing campaign. MediaNews hired a Nashville based unionbusting
law firm to coerce and intimidate employees who expressed interest in
the union. The union ultimately failed when brought to a vote.
1995: Berkshire Eagle, Pittsfield, Massachusetts
After purchasing the paper, MediaNews Group gave staff sheets of paper
with their new job descriptions and reduced salaries. Staff had to
decide on the spot if they accepted or rejected their new terms of
employment. All of this occurred without negotiations or any
communication with the impacted employees.
1981: The Paterson News, New Jersey
Paper acquired by Singleton before founding MediaNews Group.
Union-represented typographers and drivers went on strike. Singleton
locked them out of the offices and lived in the newspaper office for
six months to prevent the striking workers from returning. Eventually
the union staff members lost their jobs. Singleton's statement on the
dispute, "We were losing money, and had to fix it, so we took on the
unions and threw 'em out"
- Early 1980s: The Trenton Times, New Jersey
Fired 60 staff members just two days after Singleton purchased the
paper. One reporter, not fired in the early rounds, lost his job after
refusing to publish a press release as-is as a news article under his
byline, instead of writing an article with details from the press
release. Singleton allegedly fired the staffer as a way to show his
power at the paper and intimidate other employees from not following
Dean Singleton and MediaNews Group
Founded Media NewsGroup in 1983, currently serves as Chief Executive Office and Vice Chairman
Denver-based MediaNews Group is the 4th largest media
company, owns 57 daily newspapers in 12 states, with a combined
circulation of 2.9 million readers, including The Denver Post, the Los Angeles Daily News, and the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
Dean Singleton's business philosophy
: "If I had my choice between pleasing one banker or 1,000 journalists, I'd rather please the banker."
Who Loves Dean?
In spite of Dean Singleton's attacks on community
journalism, his employees, and their unions, he often receives praise
for his business acumen and leadership in the publishing community:
Served on the Associated Press Board of Directors
Former President of the Newspaper Association of America
2001 Editor & Publisher's "Publisher of the Year"
Additional Reading & Resources