“Our industry is in a precarious place. Most of us have spent our entire careers in the newspaper business.
“Over the past 10 years or more, we have seen many colleagues let go because of our paper’s tenuous state.
“We don’t blame anyone for this. It is, of course, happening at newspapers across the country.
“But as workers who have invested years in journalism, we feel we should have at least some input into key decisions affecting our newsroom, careers and lives. We do not seek to rival or overthrow management. If anything, we seek a closer connection. We seek a say. Managers might welcome the realization that they don’t have to stand alone in making painful decisions about who should stay and who should go, and many other difficult calls that affect us.
“We are united with our bosses in the desire to produce an excellent newspaper. We are united with them in our hunger to serve our readers well. It is perfectly understandable that we should ask for a formal way to exert some control over our destinies.”
— Rick Ruggles, Omaha World-Herald staff writer
“When I was initially approached about forming a union, I was taken aback. It’s not my way to protest, to go beyond just telling the story. But then I started to think. I’ve traveled this state corner to corner over the past 30 years through the many beats that I’ve covered and grown to love it and its people. Now you’re my people.
“My husband and I are raising our sons here. We live in the same neighborhoods as you do, haul our kids to the same schools and sporting events, attend the same community festivals and churches. And I believe we all deserve no less than the best journalism my colleagues and I can deliver — as well as a spot of entertainment and wonder — so we all can be the engaged, well-informed citizens our state and our nation need now and in the future.
“After all, we’re in this together.”
— Julie Anderson, Omaha World-Herald staff writer
“I can’t tell you how much I have loved my work these last 30-plus years as a reporter for the Omaha World-Herald. Omaha is home to me. It’s the place where I grew up, went to school, where I’ve chosen to live as an adult and to raise my children. This community means a lot to me. And I’ve been extremely proud to be part of an institution that has served such a vital role in this city.
“Over my years with the paper, we’ve had the chance to help inform public debates on topics like school funding, recycling and poverty in north Omaha. We’ve played watchdog, helping expose state patrol leaders who covered up officer wrongdoing and outing nonprofits who put personal financial gain over the charity’s public mission. We’ve promoted community healing after traumatic, heartbreaking events like the Westroads mass shooting. It hasn’t all been so serious. We’ve also had fun telling stories of Omaha’s colorful, quirky and amazing people, or chronicling the ups and downs of Nebraska football, that tremendous source of passion and pride in this state.
“It’s out of my love for this community, and my commitment to making sure people in Omaha will continue to have a strong local newspaper to represent their interests, that I am supporting formation of a union in The World-Herald’s newsroom.
“This is not a position I would have imagined taking even a year ago. When it comes to worker-management relations, The World-Herald has for most of my career been a very collegial place. We were the nation’s largest employee-owned newspaper, and everyone from the publisher on down was driven to give Omaha the best damn paper we could. I knew our leaders continued to share that passion even as the paper over the last decade went through some painful downsizing due to the conversion to the digital age.
“We also know Warren Buffett has shared our passion for preserving great local journalism in Omaha. He said as much in 2011 when he and Berkshire Hathaway bought the World-Herald, preserving local ownership and management when the paper’s employee-owned business model proved no longer workable.
“Given that support, my colleagues and I all found it a little shocking in June when Berkshire announced it was turning management of The World-Herald over to Lee Enterprises. Gone were our longtime publisher and most other local corporate leaders. They were replaced by executives of Lee, based in Davenport, Iowa.
“While Berkshire still owns The World-Herald, its contract with Lee gives the company wide discretion to manage our people and assets to meet the profit targets set out in the agreement. And the more profits Lee can glean from The World-Herald, the more financial rewards it reaps.
“Lee’s leaders no doubt have knowledge and experience that can help our newspaper work smarter and better, something that benefits us all. But in the newsroom, we feel what’s missing in the new management structure is a strong local voice to advocate for maintaining the region’s most robust journalism enterprise.
“Forming a guild of rank-and-file news staff at The World-Herald gives us that voice. Any major changes in our newsroom structure would be made as part of a negotiation. And since through those negotiations we would learn in advance about any proposed changes, it would give our readers a chance to weigh in as well. To our valued and loyal readers, this is your newspaper, too. With the formation of our guild, we look forward to working with you and our new managers on a shared vision of what we want this treasured institution to be, long into the future.
“I hope you can support me and my colleagues in our decision. Someone has to become the voice in Omaha for preserving a vibrant and independent community newspaper. In the end, we believe, that must be us.
— Henry J. Cordes, Omaha World-Herald staff writer
“It’s no secret that this industry has been getting its ass kicked for some time now. This is true of all media companies, and it’s true of The World-Herald. We’ve lost a lot of good people over the years, many to staff cuts, their positions never filled.
“But this year. This year our existential crisis became a five-alarm fire.
“We began to realize that we had two options: We could sit around, waiting for the fire to come. Or we could do something about it.
“And so we — the writers, editors, designers and photographers of the Omaha World-Herald — have come together to form a guild.
“We’re doing this for many reasons. One of those reasons is not to fight our managers. I love my manager. Many of us love our managers. But our managers are in just as precarious a situation as we are, with decisions being made far above them — life-changing decisions about their futures and our own.
“We are forming a guild not to fight our friends but to protect our paper (and website). To get a foothold in the conversations that are taking place several levels above our heads. Conversations that affect our lives and, in turn, jeopardize the essential role we play in the community.
“The future will undoubtedly bring new struggles. What we’re not going to do is sit around waiting for the worst to happen. We’re going to join our managers in facing the worst together.
“We wholeheartedly believe that this is the best way forward. For the staff, for the organization and, most important, for the readers.”