December 12-18, 2002
New Stinky at the Inky
The Inky 10 -- the 10 part-time editorial assistants whose jobs, once slated for extinction, were saved after a series of protests and labor negotiations by the Newspaper Guild of Greater Philadelphia -- may be getting resettled at the ever-evolving Philadelphia Inquirer, but a new storm is already gathering momentum in the Pennsylvania suburbs.
A few weeks ago, five disgruntled employees approached the Guild leadership claiming that during the massive internal overhaul at the Inky, they were among a number of veterans who were unceremoniously overlooked for plum positions advertised back in July. On behalf of its members, the Guild then filed a grievance with Philadelphia Newspapers Inc. (PNI), claiming that the five women, with tenure approaching nearly 70 combined years, were the victims of discrimination.
"We've been ghettoized," explains suburban staff writer Cynthia McGroarty, saying that after 13 years on the job, she was asked to provide clips and story idea lists, and then subjected to a series of interviews -- and still didn't get the gig she'd applied for. "We're a group of very good, capable veteran reporters, older women, who jumped through hoops to apply for these positions, and they chose to disregard us and go outside to hire younger, less experienced people. We've been ostracized, marginalized and punished. We watched this happen. It's just so despicable."
Rob Barron, PNI's director of labor relations, confirms that five individuals have filed a discrimination grievance against the company.
"Our position is that we have a non-discrimination policy and we don't think we're in violation of that policy," Barron says. "Currently, we're in the process of meeting with [the Guild], but our meetings have not been completed as of yet." Barron could offer nothing further, citing a policy of treating personnel matters as confidential.
"Do we believe the company gave these people a fair shot?" Guild president Henry Holcomb asks. "No. We think that what they did was violate a no-discrimination clause in the contract. And we're going to work hard to seek what remedies we can, as we also continue to address the disparities in monies. The leadership of the Guild takes this situation very seriously and we'll use every means we can to try and correct it."
Holcomb says that just as the union rallied behind the part-time editorial assistants, it still intends to support all of its members. He says that for many years, the union has attempted to address the wage disparities between main unit staffers and those who work in the suburbs. Now, with so much emphasis being placed on the revitalization of suburban coverage and readership, Holcomb says that the approximately $480-per-week salary differential between the two divisions doesn't accurately reflect the company's new objectives. And in addition to greater value being assigned to the suburban vets, Holcomb says he believes a more equitable wage scale should be secured.
In other Inky news, Christmas cheer may soon be replaced with Christmas sneer. Seems Inky editor Walker Lundy has already made up his Christmas list, but even when he checked it twice, he still couldn't bring himself to invite his entire editorial staff to at least one private party he's hosting at his home this coming weekend. With rumors about two separate parties, on separate weekend days, flying around the newsroom, some speculated that the invite list, which was generated from the editor's domicile, was being mailed out alphabetically. But when a "P" got an invite but a "B" didn't, that theory was trashed. Lundy didn't respond to a request for comment before press time.
Most Inkyites -- those who were invited and those who were not -- felt uncomfortable about going on the record to grouse about a grinch. But one, who shall remain unnamed, did fantasize about future holiday parties. "Perhaps we'll get invited to the Easter party," she said, feigning hope. "I'll hold my breath."
On Tuesday, Lundy announced the hire of Jim Jenks as the newspaper's new sports editor. According to an internal interoffice e-mail signed by Lundy and managing editor Anne Gordon, Jenks, who has spent the last six years at ESPN, brings more than 20 years of print sports journalism experience to the job. But he's also credited with creating NASCAR.com, as well as helping to develop NBA.com and NFL.com. Jenks, slated to start Jan. 19, replaces Tim Dwyer, a 20-year Inky veteran who left in September to assume his new general assignment reporter gig at The Washington Post.