At this point in the bitter five-year labor dispute at Detroit’s two daily newspapers, almost nothing comes as a surprise, but this one takes the cake, the pie and all the crumpets.
“Newspaper unions vote set,” said a Page 1 headline in The Detroit News on Friday. A smaller headline added: “Decision expected this month could resolve five-year labor dispute.”
The article itself quoted Tim Kelleher, senior vice president of labor relations for Detroit Newspapers Inc., saying, “This is a very, very hopeful sign.”
So imagine the surprise here at News Hits when we called Newspaper Guild President Lou Mleczko for a comment and were told the News story is “completely false.”
News Hits would like to amend that and state that at the very least the headline is totally wrong. The story, on the other hand, is just obtuse enough to be extremely misleading.
Strangely, we could find no mention of the agreement in early editions of the Free Press. That would explain why Mleczko, reading Friday afternoon from a letter he was preparing to send to company representatives, aimed his disgust at the News.
“Frankly, it appears that your objective is still to make war and kill off the unions instead of making peace,” stated Mleczko. “This is demonstrated by the efforts to propagandize our negotiations in The Detroit News, which carried a headline claiming union votes are ‘set,’ and that is false and you know it.”
“We told them,” added Mleczko, “that there are serious issues that are still unresolved.”
According to the News story, company bargainers asked for a vote by Sept. 15. Nowhere does the article say the unions agreed to that deadline, although, in combination with the headline, that is certainly the impression conveyed.
So, did the unions agree to a date, or didn’t they?
“No, they didn’t agree,” said Kelleher. “But they didn’t disagree, either.”
Has a date been set?
“An actual date has not been set,” he conceded.
So, the headline is incorrect, isn’t it?
“I’d say it’s a little confusing,” replied Kelleher.
What did you think when you read that in the paper?
“I didn’t pay much attention to it,” said Kelleher.
“The headline is accurate,” News publisher and editor Mark Silverman told News Hits. Asked three times how that squares with Kelleher’s comment that the unions, in fact, have not agreed to a vote date, Silverman thrice repeated: “We stand by our headline. We stand by our story.” On the third incantation, he added with some finality, “Can I be any more clear than that?”
News Hits, in return, would like to make itself perfectly clear to Mr. Silverman: Totally fucking wrong! On the front page! In bold type! Above the fold! Over a story involving your own paper!
Word has it that the News newsroom was in an uproar, as was the Free Press newsroom; the Freep had cobbled together a story after seeing the early News edition. This could be a bigger story that hasn’t fully played out.
“And they wonder,” muses Mleczko, “why they’ve lost credibility in this community.”Curt Guyette is Metro Times news editor. Contact him at 313-202-8004 or [email protected]