Progressive Heroes: Detroit Sunday Journal

Nov 10, 1999 at 12:00 am

When the first issue of the Detroit Sunday Journal rolled off the presses Nov. 19, 1995, it wasn’t meant to be a long-term project.

A weekly newspaper published by and for the striking workers of the Detroit News and Free Press, the Journal merely hoped to shed light on the Detroit newspaper strike and other labor issues, and just until the labor dispute was resolved.

"We worried that the strike would be subject to revisionist history if it was left up to the daily newspapers," said Tom Schram, the Journal’s general manager. Little did they know they’d be making their own history by becoming one of the area’s pre-eminent voices for the labor community, and one of the longest-running temporary newspapers ever.

From the beginning, the Journal’s story has been about struggle, as rival workers from the News and Free Press joined together in long hours and hard times, passionate in their support of a common cause. And yet, the Journal prevailed. Four years later, the labor dispute continues, but the Journal will not.

It was announced this week the paper will cease publication Nov. 21 (see this week's related news story).

"I call us the Detroit Sunday Miracle because anybody else would have folded up their tents and gone home by now," Journal managing editor Emily Everett said before the closure was announced.

"It scares me sometimes to see what the extra work and pressure is doing to people, but at the same time it’s an awesome thing to watch and be a part of," said Everett.

Despite the hectic weekly agony of putting out a newspaper on a shoestring, the Journal staffers have been a dedicated lot.

"If it wasn’t for the cause, we wouldn’t be here," said Schram. "We need to shed light where there’s darkness, and in Detroit right now, there’s a lot of darkness."

As Everett said, "The most important thing the Sunday Journal does is keep this struggle before the public. The Detroit dailies tell people the strike is over and that everyone who wants to go back is back. They even have new reporters who believe every striker has been called back, and that’s simply not true. They are lying to their workers and deceiving the public."