The following press release was shared with the Bloomingtonian Thursday:
Journalists in the Midwest Digital Optimization Team (DOT), part of the USA Today Network, have formed the Midwest Digital Guild. The team has asked Gannett to voluntarily recognize the union.
The new unit, which will be part of the Indianapolis NewsGuild Local 34070, includes 14 remote digital producers with decades of combined experience working for media organizations. They are the second Midwest-based Gannett property to unionize in recent months, following the Courier Journal Guild in Louisville, which went public on Aug.30.
Producers in the USA Today Network are the graphic designers, copy editors, social media strategists, SEO experts, content analysts and project managers of the digital media landscape. Since its inception, the Midwest DOT has helped increase readership for news sites including IndyStar and LCJ.
“If you’ve read a story online from the IndyStar, Louisville Courier Journal or one of the many other publications across Indiana, Kentucky and Illinois, it found its way to you because of the work and influence of a Midwest DOT Digital Producer,” said Jenny Porter Tilley, lead Indiana producer.
“We couldn’t do what we do at the Courier Journal without the help of the Midwest DOT,” said Courier Journal food writer Dahlia Ghabour. “We are constantly told by Gannett leadership we are a digital-first organization, which means the Digital Optimization Team is extremely valuable. They deserve to be paid like they’re valuable too.”
Jenna Watson, IndyStar staff member and president of the Indianapolis News Guild, lauded the team for rejecting Gannett’s narrative and demanding a seat at the table.
“This isn’t just about our lives at work,” Watson said. “It’s about pushing our parent company to invest in its journalism at the local level, so we can keep serving our communities the way they deserve. We must save local journalism.”
DOT producers provide a valuable service to the company by helping distribute its content to the widest audience possible to boost key performance indicators such as page views and paid subscriptions. The Midwest DOT has had many recent successes as a team, including working on an investigative story that led to the all-time high in the network for the number of subscriptions it brought in.
Producers not only make money for the company, but remote teams like the DOT have also saved the company money — the company’s overhead and other associated employee costs are drastically reduced. Midwest producers believe some of those earnings and savings should be passed on to the employees who make it possible. Instead, wages remain stagnant.
“Gannett has proven time and time again that we are on our own as employees,” Rosalind Bowling, a Midwest DOT digital producer, said. “We will not back down, and we will continue working tirelessly to protect each other. Gannett has given us rage, and now it’s time we use it.”
Many of Gannett’s experienced, high-performing media employees — including on digital teams, planning desks and in local newsrooms — make less than $40,000 in annual base salary. This holiday season, Gannett has announced each employee will have to take an unpaid week off work during the holiday season. That means each employee loses a fourth of their salary for December 2022.
By forming the Midwest Digital Guild, these producers are joining other newsrooms and remote teams that have unionized to help ensure the future of high-quality journalism.
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