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WHO'S IN CHARGE HERE?
Magpie is a former journalist, attempted historian [No, you can't ask how her thesis is going], and full-time corvid of the lesbian persuasion. She keeps herself in birdseed by writing those bad computer manuals that you toss out without bothering to read them. She also blogs too much when she's not on deadline, both here and at Pacific Views.

Magpie roosts in Portland, Oregon, where she annoys her housemates (as well as her cats Medea, Whiskers, and Jane Doe) by attempting to play Irish music on the fiddle and concertina.

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Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Why is the image of US organized labor so bad?

According to Jeff Epton in In These Times, it's because the US media treats organized labor badly. That is, when the media deigns to cover labor news at all.

Discouraged by media attitudes toward unions, many labor leaders don’t even return calls from reporters, says a communication specialist for a Chicago-based union local. And unions rarely consider using the media to tell their stories. Labor’s attitude toward news reporters shouldn’t come as a surprise, she observes.

"When I pick up the phone and call a journalist and say I’m calling from organized labor, it sometimes feels like I might just as well have said, 'Hi, I’m calling from an organized crime syndicate.' So many reporters seem to react with suspicion," she says.

Years ago, major media outlets, especially daily newspapers in big cities, had reporters assigned to labor beats. Those reporters developed personal relationships with union sources in exactly the same way that business and police reporters develop relationships with their sources. In the process, beat reporters develop sympathy for the perspectives of their sources. But the days of media sympathy to labor perspectives are long gone. And a study of labor reporting in the Chicago Tribune, conducted by the University of Illinois' Chicago Labor Education Program, provides statistical support for the suspicions of union leaders and members.

Out of 386 labor-related Tribune stories, published between 1991 and 2001, researchers found that 77 percent of the "descriptors" used to signify labor were negative. In the same stories researchers counted only 113 positive adjectives. The study, "Evidence of 'Class Anxiety' in the Chicago Tribune Coverage of Organized Labor," also found that stories about labor disputes were on the average nearly twice as long as stories about labor agreements. Stories in the sports section about player unions were by far the most frequent type of labor coverage in the paper during the period and 79 percent of those stories depicted labor in a negative light, the study’s authors wrote.

| | Posted by Magpie at 2:54 PM | Get permalink




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