Maya Tizon, right, hold a sign and chants with other Everett Herald journalists on strike as they walk down Colby Avenue on Monday, June 24, 2024, in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Maya Tizon, right, hold a sign and chants with other Everett Herald journalists on strike as they walk down Colby Avenue on Monday, June 24, 2024, in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Everett Herald newsroom strikes amid layoffs

“We hope that people who live in these communities can see our passion, because it’s there,” said Sophia Gates, one of 12 Herald staffers who lost jobs last week.

EVERETT — News staff at The Daily Herald marched through downtown Everett for a one-day strike Monday, following a dozen layoffs in the newsroom and a year of unsuccessful labor negotiations.

Carpenter Media Group, the new Mississippi-based partial owners of Snohomish County’s daily newspaper, announced a plan last week to eliminate positions 10 of 18 union workers, as well as the two top editors.

CMG Chairman Todd Carpenter said difficult business decisions were meant to ensure The Herald’s journalism has a future, with the ultimate goal of not only keeping the newspaper financially viable, but continuing to improve and serve the community.

“We have deep sympathy for those affected by these changes and will work hard with each of them to see they are well-compensated through a transition period that helps them move forward in a positive way,” Carpenter said at the time.

Reporters reacted with deep skepticism of Carpenter Media’s motives and its pledge to bolster quality journalism in Everett, in light of the layoffs that left staff members sobbing and embracing one another in the newsroom the week prior.

Around 9 a.m. Monday — regular time to clock in for a weekly staff meeting — reporters, photographers and supporters waved signs at the corner of Hewitt and Colby avenues: “Honk for local news.” “We are people not numbers.” “Loss of staff loss 4 democracy.”

Maya Tizon, right, hold a sign and chants with other Everett Herald journalists on strike as they walk down Colby Avenue on Monday, June 24, 2024, in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Maya Tizon, right, hold a sign and chants with other Everett Herald journalists on strike as they walk down Colby Avenue on Monday, June 24, 2024, in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

About 50 people marched south on Colby, toward the Herald’s offices on 41st Street. In the crowd were U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, state Rep. and City Council member Mary Fosse, and County Council member Megan Dunn.

“This is a job that we have put our heart and soul into, and we hope that people who live in these communities can see our passion, because it’s there,” said Sophia Gates, one of six reporters named in the layoffs. “Readers might not always agree with everything we write, but that’s why local news exists, because we say the thing that’s hard, or ask the question that may be uncomfortable, and just try over and over again to get it right.”

Ryan Berry leads a chant as he makes his way down Colby Avenue during the Everett NewsGuild strike on Monday, June 24, 2024, in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Ryan Berry leads a chant as he makes his way down Colby Avenue during the Everett NewsGuild strike on Monday, June 24, 2024, in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

The Everett NewsGuild has since demanded Carpenter Media Group reinstate the 10 newsroom jobs. The union also filed an unfair labor practice “charge” Friday with the National Labor Relations Board, alleging Carpenter used questionable performance metrics to make layoff decisions, without giving the union advance warning.

‘For generations’

Before union layoffs can take effect, the employer must bargain with the NewsGuild, which represents 18 staff members. Under the Carpenter plan, The Herald would retain two news editors, six full-time news reporters, one photographer, two sports writers and no in-house digital or design staff.

Non-union members let go last week included Executive Editor Phillip O’Connor.

A day after announcing the layoffs, ownership unpublished a story by Herald reporters about the decision, before a revised version was published with comment from the ownership — when staff pledged to walkout if the story remained offline.

Publisher Rudi Alcott also faced criticism for saying Herald readers “won’t notice” any difference following the layoffs.

“Everyone has already noticed the physical cutback of the paper,” Larsen, the U.S. representative, wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter. “Will definitely notice the reduced coverage.”

Former Herald journalist Jerry Cornfield, writing for the Washington State Standard, reported Saturday that local leaders have deep concerns about the future of the paper. Cornfield described the job losses as a “corporate ransacking.”

On Monday, Carpenter further commented: “We must organize with the right number of people to do this work, train them well and pay them well. We are new to Everett and the union and wage problem but committed to work our way through it to build an excellent team and excellent work culture for our staff and readers. We welcome all who share those aspirations.”

Jon Bauer, right, the opinion page editor at the Herald, holds a sign and walks down Colby Avenue during the Everett NewsGuild strike on Monday, June 24, 2024, in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Jon Bauer, right, the opinion page editor at the Herald, holds a sign and walks down Colby Avenue during the Everett NewsGuild strike on Monday, June 24, 2024, in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

In an email to staff Monday, Carpenter Senior Vice President Josh O’Connor said management is “committed to working with the Guild and its members to discuss the effects of this decision.”

“We are committed to working with the Guild and its members to discuss the effects of this decision,” he wrote. “… We are all responsible for building a system and structure at the Daily Herald that can be sustained for generations.”

‘The same level of coverage’

The Herald, first published on Jan. 5, 1901, is a subscription publication that reaches roughly 20,000 doorsteps and boasts more than 3.2 million page views per month. This year its reporters and photographers won seven regional Society of Professional Journalists honors.

The Herald’s news staff unionized in fall 2022. Since 2023, a bargaining contract has been stalled amid newsroom turnover and a wide difference of opinion over fair wages, with union members looking for pay to reflect an MIT calculation suggestion $25.59 per hour, compared to the current starting wage of $18.

“The company has slow-walked negotiations, taking a year to present an insultingly low wage proposal — which starts at $19.50 an hour — that does not reflect the cost of living in Snohomish County,” Isabella Breda, a former Daily Herald reporter, wrote in an online “strike fund.”

Carol Jensen, 75, and Lisa Hall, 77, two subscribers from Everett, were among those who joined the protest Monday.

“Democracy needs the newspaper,” Hall said.

Gates, who covers the cities of Everett, Marysville, Lake Stevens and Snohomish, said a smaller staff simply can’t do as much.

“We are not going to be able to maintain the same level of coverage,” she said. “I say ‘we,’ but I won’t be there.”

Everett NewsGuild members cheer as a passing car honks in support of their strike on Monday, June 24, 2024, in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Everett NewsGuild members cheer as a passing car honks in support of their strike on Monday, June 24, 2024, in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Gates added: “A lot of people subscribe to national outlets, like The New York Times or The Washington Post, but those outlets can’t tell you about what’s happening in Darrington … or Edmonds, or local high school sports games. Or so many of the issues and events we cover. A lot of that is going to be lost.”

On Monday, non-unionized staff worked to fill the following day’s newspaper, with the offered help of a team of reporters and designers from Carpenter Media Group outlets around North America. Unionized in-house newsroom employees planned to return to work Tuesday.

Editor’s note: Carpenter Media Group senior editors and local management edited this story. The writer, Caleb Hutton, received a layoff notice before publishing this article, effective July 3. Also, an earlier version of this article misspelled Megan Dunn’s name.

Caleb Hutton: 360-689-5723; caleb.j.hutton@gmail.com. Twitter: @snocaleb.

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