Jun 5, 2023 - News

Austin American-Statesman journalists to strike

Illustration of a megaphone made of newspaper

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Reporters and photographers at Austin's daily newspaper are going on a one-day strike Monday as they seek better pay and benefits.

What's happening: The Austin NewsGuild, which represents non-management newsroom staff at the Austin American-Statesman, is striking for one day.

Details: Reporters are seeking a boost in minimum annual pay from $42,000 to $60,000.

  • A third of newsroom employees have not seen a raise since 2017, per guild vice-chair Nicole Villalpando, who is a healthcare reporter and Season for Caring editor at the paper.
  • Statesman employees have taken second jobs doing Doordash deliveries, Uber driving and pet-sitting, said Villalpando, who has worked at the paper 24 years and has a side gig as a weight-watchers coach.

The big picture: The Statesman, which has long punched above its weight, was recently named a Pulitzer Prize finalist for its coverage of the aftermath of the Uvalde mass shooting.

Yes, but: Underscoring the challenges facing newspapers everywhere, the Statesman has seen its circulation numbers dwindle.

  • Daily print circulation was 26,455 in 2022 — down from 136,980 in 2010, though paid, digital-only subscribers across parent company Gannett's properties were up 24% year over year.

What they're saying: "We have been at the bargaining table over two years and what Gannett has offered us is worse than what we currently have," Villalpando said, saying the company has proposed cutting 401K benefits and healthcare subsidies.

The other side: "Despite the anticipated work stoppage, we will not cease delivering trusted news to our loyal readers," Audrey Pass, a spokesperson for Gannett, told Axios.

  • "Our goal is to preserve journalism and serve our communities across the country as we continue to bargain in good faith to finalize contracts that provide equitable wages and benefits for our valued employees," Pass said.

Between the lines: Staffers also say Gannett is not investing enough in the newsroom, that more than a dozen reporters and editors have left since the paper produced the lauded Uvalde coverage and few have been replaced.

  • The Statesman is no longer located near downtown, but at MetCenter in southeast Austin.
  • The Cox family, which previously owned the American-Statesman and currently owns Axios, is redeveloping the valuable former Statesman property, situated on Lady Bird Lake by the Ann Richards Bridge.

Of note: The guild has raised more than $10,000 through crowdfunding for a strike fund to help ease the pain of losing pay for going on strike.

Zoom out: Workers at more than a dozen Gannett papers nationwide are striking during the media company's annual shareholder meeting Monday, aiming to win a vote of no-confidence in CEO Mike Reed.

Disclosure: The writer and editor of this story previously worked at the Statesman.


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