Tuesday January 12, 2016

Journalism head cautions recent grads about 'scab' work at Halifax paper

The Chronicle Herald is preparing for a possible strike or lockout.

The Chronicle Herald is preparing for a possible strike or lockout. (Rachel Ward/CBC)

Former students of King's College journalism program have been contacted by Halifax's Chronicle Herald newspaper for work. The catch is the jobs would be as replacement workers in the event of a potential work stoppage at the paper.

Now, Kelly Toughill, director of University of King's College School of Journalism, is cautioning her former students about working during a contract dispute.

"In the past, people who have worked through a strike or labour disruption at newspapers have really been treated as a bit of a pariah in the journalism community afterwards." - Kelly Toughill

She says three former students have contacted her after they were approached by the paper. Of those, one refused and she's unsure about the other two. 

She tells As It Happens host Carol Off that while she hasn't told the students directly what to do, she advises that any short-term monetary gain or experience could hurt their careers in the future.

"In the past, people who have worked through a strike or labour disruption at newspapers have really been treated as a bit of a pariah in the journalism community afterwards. It can be harder to find work if these are new journalists ...  it can hamper their career going forward."

Ingrid Bulmer, the president of the Halifax Typographical Union said in a press release that despite two rounds of earlier cuts and concessions designed to help the newspaper get through a tough environment for print media, management at the Herald wants to cut the newsroom by a further 30 per cent and expand its advertorial division. Bulmer claims this would make the paper a "cheaply produced vehicle for sponsored content."

kelly

Kelly Toughill is the director of the School of Journalism (ukings.ca)

Bulmer has asked unionized freelancers to turn down any work offered by the Chronicle Herald. 

The Chronicle Herald has reportedly offered potential replacement workers the ability to work from home and no byline in an attempt to give the workers anonymity. Toughill, however, says privacy is a misnomer in the digital age.

A local photographer warned young journalists against working during a contract dispute:

"I think anonymity is very difficult to maintain. In past strikes, people have found out who was writing. Particularly in this age of social media, privacy is almost a quaint notion of the past. They may be offering no bylines but they can't guarantee anonymity."

Toughill says recent graduates face an incredibly competitive job search, especially in a smaller market like Halifax.

"These are people who are struggling." 

The Chronicle Herald has filed noticed with the province that it intends to lock out its newsroom and news bureau staff at 12:01 a.m. (local time) on Jan. 23.

As It Happens reached out to the Chronicle Herald for comment but there was no response.

Note: The Chroncile Herald's freelancers belong to the Typographical Union. The CBC's Canadian Media Guild belongs to the same parent union CWA/SCA Canada.