By Ralph Zahorik
A help-wanted ad that describes actual working conditions for Sun-Times Media suburban reporters has caused an uproar.
The ad, which was picked up and commented on by some online blogs, provoked an angry reaction from Sun-Times Media management.
Sun-Times Media recently placed ads seeking reporters for Pioneer Press, a weekly newspaper chain owned by the company, to cover Libertyville and Deerfield in Lake County. In response, the Chicago Newspaper Guild placed a parody ad describing reporters’ new working conditions since the closing of all Sun-Times suburban offices, including Pioneer branch offices and daily newspaper offices in the Joliet, Waukegan Aurora, and Gary, Ind., areas.
The Guild ad, which ran last week in Monster.com, said the “ideal candidate” should be able to “interview subjects anytime, anywhere as there is no newsroom.”
In addition, the ad said candidates, “Must be willing to file stories from locations such as coffee shops/libraries that will tolerate your presence” and “be comfortable with using public restrooms.”
More “Job Duties” from the parody ad:
- On call 24/7 for possible breaking news for as low as $13 an hour.
- Position requires tact to interface with community members who complain abou the publication’s lack of content.
- “Ability to deal with distant and hard-to-reach editors in a toxic labor environmentis a plus.”
Candidates must have “experience to churn out multiple stories per day, but not enough experience to demand a reasonable salary,” the ad said.
A lawyer with the Seyfarth Shaw law firm which represents Sun-Times Media sent the Guild a cease and desist letter. A lawsuit was threatened if the ad continued running, said Craig Rosenbaum, executive director of the Chicago Newspaper Guild.
The Seyfarth Shaw attorney who contacted the Guild could not be reached for comment.
The Guild “ad” was stopped. Two reporters were hired recently by The Sun-Times to cover Libertyville and Deerfied and the Sun-Times help wanted ad was stopped, too.
“It is the Guild’s position that the parody ad was legal and that the Guild was on firm legal ground to run such an ad in a labor dispute,” said Rosenbaum. “However, I think we made our point. There was no need to continue running the ad. After all, Romenesko picked it up and it is still out there in cyberspace.”
“We wrote (the parody ad) because we wanted people to know what our working conditions are really like,” said Beth Kramer, the Chicago Guild’s Communications Committee chair. “Everything in the ad is true.”