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, 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.”

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  1. Cat says:

    I know for a fact that the parody ad was quite factual. Many, many hard-working ,loyal, talented, dedicated employees lost their jobs. These firings were handled in a very unprofessional manner.

  2. Portia says:

    Class action lawsuit. Think of all the people kicked out in the midst of chemo and otherwise done wrong.

    • M Bywater says:

      Likely too small and diverse a group of litigants to justify a class.
      It would be much more costly and difficult for Wrapports to defend 100 separate lawsuits against 100 different plaintiffs with 100 separate bull-dog hungry plaintiff’s attorneys. Their lawyers would advise them to settle the suits for low six-figure sums to avoid the risk and expense of a facing a very plaintiff friendly Cook County jury.

      • Pete says:

        Small, diverse group? Not really. More than 700 people were axed and many are adults over 40. Nothing diverse about that. Someone I know contacted a lawyer in DC and one in San Francisco willing to take on Hollinger (way back when), if they could get at least 10 people. But, everyone was scared. They ended up losing their jobs anyway. There are lawyers out there – not Chicago lawyers – who will act on charges of gross discrimination. We just have to have the guts to hit them where it hurts.

        • Pete says:

          Also, a hundred different lawsuits is not feasible. Most lawyers do not work on contigency basis for indivdiual suits, but do for class action suits.

  3. Portia says:

    The Sun-Times could also possibly be hacking into employees’ personal email, facebook, etc. Three times, I’ve gotten warnings from my provider that my accounts have been compromised. I find it interesting. There is no one else who’d be even remotely interested in my personal life… Just food for thought.

    • Benjamin says:

      Of course they’re hacking. The game is intimidation. They don’t even try to hide it. You’ll find your computer turned on – remotely. You’ll see that little spy gizmo “Log me in Pro” and it’s their “right” to monitor your work computer, but to hack into your personal computer is a crime. The Sun-Times is drunk of the blood of its employees. They’ve become arrogant and think they can get away with anything, and we’ll all sit there timidly. But, soe of us aren’t so timid. And sometimes, even the meekest dog will show its fangs if it has been abused often enough.

  4. Mike says:

    The Sun-Times has turned into a sad pathetic place that has no regard or concern for their people. They recently laid off a number of their employees and provided not a dime in severence pay. This included a woman who was over 60, and had spent over 40 years at the paper and gave her heart and soul to the paper on a daily basis ! Awful people.
    Think about this the next time you contemplate purchasing the Sun-Times!!

    • M Bywater says:

      Ain’t nobody buying the Sun-Times paper any more. Check out the stacks of unsold ST in the boxes and in the stands of the corner stores.

      The actual daily circulation of the print Chicago Sun-Times will soon fall below that of the Daily Herald.

  5. Darel Jevens says:

    The Guild works on behalf of all sorts of journalists, young and old, in tiny skirts and rumpled Dockers. It’s unfortunate that some of these comments aim insults at colleagues who deserve fair treatment from Wrapports, union or not. The Guild would be happy to represent staffers at Splash or any other Wrapports division and would treat them with fairness and respect, contrary to what the rogue pundits here might suggest.

  6. Dane says:

    The saddest part of this is that there was actually at least one person responding to the ad. People are THAT desperate for work. When will workers finally have enough of the outrage and rise up against the tyrrany?

  7. Laura L. Enright says:

    Yeah, I can imagine them being miffed by the parody. The truth hurts. And the saddest part is that the parody was hardly exaggerated. But like most bullies the Sun Times Media can dish crap out but has a hard time taking it.

  8. Bob says:

    This is so true. Funny and not funny at the same time. Those investors are greedy and don’t care about hard working people.

  9. Boris says:

    I’ve noticed the Splash bimbos. And, according to a source who would know, the first aid kits in the executive offices are stocked with Viagra…

    • Beth says:

      As upset as we guild members are at the company, let’s keep our attention focused where it matters. Let’s not diminish Splash employees to “bimbos” or worry about what’s in the first aid kit.
      Splash employees aren’t the ones setting the policies depriving us of a fair contract. Let’s figure out what first aid we can apply to this situation to work towards a more desirable outcome for us guild members.

      • Pete says:

        The non-union employees – whatever they’re called – are our competition. You cannot have union vs. non-union. Union will NEVER win. I beg to differ that we’re scattering our forces by acknowledging the competition. What attempts have been made to unionize those who do not belong to the union? And why would they join? They’re getting higher pay and better benefits than union members.

  10. Disgusted and Demoralized says:

    Yes, of course, desist! Those are the orders from the Most Royal Legal Counsel of Wrapports (affectionately known among Sun-Times employees, as Crapports). Unless, you are an early 20-something lass with blonde hair, a tiny skirt and 6-inch heels, whose hobby is strategic bending over, your future at the Sun-Times is tenuous. Sorry, Wrapports, you’re looking for war.

Comments are closed.