San Diego Newspaper Tries to Shape Up

The San Diego Union-Tribune has new ownership. And the new owners appear to have arrived with some steel-toed boots, looking to kick some rear ends. In a memo to staff, the company announced it’s changing its working hours from 37.5 to 40 each week at no additional pay, and then the real kicker — mandating required business attire for those who work with the public.

Now, the hours worked issue would likely grate on my nerves if you’re not giving people more money. You’ve basically just told them they’re getting a decrease in pay, and if you do that across the board you’d better have a remarkably good reason.

But, as someone whose main critique of my fellow 20-40 somethings is that they dress like rubbish (also, they’re largely undependable and unaccountable — and say "like" way too often), I’m rather on board with the new dress code. Every time I watch a movie set in the 1920s – 1950s, I get downright jealous of the fellas in those pictures. Because if I were to dress that classily at just about any bar I frequent today, people would think I was coming from a funeral or I forgot when Halloween was (or I got lost on the "Road to Perdition"). Thanks to Ragan’s PR Daily, here’s some text from the Union-Tribune’s memo:

Appropriate Appearance – While we are upgrading the appearance of the workplace for everyone, we would like employees who work with the public to dress in sharp business attire. Again, individual supervisors will detail what is expected. Employees who do not work directly with the public, should keep in mind that we always have visitors, government officials/dignitaries in and out of our building, and the desire is to have a professional workplace appearance. ‘Casual Friday’ will continue, but should be only slightly less business oriented than Monday through Thursday.

So what do you think? Is this a case of ownership oppressing its workforce, or a commendable attempt to turn around a business in a struggling industry?

Good to Know: NLRB Sides with Employer in Twitter Dismissal

If you’ve drafted a social media policy for your company, you’ve learned by now that it’s a bit of a gray area. A recent decision by the National Labor Relations Board should inspire some confidence in employers that — should the time come — it could be allowable to dismiss a staffer due to questionable use of social media. Although, in this case, note that the Tweeter in question did identify himself as an employee of the company in his bio. An electronic alert from the Oregon law firm Barran Liebman has the report (reposted here with permission):

In good news for employers, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) issued an advice memorandum finding that an Arizona newspaper’s termination of one of its reporters for inappropriate Twitter postings was not an unfair labor practice. The NLRB’s advice memo itself is great guidance for employers looking to understand what they can and cannot do when employees post offensive or disruptive messages about the company on social media sites.

Here are the basic facts that the NLRB examined: A Tucson, Arizona newspaper publisher terminated its public safety reporter after he posted a series of messages on his Twitter account, which the newspaper encouraged him to set up and which identified him as a reporter for the newspaper and included a link to the newspaper’s website. After the reporter tweeted, "[The newspaper’]s copy editors are the most witty and creative people in the world. Or at least they think they are," human resources questioned him about why he felt the need to post his concerns on Twitter instead of speaking to people within the organization. Although the newspaper did not yet have a formal social media policy, it then told the reporter that he was prohibited from airing his grievances or commenting about the newspaper in any public forum.

The reporter continued tweeting, including a tweet about a local television news station misspelling something in its Twitter feed and several tweets of his own commentary about homicides in Tucson:

"You stay homicidal, Tucson. See Star Net for the bloody deets."

"What?!?! No overnight homicide? WTF? You’re slacking Tucson"

"Hope everyone’s having a good Homicide Friday, as one Tucson police officer called it."

The publisher confronted the reporter about his tweets and instructed him to not tweet about anything work-related until they determined what to do. The newspaper then suspended him and terminated his employment.

The reporter filed a complaint with the NLRB, alleging that his termination violated Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). Section 7 prohibits employers from disciplining employees (regardless of whether the workplace is unionized) who have engaged in "concerted activity." In this case, the NLRB attorneys concluded that the reporter’s Twitter messages were not protected and concerted activity because they did not relate to the terms and conditions of his employment, or seek to involve other employees in issues related to employment. For that reason, the newspaper was free to discipline and terminate him for misconduct since his conduct did not involve protected activity.

UPDATE (May 24): Here’s another NLRB decision regarding social media and the termination of employees. Clear as mud now?

Youngsters Purchase Indiana Paper

The existing newspaper paradigm has its critics. And there have been some that say the fading medium needs to "go younger." The Waynedale News in Fort Wayne may be headed down that road after it was recently purchased by two 22-year-olds. Inside INdiana Business has the press release:

Two young entrepreneurs, Alex Cornwell (22) and Michael Alberico (22) as of September 1st have become the new owners of The Waynedale News. Each as active members of the Waynedale community have been involved in area groups and functions. Alex Cornwell, who has worked for the newspaper for over four years, owns a Waynedale based web design firm, ACORN Design LLC and also serves on the board of directors for The Brenda Hanchar Foundation. Michael Alberico has worked on numerous community service projects and received awards, such as the United States Presidential Service Award for his endeavors. Based on their business and newspaper experience, these new owners have many innovative ideas for the paper, which has served the community for the past seventy seven years.

The Waynedale News is a free newspaper publication distributed twice a month in and around the South West Fort Wayne or "Waynedale" area which provides information to the public about Waynedale events or interests. The success of the newspaper is a direct result of community support and local marketing. Throughout the many years of operations, The Waynedale News, once known as The Waynedaler, is an entity that the Waynedale community accepts and expects.

Cornwell and Alberico’s overall goal for The Waynedale News is to sustain and build on the community binding newspaper. As a major objective for the future, The Waynedale News will become more community driven and influenced. The newspaper will serve as a hub for community information and knowledge, where any community member is invited to submit story ideas, articles or photos for publication in the paper. In the past, The Waynedale News has been an active member of the community, but with the new ownership, the newspaper will become an intricate part of Waynedale activity and promotion. With this new presence, the paper will serve to promote business and residential growth within Waynedale and the surrounding area. In return for the business advertising and community support, these new owners feel The Waynedale News should reflect the true spirit of Waynedale and relay this message to others outside the community.