Introducing the Chesapeake News Guild

The journalists of the Capital Gazette newspapers, The Carroll County Times and the Baltimore Sun Media Group today announced a joint effort to unionize as the Chesapeake News Guild.

The Chesapeake News Guild, a project of the Baltimore-Washington News Guild, represents three newsrooms joined as one to demand from our owners — Tribune Publishing — better pay, greater representation and stronger investment in our newsrooms.

The photographers, reporters, designers and copy editors that fill our ranks work for The Capital, serving Annapolis and Anne Arundel County; the Towson Times; the Catonsville Times; the Carroll County Times; The Aegis, serving Harford County; the Howard County Times; the Bowie-Blade News; The Crofton-West County Gazette; and the nation’s oldest newspaper, the Maryland Gazette.

A majority of those journalists have signed authorization cards, with the hopes of banding together and preventing their communities from becoming news deserts. We have more than 70 percent support among eligible employees.

The guild is asking Tribune for voluntary recognition in the next 72 hours.

“Though our papers are scattered around the Baltimore region, our dedication to the readers we serve unites us,” said Danielle Ohl, a reporter for The Capital. “Because we all value community journalism, we hope it’s around for generations to come.”

Acquired between 2012 and 2014 by the Baltimore Sun, the papers represented by the Chesapeake News Guild make up the Baltimore Sun Media Group. And though The Sun owns these papers, the employees are not a part of the Baltimore Sun’s union.

“The Baltimore Sun, whose roots as a union shop date to 1934, once competed against these community papers,” said Scott Dance, the Baltimore Sun union’s chair. “But its suburban bureaus have disappeared as it instead leans on these papers, which it purchased in 1997 and 2014, for hyperlocal coverage. The Sun's Guild employees stand in solidarity with these colleagues – it is long past time for them to earn the same rights and benefits Sun staff have defended for decades.”

The group has adopted its name from the Chesapeake Bay, an important geographic link that connects the communities covered by these publications.

Our newsrooms have survived devastating cutbacks – and last week’s announcement of buyout offers across Tribune Publishing forebodes even more.

At some of these papers, a staff of one or two reporters write almost all the stories – darting between school board meetings and city council chambers to keep their communities informed. Photographers often have to float between publications to ensure we have enough art to fill the collective pages. Designers and copy editors juggle late-night deadlines and last-minute edits from all the publications nightly.

“We believe the only way to ensure the longevity of our papers – and our profession – is to come together and fight to preserve them,” said Libby Solomon, a reporter for the Baltimore Sun Media Group.

While the papers have dwindled, staff members’ workload has increased. Many reporters cover several beats and work double shifts without overtime pay or increased compensation.

Some have gone nearly two decades without a raise.

As of today, there a few dozen photographers, reporters, designers and copy editors covering news in five counties comprising more than 2.1 million people. With more cuts imminent as our print and design work ships out to Chicago, the numbers will shrink further.

The Baltimore Sun Media Group papers are owned by the Baltimore Sun, which is in turn owned by Tribune Publishing. The Chesapeake News Guild is the fourth group to unionize under Tribune management, following the Chicago Tribune Guild, the Tidewater Media Guild and the Los Angeles Times Guild.

The Washington-Baltimore News Guild (WBNG) is the legally recognized union for more than 2,600 news, information and labor-organization workers for 27 different employers, mainly in the metropolitan Washington and Baltimore areas. In this role, the employers at Guild-represented workplaces are legally obligated to bargain with the union over the compensation, benefits and working conditions of their employees.

The NewsGuild international union has more than 25,000 members; TNG is one of nine sectors in the 750,000-member Communications Workers of America.

Chesapeake News Guild