Author Archives: Rick Freeman

About Rick Freeman

Rick covered ballgames and events for the AP, and worked every shift the department had to offer.

NewsGuild-CWA stands up for right to report

An upswing in attacks on journalists in recent months has prompted The NewsGuild-CWA, the parent union of the News Media Guild, to intensify its efforts to protect the Right to Report.

“Trump’s demonization of journalists has created a dangerous climate, ripe for intimidation, arrests and violence,” Lunzer said.

“But something else is happening as well,” he pointed out. “Journalists are persevering — and people are paying attention.”

A Federal Law

In response to the attacks on the media, the Guild launched the #Right2Report project on May 3, World Press Freedom Day. Since then, the union has joined with others to highlight and condemn attacks on journalists.

The Guild also plans to work with allies to support federal legislation to protect journalists by imposing greater penalties on those who harm them while they’re performing their duties. The union is urging support for legislation that would make it a felony to assault a journalist.

“While the Guild also is invested in protecting the rights of ordinary citizens to do things such as record police actions in public places, the Right to Report project is focused on the rights of working journalists,” said Guild International Chairperson Martha Waggoner.

In addition to the assault on Jacobs, other recent incursions into the First Amendment’s guarantee of a free press have occurred as well. They include:

  • In West Virginia, Dan Heyman, a reporter for the Public News Service was charged with “willful disruption of governmental processes” when he repeatedly tried to question Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price.
  • Award-winning CQ Roll Call reporter John M. Donnelly was roughed up by security guards when he tried to question Federal Communications Commissioner Michael O’Rielly after a news conference.
  • At least six journalists were arrested and charged with felony riot at protests on Inauguration Day; charges were dropped against all but two independent journalists.
  • In February, the White House banned reporters from CNN, the New York Times, Politico, the Los Angeles Times and BuzzFeed from attending a press briefing. (In solidarity, reporters from AP and Time refused to attend.)
  • In February Trump labelled journalists “enemies of the people.”
  • Barely noticed in a May 16 New York Times article by Guild member Michael S. Schmidt was this gem: “Alone in the Oval Office, Mr. Trump began the discussion by condemning leaks to the news media, saying that Mr. Comey should consider putting reporters in prison for publishing classified information, according to one of Mr. Comey’s associates.”

The White House has taken steps to limit the public’s access to information — refusing to release visitor logs, prohibiting journalists from recording numerous press briefings, and limiting access to cabinet officials.

A petition launched by the Guild on World Press Freedom Day condemns threats to press freedom and demands that government officials “allow journalists to do their jobs.” It also condemns attempts to demonize reporters and to undermine legitimate journalism by promoting fake news.

Not New

But attacks on the media are nothing new and they’re not limited to the current occupant of the White House or to Washington, D.C., Lunzer points out.

  • In 2014, journalists were arrested while covering protests in Ferguson, MO, and in late 2016 and early 2017, reporters were arrested while covering demonstrations in Standing Rock ND.
  • In June, two journalists were arrested in St. Paul, MN, while reporting on protests following the not-guilty verdict in the case of the police officer who shot and killed Philando Castile.

“The Right to Report project is a natural continuation of the work that The NewsGuild has done over the years,” Lunzer said. In 2014, the Guild gave its highest award, the Herbert Block Freedom Award, to New York Times reporter James Risen, who federal officials were threatening to jail if he didn’t confirm the name of a source for his book.

The Guild’s Executive Committee also quietly signs on as a “friend of the court” to many legal briefs involving the First Amendment. Examples include:

  • A case in the Second Circuit regarding journalists’ rights to record the police in public.
  • A case involving the New York Police Department’s refusal to say whether it has records that are responsive to the request.
  • A case involving the military’s plans to subpoena Mark Boal, a journalist and Academy Award-winning filmmaker, for his notes and recordings relating to interviews with Bowe Bergdahl, the soldier who was held captive by the Taliban in Afghanistan.

“These are not ordinary times,” Lunzer said. “We have a special responsibility to stand up for freedom of the press and to fight for transparency in government. That is a responsibility we take very seriously.”

Guild Seeks Wage Restoration In Bargaining with EFE News

MIAMI – Seeking to recover from years of painful wage reductions, Guild journalists at the world’s largest Spanish-language news agency started bargaining Tuesday for a new labor agreement. Both sides signaled a preference for a speedy deal, and management indicated it would propose some wage increases.

Reporters, editors, and administrative workers voluntarily accepted reduced wages for several years to help EFE and its parent company weather tough economic times. Last year, the two sides agreed to extend the contract a year with a wage freeze. The Guild represents U.S. workers at the Madrid-based agency, the largest Spanish-language news agency in the world.

“The time has come to regain ground, address a growing pay gap and address some basic fairness issues,” said Jairo Mejia, a reporter in EFE’s Washington, D.C., bureau. He referred to wage rates covering the company’s Miami employees that fall far short of rapidly rising living costs in the South Florida metro area. The union said it hoped to advance its initial proposals on Thursday.

EFE said it planned to offer a contract that would include a wage increase of 7 percent for Miami staffers over the life of a four-year agreement. It said it planned to continue the current medical plan and its cost structure. It said it would discuss wages for staffers in California, New York, and Washington at a later date. EFE also said however, that it might propose deletion of provisions guaranteeing minimum wages that are an industry standard. In addition, EFE signaled it wanted changes to contract terms preventing unfair discrimination and changes to the existing intern program.

The Guild and the Company also discussed EFE’s business plans. EFE said it was intent on expanding video and multimedia work.

The next bargaining session is set for Thursday. The current contract expires June 30.

Representing the Guild: Washington journalists Jauro Mejía, Jorge Bañales, and Miriam Burgués, Miami editor David Ronk, and NMG chief negotiator Tony Winton.

Representing EFE: Laureano García, vice president, Hernán Martín, Washington bureau chief, Marisleidys Mavilio, Miami controller, and attorney Arturo Ross.

Guild sets bargaining team for AP negotiations

The bargaining team for the News Media Guild’s contract negotiations includes one veteran of previous sessions and some new faces.

AP Sports staffer Vin Cherwoo, who works in New York, has served on four previous bargaining teams. He also is the Guild’s secretary-treasurer.

The other members are Jill Bleed, a breaking news staffer in Little Rock, Arkansas, and two technicians who will share the duty: Dave Herron of Seattle and Ed Morsett of Denver.

”I look forward to working with my fellow negotiators as we fight to get the best possible contract for our talented and hard-working colleagues across the country,” said Cherwoo, who covers the NHL’s Rangers and Islanders for the AP.

Bleed lives in Little Rock with her husband, Jake, and their daughters, 6-year-old Claire and 2-year-old Greta. She said she wants to work with the other bargainers to represent Guild members and negotiate a contract “that reflects AP’s commitment to quality journalism.”

NMG hires former member Rick Freeman as mobilizer

Former AP sports staffer Rick Freeman has been hired as a mobilizer by the News Media Guild as the union prepares for bargaining with The Associated Press.

Freeman worked for AP from 2001-2015 in New York as a desk supervisor, editor and sports writer.

He served in formal and informal roles with the Guild during his time with the company, including as an an alternate and delegate to the Guild’s Representative Assembly from 2011 until he left the company.

“No one works harder to tell the world’s stories than AP journalists, and I’m fired up to be able to focus on helping the AP’s workers get the best possible contract this year,” Freeman said. “We’re going to stand together to make sure our workers get the recognition and compensation they deserve.”

Freeman covered dozens of ballgames and events for the AP, and worked almost every shift the department had to offer. He is based in New York City.