Union: Washington Post Pushing Out Some Well-Paid Union Employees In Favor Of Freelancers, Interns

Interesting, because a few months ago, I commented in a Post piece about long-term unemployment and they contacted me to ask if I would write about my experience. "You mean, for free?" I said, ever tactful. "Well, no, we really don't have the money," the guy said. (He said he was an intern.) I told him I wasn't interested in working on the Graham family's content farm, but "thanks for asking." So this doesn't surprise me:

At least thirteen people have departed the [Washington] Post under “cake-less” circumstances (i.e. quietly) in the past year, writes Guild unit co-chair Fredrick Kunkle.

The script goes like this: an employee is summoned to a meeting where she hears that “the bar has been raised.” She is told her work does not meet this supposed new standard. She is handed an envelope with a buyout offer and given a deadline to surrender her job or face disciplinary action because of her allegedly poor performance. She is reminded that disciplinary action progresses from warnings to suspensions and termination.

Never mind that the people targeted so far have included veteran journalists with years of distinguished service. Or that talk of a “raised bar” comes as the Post relies more than ever on interns, bloggers, freelancers, readers or comically inexperienced content creators to fill pages.

Kunkle points out that half the thirteen who have left so far this year have been African-Americans or Latinos, but that the reason this is happening is a lack of money. The Post lost $6.2 million in its most recent quarter.

The original Guild piece adds:

Or that some allegations of poor performance – as documented by the new, pseudoscientific evaluation system and its across-the-board top score of “3” – have included highly subjective and weaselly criticisms such as inserting too many pop culture references in stories. (We are not making this up.) Other reasons worthy of disciplinary action? Not having enough sources. Not writing more “impact” stories. Not landing on A1 often enough. One staff writer was given a 30-day production quota as follows: at least one deeply textured A1 story, at least one news feature, profile or takeout worthy of the Metro front or A1, at least three dailies a week and at least three blog posts per week. No mention of a Twitter quota. Yet.

No mention of too many anonymous sources or too many self-serving leaks, of course. After all, their paper would be almost empty!


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