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Another Creditor Surfaces in Philly

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by badmoon, Sep 4, 2009.

  1. badmoon

    badmoon Member

    Arbitrator rules for Guild in Philadelphia
    Negotiations under way over back pay for sports columnist
    Andy Zipser, Editor
    03 Sep 2009
    The Guild Reporter

    Representatives of the Philadelphia Guild and of Philadelphia Newspapers, publisher of the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News, were to start negotiating today over the company's dismissal of prominent Inquirer sports columnist Stephen A. Smith. The negotiations were ordered Monday by arbitrator Richard R. Kasher, who ruled that the Inquirer violated its collective bargaining agreement with the Guild when it fired Smith in January of 2008. Kasher gave the two sides 60 days in which to "reach an appropriate remedy" or accept his final disposition in the matter.

    The decision marks the Guild's ninth consecutive arbitration victory, according to administrative officer Bill Ross. "When will they learn?" he asked rhetorically.

    Smith, a columnist with an unblemished disciplinary record for 13 years, was regarded so highly by the Inquirer that he became its best-paid staffer and was featured in its advertising campaigns. Eventually he became a sought-after radio and television commentator, and when ESPN offered him a daily show in 2005, he approached management to negotiate an arrangement allowing him to continue his column on a more limited basis.

    The result was an agreement, signed by Anne Gordon, the Inquirer's managing editor, and Amanda Bennett, the executive editor, stipulating that Smith would write a minimum of 75 columns a year for an annual salary of $125,000. The arrangement was to run for one year, until February of 2006, at which time Smith had the option of resigning, of extending the agreement—or of returning as a full-time columnist, at a salary of $190,000. Moreover, if he returned as a full-time employee he would receive a salary increase to $205,000 that June and to $225,000 in June of 2007.

    But that was before the roof caved in on the newspaper industry. Bennett was out and William Marimow was in, as the editor responsible "for overall news coverage," when the Inquirer began the first in a series of newsroom layoffs in January, 2007. When Gordon told him a few months later that it was time to give Smith—who by that time was back on a full-ime basis—a $20,000 raise, he was nonplused.

    "At the time that Anne [Ms. Gordon] told me we had to give Stephen a raise and I looked at the contract, I said to myself—I hadn't really known how much he was paid. And I said boy, we should really be getting better work," Marimow testified in the arbitration hearing, held April 24 and May 14 this year. Under cross-examination, he further explained: "I thought that it would be wrong to give a raise of that magnitude after all these layoffs, and I didn't want to do it because of the trauma that the newsroom had experienced."

    Company witnesses maintained that Smith was simply "reassigned" in August, 2007, and denied that being bumped from a position as a featured columnist to a general assignment reporter was a demotion. Yet Marimow—described by the arbitrator as "extraordinarily candid, credible and fair-minded"—conceded that Smith's reassignment was a demotion. And as the arbitrator added, Marimow's testimony persuaded him that Smith's subsequent treatment was "motivated, at least in part if not substantial part, because Mr. Marimow believed that Mr. Smith was being overpaid."

    Now the two sides have two months in which to negotiate whether Smith will regain his coveted columnist's slot, how much he should be paid—and how much back pay he's due. And that latter sum could be quite a bundle.
  2. PatrickCarney

    PatrickCarney New Member

    quite frankly, he was way overpaid!
  3. SixToe

    SixToe Active Member

    Who the hell believes being moved from "featured columnist" to a GA position is not a demotion?

    If moving from GA to columnist would be considered a promotion or, at the least, a step up, how could it be argued the reverse is not true?
  4. They signed the contract. Being stupid is no defense. Maybe he would have renegotiated, but they didn't even give him the opportunity.
  5. Joe Williams

    Joe Williams Active Member

    Newspapers editors far and wide, up and down the industry, have claimed the same sort of bullshit when they decide to make a change of this sort on, hell, a whim. A lot of unions go along with it, too -- they let management do what it wants in terms of "assigments" and roles, and only classify something as a demotion if your pay gets lessened. I have seen columnists put onto college beats, national MLB writers stuck on high school coverage and other moves of that ilk, clearly done to anger or discourage the staffer (good performers all) into quitting. Just because a department head wants to rearrange furniture or "promote" a favorite.

    Of course, each of those moves in reverse would be accompanied by an inter-office memo touting the reward being bestowed upon the staffer. In other words, framing it as a demotion. That's just one of 1,000 ways bosses can be dishonest scum.

    It gets laughable, though, if they do this too often at those union shops that protect paychecks but not careers, titles, roles and promotions. You can end up with rim people and preps writers making as much or more than the highest paid columnists, because they had to leave the pay alone.

    Fascinating that Stephen A. Smith was getting $1,666.67 per column while giving a pinkie's worth of effort to the paper, yet the Inky's sports beat people, police reporter and G.A. types -- folks who actually have to work hard for a living there -- were making a fraction of that per story and in many cases less per week than a SAS column's worth.

    Brilliant move on top of brilliant move at that place.
  6. golfnut8924

    golfnut8924 Guest

    $125,000 for 75 columns??? Must be nice.

    It's a wonder the race card hasn't been played yet. I'm sure it's coming. It always does.
  7. slappy4428

    slappy4428 Active Member

    Contract is up. Here's your back pay settlement.
    Now wait in line like the rest of the creditors...
  8. Drip

    Drip Active Member

    I'm going to play the race card and the idiot card. Stephen A. found a golden cow and milked it. More power to him. However, his work went down faster than the stock market. And when when I say work, I mean the quality. It's one thing to right a Phillies column and you come to the ball park. It's another thing to write a column sitting on your ass listening to WIP trying to get a pulse on what the people in the Delaware Valley are feeling.
    The fact that he is black, which is important, isn't as important as that he wasn't doing to job. The city needed and needs a good African American columnist. He was pushed to be a columnist and aside from covering the NBA, which is his strong suit, he brought nothing else to the table except an ego that is irritating at times.
    I don't think he will ever write another story for the Inky and that's sad. He has talent that if cultivated right, could become outstanding.
    The idiot card goes to the paper for pushing him as a columnist then pushing him out. Smith also gets an idiot card because instead of learning his craft, he got greedy and simply stopped working hard.
    The race card is out because the paper, like many others in this country, needs an African American voice.
    I'm glad that he won. No one, not even Stephen A., deserves not to be paid. He didn't hold a gun to their heads in negotiating the deal. However, the Inky took both his money and writing career.
  9. golfnut8924

    golfnut8924 Guest

    Didn't he have a tv show on ESPN at one point?? I think it lasted about 3 episodes or so.
  10. Mystery Meat II

    Mystery Meat II Well-Known Member

  11. Drip

    Drip Active Member

    Lasted six months. There was potential there but again, ego caused it to go down faster than the Titanic.
  12. beardpuller

    beardpuller Active Member

    As a member of the Philly Guild, I am just bursting with pride over this ridiculous achievement. I'm a little worried, though, about how my cash-strapped employer is going to make the restitution my union so doggedly fought for and achieved for this heroic figure.
    Perhaps if I give up part of my salary, and everyone else follows suit ... ::)
    Ya know, then again, perhaps not. Perhaps I'll just continue to contemplate which is the bigger bunch of ... wonderful human beings, the people running my union or the people running the papers.
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