Chronicle Headline Reveals Anti-Union Bias

by Randy Shaw on August 15, 2007

A headline on the front-page of the San Francisco Chronicle’s August 14 Business section read, “Union rejected at papers.” A reader would logically conclude that workers at a local newspaper voted against union representation. But the subheadline and the article itself revealed the far different, and more ominous truth: as the Berkeley Daily Planet headline put it, “Media News Ends Newsroom’s Union’s Status.” What the Chronicle headline wanted to frame as workers rejecting a union was actually a classic tale of union-busting. And the union-buster–the Media News Group– is a financial partner of the Chronicle’s parent company, the Hearst Corporation. Think that relationship affected the paper’s coverage?

When Media News Group—which controls every Bay Area daily newspaper but the SF Chronicle and Examiner—busted its union at five papers including the Oakland Tribune, it would seem to be a front-page story. But in the Chronicle, the story was relegated to the business page, with a misleading headline that led readers to think that it was the workers who rejected unionization, not the corporate media giant.

What’s particularly interesting about the Chronicle’s headline, “Union rejected at papers,” is that headlined the same story, “MediaNews yanks recognition of Newspaper Guild.” It appears that the editors of the paper edition intentionally chose a headline that would misinform rather than educate readers.

What would be their motive for such chicanery? Well, the Hearst Corporation, owner of the Chronicle, invested $300 million in MediaNews and owns 30% of its non-Bay Area papers.

In other words, the owners of the Chronicle and the five union-busting papers are business partners.

And with the Chronicle losing $50 million annually prior to the recent layoff of 25% of its staff, rumors have flown that MediaNews will soon become a partner in the Chronicle as well.

This means downplaying your partner’s anti-union activity, both through a misleading headline and a story that excludes many key facts included in the Berkeley Daily Planet .

Among these facts is MediaNews’ outsourcing of unionized typographer positions at the San Jose Mercury News to India and non-unionized sectors of the paper. We also learn from the Berkeley paper that Teamster jobs at the Chronicle will be outsourced to a non-union Canadian plant in two years.

Here we have one of the worst examples of union-busting the pro-labor Bay Area has seen in years, and our daily newspapers are too financially vested in this anti-union activity to fully and fairly report on it.

Thank goodness for independent publications like the Daily Planet, as well as the increasing number of Bay Area readers seeking their news from on-line publications.

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