Looks like the “Teamsters with typewriters” movement has succeeded at the Florida Times-Union and that will accelerate the decline of the local newspaper.

By voting to join a newspaper union, the liberal reporters in the newsroom have ensured higher labor costs for the new owners, Gatehouse Media.

While they may be able to force the higher wages and benefits they want, money doesn’t come from newspaper printing presses. The owners would have to cut other costs to offset higher labor costs – or raise already high subscription and ad rates. That usually runs off readers and ad buyers and would only add to the spiral.

It has been a good run. The Times-Union was formed in the 19th century by combining two local papers. For years it was a typical Southern newspaper, competing against the afternoon Jacksonville Journal. Both fared well as the only games in town.

But, after the war, television stations came to town and started providing competition, which resulted in the Times-Union buying the Journal in 1959.

Still, the papers thrived under the ownership of the CSX railroad. In 1983, 100 years after it began publishing, the Times-Union was sold to Billy Morris III of Augusta, who had long wanted to acquire the paper for his chain and made the railroad an offer it could not refuse.

Morris increased profits by keeping expenses at a minimum. But he couldn’t keep the Journal from folding in 1988, like most other afternoon papers.

It was the coming of the internet that doomed the local paper, and many others. No one has found a way to monetize the online content they had been giving away. Ad revenues, especially classified ads, also plunged against internet competition.

But the major change in Jacksonville has been in philosophy. The Times-Union always had been a conservative paper, as opposed to the left-wing papers in other major Florida cities. As Morris passed the baton to his more liberal offspring and, apparently, lost interest in the chain, the Times-Union did a fairly rapid about face and now is just a pale echo of the other liberal Florida dailies. That did nothing to increase its readership in a conservative city.

This year the paper quit using its massive (and expensive) presses and the paper is printed in Gainesville and Daytona. It is looking to get out of the building at One Riverside that it had moved into in 1967 because the number of employees is a fraction of what it was then.

Unions, which are a socialist construct, virtually run newspapers in larger cities. With Gatehouse they have moved into Florida and nothing good will come from the change.

It was a foolish move by the reporters of the local newspaper. Demanding higher wages that shorten your period of employment is not a long-term career plan.

It may gain them in the short run but is likely to hasten, not prolong, the end of the newspaper.

 

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Lloyd was born in Jacksonville. Graduated from the University of North Florida. He spent nearly 50 years of his life in the newspaper business …beginning as a copy boy and retiring as editorial page editor for Florida Times Union. He has also been published in a number of national newspapers and magazines, as well as Internet sites. Married with children. Military Vet. Retired. Man of few words but the words are researched well, deeply considered and thoughtfully written.

 

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