WASHINGTON - December 7 - MoveOn media Action confronted Dennis FitzSimmons, CEO of the Tribune Company, one of the nation’s largest newspapers chains, at a conference in New York City attended by top executives of media outlets and media beat reporters.
Noah Winer, Media Action Director for MoveOn.org Civic Action and spokesman for the 3.4 million member organization, opened with a statement calling on the Tribune Co. to reverse its decision to cut 650 jobs at papers including the LA Times, Chicago Tribune, Newsday, and Orlando Sentinel, and then attempted to present petitions carrying 45,000 reader signatures to Mr. FitzSimmons. The CEO refused to accept the petitions and responded to Winer that he would not meet with readers about his decision.
The action was organized by MoveOn.org Civic Action, whose members believe such cutbacks would weaken journalists’ ability to perform their public watchdog responsibilities.
“Over 650 staff positions were cut at these papers this year, despite a $595.9 million profit at the Tribune Company’s publishing division through September – a $93.6 million increase from the same time last year,” said Adam Green, Civic Communications Director for MoveOn.org Civic Action..
In the last week, MoveOn Media Action launched local petition drives in eight Tribune Company readership areas: Newsday, Los Angeles Times, Orlando Sentinel, Chicago Tribune, Baltimore Sun, Hartford Courant, Daily Press (VA) and Morning Call (PA).
“These staff cuts mean watered-down coverage of local, state, and national news,” said Winer. “Politicians and corporations who should be held accountable by vigilant watchdog journalism will instead be covered by a staff that is stretched too thin.”
Online petitions are the first step in a consistent campaign aimed at the Tribune Company, and potentially other corporate media owners. Other actions may include person-to-person petition drives in local communities, local petition deliveries, phone calls to the Tribune Company, and actions aimed at influencing stockholders.
“Our big goal is to raise public awareness of this issue and give regular people a way to fight for good journalism,” said Green. “Today’s action is merely the opening salvo of a growing public backlash corporate media owners will face if they continue to abandon quality journalism.”
MoveOn Media Action is a new project of MoveOn.org Civic Action – a 501(c)(4) distinct from MoveOn.org’s political action committee. MoveOn Media Action empowers regular people to reform the media and fight back when news organizations abandon their duty to practice strong watchdog journalism. It was formed because MoveOn.org members felt this was an important priority for the organization.