Pioneer Press workers launch campaign to save their newspaper

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Employees at the Pioneer Press have launched a campaign to urge the sale of their newspaper to a private-equity firm that is partnering with the workers. The group has a website, www.savethepioneerpress.com, and plans a rally April 6 to promote the union-backed proposal.

The fate of the 150-year-old Pioneer Press is in the hands of The McClatchy Co., which publishes the rival Star Tribune and is buying the Pioneer Press’ parent company, Knight Ridder Inc. As part of the Knight Ridder deal, McClatchy will sell the Pioneer Press and 11 other papers. This means McClatchy will choose the company that will soon run the Pioneer Press.

The sale poses many questions for the newspaper and the community, according to The Minnesota Newspaper Guild/Typographical Union, which represents 480 Pioneer Press workers in the newsroom, advertising, circulation and other departments.

“Will the Pioneer Press – the winner of three Pulitzer Prizes – still have the resources to serve the public with aggressive local reporting?” the union asks. “Will it offer advertisers the fair and competitive rates and good service they depend upon? Will readers still find voices as diverse and interesting as St. Paul and the east metro communities themselves?

“Or will the Pioneer Press become weaker and smaller – even fold – under an owner seeking ever-increasing profits? Some buyers would cut staff and pay severely, hurting the people who work at the Pioneer Press and damaging the quality of the paper they produce for the people in your neighborhood, your religious congregation, your community.”

One possible buyer for the Pioneer Press and several other of the Knight Ridder newspapers is ValuePlus Media Corporation, a proposed partnership between Pioneer Press employees and Yucaipa Cos. of Los Angeles, a private-equity firm with a strong history of investing in businesses that support their workers. The partnership has been made possible by The Newspaper Guild-CWA, a union representing journalists and other newspaper workers.

If it succeeds, the partnership would extend to everyone – managers and union workers alike – at the Pioneer Press and the other newspapers McClatchy is selling.

“It would be a rare entity in journalism: a corporation that gives newspaper workers a say in the direction their industry is going,” the union said. “And it would keep the Pioneer Press strong.”

The workers are urging people to write McClatchy CEO Gary Pruitt to persuade him to to sell the newspaper to the employee-backed group. Information on contacting Pruitt and a statement of support can be found on the http://www.savethepioneerpress.com website.

A rally is planned for Thursday, April 6, from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. in front of the Pioneer Press building, 345 Cedar St., downtown St. Paul.

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