Nicole Cohen and Greig de Peuter (2020) New Media Unions: Organizing Digital Journalists (New York: Routledge).
From BuzzFeed to the Los Angeles Times, over 60 newsrooms have unionized since 2015. What began as a flash of organizing by digital-first journalists has become a full-blown movement to unionize journalism, primarily in the United States.
New Media Unions documents a historic and ongoing moment in the digital media industry that has brought thousands of media workers into the labour movement. Based on interviews with journalists and union organizers, the book maps the process of labour organizing, foregrounding journalists’ voices.
Cohen and de Peuter examine what motivates union drives, then follow journalists through the making of a union from scratch. They explore how journalists strategically self-organize, apply their communication skills to alternative ends, generate affective bonds of solidarity, and build power to confront anti-union campaigns and bargain first contracts, winning significant gains and drafting a new labour code for journalism in a digital age.
The book demonstrates that if journalism is to have a future, it must be organized. Labour organizing is not just about improving working conditions for individuals, but is a broader effort to build organizational infrastructure to transform journalism, making it more accessible and inclusive for those whose commitment to journalistic ideals keeps them in such a volatile industry.
Drawing on political economy, journalism studies, and labour studies, New Media Unions provides a counter-perspective on an industry in flux, whose protagonists—young journalists facing precarious futures—are using collective organizing to articulate a bottom-up vision for journalism’s future.
Illustration: Erin McPhee