New Media Unions: Organizing Digital Journalists



Cohen and de Peuter have written a timely and invaluable book based on meticulous research and trenchant analysis. The recent surge of labor organizing within media institutions deserves far more attention and this pioneering work promises to become a field-defining text in journalism studies and political economy. Underscoring the vital need for unionizing journalists, this book should be required reading for anyone seeking to understand the central role of class politics and increasing precarity within the rapidly changing media landscape.

– Victor Pickard, author of Democracy Without Journalism? Confronting the Misinformation Society

At once informative and inspiring, New Media Unions is a remarkable book about dramatic recent changes in both the virtual networks and class relations of North America. Cohen and de Peuter show how unionization has seized the imaginations of young journalists in digital newsrooms across North America. Rigorously researched and analytically sharp, yet eminently readable, New Media Unions challenges every preconception about individualistic digital culture, depoliticized millennials and the futility of workplace organizing: it shows the path to a workers’ Internet.

– Nick Dyer-Witheford, author of Cyber-Proletariat: Global Labour in the Digital Vortex

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.

Read the book

View a timeline of unionization in digital media

About the authors

Nicole S. Cohen is an Associate Professor at the University of Toronto. She teaches in the Institute of Communication, Culture, Information and Technology, and in the Faculty of Information. She is the author of Writers’ Rights: Freelance Journalism in a Digital Age (McGill-Queen’s University Press). 

Greig de Peuter is an Associate Professor in the Department of Communication Studies at Wilfrid Laurier University. He is the co-author, with Nick Dyer-Witheford, of Games of Empire: Global Capitalism and Video Games (University of Minnesota Press).

Illustration by Erin McPhee
Photo by @jsource