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: Organizing Digital Journalists documents a historic and ongoing moment in the digital media industry that has brought thousands of media workers into the labour movement. Nicole Cohen and Greig 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.
At a moment of tremendous flux in journalism, unions are trending in newsrooms. In conjunction with the publication of our book New Media Unions: Organizing Digital Journalists, we have produced a timeline of the ongoing movement to unionize journalism, particularly in the United States. Since 2015, thousands of media workers have joined the Writers Guild of America, East, branches of The NewsGuild (Communication Workers of America), and the Canadian Media Guild (CWA Canada). Journalists are organizing to improve working conditions in a tumultuous sector of the media economy. But the union drives have also had broader aims: to expand racial and gender diversity in newsrooms, to support editorial independence, to protect local journalism, and to give workers a stronger voice in their newsrooms.
Studio closures, harassment, crunch time, rumblings of unionization - game labour issues currently have unprecedented public profile. Join us at a public forum in Toronto with game developers, media work researchers, and digital labour activists to discuss working conditions and social inequalities in the video games industry and strategies to improve conditions in digital media.
Since spring 2015, journalists in almost 50 newsrooms have unionized, mostly in digital-born outlets in the United States. This “wave” of unionization, as it has been dubbed in media accounts, took many by surprise. The turn to unions also belied the popular image of digital-first media outlets like VICE and Vox: laid-back workplaces staffed by young, underpaid but happy writers, fueled by tech startups’ do-what-you-love, libertarian ethos, and housed in offices that look more like nightclubs than newsrooms. But journalists are unionizing in response to the new normal in digital media (and journalism more generally), including pressurized working conditions, precarious employment, and a lack of management transparency.
At a moment of tremendous flux in journalism, unions are trending in digital newsrooms. In June 2015, Gawker’s unionization kicked off a wave of digital media organizing. Ongoing efforts to unionize aim to improve working conditions in a growing sector of the media economy, and workers have won better pay, job security, and benefits. But union drives have also had broader aims: to support editorial freedom in an age of sponsored content, to protect and expand racial and gender diversity, and to give workers a stronger voice in their newsrooms. This timeline highlights some key moments in ongoing efforts to organize digital media.
Unions are trending in digital newsrooms. This chapter examines the campaign to unionize one workplace within an ongoing digital media organizing wave: VICE Canada, a subset of VICE Media. Our account is based on in-depth interviews with inside organizing committee members, Canadian Media Guild staff organizers, and VICE staff; a review of documents produced during the drive; and media coverage of the campaign. VICE Canada staff hoped that the union would raise and standardize pay, protect and expand racial and gender diversity and equity, and support editorial freedom.
Amid fevered debates about the future of journalism in Canada, a union drive at Vice Canada is signalling that young journalists have a vision for digital-first media outlets – most of them branches of American-owned companies – that are growing and very profitable yet are not easy places to work. Organizing efforts by the Canadian Media Guild at Vice follow a wave of successful drives in several digital newsrooms south of the border in 2015, including Gawker, Vice, the Guardian US, Salon.com and, most recently, the Huffington Post, whose newsroom of 262 journalists makes it the largest unionized digital news staff in North America.
Informed by a larger study on emerging precarious labour politics in creative industries, this chapter identifies and illustrates three threads of communicative activism: collective identity, counter-publicity, and networked solidarity. Collective identity concerns flexworkers’ involvement in struggles over the meaning of their employment status and the labor they perform. Counter-publicity encompasses the creation and online circulation of media that raise awareness about precarity, examples of which include intern activists’ name-and-shame social-media tactics, the leveraging of celebrity in campaigns to improve labor standards, and the staging of creative direct actions and cultural productions. Networked solidarity designates the role of the internet and other information communications technology in aggregating and supporting mutual aid among dispersed workforces. We conclude by recasting collective identity, counter-publicity, and networked solidarity as practices of autonomous communication, which contribute to the building of infrastructures of dissent in the face of spreading precarity.