Region 1 of the Society of Professional Journalists joins the Press Club of Long Island in opposition to any planned newsroom staffing cuts at News 12 Networks.
SPJ has been informed by the Dolan family, founders of News 12 Networks, that their sale of the networks included a promise from Altice USA that staffing levels would be maintained at the 2016 levels through 2020. Altice USA is the American division of the Netherlands-based media conglomerate Altice NV. The purchase, from Cablevision Systems Inc., of Bethpage, N.Y., was for $17.7 billion.
The Dolans are seeking an injunction against Altice, asking the courts to stop the corporation from making continued cuts to its news staff. The family contends Altice USA agreed to maintain its staffing level of 462 employees at the time of the sale in order to maintain the quality of coverage.
According to the suit, the sale agreement was supposed “to maintain the quality of the local news content produced by News 12, and [was] designed to protect News 12 employees and their salaries for an extended and fixed period of time.”
Patrick Dolan, News 12’s former president and News 12 Long Island’s former news director, is now president and owner of Newsday. He said the cuts are being made despite the continuing profitability of News 12.
In an email to the PCLI Board, Dolan said the planned cuts will affect every News 12 region, and Altice has threatened additional cuts in future years. Dolan said, “Last year they slashed the staff by 14 percent, about 70 positions, also directly in violation of their agreement.”
There are News 12 networks in New York City, New Jersey and Connecticut. Dolan said advertisements for jobs in New York City may be for open positions that were not eliminated or for another Altice unit.
PCLI’s statement on behalf of News 12 staff reads in part:
“The Press Club believes firmly that News 12’s staffing levels must be maintained. The networks, headquartered in Woodbury, report from Connecticut, Westchester, New York City and New Jersey, in addition to Long Island. They are critical hyper-local information sources serving the tri-state area.
“Winner of numerous Emmy and PCLI awards, News 12 Long Island has served its tens of thousands of viewers admirably since it began reporting in 1986, covering the major stories that have affected our island, from plane crashes to hurricanes to 9/11, while never forgetting that coverage of house fires and school picnics is also vitally important to viewers.
“The news industry has been battered in recent years by profit-seeking corporations that swoop in, reduce news staffs to shells of their former selves and then sell. That business model might be good for corporate tally sheets, but it is terrible for readers and viewers.
“We respect the Dolan family’s commitment to quality news coverage. The Dolans understand that top-notch reporters, editors and broadcasters are needed to produce the news. We believe the Dolans when they say they forged an agreement with Altice to ensure that staffing levels are maintained. Altice should honor that agreement.”
Region 1 shares PCLI’s concern and urges other SPJ Chapters and Regions with News 12 Networks to look into the situation as well.
SPJ Region 1 Coordinator