SAN FRANCISCO -- Scores of reporters, editors and workers at the San Francisco Chronicle are using the social media tools of their trade -- including Twitter and Facebook -- in an unusual protest against the move by Hearst Corp., their paper's privately-held parent firm, to force employees into a management-dictated health system that dramatically raises costs for the employees.
Some staffers changed their social media profile pictures to a red box, calling attention to the protest. By mid-day, tweets from Chronicle and SFGate staff had reached more than 110,000 people.
The workers launched their efforts Monday as the paper, the flagship of the Hearst Corp., initiated a major move to introduce a paywall for "premium content" to its readership.
Reporters, editors and other staffers say they're being asked to increase work loads online and in the print publication for the new paywall system, in which readers will now be charged $14.99 monthly for "premium" content.
But the same workers at the 150-year-old paper, after months of negotiations with Hearst executives, remain without a contract.
Many were angered at a recent Hearst move offering a health care package estimated to cost employees additional hundreds to over $3,000 per year.
The Chronicle's reporters and editors, who voluntarily tweet their stories on Twitter and post them online on Facebook to help reach larger audiences, have now vowed to use Twitter to get out their own message about the actions of Hearst, the media giant, in the coming weeks.
Said one Tweet:
Wealthy @HearstCorp wants to gut healthcare plan at @SFChronicle @SFGate Help us fight back! http://on.fb.me/14jlHic
A message posted on the Chronicle employees Facebook page urges "Likes" and says:
"We love this newspaper, and we've worked hard since the layoffs of 2009 to help keep it afloat. We've done everything Hearst demanded: sacrificing pay raises, giving up seniority, losing vacation time and holidays, even working through what used to be our paid lunch hour. For years, we've been working twice as hard with a smaller staff — doing everything needed to keep this paper afloat, relevant and great. And this is how the highly profitable Hearst Corporation pays us back."
An open letter explaining the social media campaign is posted at: http://on.fb.me/ZnwaRY
and at: http://mediaworkers.org
Employees detail how they will be affected by the health cuts at: http://mediaworkers.org/tag/healthprofile/
Details on Chronicle employees' efforts to secure a fair contract is posted at: http://mediaworkers.org/fight-for-a-fair-contract/