Peoria Guild Buys Ad: ‘Don’t Let Anyone Steal Your Newspaper’

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By: Jennifer Saba

Staffers at the Journal Star in Peoria, Ill., one of several Copley Press newspapers up for grabs, aren’t taking any chances with the possibility of someone “stealing the newspaper.”

The Peoria Newspaper Guild, which represents slightly more than 100 newsroom employees, took out a full-page ad in the Star on Jan.1 with the headline “Don’t let anyone steal your newspaper.”

Since the Star is on the block, staffers are concerned that a new owner could slash resources. The guild wants to send a message “to current and any potential future owners that we intend to preserve the high level of journalism this community deserves,” reads part of the copy.

Phil Luciano, vice president of the guild and an 18-year vet at the paper, said new owners taking charge of newspapers often care most how much money the paper can generate. “Our worry is that whoever comes in is going to cut staff and cut that bottom line,” said Luciano.

He explained the campaign is not directed at any one particular party. “We just want to keep our jobs.”

Indeed, staffers at the 66,471-circulation daily are acutely aware (as just about every employee working at a newspaper these days) of the axe swinging through the industry. Just this week The Philadelphia Inquirer and St. Paul (Minn.) Pioneer Press — both under new ownership — sacked 68 and 9 people respectively.

The union representing employees at The Wall Street Journal took out an ad in The New York Times calling for Dow Jones’ executives to preserve the quality of the paper. Union and management are currently under new contract negotiations.

Luciano noted the Star is the largest news organization in Illinois outside of Chicago, though he admits, “it’s like being the tallest midget in the circus.”

The guild paid $3,000 for the ad.

Copley Press wants to wrap up the sale of the paper and others on the block in the early spring. “We haven’t seen anyone kicking the tires or looking around,” Luciano said. Copley recently sold the Daily Breeze in Torrance, Calif., for $25 million in a complicated deal involving Hearst and MediaNews Group.

The Star was employee-owned before Copley bought the paper roughly 10 years ago.

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