The union leadership turned the idea down.
By Thanksgiving, however, there was a new weekly in town: The Detroit Sunday Journal, where striking journalists are breaking stories, striking circulation managers are building delivery routes and former mailers and pressmen are selling advertising.
After about four months, the Journal is distributed free to 250,000 households, sells 50,000 copies at stores and through bulk sales to union halls and is approaching 5,000 mail subscriptions, says its managing editor, striking Detroit News food editor Robin Mather.
"It's very gratifying to know that every week we break stories the News and Free Press can't follow because their reporters are new and young and not familiar with Detroit," she said in a recent interview at the former U.S. Navy recruiting station on Detroit's Lower East Side that now houses the strike paper for 2,500 union journalists, mailers, circulation employees and pressmen.
Like the "No Free Press/ News" lawn signs that dot neighborhoods throughout metropolitan Detroit, the newspaper is another reminder of the strike.
"[News editor and publisher] Bob Giles had to stop saying the strike was over because ? here we were," Mather said.
Funded by the Metropolitan Council, with cash and equipment also donated by the United Auto Workers and other unions, the Journal represents a kind of second wave in the strikers' strategy. The first was a circulation boycott the unions say has cost the papers sales of 200,000-plus copies daily.
"The reason we're holding our own here [in the strike] is people have stopped taking the paper ? or, more likely, stopped paying for it, because they keep delivering it whether you want it or not," said Michael McBride, a striking Free Press worker.
But McBride began pushing for a strike in late September.
"It became apparent to me that [Detroit Newspapers] was willing to blow off Christmas advertising," McBride said.
"By late fall, it was clear readers and advertisers would want [a new paper] ? and that the strike was about to go into the cold season."
McBride ? whose picket sign "Will Work For Respect" was seen in wire photos during the first days of the strike ? was responsible for the logistics of inaugurating the strike paper. William Brown, a representative from Newspaper Guild International headquarters who has operated strike papers in Pittsburgh and Wilkes-Barre, Pa., is publisher of the Journal and put together its business and operations plans.
The paper debuted Nov. 19 with Susan Watson and Norm Sinclair as the co-editors.
Among the toughest of McBride's assignments was creating an advertising department ? from drivers, pressmen and mailers.
"Everybody else on this strike paper were doing essentially what they've done for their careers. The only place we didn't have people with experience was advertising," he said.
And the paper added to the challenge of being a brand-new newspaper, the added sales obstacle of having been born of a high profile, politically and emotionally charged strike.
"We have no audited circulation . . . no demographic research data . . .
but we have strong suits: We are getting read by people who are not reading the other two papers ? and we are taking on two newspapers that have screwed advertisers," McBride said, referring
to resentments that still linger from the substantial ad rate increases the News and Free Press imposed once their
joint operating agreement was implemented.
Perhaps, ironically, for a paper inspired by what includes five newspaper production unions, the Sunday Detroit Journal is the very model of desktop publishing. There is no photo chemistry or darkroom, for instance: All photographs are scanned into the pagination system using Photoshop.
With only a few available editorial terminals, most of the writers e-mail their articles or drop them off on disk.
Design of the tabloid Journal, including the always dicey technical problem of fonts, was literally done in a morning, said Tom Schram, a striking Free Press copy editor who is the strike paper's production manager.
"My biggest fear was that it was going to look like a crappy throwaway paper," Schram said.
Distribution is designed so that 20% of households in area communities get the paper.
Neighborhoods targeted for distribution are changed from time to time to create demand and stress subscriptions, said Joe Merritt, the paper's circulation head and a striking circulation district manager.
Starting Christmas Eve, the paper began zoning three ways.
Nearly half of the original striking Guild journalists have returned to work ? including some of the best known such as sports columnist Mitch Albom and cartoonist Richard Guindon.
The Journal is a reminder that other well-known journalists such as strike paper editor Susan Watson, who was a Free Press columnist, gossip writer Diane Hofsess, sportswriter Lynn Henning and TV writer Jim McFarlin are among those who remain on strike.
"Everybody is proud of this paper," managing editor Mather said. "It's been a real drawing-together thing."
?("My biggest fear was that it was going to look like a crappy throwaway paper," said Tom Schram, a striking Detroit Free Press copy editor, who is now production manager of the union- produced strike newspaper, the Detroit Sunday Journal.) [Photo & Caption]
By: MARK FITZGERALD EVEN BEFORE THE Detroit newspapers strike began last July, the unions' umbrella group, the Metropolitan Council of Newspaper Unions, had received proposals to start a strike paper.