Melanie Burney, an Inquirer reporter who attended the meeting, said the group was upset that the recent layoffs involved a “disproportionate” number of minorities. While the Inquirer newsroom is just 18% minority, some 28% of those laid off were minority employees, she said.
During the meeting, Tierney agreed to form a diversity committee for the two papers to study the issue, but stopped short of making any changes to the layoffs list, Burney said. “I wanted to see something concrete happen today,” Burney told E&P. “An immediate solution, but we did not get any. I wanted too hear that there would be more of a commitment to bring people back quickly.”
Jay Devine, a Tierney spokesman, said the publisher considered the meeting to be “terrific” and “cordial.” He said Tierney reiterated his position that many of the layoff decisions were tied to seniority provisions in the newspaper guild contract that require most layoffs to be linked to seniority. “Our hands were tied by this rigid seniority system which does not allow for diversity,” Devine said. “In spite of that, he did talk about the fact that he intends to continue to make the company as diverse as he can.”
Devine also pointed to the fact that Philadelphia Media Holdings, Tierney’s company that bought both papers last summer, actually boasts a 28% minority workforce, with 20% black. Those percentages, he said, are higher than the minority workforce of the newspapers’ eight-county circulation area.
EDITOR & PUBLISHER: First Hired Is The First Fired OR Shit Rolls Downhill