Journalists for journalism

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Hi there! If you’re reading this, you probably just learned that a significant number of journalists at the Chicago Tribune and many of its community publications have decided to form a union.

It’s an exciting development — a decision that was made after much thought and deliberation.

Journalists tend to keep their heads down and avoid being part of the news. We’re watchers, storytellers, communicators. The spotlight rarely shines in our direction, and that’s just fine.

But now we’re in the news because, with a unified voice, we’ve decided to stand and take action to protect the future of the publications we hold dear. To us, these newsrooms are more than just a place to work. They’re crucial institutions that bind the fabric of the communities we call home. And the work we do — informing people, holding the powerful accountable, highlighting successes big and small — matters to readers and to society as a whole.

Our industry has suffered mightily in recent years. There are economic factors we can’t control, but a series of corporate owners have done little to help our Chicago newsrooms succeed. We believe our newsrooms have been weakened, and we — the reporters, photographers, designers, copy editors, columnists and others who bring you the news each day — have had no voice in charting a path forward.

We wrote the following in a letter to our colleagues announcing our plan to unionize:

“Regular raises, cost-of-living adjustments and job security are nonexistent. The cost of our health care benefits has significantly increased. Our maternity and paternity policy is inadequate.

“Development opportunities — the kind that allow us to achieve professional goals and to enrich our news coverage — are rare. We have lost many talented colleagues to higher-paying jobs that offer better protections and more possibilities for advancement.

“And although we live in a racially and ethnically diverse city and state, that diversity is not well-reflected in the newsroom. A more diverse staff will help guide coverage that fully reflects the lives of the various communities in and around Chicago. We can do better.”

We would love nothing more than to focus completely on doing our jobs — to write, photograph, edit, design, illustrate and innovate new ways to capture the stories of our vibrant city and state. And we will continue to do all of that, as we always have, because it’s what drives each and every person who works here.

But we also want to ensure that our news organizations will survive and thrive so they can continue to serve our readers. We need to keep talented journalists, attract new talent, work alongside people who reflect the rich diversity of our communities. We can no longer let our newsrooms be guided solely by corporate voices who don’t understand journalism’s crucial role or what it takes for us to fulfill the public trust we accept when we walk through the door each day.

We are eager to work with management to make all our publications better for everyone. This includes the Chicago Tribune, Aurora Beacon-News, Daily Southtown, Naperville Sun, Elgin Courier-News, RedEye, Chicago Magazine and Hoy.

And we hope you’ll visit us here regularly as we chronicle this journey and build the Chicago Tribune Guild.

Cindy Dampier