Why The Sun is missing many of its reporters’ and photographers’ bylines this week

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The front page of today’s Baltimore Sun, with multiple bylines missing. Photo by Ethan McLeod.

You might have noticed something amiss today if you browsed Baltimore’s flagship daily in print or online: A number of reporters and photographers aren’t credited for their work.

It wasn’t a slight against The Sun‘s journos, but rather their choice–the latest move in a prolonged dispute with their parent company, Tribune Publishing.

Despite continuing to write and record the news, Sun employees who belong to The Baltimore Sun Guild, the paper’s union within the regional Washington-Baltimore News Guild, have opted to withhold their bylines this week, which is allowed in their contract.

In a statement posted online yesterday, the unionized staffers said the byline strike is their warning of how the paper could look “if all of the reporters and photographers who deliver the news were no longer around.”

“When you see an article or photo without a byline this week, imagine what our daily newspaper would look like without these stories.”

Politics reporter Pam Wood flagged a few examples of the effect on the print edition in today’s paper.

The protest comes as the union and reps from Tribune Publishing plan to return to the negotiating table on Sept. 9. Staffers who belong to the union are seeking their first across-the-board pay raise in six years. Investigative reporter and bargaining committee member Kevin Rector told Baltimore Fishbowl last month that after accounting for inflation, some members have actually seen a 9 percent pay decrease since 2013.

Talks for a new contract began in early August but paused after the union said management low-balled them by proposing to outsource more jobs, spread a unionized staffer’s 40-hour week out over six days, remove union eligibility for advertising staff, cut sick-leave days, eliminate four weeks notice before layoffs and more.

Reached for comment, Tribune Publishing spokesman Tilden Katz didn’t directly answer questions about the byline strike or union members’ complaints, but said in a statement: “The Baltimore Sun is committed to providing timely, relevant news to our customers. We are hopeful we can negotiate a new labor contract, one that meets the needs of readers, staff and the company.”

Supplementing their anonymous solidarity online and in print, a number of Sun reporters have adopted matching ID-less titles on Twitter, simply calling themselves “Baltimore Sun reporter” or “staff.”

Members of the Chesapeake News Guild, which represents staffers at the Baltimore Sun Media Group’s community papers like The Capital, The Carroll County Times and others, had planned to join in on the byline strike, but were denied the option by management. Unlike The Sun’s union, Chesapeake News Guild members don’t have a working contract with Tribune yet, meaning they didn’t have the choice to withhold their author and photographer credits. Negotiations on a deal between them and Tribune are ongoing.

That hasn’t stopped some of them from joining in spirit, even if it’s just with a permanent marker.

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Ethan McLeod

Senior Editor at Baltimore Fishbowl
Ethan has been editing and reporting for Baltimore Fishbowl since fall of 2016. His previous stops include Fox 45, CQ Researcher and Connection Newspapers in Virginia. His freelance writing has been featured in CityLab, Slate, Baltimore City Paper, DCist and elsewhere.
Ethan McLeod
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