Rochester Guild prez on Kane

Dateline: Thu 17 Jul 2008

Knowing that the Newspaper Guild at the Rochester paper had fought for 16 long years for a contract, I contacted Local 31017 President Steve Orr Wednesday for a comment about Michael Kane, the new publisher of the Star.

Kane formerly was publisher of the Democrat and Chronicle in Rochester, N.Y.

Following is the response from Orr. As you will see, Kane sounds like a good guy. But bottom line? He's with Gannett, and that means bottom line, So no matter what you do, read this all the way through:

"Labor relations in Rochester, as at most other Gannett outposts, have been rotten. Gannett has a well-deserved reputation as an anti-union company, having spent a great deal of time and money over the years hassling the collective bargaining agents at company properties.

"Labor policy is set at corporate, though, and, in our case anyway, contract negotiations, resolution of significant grievances and other union matters usually seemed to be outside the control of our publishers. We recently ended contract negotiations after 16 (yes, 16) years. My memory's a little foggy, but I think the Democrat and Chronicle had four publishers in that time span. So it would hardly be fair to blame our prolonged contractual problems, or any other union-company animus, on Michael Kane or any of his predecessors.

"Outside of a few polite exchanges of letters, our Guild local had little formal contact with Michael. He might have gotten a little frosty in the elevator after we'd picketed the building or leafleted outside a United Way meeting he was chairing, but that's only to be expected. Otherwise he was always cordial, enthusiastic and very professional.

"I cannot speak to how our members regarded him personally, though I think it fair to say his general reputation here was that he supported news, appreciated good editorial work and endorsed investigative reporting. Like all publishers, though, he is a bottom-line guy. Our newsroom staff probably diminished slightly during his tenure here, and overall employment in our building plummeted.

Steve Orr


Newspaper Guild of Rochester"


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