“Labor’s Monkey Wrench”: Newsweekly Coverage of the 1962-63 New York Newspaper Strike

This article provides a frame and textual analysis of coverage appearing in Time, Newsweek, and U.S. News & World Report of the 114-day 1962-63 strike of the International Typographical Union Local 6 against New York City newspapers. The strike was particularly important for asserting the union’s collective bargaining rights and establishing its stance on automated printing processes. Analysis of the newsweeklies’ treatment of the strike suggests how these outlets related the event in terms favourable to the newspaper publishers, while misrepresenting or disparaging the union’s position in and justification for the strike.

In the late 1950s a struggle was well underway across North America between newspaper publishers and newsworkers over union jurisdiction and job security vis-à-vis the move toward installation of teletypesetting and like forms of automation. Between 1951 and 1961 there were 187 strikes affecting 288 newspapers in the United States alone (“What’s Happening to Newspapers,” 1963). This article examines one such standoff, between the International Typographical Union (ITU) Local 6 and New York newspapers occurring in 1962 and 1963. This strike’s timing and scope made it especially decisive, for both the ITU and New York’s newspaper publishers realized how the guidelines for its resolution would influence the parameters of contract negotiations at newspapers throughout North America (Raskin, 1963).

News coverage of strikes has been examined from critical perspectives since the 1970s. The Glasgow University Media Group (1976, 1980) has provided detailed analyses of how news media in the United Kingdom have presented workplace struggles. Goldman & Rajagopal (1991), Parenti (1986), and Puette (1992) have broadened critical approaches to news coverage of labour and industrial conflict, while more recent studies by Kumar (2001) and Martin (2004) have examined mainstream press coverage of U.S. strikes in the 1990s. An emerging set of studies has addressed the shifting organizational structures of newsworkers (McKercher, 2002) and the history and press coverage of strikes by the American Newspaper Guild (“the Guild”) in the 1960s (Brennen, 2005; Tracy, 2004). This article uses a method informed by news-framing research (Entman, 1993; Iyengar, 1991; Reese, 2001; Tuchman, 1978) to consider how a strike waged by blue-collar newsworkers was presented in three national news periodicals: Time, Newsweek, and U.S. News & World Report (U.S. News). To more fully acknowledge the coverage of the strike, it is necessary to first provide a context for the event by looking at the ITU’s concerns and the motivations and interests of New York’s newspaper publishers.

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>>> from Canadian Journal of Communication. Vol 31, No 3 (2006)

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