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What Are the Odds on a Newspaper Strike?

In 1965, too, a clause was written into the contract confirming the I.T.U.'s right to negotiate the terms under which new equipment might be introduced into composing rooms. In their hearts, publishers believe that this is a prerogative any self-respecting management must reserve for itself. In accepting this "bar" the publishers gave the printers a veto, which is still in effect.

The lavish 1970 settlement, which let the automation "bar" stand for another three years, was resisted to the last by The News. This is the year, Tex J. is said to feel, that the publishers' chicken comes home to roost.

Tex J., then, is the tragic victim of an unresolvable conflict. His caseworkers worry that to remain within the Publishers' Association is to remain in bad company. But without any friends in his peer group, they fear that he cannot build a secure future.

There is some hope that with aid and encouragement, and under the lash of economic necessity, his friends will pick up good habits from him, thus lessening the gap between them and ending Tex J.'s tragic alienation.

Case attested by the Audit Bureau of Circulation

[Case 103]
Careworn Mother

This is the unfinished story of Dolly S., who is 70.

Dolly S. has given 30 of the best years of her life to keeping The New York Post alive. It has been a thankless task. The Post is one of those unpleasant invalids who outlive the people who send get-well cards, but refuse to get well.

From the day she took over the paper in 1943, life for Dolly S. has been a ceaseless struggle against discouraging odds. Her problems are as large as those that afflict New York itself, from the flight to the suburbs of the white middle class to the congealing of traffic on the city streets.

There was a time when Dolly S. knew hope. Once, she competed against three other citywide afternoon dailies—The Sun, The World-Telegram and The Journal-American. Dolly S., born to wealth, lovingly spooned money in, and somehow The Post survived.

Life brightened for Dolly S. in 1967 when The World Journal Tribune died. The interment included the last traces of The Sun, The World-Telegram, The Journal-American, and the morning Herald Tribune to boot. The Post's circulation, under 330,000 in 1966, soared beyond 700,000 in 1969. Dolly S. started making some money and gamely plowed it back into the newspaper. She moved into the old Journal-American plant on South Street, increased the page size so that it was a full column wider than standard tabloid, and sank some fresh money into multicolor presses.

Sadly, her happiness was to be short-lived. It turned out that for the purpose of getting out an afternoon paper in New York, the plant on South Street with The Post in it was as badly located as it was with the J-A there. The increase in page size did nothing for what was printed on it; The Post continued to offer aesthetic insult and the weakest journalism in town—terrible to look at and heavily dependent on wire service coverage, relieved only by some good cartoon strips, some columnists and the point spread on upcoming sports events.

Even the new color presses have yet to start paying their way. Indeed, they have yet to start rolling. Although they have been in for some three years, the manpower to run them has been the subject of prolonged negotiations between The Post and Local 2 of the New York Newspaper Printing Pressmen's Union. Under the terms she has just accepted, according to one well-placed observer on another paper, Dolly S. "will be loaded up with all kinds of extra people. I'm sure none of them are needed. It's an exorbitant settlement."

Dolly S. has recently had to endure one especially painful consequence of the 1970 negotiations. Like The Times, The Post raised its newsstand price from 10 cents to 15 cents after the 15/11/11 package was wrapped up. The Post has lost some 95,000 readers since the increase. It's down to 607,000. (The Times was hurt almost as much—down 85,000, to 815,000 daily. Circulation of The News, which went from 8 cents to 10 cents, has held up and lately gained a bit. It's now 2.1 million daily, 3 million on Sunday.)

Careworn but undaunted, Dolly S. continues to nurse her ailing baby. She proved her grit beyond all question in the 114-day strike and lockout of 1962-63, the most traumatic of all episodes in the history of New York newspaper negotiations. Toward the end of that strike, the longest ever, Dolly S. resigned from the Publishers' Association and, with the blessings of all the unions, resumed publication. She simply agreed to accept whatever terms the other publishers hammered out, and that was that. For three weeks thereafter, The Post looked like a regular big-town newspaper, at least on the ad pages, with classifieds and big retailer display stuff as never before, or since.

Dolly S. in time rejoined the Publishers' Association, but her mettle in that crunch a decade ago is very much on the minds of the other publishers today. Some of them assume that should negotiations break down on March 30, Dolly S. will not shut down, because she simply cannot afford to.

One of the things observers are most hopeful about is Dolly S.'s will to live. As one member of the publishers' negotiating team puts it, "Dolly S. is no gentleman."

Case attested by the Audit Bureau of Circulation


  • Archive: “Features
  • From the Mar 26, 1973 issue of New York