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A Letter on Open Positions

Dear colleagues,

When we learned that Tribune Publishing CEO Tim Knight would be visiting our newsroom the day we planned to go public with our union, we welcomed the opportunity to share our reasons for forming the Hartford Courant Guild.

We thought Knight might be visiting in response to our newsroom’s participation in last year’s Employee Engagement Survey, which only 61 percent of Courant employees completed -- the lowest participation rate of any Tribune market.

We understand that some Courant employees abstained from the survey -- not trusting the responses would remain confidential -- while others used the opportunity to voice their dissatisfaction with growing workloads, unfilled positions, meager raises and cost-of-living increases.

But Knight did not address the newsroom at large last Monday. In an invitation-only lunch with a small group of Courant employees, Knight did not seem to appreciate the scope of attrition in our newsroom, which has meant fewer reporters and photographers covering our neighborhoods and towns, school and agencies, courts and companies. Left unaddressed, we know this disinvestment will prevent us from providing the full and fair coverage our readers deserve.

In this meeting, Knight spoke about the need to address employee turnover by improving recruitment and retention. But he surprised us when he said there are currently 70 open, fully-budgeted position in newsrooms across Tribune, including nine at the Courant.

We were aware of just two open positions our newsroom was currently filling: A night-side breaking news reporter and a night-side content editor. Those critical additions barely scratch the surface of the 23 other positions our newsroom eliminated in the past two years alone, including seven that were not the result of layoffs or buyouts. And there have been many more in the years before that.

If Knight is referring to the Courant’s annual internships, we’d remind him that interns make significant contributions during the few months they spend with us, but are no replacement for permanent employees.

And if there are additional openings at the Courant, we implore the company to post and fill them immediately.

Turnover is one problem at the Courant and we must do more to train and support our existing employees. We have lost talented journalists who sought opportunities elsewhere that they could not find here. And we add that any new recruitment effort must aggressively seek out applicants of color.

In that vein, we acknowledge our publisher and executive editor Andrew Julien for announcing new drop-in hours to discuss stories, beats and ideas.

But for Tribune to ignore the added strain of attrition is to ignore half the problem.