Journalists — especially ones in entertainment and media criticism — should stand in solidarity with the Writers Guild of America strike, which over 97% of the union’s membership voted in favor of in mid-April. Per the strikers, guild members will not be writing or delivering materials for production studios and companies until a fair contract can be reached.
The WGA says “Writers are facing the most comprehensive assault on compensation and working conditions that they have seen in a generation.” Wages for writers for streaming services have been undercut by studio executives earning more and more profits.
Similarly, for journalists, too, layoffs have been part of the headlines amid a wave of digital media companies shuttering for several reasons, like financial mismanagement at the hands of executives who, in some cases, don’t admit culpability — like Buzzfeed’s CEO deciding not to step down.
As journalists at unionized and unionizing newsrooms across the country fight for fair contracts, including proper compensation for work, it’s crucial to acknowledge the parallels between our industry and that of screenwriters, and the ways our respective labor is exploited.
Reporter Daric Cottingham echoed one-way journalists can play a role in the strike, arguing that it should directly influence how critics and entertainment reporters cover stories.
Guild member and TV writer Franchesca Ramsey wrote that supporters should amplify WGA West and WGA East’s work and social media posts, among other ways to support them (not necessarily by refraining from streaming their favorite TV shows and films).
The WGA represents joint organizing by WGA East and WGA West, which organized strikes as early as 1960 to demand better wages, fairer contracts, and stable employment. The last time writers went on strike was in 2007-08, halting production on several TV shows and films; in one instance, Dean Schrader’s character on Breaking Bad (Hank Norris) wasn’t able to be written out of the show due to the lack of writers to do so.
Journalists can amplify the WGA strike actions, like the pickets in front of studios, and demands. Reporters should also detail the rise in executive pay, studio profits, and streaming service growth in entertainment media, highlighting for readers the disparity between executive pay — and executive job stability — and that of writers in the industry.
Critically, the WGA strike has refocused attention on that pay disparity. Journalists should not hesitate to take that opportunity to challenge mainstream discourse on the media industry and the strikers’ demands.
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