Total eclipse of the news: As Moon hides Sun, journalists eclipse bosses
When the moon hides the sun, NewsGuild journalists in Austin and Rochester will eclipse their employer, media giant Gannett. | Photos: NewsGuild NY

ROCHESTER, N.Y. and AUSTIN, Texas —Just as the Moon totally eclipsed the Sun on Monday, April 8, newspaper workers in Rochester, N.Y., and Austin, Texas, eclipsed their bosses by going out on strike.

The workers at the Austin American Statesman and the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, both represented by The News Guild/CWA, are frustrated by years of blotted-out bargaining by their bosses at Gannett, the nation’s largest newspaper chain. So when the Moon hid the Sun at 100%, they walked.

Already eclipsed, in a particularly dark time for the workers: A commitment to news, national and local.

The moon covers the sun during a total solar eclipse, Aug. 21, 2017, in Cerulean, Ky. | Timothy D. Easley / AP

Gannett has ruthlessly cut newsroom staffs in a chase for profits, even as its honchos are on the sunny side of the pay scale, earning hundreds of thousands of dollars a year while offering the workers pennies. And Rochester is down to 19 newsroom staffers, two of them part-time, too.

Needless to say, signs the strikers carried when the Moon hid the Sun refer to the eclipse. The workers figure thousands of people in each city would be outside, viewing it—and receptive to their message.

“The votes are in. It will be a total eclipse of the news starting [last] Friday for @Statesman AustinNewsGuild members. Support our strike as we try to keep local news written by local people @gannett #saveourstatesman,” the Austin local tweeted.

And since both papers, along with the rest of Gannett, were cut out from the Associated Press’s national news feed, readers didn’t even get national previews about the eclipse.

The eclipse occurred when the moon’s orbit around the Earth took it directly in front of the sun over a wide swath of North America, stretching from Mexico and southwest Texas to Newfoundland and eastern Canada.

Photo via Rochester NewsGuild

Much of the continent saw a partial eclipse, but in Austin and Rochester, it was partial and then, after an hour or so, total. The full eclipse started at 1:36 pm Central Time in Austin, and 3:21 pm Eastern Time in Rochester.

Actually, the workers at the two papers decided to eclipse their two newsrooms by beginning their strike several days earlier. But the public protest, with the eclipse theme, was the day of its darkness.

The eclipse didn’t sweep over Florida, but the strike did. News Guild members at the Palm Beach News took a hike against Gannett, too. All the strikes are over the chain’s labor law-breaking for refusing to bargain in good faith.

“Our CEO got an $876K bonus in 2023, and our CFO got $603K, on top of their multimillion-dollar packages. Our newsroom lost staff and our community lost coverage. And @Gannett still drags its feet bargaining livable wages and raises, which newsroom workers haven’t seen for years!” they tweeted.

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Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but tough when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.