When The New York Times last week suddenly discontinued its popular series of documenting gun violence in America, readers came out in droves to voice their opposition to the move.
But Gawker is reporting that the move was actually made for a much more nefarious reason: The newspaper didn’t want to pay the column’s author the wages she was owed.
According to Gawker, the author in question, editorial assistant Jennifer Mascia, had not been properly compensated for her writing duties, which, under the newspaper’s union’s guidelines, are limited to a finite amount of words per month. If that limit is exceeded, the contract calls for a raise, a union rep told Gawker.
“In cases that employees in these positions exceed 2,250 words, they are permitted to file for a pay upgrade for the entire month,” the Newspaper Guild representative wrote. Mascia “qualifies for permanent upgrade based on her work as reporter, web producer and copy editor.”
The union filed a grievance on Mascia’s behalf, calling the column’s demise a “retaliation” by the newspaper.
Mascia gave her side of the story to Gawker about the end of the Gun Report:
“I built it each day from scratch, writing a news analysis of a pertinent gun issue followed by 35-40 shootings. I spent about 500 hours of overtime on it during the weekends over the past year, and four hours a day at my desk here in editorial,” said Mascia, an eight-year veteran of the Times.”
Gawker reported that other employees have previously “challenged successfully” for back pay under similar circumstances, which may explain why a Times labor relations representative reportedly reacted with anger to this latest instance.
In addition to Nocera’s comment about the column having “run its course,” Op-Ed page editor Andrew Rosenthal seemingly dismissed the Gun Report as being “repetitive, basically a list,” according to Gawker.
Mascia added that she was told “Rosenthal decided it had ‘outlived its usefulness.’”
But Gun Report was apparently useful to readers, just as the newspaper’s list of soldiers who die in the line of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan is useful for many readers, as well.
So the question remains: Was the column discontinued over the newspaper not wanting to properly compensate an editorial aide working above her pay grade, or was it because the column was no longer newsworthy enough?
It would seem that the recent spate of gun violence, including the latest incidents in Seattle and near Santa Barbara, Calif., is reason enough to keep the column going, but apparently those topics have run its course.