Friday, August 19, 2011


Why I don’t listen to NPR–(2)

by Larry Geller

Darn, I forgot my mp3 player when I set out in the Disappearednewsmobile earlier today.

So of course I switched on NPR. Just then, they broadcast news of the 2-week old Verizon strike on the East Coast.

They interviewed a striker, who said that it is difficult to strike in these hard economic times.

They interviewed a consumer who said that her order for Internet service is being delayed.

What an awful interview.

Nowhere was there mention that Verizon is hugely profitable and that they pay their executives exceptionally well. That context is critical to understand why this strike may be the most important labor action in many, many years. It is the largest in four years.

This is not a case of workers having to “share the pain,” it is an attempt to cut off workers from sharing in the profits, leaving more for the CEOs, of course. If the strikers are defeated, you can bet that Verizon executives will pay themselves handsomely for their victory.

Contrast this with the ongoing strike coverage at Democracy Now. Here’s a snip from the beginning of today’s segment:

JUAN GONZALEZ: We turn now to labor news. As a strike by 45,000 Verizon workers approaches the two-week mark, the company’s customers are beginning to feel the impact on its services. Consumers are reporting significant delays in booking Verizon technicians to fix and install landline telephone, internet and cable television services.
Verizon’s senior vice president for consumer and mass business markets, Christopher Creager, tried to downplay the strike’s efficacy. Creager told the New York Times, quote, "The vast majority of our customers are not seeing any impact." Verizon officials acknowledged, however, that they had declined any new orders for the first two weeks of the strike so they could focus on serving their existing customers.
AMY GOODMAN: The strike was called after Verizon pushed for the workers to accept far-reaching concessions, including a pension freeze and fewer sick days. The company also asked workers to contribute far more toward their health coverage. Meanwhile, Verizon made $22.5 billion in profits over the past four-and-a-half years and has paid its top five CEOs $258 million also in the past four years.
Verizon has tried to step up pressure on the strikers by saying it will cut off their medical, dental and optical benefits on August 31st. Union representatives have described the new threat as a scare tactic and have vowed to continue fighting. This is Bob Master, spokesperson for Communications Workers of America.

[Democracy Now, The Verizon Labor Battle: As Strike Continues, Customers Report Delays and Disruptions to Service, 8/19/2011]

The strike is against the landline part of Verizon. That segment of their business is profitable, and in fact, looking ahead to their planned delivery of fiber optic TV, should be looking for increased, not decreased, profits in the future, according to the report.

Unfortunately, NPR blew it. Is this bias? Is it just poor reporting? When NPR omits the labor point of view, or as in this story, omits context so as to leave listeners thinking that the strike is ill-timed and designed to hurt poor Verizon, making it unable to service its customers, they have lost me.

See also these articles on NPR.


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