"I'LL NEVER WORK in journalism again, if I can help it." With that parting shot, veteran Seattle Times copy editor Ivan Weiss officially ended his career at the paper that he and other Pacific Northwest Newspaper Guild members struck a year and a half ago. Weiss, whose pugnacious criticism of the Times' personnel policies under publisher Frank Blethen hasn't mellowed, is the last of the striking Times employees who lost their jobs to settle with the paper. Weiss said Monday that the settlement "made it worthwhile" for him to drop his complaint against the newspaper with the National Labor Relations Board and retire. He says he plans to work as a technical writer. "My goal is that the marketplace will demonstrate that I was too good to work [at the Times]," says Weiss.
Weiss, regarded by some as a champion of an older newspaper culture in which the editorial staff had more influence than the pencil pushers, doesn't hide his disgust for the modern-day Times. He says the paper hasn't resolved the problems that led to the strike in 2000, contending that the contracts employees have accepted were essentially "shoved up their ass."
But if contentious issues remain at the Times, the Newspaper Guild doesn't want to talk about them right now. "It's been more than a year since the strike ended, and it's time for everybody to move on," says Guild spokesperson Liz Brown.
New investments at the Times have no doubt helped keep the peace. Seattle Times Company spokesperson Kerry Coughlin reports that the paper has added around 20 new faces in the newsroom plus other "key" staff since the strike. But the Times Company doesn't want to give the impression that it's swimming in green. Coughlin says ad sales aren't at all zippy, and the paper is still losing money. But she says the Blethen family, which owns 51 percent of the Times, refinanced debt so it could pump more into the paper's core content.
"We are not flush with revenues. It's a decision by the family to make investments for the long term," says Coughlin.
Publisher Blethen has been recently quoted in the Online Journalism Review predicting that Seattle is destined to become a one-newspaper town (guess who he predicts the survivor will be). But James Vesely, the Times editorial page editor, discounts the rebuilding at the Times as a takeover strategy. "This is just building back to where we were before," says Vesely.