| Jocelyn Augustino, American Media Institute

Reporters fail to disclose their own membership in striking Verizon union

News outlets did not disclose their employees’ connection to the Communications Workers of America this week in coverage of the union’s new strike against Verizon.

When Bernie Sanders joined a CWA picket line in Brooklyn on Wednesday he got a “rock star” reception, according to an online story by NBC News. But NBC made no mention of the fact CWA represents many of NBC’s own employees.

One of the authors of the online article, Corky Siemaszko, said in an e-mail he was not a CWA member and that most reporters at NBC are not. Other NBC communications workers are in the union, and in December, when NBC News wrote about the union’s formal backing of Sanders, the network did include a disclosure that CWA represents many NBC employees.

The Associated Press, whose press guild is one of the largest media chapters of CWA’s membership, used five writers to cover the strike and Sanders’ appearance. None of the five responded to a request for comment about omitting CWA’s connection with AP employees in coverage of the strike.

At Philly.com, the website for the two Philadelphia daily newspapers, an article on the strike did not mention that many journalists at the papers belonged to a local guild that is part of the CWA. The Philly.com writer, Jane Von Bergen, wrote in an email: “The Newspaper Guild is part of CWA, but it is separate and never endorses candidates because its members are journalists.”

The Baltimore Sun, in a Verizon strike story by Colin Campbell, did not mention that the Sun’s guild employees are CWA members either. Campbell did not respond to questions.

Reuters’ unionized employees also belong to the CWA. Malathi Nayak, the principal writer of the service’s account of the strike and Sanders’ involvement, did not disclose CWA represents some Reuters employees or that the union had endorsed Sanders campaign and contributed to his political career. She did not respond to a request for comment about the omissions.

Some press monitors criticized such omissions in an American Media Institute article this month about the CWA’s political spending. And Newspaper Guild President Bernie Lunzer said the guild encourages some sort of disclosure of the union connection in CWA stories – similar to what NBC provided last December - but the decision is left to reporters and editors. Lunzer told AMI he abstained from the CWA board vote to endorse Sanders and deliberately stood aside when the union’s endorsement photo was taken with the candidate.

The striking Verizon workers, who have gone without a contract since last August, are seeking less outsourcing of jobs by the company along with increased pay and improved working conditions, according to an account in The New York Times. The Times piece did not mention that the CWA represents some of its employees or the union’s endorsement of Sanders.

The Associated Press coverage of the Verizon strike was carried by several newspaper websites. Some of these, like The (Albany) Times-Union, noted Verizon workers had picketed in their home cities, but did not report that CWA represents their guild chapters, too.