September 21, 2017 Last Updated 8:11 am

Puerto Rico completely without power following direct hit from Hurricane Maria; Barcelona protesters call out Spanish media

Morning Brief: Union representing staff at Gannett-owned newspaper in Rochester says in statement following layoffs that ‘the greatest threat to local journalism is corporate leaders’

Those who have lived in the Bay Area for a while soon discover that, though it occurred over 100 years ago, the 1906 earthquake still remains an event in the consciousness of the community. It is, along with the 1989 Loma Prieta quake, a reminder of how vulnerable the area is to massive destruction.

What has occurred in Puerto Rico over the past 24 hours will likely have the same lasting impact on residents of the territory of the United States. As of this morning there is still no talk of a death toll, only that the island has been “destroyed”, in the words of officials, with power completely lost across all the island.

The Washington Post, Samantha Schmidt and Sandhya Somashekhar:

Hurricane Maria churns through Caribbean as ravaged Puerto Rico takes stock of an ‘island destroyed’

On Puerto Rico, the full extent of Maria’s fury was still being tallied. But it was clear that the rebuilding process will be massive after the island’s power grid and other services were effectively wiped away. Maria on Wednesday knocked out 100 percent of the island’s electrical grid, toppled cellphone towers and left many towns cut off by landslides or floods of muddy torrents.

“Definitely Puerto Rico — when we can get outside — we will find our island destroyed,” Abner Gómez, director of Puerto Rico’s emergency management agency, told reporters on Wednesday as the storm engulfed the entire island. “The information we have received is not encouraging. It’s a system that has destroyed everything it has had in its path.”

As an outside observer, it is difficult to gauge the level of support the movement for Catalonian independence has. My friends in Barcelona are enthusiastic and optimistic that a vote will be held on October 1. Likewise, friends in Madrid say there will be no vote, that it is illegal.

But the Spanish press is of one mind: staunchly against the referendum, supportive of the government, and verging on appearing Francoist. Catalans are noticing, and today, for the first time, protesters outside the regional high court chanted against the press. But the Barcelona newspaper ARA today featured a front page editorial in support of the protesters.

Last night thousands continued protests that had begun yesterday morning after the Spanish government used the Guardia Civil to arrest over a dozen Catalan government officials. The provocation light a fire in Barcelona that may have ended any hopes that the crisis in Spain can end without violence.

ARA, Editorial:

Editorial: In defense of our institutions

Catalan society reacted yesterday with firmness and serenity in defense of the self-government institutions of Catalonia, seriously threatened by the suspension of financial autonomy and by improper police action of a European democracy. The popular reaction was again impressive, at the same time forceful and exemplary civic. By the force, by the imposition, the voice of a pacific town can not be silenced, a society that is not prepared to renounce nor its self-government nor to vote its future…

…Democracy cannot be defended by violating the division of powers, and giving police responses to political challenges. Democracy is not a legal formalism twisted at convenience. By this way, Spain is reluctant to lose the battle of the democratic story. So he will lose Catalonia. Because, in fact, this outlawed action against the Generalitat due to the call for a referendum on October 1 will only strengthen the unity around the right to decide on the freedom and self-government of Catalonia. It should be made clear that the calls to the dialogue have proved sterile and that the position of the State has never gone through the acceptance of a negotiation framework. And despite the indignation, it should be emphasized that only dialogue, civility and democracy will be the tools to overcome this unfortunate moment.

El País, AnabelL Díez and Juan José Mateo:

Spain’s main parties offer secessionists “dialogue” after referendum date

Spain’s main political parties, the governing Popular Party (PP) and opposition Socialist Party (PSOE), are willing to begin talks with pro-independence forces in Catalonia, provided that the latter abandon their plans for an illegal referendum on October 1, or indeed after the said date has passed.

After a Civil Guard operation in the northeastern region on Wednesday saw arrests of top officials as well as the seizure of material being prepared for the vote, the central government believes that the poll will not have the resources needed to be able to go ahead, and that the ongoing conflict is now beginning a new phase.

La Vanguardia, David Ruiz:

Independence rallies before the TSJC to demand the release of detainees

The cries of ” Independence, Independence ” do not cease in the streets of Barcelona . Thousands of people have risen this Thursday morning with the hangover of Wednesday’s massive demonstration before the Conselleria d’Economia and they have re-layered the stelae to go before the headquarters of the Tribune Superior de Justícia de Catalunya in support of the detainees during the police macrooperation carried out only 24 hours before…

…Among the protesters, of different origins and ages, moved by the indignation by the action of the Spanish government and yearning for freedom. There is no shortage of politicians such as the President of the Parlament, Carme Forcadell; the conselleras Meritxell Borràs and Meritxell Serret; the first deputy mayor of Barcelona, ​​Gerardo Pisarello, secretaries of the Parlament’s Bureau, Anna Simó (JxSí) and Joan Josep Nuet (SíQueEsPot).

It is not news that newspaper chains have been laying off staff in an attempt to stem costs. It is also not news that the unions that represent newsroom staff have made it clear that many of these cutbacks are having a negative impact on news coverage.

But the layoffs have been occurring for so long, and with such regularity, that some editorial staffs are finding it impossible not to acknowledge the impact of the layoffs. And so it was that the editors of the Ithaca Times decided to reproduce a statement from the union representing newsroom staff at The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle following more layoffs instituted by its owner Gannett.

TNM will reproduce the statement in full, as well.

Newspaper Guild of Rochester Local 17:

Official statement on D&C layoffs

September 19, 2017 – The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle laid off three newsroom employees today, part of a series of cuts at Gannett news properties across the country. As the union that that represents them, Newspaper Guild Local 17, we feel obligated to speak out.

Our newsroom has been decimated by layoffs and buyouts in the last six years, with the number of Guild-represented employees cut by more than half.

In 2011, there were 86 people under our banner in the newsroom. Nearly half of them were reporters. There were a dozen photographers. Copy editors, headline writers and graphic designers – the finishing team you might say – rounded out the rest. After today, there are approximately 32 Guild-represented journalists working in our newsroom.

Some of those positions were lost to advances in technology and changes in the way newspapers deliver their product. But the end result has been fewer people gathering news and ensuring the stories we tell in words and photographs and videos are as polished and complete as they can be and live up to the quality that our longtime readers had come to expect of the D&C.

It’s sad to see good friends and talented colleagues shown the door, but the bigger loss is to the community we serve.

These dramatic reductions in staffing have had a clear impact on the depth and breadth of our coverage and impacted the quantity and quality of the journalism we’ve been able to produce. Now more than ever, we need those journalists to shine a light on wrongdoing, hold public officials accountable, and chronicle the life of this community.

We believe that the local D&C management team is passionate about the work we do and our community, but we don’t believe the leaders of Gannett have a similar commitment to Rochester.

Frank Gannett founded his publishing company here in 1923, and Rochester remained the company’s headquarters for more than sixty years. It was here that Mr. Gannett established the high journalistic standards that helped his company become the largest newspaper publisher in the United States.

There are plenty of challenges in today’s news business, but the greatest threat to local journalism is corporate leaders who have no strategies to address those challenges other than an endless cycle of layoffs.

As a union of fewer than three dozen journalists, we have no clout, no power to wield against a corporate giant like Gannett. The only thing we can do is speak out and make sure our community knows what’s happening.

We will continue to cover our region the best we know how to with the staff we have left, and we urge the members of our community to let Gannett’s leadership know they don’t like what’s being done to Rochester, either.

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