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Drawing conclusions.

Your March 13 article, "No providence in Rhode Island,'' captured the bitter nature of the contract dispute between the Providence (R.I.) Journal and its largest union, the Providence Newspaper Guild [p. 6].

However, the account had one key error.

The story incorrectly said that a drawing published in the Feb. 13 Journal, which depicted the newspaper's publisher, Howard Sutton, was intended as a Guild protest of the troubled negotiations.

In fact, the drawing's origins had nothing to do with the negotiations. It was created solely to illustrate a news service story for an education section.

The artist, Frank Gerardi, often includes likenesses of newspaper personalities in his illustrations. Appearing in past drawings have been a former publisher, the paper's top editor, reporters, and Gerardi's colleagues in his visuals department.

These caricatures often provide a smile to newspaper insiders, but they rarely are recognized outside the paper, and they never are meant to send a hidden message about the Journal's internal affairs.

A second recognizable character in this drawing was myself. The caricatured figure was wearing a button on its shirt that, although not labeled, insiders might associate with Guild solidarity pins many union members were wearing at the time the drawing was created.

Management officials asserted that the drawing humiliated the publisher, and said they feared that it was part of a union action.

They were told by all involved that there was no union message intended, nor did the Guild have anything to do with the drawing. Still, newspaper officials subsequently sanctioned two editors and the artist.

Two of those disciplined, Gerardi and Mark Divver, editor of the section, are Guild members. The third, Sunday Managing Editor Tim Murphy, isn't even in the union, andhadn't seen the drawing before publication.

The Guild believes that this discipline was unwarranted and represented an overreaction by management, driven by the poisoned atmosphere caused by the bargaining difficulties.

The point is not a small one to the journalists involved. As professionals, they would not use the paper for a union stunt, nor would they lie about their motives.

It is one of the unfortunate byproducts of this dispute that the standards and integrity of three of the newspaper's top staffers were so inappropriately called into question.

Brian C. Jones

business writer

Providence Journal

unit council chairman

Providence Newspaper Guild

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Author:C. Jones, Brian
Publication:Editor & Publisher
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 10, 2000
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