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Saturday, November 11, 2006

PERS crisis threatens to escalate

Bargaining units of measure
Writers at
The Oregonian weigh alternatives

The main issue: writers feel disempowered by management indifference. They feel unable to negotiate grievances concerning the forced use of colloquialisms with which they disagree.

The straw that apparently broke the camel's back - units of measure. Recently, copy editors were summarily ordered to rewrite gasoline and milk prices as "$3 A GALLON" when writers submit the more traditional "$3 PER GALLON." The new anti-PERS policy applies to all unit of measure citations.

According to writers, The Oregonian has increasingly failed to follow its internal rules. With senior management's attention diverted by a previously-reported outbreak of Multiple-Standard Syndrome, many of the organization's traditional collaborative processes have been abandoned.

A writer who spoke to The Oregonion on condition of anonymity captured the complaint: "We cannot allow The Oregonian to take our PERS away from us without negotiation. What kind of message does this send Oregon's school children who look to us for stylistic integrity and proper usage?"

For decades, style revisions have been subject to a collaborative process involving workers and management. Responsibility for the award-winning Style Guide has rotated among Managing Editors - Therese Bottomly, Stephen Engleberg, and Jack Hart, in order to assure a regular supply of fresh style ideas and to prevent any single style from getting too entrenched.

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