Writers Suspended For Attending VFC Concert

Two newspaper reporters who went to see the Boss got in trouble with their own boss.

Two newspaper reporters who went to see the Boss got in trouble with their own boss.

Minnesota's St. Paul Pioneer Press suspended investigative reporters Chuck Laszewski and Rick Linsk for three days each after they attended the Oct. 5 Vote for Change political fund-raising concert by Bruce Springsteen, R.E.M. and other artists at Xcel Energy Center.

Media union the Newspaper Guild is contesting the unpaid suspensions.

Pioneer Press editor Vicki Gowler wrote in a Sept. 27 memo to staff that the paper's ethics policy bars them from activities that would conflict with their employment, including "concerts that are held as political fundraisers." Several other newspapers had issued similar warnings to reporters.

Gowler did not return a phone message seeking comment. But Laszewski said the E-mail referred to weekend, general assignment and political reporters. He said he figured he was in the clear because he's on the investigative team. "It was fabulous," he said of the concert. "It's getting to be exorbitantly expensive for me, but it was terrific."

Newspaper Guild executive officer Mike Sweeney said the Pioneer Press refused to change its position during a meeting yesterday (Oct. 18). He expects the matter to go to arbitration. Sweeney noted that Laszewski was on the committee that pressed for an ethics policy in 2000.

"We're not saying the company doesn't have a right to be concerned about the ethics, and the off-duty behavior of its reporters," Sweeney said. "But they have to meet a standard. We can't allow a company to subjectively decide what is or is not a conflict."

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