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Union condemns new Dow Jones policy on Wall Street Journal employees' outside work

The union representing journalists at Dow Jones & Co. publications on Friday condemned a policy change from the company that would give it greater authority over books and other external projects by Wall Street Journal (WSJ) employees. 

The union, IAPE 1096, said in a statement on its website Friday that Dow Jones had unveiled a new policy "for WSJ news personnel in which the company claimed new and potentially expansive rights over employees' efforts to write books or pursue other external projects." 

"We have several concerns about the policy, which appears to depart from industry standards, and believe the company cannot lawfully impose it on its own," the union added of Dow Jones, which in addition to the Journal also oversees other publications such as MarketWatch and Barron's. 

The union said it has already received a series of "quite angry" feedback from "concerned members" over the new policy. 

"We will have more to say later, but for now, know this: We intend to fight this attempt to unilaterally change the terms of our employment," IAPE wrote Friday, adding that it had sent a letter to Dow Jones representatives "seeking more information and requesting negotiations." 

IAPE Executive Director Tim Martell told The Hill that Journal reporters had "already been working under a relatively restrictive book policy" prior to Friday's changes.

"The existing version reads, 'Senior editors need to know about any Wall Street Journal journalists' book plan at early stages,'" Martell explained. "And the news personnel must receive permission from the editor in chief prior to sending a proposal to a publisher."

However, the union director said the "new changes go beyond that and state that personnel must receive permission from the editor in chief for sending a proposal or engaging in talks with a book agent or publisher or production company."

"The other part that has our members very upset is a demand that the journalists will be required to execute an appropriate licensing agreement with Dow Jones for the use of their own reporting," Martell said. "We think that's an overreach."

The labor union said in its Friday statement that it was first notified in March that Dow Jones was seeking to make revisions and expansions to its policies related to employees' outside projects, and in April, IAPE "raised a series of questions about a draft document presented by the company" and subsequently met with Dow Jones [DJ] executives to discuss the proposed changes. 

"In May, DJ presented IAPE with a further revised proposed policy that did not address questions previously raised by the union," the group said Friday. "The revisions also appeared to be an attempt to further expand rights provided to management." 

IAPE said that while it "expected to have further discussions with management over the policy," Dow Jones announced the policy change Friday before giving prior warning to the union. 

"Past policies of this nature were subject to bargaining, and we believe this one is, too," the union added, noting that Dow Jones "also has been working on additional policies related to newsroom employees' involvement with podcasts and newsletters." 

"IAPE believes it has the right to negotiate over those policies as well," the union added. 

The Hill has reached out to Dow Jones for comment on the new policy. 

The change follows a similar one unveiled at The New York Times in March, under which staff must now run past a committee outside work and projects "that have the potential to be competitive with our journalism and business, could conflict with or distract from your work or The Times, involve payment or could be covered in any other way by the policies defined by the Ethical Journalism Handbook," according to a memo to staff obtained by The Hill at the time. 

The change came just two weeks after New York Times columnist David Brooks resigned from a think tank job following concerns of potential conflicts of interest.

Updated: 1:30 p.m.

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