Sunday, November 8, 2009

Authors Survey Will Be Mailed Soon -- It Brings In Half Of Union's Income

To: NWU members
From: Martin Zabell
Date: Oct. 27, 2009

NWU-Chicago membership:

I was informed today that something called an Authors Coalition survey brings in MORE THAN HALF of the National Writers' Union's annual income.

I don't recall filling out this survey myself in the past, but I'm told that membership participation is important. The more participants who have had their writing reproduced in foreign nations, the more money the union gets. I don't understand this entire program myself, but I hope to in the next several days. As I learn about it, I will send out the survey forms and urge all of you to fill it out.

I will keep you informed of this important matter in the ensuing days.

This matter was the highlight of the monthly national meeting, which ended about half an hour ago. In other news, we were told that the national newsletter would be revived soon, the NWU lost some sort of workmen’s compensation case, and the union has made such great progress in its battle against textbook companies that aren’t paying their authors that the UAW, our parent, is considering investing a lot of money in pursuing a company’s owners.
(Note that there was negative news in the above graph. I’m a longtime reporter and I hope to maintain my credibility by reporting good and bad news. If you want to know the real dope, don’t hesitate to call.)

Martin Zabell
Chicago chapter
National Writers Union

PS -- Below are the best explanations I have been given of the Authors Coalition. The first graph was written by national VP Ann Hoffman; the second graph by national president Larry Goldbetter of Chicago.

Authors Coalition Survey
For the past year, the National Writers Union has been working with many other author groups as part of the Authors Coalition to reclaim non-title specific royalties from photocopies made abroad. With your help, in the past year the National Writers Union has collected $335,000, which has allowed us to engage in the Google book situation, provide invaluable contract advice and in other ways to defend the rights of writers in their copyrights. Our share of the money collected is determined by the responses that we get from the genre survey below; your prompt and accurate answers will determine how much money we receive in the coming year.
(actual survey attached: I have been unable to copy it without distorting it)

The money comes from royalties collected by various authors groups and I believe government agencies for foreign authors whose works may have been reproduced in Europe. We ask our members if they have written anything that MIGHT have been copied in Europe. We need a 60 percent affirmative response, and the bigger the response the bigger the
check we receive.

National Writers Union-Chicago Seeks Volunteers To Plan 2010 Events

To: NWU-Chicago membership
From: Martin Zabell (chairperson of NWU-Chicago)
Date: Oct. 14, 2009

At last night's monthly NWU-Chicago leadership meeting, the leadership agreed that we should begin planning our 2010 schedule.

What we need to do is formulate a schedule of events, perhaps one every two months, with one event being the building block for the second event and the second event being the lead-in to the third event, etc.

We also discussed specific events that would be of interest to the Chicago writing community and, once we found them, making these events part of our regular schedule. The events that were discussed most often were A. Self-publishing; B. Finding publishers and agents for books; C. Whether there is a future in blogging.

One problem we have had in the past is that not enough people have been involved in planning events. Thus, I am seeking people willing to volunteer their time to help plan the above events. And, of course, if you have suggestions for other events, please forward them on. We probably need four or five people to help plan each event. Someone from the NWU-Chicago leadership will be the lead planner for each event and will be the person to devote the most time for planning.

Please understand that these events could be an OPPORTUNITY for you to tell the world what you have done. In other words, you can help plan the event AND be a speaker. For example, if you self-published a book, an NWU event will an OPPORTUNITY for you to sell your book. And Event No. 2 can build on Event No. 1.

If we decided to plan a self-publishing event for April, we need to begin planning a couple of months ahead so I and other members of the leadership can also spend our time planning publicity for the event that you helped plan.

For the union to work, we NEED more active members. Participation is very gratifying and gives people a sense of belonging. I was an inactive member for a few years and am now active. It's worth the money you have already invested in our future if you also invest your time.

The union has made great progress since the former Chicago leadership in June was elected to national leadership. We are challenging an effort by Google to essentially take your copyrights for a ridiculously low price (better explanations can be read at; or, have been in the news more often for these efforts, are challenging textbook companies that have unfairly paid or not paid writers and editors, and are in the process of starting NWU-Chicago's first newsletter (which should come out by year's end).

For the union to take the next steps, we need your ACTIVE PARTICIPATION.

Martin Zabell

PS -- I would also appreciate it if you would inform me of other writing groups you belong to. This helps us plan future events. For example, if you are a member of a mystery writers or science fiction writers club, we can then co-sponsor events on more specific topics than those I have outlined above.

PS 2 -- Please phone me if you're interested at 708-832-2595. Please don't make me phone every single member of the union as I tried to do in August. I’m way too shy.

PS 3 -- I will post this notice on our Web site –

National Writers Union To Authors Guild: Withdraw From Google Pact

National Writers Union Calls on the Authors Guild to

Withdraw from The Google Copyright Infringement Settlement

for immediate release 9/25/09 – contact Larry Goldbetter (212) 254-0279

NEW YORK, September 25, 2009 – The National Writers Union today issued the following statement in response to the Department of Justice filing in the Google Book Settlement:

The Department of Justice has recommended that the United States District Court reject the proposed Google Book Settlement. The Department found that the settlement should be rejected on the grounds that it violated anti-trust laws, that it would lead to copyright infringement, and that the Authors Guild did not properly represent the class of authors. In response to this, the parties to the agreement asked for and were granted a postponement of the October 7 fairness hearing. National Writers Union President Larry Goldbetter stated, “We support the Department of Justice recommendation and call on the Authors Guild to withdraw from the current settlement, so that they can join in new negotiations with the many voices that have up to now been excluded.”

“The proposed settlement was simply unacceptable,” he said. “It upends copyright law, is an abuse of the class-action process, and is a bad deal for writers.” For the proposed settlement to be fair and comply with the law, fundamental changes are necessary. This can only happen with the input of those who opposed the settlement – including authors, libraries, independent publishers, consumer advocates, state attorneys general, the Justice Department, and Congress.

Goldbetter said, “We look forward to working with all affected parties to shape a new agreement, that upholds copyright law and serves the interests of all readers and writers.”

Sunday, September 13, 2009


The National Writers Union Open Letter
To Al Gore About The Google Book Settlement

September 1, 2009

Honorable Al Gore
2100 West End Avenue
Suite 620
Nashville, TN 37203

Dear Vice President Gore:

As a national leader with a distinguished career in public service, we are seeking your help in protecting the rights and economic well-being of our members on a matter of great public interest.

The proposed settlement between Google, the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers threatens to monopolize the access, distribution and pricing of the world’s largest digital book database. As a senior advisor to Google and given your personal relationship with co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, we respectfully ask you to urge Google’s management to petition the court for a delay in settlement proceedings so that writers have more time to examine this complex agreement. The court deadline for our members to “opt-out” of the program is September 4, and the court could close the entire process down and approve the private settlement on October 7. We believe that both dates should be postponed.

The proposed settlement would give Google monopolistic control over access to many previously published copyrighted books and materials. It would also give Google a license to reproduce a writer’s copyrighted work unless the writer specifically tells Google to remove his or her work from the program. This is grossly unfair. No corporation should be able to profit from the work of our members without first obtaining their permission in writing.

The National Writers Union/United Auto Workers Local 1981 is the nation’s only labor union and advocacy organization for freelance writers in all genres, media and formats. We have joined a growing number of voices who are raising concerns about the settlement as the court deadlines loom. There has been no formal public process for stakeholders to have real input on the myriad details of this settlement. We hope that you will use your leadership position at Google to impress upon management that a settlement as revolutionary and unprecedented as this one deserves more public input and scrutiny.

You have always fought for workers and creators and have been a pioneer in the digital age. Your strong pro-consumer record is unassailable. Today, labor truly needs your help. With Labor Day just around the corner, we hope that you hear our call.

In Solidarity,

Larry Goldbetter
National Writers Union/UAW Local 1981
(212) 254-0279 ext. 814


At its Aug. 25 monthly meeting, the National Writers Union was informed that it has progressed so much in the past few months that the United Auto Workers has decided to begin giving the NWU complete autonomy. The NWU should be out of administratorship by the end of the year.

The NWU leadership also voted for the NWU joining the Open Book Alliance. A press release was written a few days later and is printed below.


NEW YORK -- The National Writers Union announced today that it has joined the Open Book Alliance: a diverse coalition of writers' organizations, librarians, activists, legal scholars and corporations who object to the proposed Google Book Settlement.

"We are happy to join the Open Book Alliance, which shares many of our concerns about the proposed Google Book Settlement," said Larry Goldbetter, president of the National Writers Union/UAW Local 1981. "The proposed settlement is patently unfair to writers and could set a dangerous legal precedent."

Earlier this week, the National Writers Union called on former Vice President Al Gore, in his capacity as a senior advisor to Google, to use his considerable influence to urge Google to seek a delay in the settlement proceedings. The National Writers Union announced its objection to the proposed Google Book Settlement last month.

"Google's book scanning project is one the largest cases of copyright infringement since the United States Constitution was adopted in 1789," Goldbetter said. "The multibillion-dollar corporation scanned more than seven million different books without permission from the copyright owners. In an attempt to placate its victims, Google is throwing some crumbs to writers." Google enjoyed a net income of more than $4.5 billion last year. It is offering writers as little as $60 per infringed book and $15 per infringed article.

"It's a bad deal," Goldbetter said. "Along with the other members of the Open Book Alliance, the National Writers Union wants to promote a fair alternative to the proposed settlement."

The National Writers Union is the nation's only labor union and advocacy organization for freelance writers in all genres, media, and formats. In addition to print media writers, NWU represents electronic writers and editors of blogs, Web sites and e-newsletters. The NWU is affiliated with the United Auto Workers (UAW), which is a member of the AFL-CIO. The NWU's headquarters are at 113 University Place, 6th floor, New York, NY 10003.


On September 1, the National Writers Union called on former Vice President Al Gore to use his considerable influence to urge Google Inc. to seek a delay in the proceedings of the Google Book Settlement.

Gore is a Senior Advisor to Google and is said to be a friend of Google''s co-founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin. In a letter faxed today to Gore, NWU President Larry Goldbetter said the delay is needed because the settlement is
complex and stakeholders need more time to examine the agreement. The court deadline for writers to "opt-out" of the program is Friday, Sept. 4. The court could close the entire process down and approve the settlement on Oct. 7.

To read the NWU''s open letter to Vice President Gore, go to the Google Settlement page.


NEW YORK, NY -- On September 8, the National Writers Union filed legal objections to the proposed settlement of the Google Books copyright infringement lawsuit. In the brief filed today in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, the NWU joins as a "friend of the court" in support of objections also being made by the American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA) and 58 individual authors.

"The proposed settlement is an abuse of the law and unfair to writers," said National Writers Union President Larry Goldbetter. ""It has prompted justified outrage and objections from writers of all types, across the country and around the world.

"The National Writers Union felt compelled to support the opposition to the settlement," Goldbetter said. "We must defend writers'' legal, economic, and moral rights. We can''t let Google or any megacorporation steal our work, republish it and sell ads around it without permission and paying us only a pittance."

The NWU is fighting the proposed settlement in court, with the antitrust division of the Department of Justice, through Congress, and via efforts with coalition partners such as the ASJA and the Open Book Alliance. Last week, the NWU called on former Vice President Al Gore, a Google senior advisor, to urge Google to seek a delay in the settlement proceedings. The NWU announced its objection to the proposed Google Book Settlement last month.

The NWU''s amicus curiae brief was filed by co-counsel Michael J. Guzman, partner with Kellogg, Huber, Hansen, Todd, Evans & Figel, and Lynn Chu, Esq., principal of the literary agency Writers Reps.

"We are grateful that these attorneys volunteered to represent the NWU and the cause of writers' rights," NWU President Goldbetter said. "This is not a partisan or ideological issue. We invite all writers to join us to fight this theft of our rights," he added.

Friday, August 21, 2009


1. Aug. 30-Sept. 4
2009 International UAW Veteran's Conference
Walter and May Reuther UAW Family Education Center
Onaway, Mich.

2. Sept. 10-Sept. 12
2009 Region 4 Competitive Shop IPS/TOP Conference
UAW Pat Greathouse Education Center
Ottawa, Ill.
(workshops on Workplace Violence and the Dislocated Worker)
(elections of Region 4 UAW IPS Executive Board)

3. Sept. 18-Sept. 20
Region 4 Skilled Trades Conference
UAW Pat Greathouse Educational Center
Ottawa, Ill.

4. Sept. 24
Chicago Jobs With Justice rally on economic crisis
downtown Chicago

Anyone interested in attending any of these events should contact NWU Chicago chapter head Martin Zabell at 708-832-2595

Thursday, August 20, 2009


State of Illinois
Executive Department
Springfield, Illinois

Presented this 7th Day of August 2009

Whereas: The National Writers Union UAW 1981 is the only labor union that represents freelance and contract writers in all genres, formats, and media; and

Whereas, as a union for freelancers, the National Writers Union (NWU) works to improve the economic and working conditions for writers; and

Whereas, the NWU seeks to achieve this goal by educating and empowering its members and by working with writers in regards to protecting copyrights, fighting corporate media, and advocating for legislation that protects the rights of writers everywhere; and

Whereas, the National Writers Union represents approximately 1,500 members in 17 chapters across the United States; and

Whereas on August 5-9, 2009 the national delegates assembly of the National Writers Union will meet in Chicago. This marks the first time that this legislative body has met in the Midwest;

Therefore, be it resolved, by the State of Illinois, that I hereby welcome the National Writers Union national delegates assembly to the Land of Lincoln and offer my best wishes for an enjoyable and productive meeting.


Below is a press release from The Chicago Headline Club

The Illinois Freedom of Information Act has been strengthened, thanks to Gov. Pat Quinn signing revisions to FOIA Aug. 17. Thanks also go to Attorney General Lisa Madigan, who led the effort to make government in Illinois more transparent.

Taking effect Jan. 1, the law “makes state government more accountable to the people we serve,” Quinn said.

“The people of Illinois will now have a greater ability to know what their government is doing,” Madigan said.

The law, for the first time in Illinois, will prevent government officials from ignoring FOI requests. The law formalizes an Illinois public access counselor, who will be authorized to issue decisions on a case-by-case basis, finding that public bodies should or should not release information. People can go to court to seek enforcement of the counselor’s decision. Government bodies that break the law can be fined $2,500 to $5,000.

“We would have preferred bypassing the courts and allowing the counselor to issue fines, but this is a huge step in the right direction,” said Susan S. Stevens, Chicago Headline Club FOI vice president who was among numerous journalists and public interest group representatives who served on the task force Madigan created to revise FOIA.

Another benefit of the law: a reduction from seven days to five the length of time that officials have to provide information. Also in the law: fewer excuses officials have in delaying release of information.

An additional thanks to all of you who wrote Quinn to urge him to sign this legislation, Public Act 96-0542.

You can view the new law at
The law also requires the governor’s office to maintain a Web site with information on state boards and commissions and implements stricter ethics standards for members of boards and commissions. The sites are: and

“As newspapers continue to struggle economically, as public reliance on blogs and the Internet continues to grow, the burden of being a watchdog on government will increasingly fall to private citizens,” said Southtown Star columnist Phil Kadner, former CHC FOI vp who also was on the task force and had urged Madigan since she took office to work toward a stronger FOIA. “I believe this revised law, which I have advocated for nearly a decade, will give private citizens the weapons they need to do precisely that.”

Still pending: legislation to create a federal Shield Law. CHC and SPJ urge you to contact Sens. Dick Durbin and Roland Burris to urge them to stand fast for this measure.

For more on this and other developments, see

Thursday, August 13, 2009


Below is a press release issued by the national office of the National Writers Union on Thursday, Aug. 13. The press release follows a decision by NWU delegates at the Aug. 5-Aug. 9 national convention in Chicago to oppose an agreement between Google, the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers. This pact would settle a suit against Google for allegedly profiting illegally by scanning books and displaying parts of them.

The press release was written by Tom Gradel of the Chicago chapter of the NWU with input from a few of his colleagues, including NWU president Larry Goldbetter, the former leader of the Chicago chapter.

A few publications have written stories based on the press release. Goldbetter and Gradel have both been quoted in the stories, and I will keep you up to date on how the media covers this story over the next few years.

Martin Zabell
Chicago chapter of NWU


National Writers Union Opposes Settlement
of Class-Action Lawsuit Against Google
for Copyright Infringement

The National Writers Union today announced its opposition to the proposed $125 million settlement of a class-action copyright infringement lawsuit brought by writers and publishers against Google because its massive book-scanning project violated their copyrights.

“The proposed settlement is grossly unfair to writers,” said Larry Goldbetter, president of the National Writers Union, Local 1981 of the United Auto Workers. “It gives Google monopolistic control over access to many previously published copyrighted books and materials, and allows Google to collect and sell information about the reading habits of individuals.”

The NWU’s decision to oppose the settlement was approved by the union’s Delegates Assembly following three days of discussion last weekend in Chicago.

Though the NWU is not a party to the lawsuit, many of its 1,500 members – book authors, journalists, technical, academic and educational writers – will be directly affected by the settlement.

“More importantly, the economic well-being of all writers will be greatly impacted by precedents set by any court-approved agreement,” Goldbetter said.

“By scanning and digitally reproducing millions of copyrighted books and articles without permission by the writers, Google violated authors’ constitutionally protected rights,” Goldbetter said.

“According to our understanding of the proposed settlement, writers whose copyrights were violated might receive a check for between $60 and $300 for each book and $15 per article,” he added. “Compared to the number and seriousness of the violations, the amount being offered by Google to each writer is ridiculously low. Also, of the $125 million offered by Google, only $45 million is for writers. This seems way short of the amount needed to compensate authors of millions of books,” he said.
( more)

NWU Opposes Google Settlement.../ P 2.

The NWU also opposes the proposed settlement because it would give Google a license to reproduce a writer’s copyrighted work unless the writer specifically tells Google to remove his or her work from the program. This would apply to U.S.-based and foreign writers who might not be aware of the settlement and to those who presume – with good reason because it’s the law – that their copyright protects them without the need to take further action.

“Putting the onus on writers to contact Google is also grossly unfair,” Goldbetter said, “Google is essentially saying ‘we are going to steal your work and sell it under terms we dictate unless you tell us not to.’ A corporation, no matter how powerful, shouldn’t be able to profit from your work without first contacting you and obtaining your permission in writing.”

Finally, “the NWU opposes the settlement because it interferes or might interfere with the relationship writers have with their publishers,” Goldbetter said. “The settlement makes assumptions about electronic rights that writers may or may not have assigned to publishers and it sets up an unfair binding arbitration process to resolve disputes between writers and publishers. These disputes must be arbitrated on a case-by-case basis. The settlement does not allow for writers, who were collectively targeted, to collectively negotiate to settle these disputes.”

The NWU’s decision to oppose the settlement is especially timely. Individual writers, publishers, organizations or anyone else who wants to opt out of the settlement, object to the settlement, intervene in the case, or file a “friend of the court” brief, must file his or her objections, notices or legal briefs with the Federal District Court in New York City by the close of business on Friday, Sept. 4, 2009. A hearing on the matter is set for Oct. 7, 2009.

The National Writers Union is the nation’s only labor union and advocacy organization for freelance writers in all genres, media, and formats. In addition to print media writers, NWU represents electronic writers and editors of blogs, e-newsletters and web sites. NWU is affiliated with the United Auto Workers (UAW) and the AFL-CIO. NWU’s headquarters are at 113 University Place, 6th floor, New York, NY 10003.

Sunday, July 19, 2009




Two days ago, I submitted a 3-page plan that advocates investing money so the NWU becomes far more visible and, thus, eventually dramatically increasing membership.
Below is the follow-up that I promised. It shows how a campaign would work – and demonstrates that a long-run effort to reach out to the media will SAVE MONEY.
Here is step-by-step how a press campaign works.

A. Chicago is selected as the site of a national convention. The National Writers Union (NWU) sends a press release to Editor & Publisher (E&P) trade magazine.

B. The next week, the NWU sends a release to E&P on announcing its new leadership – and repeating the information in press release A.

C. The new leadership announces a campaign to create a new division that will focus on free-lance writers (I’m making this up, but the leaders will have better ideas) and sends this info to E&P. At the end of Press Release C, the NWU concisely summarizes Press Releases A and B.

D. The NWU places an ad in the same E&P that it expects Press Release C to run in. The ad seeks new members and makes reference to recent news events.

E. The NWU announces the speakers at its national convention. Press Release D summarizes the facts of the first three at the end.

F. The NWU places an ad in the same E&P that it expects Press Release D to run in. It also seeks new members and makes reference to recent news events.

G. Future press releases and ads are sent that follow the same formula.

Now how do we know a campaign in E&P will work? We have NO bleeping idea.

And that’s the point of having labor. The NWU needs to spend money efficiently and needs to figure out SOONER RATHER THAN LATER where our efforts will pay off. Using hired help, for example, could help us ascertain that E&P is a waste of time and money and the same campaign should be run in a different magazine.

The NWU needs to pro-actively contact publications to figure out where to run its material BEFORE going through steps A through G.

The union is better off finding out these things ASAP when the labor is cheap and before spending thousands for nothing.
Martin Zabell



Press releases increase membership
and enhance odds of beneficial laws

Plan presented by Martin Zabell of Chicago chapter of National Writers Union to other leaders in Chicago chapter on or around June 1, 2009

The National Writers Union (NWU) will NEVER increase its membership enough to achieve what it needs to achieve for its writers unless it INVESTS money in writing and distributing press releases and other information.

LOCAL groups all over the USA invest HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS of dollars per year in people who perform these tasks. They do so because it works. I know because I’ve seen this first-hand in 20 years as a reporter and editor, essentially distributing information from organizations smart enough to contact me and others to hundreds of thousands of people and short-changing groups too dumb to see the forest because they’re looking at the trees.

The NWU has to stop being dumb. Who knows how much money it has lost by appearing to be a defunct organization that doesn’t post basic info and news on its Web site?

Eventually, the NWU should invest hundreds of thousands annually in press relations. Currently, though, I’m proposing that it invest a tiny fraction of that – roughly $10,000 per year.

My plan makes this investment contingent on the performance of many of these duties for FREE. In other words, an expenditure of $10,000 means roughly $20,000 of voluntary services. In addition, the $10,000 would make the NWU’s current expenditures in advertisements more effective. Currently, local chapters advertise for events, but as the director of a writer’s group I brought in thousands of dollars without ever running an ad.

NOW is the time to make this first investment because on May 20 a new leadership was elected. The membership has given the new leaders a MANDATE to change.

Nowhere in the leadership’s campaign platform is there talk about a balanced budget, continuing to provide the services it has in recent years, and maintaining a small membership. Instead, the platform includes 16 goals that can be summarized as GROW. The goals include:

* “Through our concentrated efforts in both organizing and communication, establish the National Writers Union as the leading public voice for all freelancers and writers.”

* “Communicate with the outside world by issuing regular press releases, writing Op-Eds and letters to the editor, keeping our website up-to-date, and developing partnerships with groups that have similar interests.”

* “Develop organizing drives and initiatives with the goal of building our union, strengthening diversity, and widening the age range of our membership.”

My plan has the following goals:
A. Increasing visibility.
B. Activating current members.
C. Increasing membership.
D. Using financial resources more effectively.
E. Making the Web site more interactive.
F. Improving the NWU’s image and professionalism via the above goals.

Here is my plan to achieve those goals:

a. Research publications that should be amenable to NWU articles.
b. Place articles in labor newspapers.
c. Place articles in writers’ magazines.
d. Place articles in other specialized publications (ex.--trade and business mags).
e. Place articles in “mainstream” publications.
f. Utilize all those famous people on our board by ghostwriting for them or seeking them to pen articles themselves.
g. Send press releases to lawmakers.
h. Establish regular relationships with all of the above.
i. Write blogs in response to articles on pertinent issues.

a. Solicit NWU members to write on issues of expertise.
b. Solicit members to tell their stories of unfair labor practices in print.
c. Contact local and specialty publications to maximize the writers’ odds of getting the articles printed.
d. Ghostwrite if the members don’t have the time to write on their own.

a. Solicit members who can pinpoint local or specialty publications that can reach prospective members.
b. Use the news releases as advertisements to seek new members.
c. Coordinate news releases with advertisements that seek new members.
d. Contact members, ex-members and prospective members to inform them of the NWU’s success at increasing its visibility.
e. Use the success as an argument for them to join or rejoin an active and growing organization. (Coordinate news events and press releases with phone calls.)

a. Keep track of who is publishing our materials.
b. Spend less time and money on reaching out to publications that have not demonstrated an interest in our activities.
c. Spend more time and money on reaching out to publications that have demonstrated an interest in our activities.
d. Figure out where we need to spend money on advertisements and where press releases can replace ads.
e. Report back on prices of ads.

a. Post articles on the Web site.
b. Encourage members to provide feedback on these articles.
c. Encourage members to write articles that will be posted on the site.
d. Advertise our success by listing the articles that were published in publications.


Yes, it’s true that the new leadership can write lots of articles and press releases as they promised.

But, here’s what they cannot or should not do – spend time trying to figure out which publications are receptive to printing their articles and which are not. In other words, I would, in part, be acting as support services for the leadership.

For example, Larry Goldbetter writes an article on the national shield law. Before he writes it, I would contact a number of publications to gauge interest, report back on which are most interested, and improve the chances of publication by recontacting editors who had previously expressed interest.

I am 100 percent certain that many publications will print information from the NWU.

How do I know? At a UAW conference, I wrote news articles on the spur of the moment, submitted them to few newspapers, and was informed by a couple of them that my articles were printed. Labor newspapers have expressed an interest in printing more of my articles.

Frankly, a national group should have a staff to do the above tasks. However, I am offering to do this for 30 hours per week – 20 volunteer, 10 paid. If I was paid $20 an hour and did this for one year, that would add up to $10,400.

And, by the way, you could get some of that money back from the publications themselves. I know the Chicago Tribune pays guest columnists because I had clients who were paid by them.

Ex-NWU treasurer Tom Gradel informed me that the NWU paid $50,000 for its Web site – easily the worst Web site I’ve ever seen put out by a national organization.

If it paid $50,000 for its Web site, it surely can spend $10,000 for nationwide publicity.


I submitted the following plan to Larry Goldbetter on Jan. 29, 2009. He said something to the effect that it was a good first step in the union getting involved in the issue mentioned in the plan. He urged me to post it on the NWU ListServe to get feedback and work on improving it. NO ONE has ever commented on it.

With the Delegates Assembly approaching, I decided to post the plan on the blog I created for the NWU's Chicago membership. Here it is.

Writers’ union needs to furnish information to members

To: Larry Goldbetter
From: Martin Zabell
Date: Jan. 29, 2009


During the time that I’ve spent phoning lapsed National Writers’ Union (NWU) members, I’ve concluded that the best ways to boost membership are for NWU officials to communicate regularly with members and to provide information that is of value to them.

How can this be accomplished? After reading the article that I sent you on Jan. 18 about the predicted demise of about a dozen major newspapers, I drafted a plan for the NWU to formulate a report on “The Future of the Journalism Industry.” I sketched out my ideas on Jan. 21 and am now on Jan. 29, putting the ideas into this report.

I should also give Loretta Campbell of the New York City branch some credit for this initiative. Although I can’t recall her exact words, she kept on saying something to the effect that the NWU needed to offer a service that other unions don’t and that thought was in my head as I read the report on the demise of major American newspapers.

The major premise of this plan is that writers in the National Writers’ Union want to help their colleagues and receive help from their colleagues. That is the feedback that I have received on the phone. The number of people who complained that they were only contacted when politics was the subject is large.

Instead of contacting members and non-members when the NWU needs their votes or money, the union should be making members feel like they’re making intellectual contributions and are part of an active group throughout the year. Writers need “news they can use.”

In any case, my plan includes the following elements:

* Contacting journalists in our union as well as ex-members to ask them about writing opportunities in light of the journalism industry’s collapse. Are more writers involved in public relations? Technical writing? Books? Web sites? Research? Education?

* Conducting research to ascertain what professional journalism industry analysts have concluded about the future of the industry.

* During the course of the research, posting some of the insights that our members and ex-members have on the NWU Web site.

* During the course of the research, e-mailing some of the insights that our members and ex-members to people who live in the same region as the person providing the insight. In other words, if someone from Denver has a insight about Denver-area publications, we could e-mail that insight to others in Denver.

* Working toward putting journalists in the union in touch with each other so they can help each other, particularly those who live in the same area.

* Building long-term membership by contacting current members regularly. In these contacts, the union should be sharing what it has gathered from other members.

* Putting together a skill development section in the report as well as a Tip section on the Web site as the report is being put together. For example, a member or ex-member could write something about how to increase audiences for Web sites or blogs or teach others how to put together blogs with graphics.

* Listing projects that our members or ex-members are working on. The purpose would be to improve the chances that the projects come to fruition. For example, a book being written by one person in the privacy of his or her home might be going nowhere, but he or she could use the help of another writer or non-writers that union colleagues could put him or her in touch with.

* Posting news updates on the Web site and e-mailing these updates to members.

* Boosting membership by reaching out to ex-members and other non-members. Making them feel part of an important project could enhance the chances that they will join or rejoin.

* When the report is complete, it should be put out in a user-friendly region-by-region format so members can easily access information.

* The report should also have sections. The first item on this list provides an idea of how to break this down. For example, there should be a section on books, education, Web sites, etc.

* The report should also include lists. For example, it could list newspapers that are still paying decently, new Web sites, specialized magazines that our members are now writing for, etc.

* The report should also include anecdotes. Members essentially would be telling their own stories whether they be horror stories about people and publications others shouldn’t be dealing with or the opposite.

* The report should also include the equivalent of advice columns from our members.

I sincerely believe that they would get a lot of cooperation from members and non-members of the National Writers’ Union. At minimum, we should be providing them more information on a regular basis. Many of the stories on the Web sites are ancient.

I’m sure that I can provide more depth to this proposal if asked.

Martin Zabell

Thursday, July 9, 2009


Please list the kinds of events that will lead you to drop all your dishes and rush into the city or a suburb to attend. Our last event, for example, was a self-publishing workshop. What kinds of events would interest you.

And please list the kinds of projects that the Chicago branch of the National Writers Union should be involved in. For example, we once put out a collection of works written by members.

And don't be afraid to tell us that you don't just want to be a spectator, but would prefer to be a presenter. For example, if you wrote a book, perhaps we can put together an event that includes self-published authors or science fiction authors or whatever and you will have a chance to sell your book. One of our members did that successfully in January.

Martin Z.
Chapter chair


Please post your thoughts on what you think the National Writers' Union's Chicago branch should be doing for you.

For example, should we be creating a Job Hotline or pressing the national branch to revive its hotline? Should we be more active about creating an informational service that will alert our members about publishers who are good to work with and bad to work with? Should we be publishing a newsletter with columns of tips that will be useful to members?

I am also hoping these thoughts will include what you think YOU should be doing for us.

Thank you very much,
Martin Z.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009


Distinguished panel more optimistic than expected

By Martin Zabell

CHICAGO – The glass half-full/half-empty cliche doesn’t really fit the debate going on in most journalistic circles about the industry’s future.

Most journalists, it seems, are looking at the proverbial glass as 90 percent empty.

On June 18, though, a panel of very distinguished Chicago journalists was surprisingly optimistic despite a crisis that includes the bankruptcies of both major city newspapers and perpetual layoffs at numerous Chicago-area newspapers. The current crisis, they said, could spur a future that’s a lot brighter than the industry’s 2009 predicament.

“This is an opportunity like when we moved from the horse and buggy to the automobile,” said Monroe Anderson, a longtime renowned television reporter in Chicago and a columnist for EbonyJet. “The rules are not set so you can contribute to (the new rules).”

Anderson was speaking at what the sponsor, the Northern Illinois Newspaper Association, called “a discussion on the fast-changing state of the profession and the strategies for survival.” The others were moderator Dirk Johnson, a Northern Illinois University teacher and a former bureau chief for The New York Times and Newsweek; Chicago Sun-Times columnist Mark Brown; Chicago Tribune investigative reporter Ray Long; Eileen Brown, the innovations editor at the Daily Herald; Chicago Sun-Times’ editorial page editor Tom McNamee; and Andrew Huff, the editor of GapersBlock.

The event at the Union League Club of Chicago was attended by about 60 journalists. It was sponsored by the Chicago Headline Club, the law firm of Kelley Drye & Warren, and APCO Worldwide, a public affairs and strategic communications firm.

The panelists acknowledged journalism was in a transition phase with newspapers reducing salaries and staffs and numerous newcomers on the Internet challenging the mainstream media, but putting out products that are often hampered by paltry budgets and writers whose experience and skill is often questioned.

In the long run, though, the panelists were optimistic that journalism would survive – and might even thrive.

“There will always be a need for news,” said Eileen Brown. “Journalists will always be needed. I’m not worried about journalists. I’m worried about how we’re going to get paid.”

Eileen Brown elaborated on her half-full/half-empty perspective by saying that she often jokingly says “hell no” when first asked if young people should become journalists, but upon reflection recommends that they pursue their dreams, but focus on developing skills that will help them outside the newspaper world.

“Journalists have the skill set to be successful in many careers,” she said. “The problem is if you box yourself in, if (writing for newspapers) is all you can do.”

“If you’re good at gathering information and can write, you can still break through (in journalism),” added Mark Brown.

There seemed to be a consensus that the financial support of journalists was a bigger problem in the long run than the ability of young people to be capable writers.

“Young people are really sharp,” said McNamee. “I’m not worried about the caliber of young people going into the business. I am worried about the depth of journalism.”

McNamee cited the long investigation into the behavior of a Chicago police commander who tortured suspects into making confessions as an example of a series of stories that declining newspapers and fledgling Web sites might not pursue. He said new ventures like need to be even more local and should hire skilled writers rather than just being a “bulletin board” used by ordinary citizens and organizations seeking positive publicity.

For most of the approximately 1-hour discussion, the mainstream journalists were very complimentary toward the kind of online publications that have started in the last several years although they often stressed that it could be many years before the quality of journalism rebounded from its recent decline.

Near the end of the discussion, though, there was some fireworks. Huff said six-year-old GapersBlock and other online ventures are doing significant investigative journalism and the primary reason why newspapers are trusted more is “longevity.”

Long objected. “We’re breaking stories every day,” he said. “(Our strong reputation) is not because we’ve been around a long time; it’s because we’re breaking news every day.”

Huff and McNamee also disagreed about the quality of some blogs.


Although I don't have the specific information in front of me, the National Writers Union's national office is looking for volunteers from Chicago to help it administer the Aug. 5 through Aug. 9 national assembly in Chicago.

Participating in the national convention will be very exciting. Please post your interest on the blog and I will put you in touch with the national officers, two of whom are Chicagoans.

Martin Z.


A few dozen non-Chicagoans will be in the Windy City from Aug. 5 through Aug. 9 for the national assembly so I encourage Chocagoans to post their advice on what to do and see while they're here.

I personally love the Museum Campus because I'm a nerd. The Adler Planetarium, the Shedd Aquarium, and The Field Museum (upcoming exhibits -- Ancient Americas, Africa, Animal Biology, Earth Sciences, Evolving Planet, and more) are all very close to each other and about one mile south of the hotel where the conventiongoers will be staying and the assembly's activities will occur.

It should also be noted that the Sears Tower, which will be renamed the Willis Tower soon, has just opened a ledge that juts out from the 103rd floor and includes a glass floor. I think it's going to be like the CN Tower in Toronto. It could be scary to look down and see nothing but the ground below, but I'm sure anyone in the union is an adventurer.

Most visitors like Wrigley Field, but it's not within walking distance. Chicagoans are free to offer transit advice.

Martin Z.


As was mentioned in previous posts, the national National Writers Union Delegates Assembly will be in Chicago from Aug. 5 through Aug. 9.

Officially, Chicago has three delegates to the national assembly -- Regina Baiocchi, Tom Gradel, and me, Martin Zabell. However, it would be a dereliction of duty for us to only propose resolutions, plans for action, changes, etc. that we personally are interested in. There are lots of things that members are interested in that just haven't reached our eyes and ears.

We would appreciate it if Chicago writers who are members of the union as well as non-members who are interested in what the union can do for writers (future members, we hope) would post your ideas about what we should try to achieve from Aug. 5 through Aug. 9.

And please understand that non-delegates are welcome to attend the Assembly. The schedule is on an earlier post.

Martin Z.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Who Are We? --- Let's Introduce Each Other

This is an exciting time to be a member of the National Writers Union. Yes, the economy is bleak, the journalism industry is on CPR, and unions have been getting weaker and weaker for decades.

But, this is Chicago and the city's residents are provincial. Chicago isn't called "The Second City" for nothing.

On June 23, two of our very own will become president and vice president respectively of the National Writers Union. They were elected on a very exciting campaign platform that promises to rejuvenate the union. President Larry Goldbetter will be moving soon to New York City to implement his platform while Vice President Karen Ford, one of three new VPs, will be working with local chapters from around the USA to rejuvenate the union at its grass roots.

And we here in the Chicago branch of the NWU will hold their feet to the fire, pressuring them to implement what they promised. I can send anyone, member or prospective member, a copy of their platform.

In Chicago, we need to introduce ourselves to each other so I am posting this blog or blogging this post in hopes everyone interested in the NWU can share their accomplishments, convey what they want from the union, and improve their chances of succeeding as writers by meeting more people.

I will go first because, well I started this blog and I've been told that I'm the chairperson-elect of the Chicago branch of the NWU.

Martin Zabell

Schedule for 2009 NWU Assembly (IT'S IN CHICAGO)

University Center, 525 South State Street, Chicago
(this is downtown, a few blocks from the major train stations; at corner of State and Congress)

NOTE: I don't know why spaces don't work with this chart, but they don't so I'm using ----- in place of spaces

Wednesday, August 5
Time---------------- Event----------------------Location
11:30am-1 pm -------Lunch--------------------Dining Hall
2–6pm -----------GCD GO-CA Confab-------Emerson Room
6-7:30pm ------------Dinner------------------Dining Hall
7:45-9pm ---------NEC Meeting --------- Emerson Room

Thursday, August 6
Time ------------------------Event ---------------------Location
6:30-8:30am------------- Breakfast-------------------Dining Hall
8:30am–12pm----------- NEC Meeting---------------Emerson Room
noon–1:00pm---------------Lunch--------------------Dining Hall
1:30-3:45pm------------- NEB Meeting --------------Emerson Room
3–6 pm ------Delegates and Guests Registration -----Office, Rm. 1001
4–6 pm -------------Resolutions Committee ---------None listed
4:30–5:30pm-------- New Delegate Orientation -----Emerson Room
5–7:30pm------------------Dinner-------------------Dining Hall
7:1 5pm – ? ----------Resolutions Committee --------Quad, Rm. 1026

Friday, August 7
Time ---------------------------Event ------------Location
6:30-8:30am -----------------Breakfast ----------Dining1
8–9 am ----Delegates and Guests Registration ----Office, Rm. 1001

9–11:45am ---------------Morning Plenary: ------Dining1
------1. Larry Goldbetter, President, opening remarks;
------2. E. Jeanne Harnois, Treasurer’s report;
------3. Scott Sommer, Deputy Admin. (audit report)
------4. Google Settlement

12–1 pm -------------Lunch ---------------------Dining Hall
12–1 pm --------Women’s Committee ------------Dining Hall

1:15–4 pm-------Afternoon Plenary --------------Dining1
------1. Changing news industry
------2. Legislative agenda
------3. Tasini settlement
------4. Organizing discussion

4:15-6:15pm -----Meetings of the Divisions Listed below
--------------------1. Biz-Tech -------------------Dining1
--------------------2. Book Division----------------West1
----------------- 3. Journalism Division ---------West2

6:15–7:30pm ------Dinner -----------------------Dining Hall

6:15-7:15pm --Meetings of Standing Committees (over dinner)
-----------1. Civil Rights Committee ---------------Dining1
-----------2. CAP/Political Action Committee -------Dining1

7:15pm – ? -------Resolutions Committee ---------Quad, Rm. 1026
8:00pm – ? FREE EVENING

Saturday, August 8
Time --------------Event --------------------------Location
8:30am–12----Morning Plenary
--------1. Continental breakfast during meeting ----Dining1
--------2. Bob Madore, Region 9A Director
--------3. Dennis Williams, Region 4 Director and others?
--------4. Grievance Contract Division presentation

12–1pm--------Lunch ----------------------------Dining1

1:15–5:30pm --Afternoon Plenary ---------------Dining1
-------1. Brief Report-backs on Divisional Meetings
-------2. Organizing framework
-------3. Election of Chairs of Divisions
-------4. Election of Chairs of Standing Committees
-------5. Resolutions Part 1

5:30– 7 pm -----------------------------Dinner -------------------Dining Hall
7:30– 1 pm ------------------------Chicago Chapter Reception: -----Dining1
Cultural Entertainment No specific site listed

Sunday, August 9
9:00am–12----------Closing Plenary -------------Dining1
------1. Continental breakfast provided during meeting
------2. Election of National Elections Committee
------3. Resolutions Part 2

12–1 pm ------------------------------Lunch

** Staff Office is located in Room 1001

Chicago wins battle for NWU convention

Chicago is the site of the 2009 National Writers Union convention. It will be held from Aug. 5 through Aug. 9. Credit goes to Karen Ford, the new vice president of the NWU and the outgoing co-chairperson of the Chicago branch of the NWU.

Karen worked long and hard to make sure Chicago beat out Rio De Janeiro, Madrid, and Tokyo to win the bid -- which will not cost the taxpayers of Chicago any money. Oh, wait a minute. Those are the cities Chicago is competing with to be the site of the 2016 Olympics.

The battle for the NWU convention, which is officially called a Delegates Assembly, was equally compelling. We beat out Valley Stream, N.Y., my hometown and the site of the Wal-Mart Thanksgiving 2008 trampling, and, well, I don't really know.

The Delegates Assembly will feature a speech by Larry Goldbetter, the longtime co-chair of the Chicago branch of the NWU, and the incoming president of the union. Larry will be moving to New York City soon so I will keep you posted about any celebrations of his departure.

Martin Zabell
Incoming chairperson of Chicago branch of NWU

PS -- I know that union people are supposed to use the greeting "In Solidarity," but I am genetically incapable of doing whatever anyone does. I don't sing in public either. It doesn't mean I'm anti-American if I don't sing the "Star Spangled Banner." I just don't sing. Case closed.