Organizations representing African-American, Asian-American and Hispanic journalists have refused to provide strike-plagued New York Daily News executives with membership lists from which replacement workers could be recruited.
Leaders of the groups said they did not want their organizations drawn into the increasingly bitter dispute. In addition, two of them said, it was ironic that a newspaper whose minority hiring and promotion record has been viewed as weak would, in a bind, turn to minority groups for help.
James P. Willse, editor of the tabloid newspaper, said he was disappointed by the groups' responses but understood them.
He contacted the three groups Monday, seeking their membership lists as a resource for potentially filling "dozens" of editorial positions -- more than 50, he said -- left vacant by workers who have been striking since Oct. 25 over alleged unfair labor practices.
The National Association of Black Journalists had agreed Monday to sell its list of 2,000 members to the News for $400. Initially, said NABJ President Thomas Morgan III, a New York Times reporter, the News's request seemed an opportunity to make black journalists at smaller papers nationwide aware of jobs available at a metropolitan daily with the nation's third-largest circulation.
Since the strike began, Morgan added, "We also know that a lot of black people in this area have sought jobs at the Daily News."
But NABJ officials backed out of the informal deal Tuesday after a flurry of phone calls from the group's members and from union members who said they felt that, by selling the list, the NABJ would be favoring management, Morgan said.
"While we disagreed with that, we felt that there was the perception that we were" in effect siding with management, Morgan said yesterday. "And we didn't want to take part in that dispute, so we pulled out quickly."
The group's executive committee also discussed what it believes is the News's poor record on hiring and promoting black journalists, Morgan said. Three years ago, in a multimillion-dollar discrimination suit, a federal jury found that the News had discriminated against four black editors and reporters in promotions, salaries and assignments.
The News's record "was one of the issues that we cited when we decided to pull back the offer," Morgan said. "Even though we believe in promoting diversity, we didn't want to be used by management in a strike in that way."
Don Flores, president of the 900-member National Association of Hispanic Journalists, said that, while its leaders also were concerned about being drawn into the labor dispute, their decision not to help the News was influenced by the paper's hiring history involving Hispanics.
"It's an industry-wide problem that Hispanics are not presented in adequate numbers in newsrooms across the country, and the Daily News is a place where we could do better," Flores said.
Doris Owyang, job coordinator of the Asian American Journalists Association, said it is against the group's policy to release its membership mailing lists to organizations other than nonprofit media institutions. Group officials could not be reached for further comment.
Willse said that, in the last few years, the minority composition of his newsroom has increased to about 20 percent, reflecting what he called the paper's commitment to promote diversity in its work force.
Vacancies left by strikers, he said, provide a "rare opportunity" to dramatically increase the number of minorities in the newsroom.
"That's what I mean by making the best of a bad situation," he said. "If we have to hire replacement workers, then we ought to do everything in our power to accomplish the goal of diversifying the newsroom" at the same time.
"It's a tricky proposition, and I know that," he added.