Wayne State digitizes Detroit newspaper strike journal

Kim Kozlowski
The Detroit News

A weekly publication that emerged from the one of the nation’s longest-lived newspaper strikes has been digitized by the Wayne State University Libraries, and more than 200 issues are now available in a digitized, searchable format.

The Detroit Sunday Journal was produced for four years by unionized workers who went on strike against The Detroit News and the Detroit Free Press in July 1995.

“It was journalism off the leash,” said Tom Schram, former publisher of the Sunday Journal. “Strike newspapers in America had been primarily stopgap publications produced by outside interests. The Sunday Journal was funded by unions. All workers received the same meager strike pay, but we were motivated, skilled professionals, unencumbered by any formal structure or hierarchy and therefore had a chance to produce an amazing, high-quality product. Some weeks we met those standards; some weeks we did not. But the goal and the effort were always there.”

More than 200 editions of the paper were published between Nov. 19, 1995, and Nov. 21, 1999. Circulation for each edition was between 40,000-60,000.

One of the earliest issues, published Jan. 21, 1996, included a photo of Hillary Clinton, then first lady, on the cover and a story about welfare benefits. The last edition’s cover, about the union workers, was headlined: “Our labor of love.”

“One of our comrades has a picket sign, noting that journalism died at the Detroit dailies on July 13, 1995,” the last cover story begins. “The debut of the Sunday Journal on Nov. 19 of that year didn’t change that. But it gave the community a place to come for the truth about the labor dispute.”

Though the strike ended in 1997, the paper continued to publish as union workers were gradually rehired at The News and Free Press and the unions and the Detroit dailies worked toward a contract settlement.

“The Sunday Journal is a key piece of Detroit’s historical record, a counterpoint to the narrative of relentless media consolidation,” said Joshua Neds-Fox, coordinator for digital publishing at Wayne State. “We’re really proud to see this newspaper digitized, available in full text, fully searchable and to know that the work of a lot of dedicated librarians, archivists and students is culminating in this vital collection.”

To see the collection, go to: http://digital.library.wayne.edu/digitalcollections/search.php?q=Sunday+Journal