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Embattled N.Y. Post Gets Another Reprieve of Death Sentence

October 02, 1993|JOHN J. GOLDMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

NEW YORK — With a red-and-white front page headline proclaiming "Death-Defying Post is Back," the New York Post--the nation's oldest daily newspaper--appeared once again Friday after a three-day absence caused by striking editors and reporters.

The tabloid, which has held on to life through multiple changes of ownership, labor strife, staff rebellions and repeated forecasts of its demise by rival tabloids, resumed publishing after members of production unions crossed picket lines set up by the New York Newspaper Guild.

Members of the craft unions had supported editorial, advertising and circulation employees when they went on strike on Monday, but returned to work when media baron Rupert Murdoch notified a bankruptcy judge that he was no longer interested in purchasing the debt-ridden paper.

The threat that Murdoch would abandon plans to rescue the paper, founded in 1801 by Alexander Hamilton, proved effective. Craft union members, fearing the permanent loss of their jobs, entered the Post building in lower Manhattan, and Murdoch resumed plans to purchase the tabloid for $25 million.

"They came to us and said they would like to talk to us about coming back to work," said Patrick J. Purcell, the Post's publisher. ". . . The Post is saved if we can continue to get a paper out on the street."

Asked about striking editorial employees on the picket line six floors below his offices, Purcell replied Thursday as craft union members prepared to enter the building: "Nobody is irreplaceable on the editorial side."

Guild members struck over Murdoch's demand that management be permitted to dismiss employees without severance pay during a four-month period. Because the paper is in bankruptcy and Murdoch will become its new owner, the new management has no obligation to recognize prior union contracts.

"Their job security is Rupert Murdoch," Purcell said, referring to the Guild. "They were the ones who decided to walk off."

Guild leaders said they had no choice but to walk out, that they would continue the strike and that they planned to organize a boycott of advertisers and readers.

On Friday a 96-page paper written and edited by management greeted New Yorkers.

The bitterness remained. Pickets symbolically set fire to a few copies of the paper when it first appeared late Thursday. Three people, including Barry Lipton, president of the Guild's New York chapter, were arrested for disorderly conduct outside the Post's plant.

The Post, with some 700 workers, has been losing money for years. After a dozen years of ownership and losses of $100 million, Murdoch sold the paper for $37 million in 1988 after he purchased a local television station.

As part of his plan to repurchase the Post, Murdoch received a waiver of the Federal Communications Commission rules forbidding joint ownership of a newspaper and a television station in the same city.

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