The Great Media Thaw brought journalism job-hopping back in style (for the time being), but one outer-borough publisher is taking a stand.
On July 13, two weeks after Daniel Bush, a 20-something news editor and reporter for the Brooklyn Downtown Star and Queens Ledger, announced he’d be hopping to the Brooklyn Paper, his publisher Walter Sanchez filed a lawsuit seeking an injunction against him, citing a six-month noncompete agreement in Mr. Bush’s contract.
Mr. Sanchez’s motion included a restraining order, which kept Mr. Bush out of the newsroom of his new employer—and in an unpaid limbo.
Although noncompetes are commonplace in the media industry, they’re rarely enforced, especially in a job market that’s flooded with unemployed hacks, and when reporters hold so few trade secrets.
When contacted about the move, Brooklyn Paper editor Gersh Kuntzman replied with a hint of sarcasm. “I’m unable to talk bout this vital aspect of journalism,” he said. (The Paper is owned by the tight-lipped News Corp.)
Yesterday Mr. Bush settled with his former publisher. He agreed to pay $2,200 for the right to begin his new job and to send an email to his former colleagues promising not to have any contact with them until October. In addition, he agreed to send another email to his news sources, explaining his departure and that he did not see “eye-to-eye” with the Ledger.
In the small world of community weeklies, Mr. Sanchez said, there simply isn’t enough room to hop around without diluting the brand, confusing sources and disadvantaging one’s old employer. “I had no choice,” he said of enforcing the agreement. “If I didn’t do it, all my other reporters would be like, ‘Why did I even sign this thing?’”
Mr. Bush, who won a New York Press Association award in 2010 for his investigative coverage of the Gowanus Canal cleanup, declined to comment. Perhaps he’d signed a nondisclosure as well.