Strikes that get played out in the news are interesting public displays of negotiation positions that we are often not privy to otherwise. In the strike of the Writers Guild of America, their position, as expressed in the New York Times by Damon Lindeloff (the co-creator and head writer for the television series Lost) is that the Guild wants to share in the revenue generated from the Internet. Using classic objective criteria, Lindeloff explains that writers have always been entitled to a small cut of the studio’s profit from the reuse of shows or movies but that the studios refuse to apply this rule to the Internet.
My personal take on this is that studios need to find a way to include writers in the profits of new media but that’s not the only interesting thing in Lindeloff’s article. He discusses the stages he is progressing through in the strike. First—grief—Lindeloff is worried fans will turn against the writers “once we spend another month watching America’s Next Hottest Cop.” I understand this—my DVR is almost empty and I am wishing I’d recorded more earlier this fall. Of course, as Lindeloff notes, I can still watch reruns on the Web from which he gets no money.
Lindeloff’s next stage is anger. “I am angry because I am accused of being greedy by studios that are being greedy. I am angry because my greed is fair and reasonable: if money is made off of my product through the Internet, then I am entitled to a small piece. The studios’ greed, on the other hand, is hidden behind cynical disingenuous claims that they make nothing on the Web–that the streaming and downloading of our shows is purely ‘promotional.’ Seriously?” This sounds pretty persuasive to me–I think Lindeloff has a future as a union negotiator if his writing job ever is lost!
The third stage, according to Lindeloff, is bargaining. And, as he says, “bargain we must.”
His explanation reminded me immediately of Professor Gerry Williams’ article on stages of negotiation from 1996. Professor Williams writes of five stages–denial (resistance to the conflict), acceptance (an acceptance that you are part of the problem), sacrifice (to resolve the conflict, each party must sacrifice), leap of faith (one or both parties offer to make said sacrifice), and renewal of healing from conflict (moving forward beyond the conflict and perhaps even improving the relationship). It sounds like Lindeloff is past denial and acceptance and even willing to consider the sacrifice part of resolving the conflict.
The strike also demonstrates the proposition that parties can enlarge or decrease the pie in a negotiation. Like the baseball strike, if during the strike the public decides that there are better things in life to do than watching television and movies, overall revenue for both the studios and the writers could be affected into the future.
In the meantime, I hope they get talking so the writers can get writing–I am missing Jon Stewart.
One thought on “Missing Jon Stewart and What the Writer’s Guild Strike Has to do with Negotiation”
Re Indisputably’s post on Interest Based Reporting. This post is a GREAT example of that type of reporting on the writers’ strike. The means of news production is in the hands of the people again! Richard Reuben, the former journalist who taught ME everything I know about the social psychology of conflict would be proud!