On a Friday morning, April 3, management instructed Plain Dealer employees to wait by their phones. If Warsinskey called you, you were gone. If Mary Lou Brink, another editor, called, you stayed. Christ and 13 others got a call from Brink, and that afternoon, Warsinskey met with them. “He said just keep doing what you’re doing, and I thought, ‘OK, I’ll just keep covering coronavirus because the whole staff was covering coronavirus,’” Christ said.

She filed three coronavirus stories on Monday, April 6, when Warsinskey called another staff meeting. He gave remaining reporters a false choice: Cover the outlying counties (which the PD had abandoned covering decades ago) and give up beats they had developed over years, or volunteer to be laid off. Advance Publications, the out-of-state conglomerate that owns the PD and dozens of other media outlets across the country, framed the move as expanding coverage. Reporters, and much of the public, disagreed. Unionized reporters’ beats—and the knowledge and contacts that made them good at their jobs—were being pilfered by, the newspaper’s Advance-owned, non-union companion.

At a time when media unions are seen as a lifeline in an uncertain industry, Advance has created a union-busting model for media conglomerates to follow.