A US newspaper in the east coast city of Portland, Oregon, has told its reporters that their bonuses will be linked to the number of stories they post on the publication's website.
Journalists working at The Oregonian have been alerted by the publication’s owners, Advance Publications, to changes including a quota system that has been put in place for their work, with bonuses for employees who post the most articles, according to internal documents seen by Willamette Week.
News of the management's demands has spread across the country, prompting an article by the New York Times' media correspondent David Carr.
"In the more-with-less annals of corporate mandates, this one is a doozy..." he wrote.
"Journalism's status as a profession is up for grabs. A viral hit is no longer defined by the credentials of an individual or organisation. The media ecosystem is increasingly a pro-am affair, where the wisdom — or prurient interest — of the crowd decides what is important and worthy of sharing."
The changes announced in late February include 75 per cent of a reporter’s performance being measured according to targets, including how often they post to Oregonlive.com.
Beat reporters will be expected to file three articles a day, and all reporters are expected to increase their average number of daily posts by 25 per cent by the middle of the year, and another 15 per cent in the second half of the year.
Writers are also required to produce “two major projects a quarter” which reflect “top-flight journalistic and digitally orientated enterprise,” measured by “page views and engagement”.
On top of reporting duties, the policy explains that: “On any post of substance, reporter will post the first comment.”
It adds: “Beat reporters [are to] solicit ideas and feedback through posts, polls and comments on a daily basis.”
Depending on whether the company’s finances are stable enough, employees who exceed the goals will receive yearly bonuses and “final performance ratings will determine merit pay.”
The announcement follow significant restructuring at the newspaper in the past few months.
In October it moved to becoming a ‘digital first’ platform, meaning news stories are posted first to its website, then put into its print edition. Meanwhile, hard copies have been reduced to home delivery four days a week, according to Willamette Week. Employees also have to contend with 49 member of staff having been made redundant.
Prior to the new measures, reporters were rewarded when the management thought they produced the year’s best work, or distinguished themselves as leaders in the newsroom, longtime employees told the Willamette Week.
Oregonian Media Group president and publisher N. Christian Anderson did not directly address the memo, but told Willamette Week that web posting will be one of many factors in evaluating reporters.
"Incentive pay is not tied exclusively to any one goal, but rather to the full range of journalistic achievement," he said.
Internal communications among Oregonian editors show they are still discussing how to apply the new standards to their departments.