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The Times Group has a new social media policy which mandates that all journalists in the organization will have to create a Twitter account suffixed with the publication they are working with (eg TOI, ET etc). The policy also elaborates that journalist’s salaries will be linked to their activity on Twitter and says that scribes must post a minimum of two tweets per day. The development was first reported by NewsLaundry.

Emails seen by MediaNama elaborate on the company’s online and social strategy and mandate that journalists salaries will be linked to breaking stories on WhatsApp. The email also said that the Times Group is discontinuing their Speed News service which carries real-time updates from reporters via mobile. The email emphasizes that online contributions will carry 80% weightage for the total variable pay (TVP), a performance based salary bonus staff get. From the email:

– TOI edit TVP will have a weightage of 80% for online contributions, 10% for Times View and 10% for error score.

– The online contribution score will be further broken up as 25% for breaking news via WhatsApp (posted on TOI online), 25% for web first articles, 25% for Twitter and 5% for online author comments.

– The target for online contribution per reporter will be 2 breaking news via WhatsApp, 2 web first articles and a minimum of 2 online author comments per week. Each reporter will need to do as many online author comments as they are articles of his uploaded onto TOI online every week (irrespective of whether the articles are print first or web first). In addition, each reporter will need to do 2 Tweets per day (i.e. 12 Tweets per week). In case any reporter gets less than 5/25 on his Twitter score in the year, he will get no TVP, no increment and no promotion. Speed News will be discontinued.

– Individual TOI reporters will maintain a manual count of the Tweets that they have done on their official TOI Twitter handles. They will share them with their respective REs (resident editors) who will send it to TOI Brand for TVP computation at the end of the year.

The policy also says that reporters must specify their designation in the organization and that they must add “views are personal” in the Twitter bio.

Reporters who spoke to MediaNama on condition of anonymity said that the policy was met with mixed reactions in the newsroom. “”To be honest, I don’t think it’s untimely or unfair. Most media organizations are trying to get reporters to use social media. Having said that, Times Group is going about it in a bull-in-china shop manner. By making making it mandatory, they’re making it a joyless exercise and linking it to journalists’ salaries is unfair. They (Times Group) should rather educate reporters on the benefits of being on social media and engage in meaningful conversations than force them to sign up. They are emphasizing quantity over quality,” a senior reporter said.

Previous version of the social media policy

Note that this isn’t the first time the Times Group has tried to come out with a social media policy and last year they wanted to create separate social media accounts for journalists where the company could post on behalf of them. The previous version of the policy said that posts on these accounts are a part of a journalist’s responsibility while they are employed with the Times of India group, and these cannot compete with the company. It added that the company has the right to update these professional accounts, including via automated updates, even following the termination of the journalists contract.

Other social media policies by organizations

– In December 2014, the country’s largest lender, State Bank of India released a code of conduct for its employees for using the internet and social media. SBI’s policy refrained employees from creating communities or groups which uses the bank’s logo. SBI also said that no employee should criticize the management of the Bank or the business processes or strategies of the Bank or policies of the Bank on any internet site or social media.

– The Hindu had a social media policy where employees were told to refrain from sharing stories of other publications.

Image source: Flickr user keiyac

Update: Post was edited to fix typos and other grammar errors.