The Times of India* group has created a new policy where its journalists’ paychecks will be dependent on whether or not they join specialised WhatsApp groups to share breaking news updates. The emails, of which MediaNama has copies, detail that all journalists must file, every week, at least three WhatsApp alerts, three “online-first” stories and minimum three tweets per working day. Not complying with the policy will result in journalists getting a reduced target variable pay (TVP).
MediaNama has confirmed this from multiple Times Group employees; one of the emails was sent by Bodhisatva Ganguli on 6 November 2015. Our emails to Times Internet CEO Satyan Gajwani, requesting comments and a response to certain questions, haven’t received a response yet, despite a couple of reminders. We’ll update in case we get a response.
Alerts will go to the online desk: The email adds that the Whatsapp alerts will be factored into the TVP (target variable pay) computation, while another email states that the group’s efforts, which were entirely focused on the print edition previously, have now been directed to its online edition and now expects greater coordination from its employees. Breaking news alerts will be sent to the online team, which will use it for breaking news tickers (on TV), app notifications, tweets and “for subsequent scaling up of stories”.
Effective from 15 October 2015, the changes in TVP will be based on “online contributions, ET view and Error Score”, while meeting LPR is a “prerequisite” to get TVP payout.
Breaking news alerts via WhatsApp groups will carry 25% weightage where:
– journalists need to file a minimum of 3 alerts every week
– “online first” articles will have 25% weightage within this point, where journos need to file minimum 3 stories
– Tweeting carries 25% weightage, where journos must file 3 tweets per working day, 18 tweets a week. “Reporters with a score less than 25% during the year will get no TVP or increment or promotion. Please note contributions to Speed News will be discontinued.” and
– Online author comments 5% weightage: where there should be at least 1 comment per story and the author has to respond to online reader feedback on both web first or print first stories.
Other minimum parameters include:
– online contribution 80% weightage.
– ET View 10% weightage (An analysis or comment by the ‘Views’ team)
– Error score 10% weightage: This will be computed on the basis of errors in the articles published.
– And an LPRS policy where certain percentage (30%- 50%) of the TVP will be deducted depending on the score of the edition. From the email: “If an edition scores between 0-9.9 points (out of 30 points) in the year, as per the LPRS formula, 50% will be deducted from TVP calculated basis the above parameters.” Note that this part of the policy is already included in the contracts of journalists who join the desk.
A journalist working with the company told us that the new policy was oppressive and intrusive all at once. “First the company wanted us to tweet with new IDs. Now that we’re all on board and tweeting regularly, they’ve found a new way by which not to give us our end of the year variable pay. Vertical heads have to now make trivial weekly excel sheets of the number of tweets/WhatsApp alerts sent out by each team member,” they added.
MediaNama’s take: What journalists do on social media and WhatsApp is their prerogative. Media organisations cannot dictate their employees to send a minimum number of tweets or WhatsApp messages. If the company wants more traffic to its online properties, it should hire a social media or SEO team. It could also create a social media “editorial group” which could look after breaking news alerts or other editorial information.
– This is not the first time that the Times Group has linked employee salaries with their ability to use social media professionally. In September, it implemented a new social media policy where all its journalists would need to create a Twitter account suffixed with their publication, and elaborated that salaries would be linked to their activity on Twitter.
– In 2014, the company wanted to create separate social media accounts for journalists where the company could post on their behalf, stating that these accounts were a part of the journalist’s responsibility during their employment with the Times of India group. It added that the company had the right to terminate employees based on their contracts as well.
Policies of other news publications:
– Last week, News Laundry reported that some of the newly hired reporters and correspondents at the Hindustan Times were designated as “content creators” with no change in the salary or responsibilities, while their business cards continued to designate them as “principal correspondents”. HT Media is apparently testing integration across its publications under a project named Butterfly.
– Last year, The Hindu created a social media policy where employees were told to refrain from sharing stories of other publications.
*Disclosure: Times Internet is an advertiser with MediaNama
Image Credit: B-noa