The Oregonian, a US newspaper based in the city of Portland, Oregon, is encouraging reporters to continue to increase the amount of stories they are submitting to be published on the paper’s website and they will be rewarded via the bonus structure that management has in place. The publication owners, Advance Publications, has informed its reporters that they will be employing a system that utilizes quotas in order to determine the value of the level of bonus that it will award to employees, creating an environment that promotes a spirit of competition among colleagues.
Announced late in February, the changes state that three quarters of a reporter’s performance will be tied to how often they post articles to Oregon Live website and they will be assigned targets to meet. Reporters that are assigned to regular beats will be expected to submit a minimum of three articles daily with a demanded projected increase of 25 percent on day to day posts by midyear and an additional 15 percent by the end of the year. These stipulations will create undue pressure to establish viable stories of public interest and in the opinion of many will dilute the quality of the news. Eight major projects per year are also expected from everyone and it is stated that they will be measured by page views and engagement by readers.
Reporters must also post the first comment on any post of substance, beyond their other regular duties, and to “solicit ideas and feedback through posts, polls and comments on a daily basis”.
It is stated that employees that exceed the targets that have been outline will be eligible to receive an annual bonus based on their performance throughout the year but that will be contingent on the financial state of the organization at the time of disbursement. In the past, employees were awarded bonus disbursements based on the quality of their reporting, work ethic and leadership abilities at the discretion of management, according to interviews by the Willamette Week with veteran employees.
The information was processed based on leaked internal documents. When other media outlets got wind of this disclosure many were quick to respond with an editorial opinion including one article from media correspondent David Carr of the New York Times who wrote that this was “a doozy” in comparison to demands that being made by corporations and management.
The newspaper has recently undergone extensive restructuring, with this news following the redundancy of almost 50 staff members. Last fall, it altered its format to prioritize online publishing over the print edition, reducing newspaper print copies to four days weekly with a focus on home delivery subscriptions. Based on discussions with employees, the editing team at the publishing company are still trying to determine how they will implement the changes into their departments.
When reached for comment, N. Christian Anderson, publisher and president of the Oregonian Media Group said to the Willamette Week that web posting is only one of a variety of factors impacting the performance evaluation of employees and will also take into account overall journalistic achievement.