If Zoom Dick has reinforced anything about journalism, it’s the reminder of a stark stratification in the industry. There are people who feel totally fine literally jerking off at work and collecting a comfortable paycheck, while the media underclass writes SEO posts in a permanent stress-crouch position for barely enough money to cover rent. You’re a figurative Toobin, or you’re writing 7 posts a day, wondering if you’ll be allowed back in the office to collect the stuff on your desk if you get let go in the looming next round of layoffs, or if they’ll just throw out your succulent and your notepads when they decide to shift to permanent WFH in a few months because of the overhead rent costs.
In some newsrooms, these directives for non-Toobins are explicit. McClatchy, the owner of the Sacramento Bee wants to tie its reporters’ pay to how many clicks a story gets. In an open letter to McClatchy CEO Tony Hunter, the Pacific Media Workers Guild said that a pay-for-clicks strategy would “negatively affect newsgathering, employee morale and The Bee’s reputation.” According to the newspaper’s union, its owner is withholding months of backpay from last year’s contractually guaranteed raises unless the newsroom accepts the pay-for-clicks terms.
(“The suggestion that The Bee is tying journalists’ pay to clicks is inaccurate,” Lauren Gustus, the editor of the Bee, told the Sacramento Business Journal. “We are proposing performance metrics that measure readership and engagement to better serve our communities. This is a concept both parties agreed to in prior sessions and is one component of a comprehensive performance management process that measures performance against standards and goals.”)
But the reality is that any publication strategy prioritizing “performance metrics” continues to put pressure on the people whose daily jobs already involve stretching themselves as thin as possible for as little money as possible.
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