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Oregonian Plans New System For Compensating Reporters

OPB | March 25, 2014 12:06 p.m. | Updated: March 25, 2014 1:36 p.m.

Oregonian newspaper box in downtown Portland.

Oregonian newspaper box in downtown Portland.

Michael Clapp / OPB

Aaron Mesh, a reporter from Willamette Week, has written a story that’s getting a lot of play online. It’s been quoted in The New York Times, discussed on on Harvard’s Nieman Journalism Lab website, and now, right here on Think Out Loud.

Mesh’s article is an investigative look at changes underway at The Oregonian. He got hold of internal documents from the paper that outline a new way in which reporters will be compensated. Traditionally, reporters write an article and publish it — perhaps online first, perhaps not — and then move on to the next story, and get paid a salary generally reflective of their experience.  But this new model marries compensation with how a reporter’s story is received online.

Here’s Mesh’s explanation:

The new policy, shown to the editorial staff in a PowerPoint presentation in late February, provides that as much as 75 percent of reporters’ job performance will be based on measurable web-based metrics, including how often they post to Oregonlive.com.

Beat reporters will be expected to post at least three times a day, and all reporters are expected to increase their average number of posts by 40 percent over the next year.

In addition, reporters have been told to stir up online conversations among readers.

“On any post of substance, reporter will post the first comment,” the policy says. “Beat reporters [are to] solicit ideas and feedback through posts, polls and comments on a daily basis.”

What do you think of this idea? Should reporters be compensated based on how many posts they write? Or how much play a story gets online? What might this policy change mean for the future of journalism?

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