OLD Media Moves

A Reuters editor presents another perspective to the PIP brouhaha

June 1, 2012

Posted by Chris Roush

Talking Biz News received an e-mail Thursday night from a Reuters editor that provided a different perspective to the newsroom issue of the performance incentive plans.

We have known this editor for quite some time, and asked this editor if we could post the comments in the spirit of providing an alternative point of view.

Here they are:

As a manager who is involved in this process, I just wanted to say there are two sides to this story… Starting with the fact that I can’t think of anyone who has been unfairly targeted (perhaps, but not any I know of) and the fact that upper management made it very clear to managers who had employees on a PIP that the goal was improvement — and they have held us accountable for that. Many managers have spent many hours each week working with these reporters with a genuine goal of helping them improve, myself included. I know of at least two or three managers who have also spent hours outside the office writing up story ideas or creating source lists for reporters on PIPs.
Trust me, this isn’t fun for us, but it’s necessary. Managers aren’t robots who don’t care about the people who work for them or who don’t empathize with the fact that these reporters have families and mortgages. (And we certainly don’t lack integrity or honesty.) Most of us have taken very seriously the effort to help the reporters on PIPs improve because it’s the right thing to do and because we really need these reporters to get better at what they do.  But we also have a job to do delivering the news/insight/analysis that is expected, we have competitors to stay ahead of and we’re trying to raise the bar on quality. Many, many reporters have embraced that — and not just new ones — and some haven’t or can’t or won’t. We, as managers can try to help reporters improve their performance, but we can’t do their jobs for them or make sources for them or come up with every idea for them.
We, as managers, have a lot to lose in this process. It’s not a given that if a reporter who leaves or is dismissed that we will be able to replace that person. And the union grievance process at Reuters is, by most accounts, grueling for managers. What’s more, the union leadership has made it pretty hostile for managers day-to-day already. From placards they’ve handed out to reporters to tape to their desks to the secret taping of all conversations with managers by employees on PIPs (managers who figured it out mostly asked reporters to be upfront about it, no need to hide) and twisting facts publicly. A story got held? Well, perhaps it’s because an editor asked for it a month ago and it took so long to get it ready that now it isn’t news anymore.
But again, above all, I’ve not seen a punitive attitude here or any objectives assigned to reporters on PIPs that aren’t already expected from – and being delivered by – other reporters. In some instances, I have heard that PIPs have been extended because reporters were making progress and the expectation is that some of those  reporters will sustain that improvement enough to be off the PIP entirely.
Reuters will probably will remain silent publicly on this and the union will continue to spin its side of the story. I wish the union would put as much energy behind helping these reporters improve as they do the efforts to discredit management. Then we’d all be more likely to get an outcome that was good for everyone and this would be a non-issue.

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