Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Strobel's point(s)

Leave it to Mike Strobel, the Toronto Sun's insightful wordmeister, to highlight the absurdity of Sun Media's incoming newsroom performance points system.

Strobel should be given all of the points he fancies for today's column, not the three points to be awarded for a column.

Editors too.

Our favourite para: Likely, you have similar stories at your work. Maybe horror stories. Job appraisals. Merit points. Gold stars. (Oh, wait, that was kindergarten.)

Strobel's column is not to be missed.

Newsroom performance points sink Canadian journalism to a new low in employee/management relations and demonstrate a complete lack of respect for the long-revered Fourth Estate.

Could you ever imagine:

Nice work, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, your Watergate scoop earns you two points each.

Hey Alan Diaz, great AP shot of the young and terrified Cuban Elian Gonzalez and the armed U.S. federal agents. Two points for you - and a 2001 Pulitzer.

Peter Worthington columns have righted wrongs and changed Canadian rules and regulations. Sun Media is going to belittle him by awarding three points per column?

Doug Creighton, JDM, Ed Monteith, George Gross, Bob Vezina, Bob Pennington, Paul Rimstead and all of the other late Toronto Sun news vets must be rolling over in their graves.

It just boggles the mind.

As the ever-astute former Toronto Sun desker Lew Fournier notes, the points system has everything to do with quantity and absolutely nothing to do with quality.

What will it take to halt this infantile performance points system?

Thanks to TSF tipsters and Strobel's column, it is now out there for scrutiny by other media, media unions, readers and advocates of respectful treatment of journalists.

Stay tuned.


  1. I believe they are instituting this because they still can't get a handle on how many employees they need (or don't need) to run their business. So, whose job is it to be the official point-counter? Must be tough having to keep an eye on an entire newsroom staff's facebook and twitter accounts every day, not to mention be hooked up to the web to watch for video and story posts. And read the paper too! And is there a referee, so if there is a point discrepancy (what if they miss a tweet?) the matter can be easily settled - with no black mark on your record? What a way to make people who work for you hate you. Perhaps that's what it's all about - making more people leave so the company doesn't have to terminate them.

  2. I'm shocked they actually ran this column. Surely he'll lose his three points for the topic. Maybe he'll be the first employee to start with negative points!

  3. They not only ran the column, they ran it with a cartoon graphic.
    I wonder if heads are gonna roll over this one.

  4. I think the first poster is absolutely correct.

  5. To the first poster. I think you meant to say "… how many employees they need (or don't need) to ruin their business."
    So does posting to a Facebook fan page count as a half-point. What about those that don't have Twitter or the capability to tweet because they don't want us to run up costs on the phones?
    The company is schizophrenic

  6. I like Mike's added points system. At a former paper, I would have managed 15 points just for post-deadline activities with fellow staff.

  7. Noticed on Sun's website a new pop-up survey asking what you think about their columnists.

    Another method to determine who stays or goes?

  8. Good for Mike. We write about the stupid things other companies do, why ignore this?

    When you start treating professionals like kids trying to earn happy face stickers, they'll start pushing back. This might be the breaking point.

  9. Wow I can't believe they allowed it to run either.
    Good for you though Mike. LOL

  10. To their credit, it seems publisher Mike Power and EiC Jamie Wallace are reinvigorating the place with a joie de vivre that is reminiscent of the old place.
    What I fear, though, is this type of antagonism, while wholly deserved and even demanded, will cause lily-livers who toady to PKP and his ilk - we all know who the Vichy are - to squelch it before it causes them problems.

  11. Maybe we'll get bonus points every time the pagination 'super centre' screws up a headline on our story or screws up paragraphs or screws up our cutlines or screws up turn lines on our stories. We'll get 100 bonus points no problem every month thanks to the screwed up lack of quality from the super centre that is screwing up the content we'd love to include in our portfolio

  12. Wonder what Howard Kurtz and an informed and articulate panel on Reliable Sources would make of this system?
    Two points to the first person to answer correctly.

  13. The ridiculous part is that all those days Woodward and Bernstein spent working day and night but didn't file a story for the paper — zero points.
    Spend all day tracking down a grieving family? Zero points. But of course they aren't using this system to gauge performance...

  14. This is the beginning of the end. Farewell Sun Media. I weep for you.

  15. Just do your jobs and let managers worry about stupid things like point systems. If they think you're useless, they'll find a way to get rid of you points or no whether they are planning layoffs or not. And if you're a productive employee, then it won't matter to you any way. Chill, people.

  16. Can't do our jobs properly, Steve, when we have too few people, conflicting and constantly changing direction from the company & management, outdated/broken/not enough equipment, etc. The point system is insult to injury. It's not just about the points - it's that their creation is the latest symptom that this company is really, really screwed up.

  17. Point system introduced Niagara-wide this week

  18. What about the impact of a potential push away from more involved, investigative stories? It will prompt reporters to short, one-source pieces and briefs for extra points.
    We are told not to worry about being targeted, but we don't believe it based on experience.
    It's not that we should worry as reporters about output. Survivors in the lean Sun chain work like dogs with no thanks.
    It's that this system inherently creates a dysfunction that will work against quality work.

  19. If I wanted to do piece work, I would have gotten a job in a factory. Having our work reduced to points on a daily basis is degrading. It shows a complete lack of respect for the work reporters do.

  20. The shift away from quality work began with the cuts, not the point system. It's unbelievable the garbage our paper has printed solely because we were desperate for a story because we didn't have people watching important beats. And the phrase "we'll just use a pdf" is everywhere now when staffing prevents our guys and gals from getting to actual local news, which our readers say is all they want to read. Investigative stuff? We can only dream. Half the time we're lucky to get the time to get a second or third source for a 10 or 15 inch story.