Accuracy in Media

BuzzFeed News journalists’ union has walked out today to protest the new contract conditions that management is trying to insist upon. Examination of the demands shows that – possibly – the BuzzFeed News journalists aren’t very good at their jobs.

One demand is for a $50,00 a year base salary plus benefits, which is pretty high in journalism. Employment by newspaper publishers is down 50% in the last decade and near 75% in the last 20 years. That’s not a sign of a thriving business sector hoping to pull in new employees with higher wages. Rather, it is a signal that there are too many who can do the job.

A claim about this $50k minimum is that it’s needed to ensure full diversity among the staff. Diversity of course having that modern meaning of more non-male, non-white workers. Which is just fine, of course, correcting for past discrimination is a generally accepted principle. But that very discrimination means that the non-white and non-male workforce is cheaper to hire than the non-diverse meaning it’s not exactly an argument in favor of higher wages to attract the necessary workers.

The biggest complaint though seems to be about “creative control.” Those who work at BuzzFeed News would need to ask editors before accepting outside employment. Say, to write on Medium, make a TikTok video or post on Instagram.

The New York Times has an extensive ethics code and outside work is allowed. As long as it does not conflict with the journalist’s direct work for the paper nor does it reflect badly on the general image. To work out what is acceptable in any specific case consultation with editors is required. The BBC has an extensive ethics code and outside work is allowed. As long as it does not conflict with the journalist’s direct work for the organization, nor does it reflect badly on the general image. To work out what is acceptable in any specific case consultation with editors is required.

The Age, an Australian newspaper, has an extensive ethics code and outside work is allowed.  As long as it does not conflict with the journalist’s direct work for the paper nor does it reflect badly on the general image. To work out what is acceptable in any specific case consultation with editors is required.

It appears that BuzzFeed News wishes to have, at least the management does, an extensive ethics code where outside work is allowed. As long as it does not conflict with the journalist’s direct work for the paper nor does it reflect badly on the general image. To work out what is acceptable in any specific case consultation with editors is required.

Whether or not this is something to strike about is entirely up to those who have walked out. The rest of us might think that proficient journalists would have done a quick survey of what the prevailing ethics restrictions are in their own industry and settled for that. But then for those of us who have had the mischance to land at BuzzFeed News proficiency in journalism is not the first impression that comes to mind.

 




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