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Union shares fears for reporters’ wellbeing over page view targets

chris-morleyUnion chiefs are in talks with Reach plc over the introduction of new page view targets after sharing fears that “constant and relentless scrutiny” will affect journalists’ wellbeing.

The National Union of Journalists says it has been in discussions with Reach over the new plan for regional reporters, revealed yesterday by HTFP.

According to the NUJ, the publisher “has indicated that it is willing to discuss” the plan but has refused a request to pause its implementation.

Under the pilot scheme, news reporters who have been with the company for more than six months will be set minimum benchmarks of between 80,000 and 850,000 page views per month, depending on which title they work for and what their role is.

In documents obtained by HTFP, Reach stated the “consequences” for staff not hitting their goals would “depend on the individual circumstances” but claimed the scheme is “not designed to be punitive”.

Reach has so far declined our requests to comment further on the scheme, entitled Accelerated Personal Development.

NUJ Northern & Midlands senior organiser Chris Morley, pictured, said: “Our members in Reach were briefed on the Accelerating Personal Development pilot scheme last week and we have been in discussions with the company about the implications it might have for our members, the journalism they produce and the culture of their newsrooms.

“The scheme revolves around monthly 1:1s where there would clearly be a focus on page view numbers, although the company is keen to stress that an important part of these meetings would also be to discuss commitments to diversity and inclusion and to development of personal projects.

“Digital journalism plays an important and growing part in the mix of income for this company and has done so to date without the need to rely on rigid individual targets. Indeed, in its latest results announced last week, Reach showed how the number of page views throughout the group grew 29pc last year compared to 2019 and its digital revenue soared by 25pc to that of 2020.

“As a union, we are particularly concerned about the effect constant and relentless scrutiny of members’ performance around page views will have on their well-being – something that Reach also tells us that they take very seriously. We do not see the case for the setting of ‘benchmarks’, ‘goals’, ‘objectives’ or however targets may be described, with the negative behaviour and outcomes that can ensue.”

Under the scheme, journalists who fall below half of their “benchmark” number will be expected to have increased their monthly pages views by 40pc come July this year, and by 70pc at the end of 2022.

Those who record less than their benchmark number, but more than half of it, will be set a target of increasing monthly page views by 20pc come July and 35pc at the end of the year.

Chris added: “The APD pilot is very detailed and our members are still digesting the news and its implications. We are now taking in their feedback in chapel meetings throughout the group and will be determining our response through the Reach NUJ Group Chapel.

“An initial request by us to pause the pilot has not been accepted at this point by the company, but it has indicated that it is willing to discuss and review the pilot as it goes along and continue dialogue with our reps as it has already done.”