Regional newspaper publisher Newsquest has defended its use of cash incentives to maximise the use of user-generated content (UGC) within its papers.
The publisher is rewarding titles with cash prizes based on factors including the number of pictures and articles submitted by readers. It’s also giving out cash prizes to newspapers which generate the most social media shares or build the fastest-growing presence on Facebook.
The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) is understandably concerned by the move.
Chris Morley, NUJ Newsquest group coordinator, told journalists: “Our members are aghast at this plan to pit colleagues against each other in a race to the bottom to fill pages and websites with material whose only criteria for publication seems to be that it is free.
“There is not one mention of the importance of quality or making sure content is appropriate and suitable. It’s only about filling space as cheaply as possible.”
Morley continued: “Henry Faure Walker claims in his memo to staff that ‘professional journalism is the bedrock of our business’. But this is a perfect example of the company appearing to do all it can to undermine its journalists in the hope of putting them out of work.
“Members are appalled at this shabby scheme and want nothing to do with it. In fact one member said he would wear it as a badge of pride if his centre was bottom in the free copy league table.”
A spokesperson for Newsquest hit back at the NUJ by saying: “Once again the NUJ has twisted the facts to suit its own propaganda PR machine.
“Local newspapers have been publishing content from the community for decades – readers’ letters, submitted photos, grass roots sports reports, updates submitted by local clubs and charities.
“Professional journalism rightly continues to be the bedrock of local newspapers, content from the local community complements this, and has done so for years.
“For the NUJ to say that community content doesn’t have a place in local newspapers is just plain wrong and shows how out of touch they are.”