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Daytona Beach News Journal Publisher Michael Redding marked the one-year anniversary of the newspaper under his co-ownership with an offer to most of the 400-some remaining employees of the paper, including editors and reporters: Anyone selling a three-month subscription to the paper would get a $25 bonus, or $50 for a six month subscription. Anyone selling $100 worth of advertising would get $50.
Redding described the arrangement—highly unusual in news-gathering operations, and forbidden, for ethical and journalistic reasons, in many that maintain a strict separation between news-gathering on one side and advertising and marketing on the other—as an “incentive,” rather than a requirement: no expectations were set. But staffers have had no raises in four years and were promised none this year. Redding offered up his human resources director, Patty Morris, as an example of what others could do: Morris, he said, netted about 200 new subscriptions through her church.
... The ethical questions of reporters or editors peddling subscriptions or advertising were never raised, several people who attended the meeting said, while the Q&A that followed Redding’s presentation consisted of “softball” questions, as many staffers fear for their job: Redding three times mentioned furloughs at Florida Today, a Gannett-owned paper in Brevard County, but said none were planned at the News-Journal.
“People are just so freaked out by this situation. I think there’s Stockholm syndrome going on,” one staffer said, referring to the phenomenon where captives begin to identify with their captors. Like many others who spoke, the staffer did so on condition of anonymity. As staffers filed out of the meeting, jokes about the incentives began to flow, along with a measure of anxiety. “I’m worried about it becoming mandatory, not just an incentive.”