Toronto Star Byline Strike: What Are Online Reporters Worth, Anyway?

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Reporters at Canada’s largest-circulation daily newspaper held a “byline strike” on Wednesday to protest the hiring of digital editors who are to be paid than editors who work on the paper edition.
Reporters at Canada’s largest-circulation daily newspaper held a “byline strike” on Wednesday to protest the hiring of digital editors who are to be paid than editors who work on the paper edition.

What’s an online journalist worth?

According to management at The Toronto Star, about 60 per cent as much as a print journalist.

Reporters at Canada’s largest-circulation daily newspaper held a “byline strike” on Wednesday to protest the hiring of digital editors who are to be paid less than editors who work on the paper edition.

Articles ran with “Star staff” as the only credit in protest of a plan to hire 17 digital-media journalists at 60 per cent of current wages, according to Reuters.

J-Source reports Star editor-in-chief Michael Cooke sent out a memo last month in which he said the new editors will be paid “market-based” salaries.

“Simply put, this means that new digital jobs cannot be rated on print business legacy rates of pay,” J-Source quoted the memo as saying. “Digital revenues — as important as we think they will be for our future — are still out-paced by print revenues 9-to-1.”

“Lord knows we need to dramatically up our digital game,” the Unifor chapter representing Star workers said in a bulletin. “But this abrupt company introduction of something we’ve never negotiated — a separation of print and digital journalism, with second-tier wages for digital — is a direct assault on our contract, union seniority and every assumption we’ve been working under for a decade-plus.”

The union even took a bit of a dig at HuffPost Canada.

The note added: “A journalist is a journalist. We are all digital reporters. We are all digital editors. This is not Rogers or the Huffington Post. This is the Toronto Star. … And we’re damn proud to work here.”

Um, ouch?

The byline strike comes as parent company Torstar reported a decline in revenue in the first quarter, to $211.3 million from $229.8 million a year earlier. Sales dropped 7 per cent to $292. 4 million, though profit rose to $7.1 million, from $4.2 million.

Torstar recently announced the sale of its Harlequin romance publishing division to Rupert Murdoch-owned HarperCollins, and CEO David Holland said Wednesday the company is looking at making acquisitions and enacting further cost-cutting measures.

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