Even in this rapidly changing media environment, there's one golden rule any news publication worth the paper its printed on still abides by: a strict wall between sales and editorial. Well, The Daytona Beach News-Journal has decided to offer bonuses to its editorial staff for selling advertisements and subscriptions.
Like most daily papers in Florida, The News-Journal has been down on its luck. Revenues, staff, and circulation have all dropped in the past few years.
Current publisher Michael Redding took on co-ownership of the paper about a year ago and, according to Poynter, has rolled out a ridiculous new bonus initiative: "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."
"Anyone" includes reporters. In case you weren't aware, this presents an unorthodox conflict of interest. Every serious paper that purports to report the news in an unbiased journal keeps its reporters as far away from selling advertisements as possible. It presents the opportunity for a source or story subject to offer to buy an ad from a reporter in order to soften its coverage.
"People are just so freaked out by this situation. I think there's Stockholm syndrome going on," one employee tells Poynter. "I'm worried about it becoming mandatory, not just an incentive."
If you ever hear similar schemes coming out of the offices of The Miami Herald, Sun-Sentinel, or New Times, it pretty much means it's game over for the South Florida media.