WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Meaningful Journalism vs Low Hanging Fruit

Aug 26, 2014

The Shop Talk panelists discuss why they think it’s wrong to impose story quotas in newsrooms.

Chicago media critic Robert Feder recently reported Sun-Times Media is now requiring reporters from its Pioneer Press group to produce 2.5 stories per day. Those who don’t could lose their jobs.

The Chicago Newspaper Guild criticized the quota, saying it will encourage reporters to produce fluff.  Sun-Times Media management said the goal is to ensure a constant stream of fresh content on the web, which will increase on-line traffic.

The Shop Talk panelists understand management’s desire to “feed the beast.” But they feel story quotas are the wrong approach – good reporters don’t need quotas and threats to get the job done.

Rich Moreno called the plan “absurd.”  He said there is an informal quota at every newspaper, and reporters understand they must cover their beats and generate stories.  He said consultants often come up with schemes like this and pitch it as being “the next big thing.”

Jasmine Crighton said quotas produce “news lite” and encourage reporters to go after the low hanging fruit, and they discourage reporters from digging into stories to produce meaningful journalism. She said quotas can also create a poor work environment as reporters squabble over who gets to cover the easy stories.

Rich Egger said it would be easy for him to get a few relatively minor crime stories from the police station each day, quickly write them, and fulfill such a quota. But he would rather develop more meaningful stories and thinks his news staff feels the same way.