It sure was inspirational when Time magazine editor Rick Stengel sent out that “all hands on deck” memo to the magazine’s writers back in June, telling them that they had better write for the Web or else. As Stengel put it in the memo:
“Let me make this explicit: evaluations of every Time writer, correspondent, and reporter will be based on the quality and quantity of the contributions each of you makes to both the magazine and to TIME.com.”
Bravo, I thought. Lay all the cards on the table — Time is one media entity, with both a printed magazine and a website. Well done.
It may have been rather poor timing for a call to arms, however, considering the writers’ union was in the process of negotiating a new contract with the publisher of Time, People, Fortune, Sports Illustrated and Money magazines. I expect the idea of tying job evaluations to web writing was like red meat.
The upshot: in return for other concessions, according to Women’s Wear Daily (which seems to have been the best source of coverage for this particular story, oddly enough), the management at Time agreed to a clause that says while employees will be “encouraged” to write for the Web, “there will no negative impact on any employee for not volunteering to do Web site work.”
In a new memo on the policy, Time said that no one will be penalized for not doing it, but hinted strongly that the “best and brightest” at the magazine do so. Oh well — it was fun while it lasted.
According to this piece in PRWeek, the union actually supported the idea of making Web and print reporters interchangeable, but that would have meant extending the union benefits enjoyed by print reporters to those who just worked on the Web, and Time didn’t want to do that.