Rewards and incentives must not just be at the top

Journalism is not the best paid profession. But it can still be an extremely lucrative business to be in, as the newly revealed salaries of Tim Bowdler and Sly Bailey show.

The Johnston Press annual report revealed last week that pay for chief executive Bowdler rose from £622,000 to £800,000 in 2006. And the Trinity Mirror results this week revealed that pay for chief executive Bailey had increased 48 per cent to £1.45 million.

While neither are journalists, it is surely a positive sign for the industry that the pickings at the top are so rich. Both executives lead predominately regional newspaper-based businesses which are grappling with unprecedented challenges. While profits are down, they have nonetheless been rewarded for their ability to grapple with the new media challenge while at the same time cutting costs.

It is a great shame that the board of directors of these two publishing giants don’t apply the same logic when assessing the annual remuneration packages for the journalists – without whose blood, sweat and tears neither business would exist.

But far from the 48 per cent pay rise enjoyed by Bailey, most journalists will be lucky if their annual pay rise keeps pace with inflation, despite the fact that they are expected to work harder than ever – producing the same papers with fewer resources while at the same time beefing up multi-media output.

Newspaper owners trade on the fact that journalists are often driven more by professional pride and hunger to tell the story than by money.

But if they are going to compete with ever-more internet start-ups – and persuade their own staff not to start online competitors themselves – they need to encourage grassroots innovation from the people who know their businesses best.

And that means incentivising journalists rather than just paying them the minimum amount that the market will bear.

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