Journalists in one of India’s oldest and largest-circulating newspapers now have a new designation: that of Content Creators.
The re-designation reflects in the new contracts that some of the freshly-hired reporters and correspondents have signed with The Hindustan Times. (We have reviewed some of these contracts.) The change in designations applies to employees with editorial roles but does not affect remuneration or responsibilities.
The move, it appears, is part of HT Media’s deep digital transformation. Known as “Project Butterfly”, HT Media is set to integrate editorial operations of The Hindustan Times, Mint, and Hindustan for real-time reporting and breaking stories across editions. For this, it has been working on establishing a “Digital Newsroom” and a “Content Management System” in its New Delhi bureau.
An HT Media spokesperson informed us that the changes in designation for both new and existing staff reflect the fact that the majority of the editorial staff is now expected to prioritise digital platforms. “Their roles and responsibilities are changing accordingly. HT Media may add additional designations from time-to-time in order to keep pace with an evolving news industry. For those who remain in pure print jobs, however, no new designations are envisaged at this time,” said the HT media spokesperson.
The change in designation, though, does not reflect in the visiting cards of some of the journalists we spoke to. “My visiting card says that I am a principal correspondent, even though, my contract refers to my position as principal content creator,” said a reporter who joined HT early this year.
While the re-titling at HT Media begun with newcomers, journalists already on the rolls are expected to get their new designations soon, according to employees we spoke to at The Hindustan Times.
In the month of May, reporters were handed a letter from the management that said they have been made part of the “Multi Media Content Management division.” The letter was signed by Editor-in-Chief Sanjoy Narayan.
“In the changing world of consumer preferences, we must be second to none in proving what our consumer wants,” said the letter. It further added that the newspaper has been working on a “Digital First Strategy” that aims to provide “great content that is available on any device anywhere and evolve innovative mechanisms to monetize it”.
While there’s not much clarity about the criteria according to which the new designations will be allotted, it is learnt that a “Reporter” would become “Content Creator”, whereas an “Editor” would be re-designated as “Content Manager”. A “Photo Journalist” will be referred to as a “Photo Editor”.
The changes in designations have evoked mixed reactions among reporters at The Hindustan Times.
“It may impact my future job prospects, as I would need to explain that I am a reporter and not a content creator. But, with the way the current job scenario is in the industry, one has no option but to accept whatever is offered,” said a reporter with The Hindustan Times.
Some reporters we spoke to also expressed concerns about whether the move meant that HT Media could circumvent the Majithia Wage Board recommendations. HT Media spokesperson brushed aside the fear when we questioned if that was indeed one of the reasons for the changes: “We have been, and remain, in full compliance with all regulatory requirements regardless of these changes.”
Last year, the Supreme Court upheld recommendations made by the Justice Majithia panel to increase salaries of journalists and non-journalists in print media. A bench headed by then Supreme Court Chief Justice P Sathasivam had held, “The wages as revised/determined shall be payable from 11.11.2011 when the government of India notified the recommendations of the Majithia wage boards. All the arrears up to March 2014 shall be paid to all eligible persons in four equal instalments within a period of one year from today and continue to pay the revised wages from April 2014 onwards.”
Journalist and President of Brihanmumbai Union of Journalists (BUJ), M J Pandey pointed to SCHEDULE – I.A (Grouping of Working Journalists in Newspaper Establishments), NOTE: (1) of the Majithia Wage Boards, which reads “Any newspaper employee employed with any designation different from those enumerated in the schedules, but doing the same or similar nature of job, of any group in the schedule, shall be deemed to be a working journalist in that group.”
“By re-designating, they [HT] can claim that they are not in the ‘eligible category’ by referring to NOTE: (2) which reads ‘All categories of employees mentioned in the schedule may or may not exist in every class of newspaper establishments’,” Pandey said.
However, senior journalist and former President of the National Union of Journalists, Rajendra Prabhu said that such change is irrelevant as “it is the nature of work which matters and not the designation”.
What’s in a designation? Much, it seems.