We made an important newsroom decision today. Every day, as editors, we individually and or collectively, decide on what stories to do. Often that involves decisions on whether a company is fudging its facts – lying to investors, or a government policy will hurt a business or determining if a stock is overpriced or an M&A target undervalued.
These decisions, on what stories to do, what news to broadcast and publish, what analysis to follow and what opinion to share… has a material impact on the lives of our readers and viewers, more so in financial news because money is made and lost on the veracity of our reports.
Each decision puts our credibility to test. One wrong decision can cost any of us our credibility, our jobs. And in this day and age of fake news, morphed images and doctored videos, one bad decision can also put us in the cross-hairs of government and investigating agencies. Not to miss that the risk of being sued for slander is now a minimum Rs 100 crore matter. One company sent us a notice for several thousand crores.
And so we’ve decided today to set up an external body of retired journalists – let’s call them SMC (Story Management Committee).
Each story decision will go to them for evaluation. They will determine the risk involved.
20 percent slander probability. 50 percent trolling probability. 70 percent probability the Enforcement Directorate will turn up at your doorstep. Once they determine the risk, the story proposal will then go to a group of freelance journalists, who, after vetting the risk factors involved, will bid to do the story at a fee. So this group of journalists, let’s call them AIF (All India Freelancers), will individually bid on a story. Say, Freelancer X bids that he’ll do the 20-percent-slander-probability-story for 10 rupees a word. Someone else bids, 8 rupees a word. And a third bids 15 rupees a word. In such way, the AIF will establish an independent floor price for each story.
Then, we’ll take the floor price back to the newsroom, invite bids from our journalists and allow them to decide whether it’s worth (their time, money and jobs) to do the story. And accordingly, pay them for the story.
What this does is, it de-risks all decision making by editors, distributes the risk between editors, SMC, AIF and team members and adequately prices the risk as well.
The editors will now stand assured that since an external body has estimated the risk and another external body has put a price to it, and the journalist has made an independent decision to undertake the story, they can’t be held responsible for either consequences of story selection or loss of that journalist’s job if the #$@* hits the fan.
Neat idea right? But I must admit… it’s not original. India’s bankers got there first.
Menaka Doshi is Managing Editor at BloombergQuint.