Metro Radio Reporters Get 5 percent pay rise

After a two-year salary freeze, Metro Radio reporters had a pay rise in mid-August. The management announced that all reporters would get an increase of 5% salary effective immediately. One of its reporters told The Journalist that the management explained in its notice the pay rise was in recognition of the contribution of every staff member during the harsh economic situation.

The current economic situation is far better than in 2003 during the SARS outbreak, and 2008 when the global financial crisis hit. To describe recent times as ‘harsh’ is unjustified, considering that Metro Radio’s parent company, Hutchison Whampao, had a net profit of HK$5.06 billion which was more than expected according to its interim result. A mere 5% seems so very niggardly in this context.

A salary adjustment in August is abnormal. Metro Radio has long been tweaking staff salaries at the end of a year. So what caused this sudden change in schedule? Has the flight of a good number of experienced financial news reporters to greener pastures brought some enlightenment to management? Some reporters are now concerned that their year-end salary adjustments will vanish into thin air.

Metro Radio reporters have already put up with two years without any salary adjustments, so The Journalist hopes the practice of adjusting salaries at year’s end will go on as normal.

Next Media Trade Union Leads ‘Uprising’ against Canteen

Next Media Trade Union will celebrate its first anniversary soon. Because of the selfless efforts of union leaders in fighting for the welfare of colleagues, its membership has almost doubled in less than a year. They now have about 200 members. That’s a great achievement!

A fine example of the union’s caring attitude and safeguarding the rights and welfare of members concerns the food the members eat daily. As the ex-premier Li Peng (yes, He, of Tiananmen fame) once said: eating is a basic human right. The union organized a ‘Boycott Canteen Movement’, for the first time ever in Hong Kong media history, on 18 August.

The company canteen is the only choice for most of the staff. An executive committee member of the union said that they had received numerous complaints about the service of the canteen, such as poor hygiene, lack of cutlery, severe delays in takeaways, wrong dishes served, disgusting quality like too much salt in the pan-fried egg, assorted vegetable rice and limited choice of dishes. That’s just to give a few examples.

An ExCom member said the union made a formal complaint to the service provider of the canteen as well as the Human Resource Department of Next Media last November and again in March but found no response. They were forced to organize a boycott.

On the day of the boycott, the union distributed free cup noodles to members and meal boxes for other staff members.

The “uprising” was widely supported by the staff. At 8 pm that day only a few people dined in the canteen, a reflection of staff’s anger. The Journalist hopes the service provider improves quality soon, otherwise it may be forced to call on ex-premier Li Peng to enforce members’ right to eat!

Cancellation of Free Ming Pao News Database Access Causes Anger

While the Next Media Trade Union defended the rights of fellow workers, the welfare of Ming Pao Daily News (MP) reporters was cut and there is no union in MP to help them. Actually, the issue in point should not be treated as a welfare matter because it involves an instrument that facilitates their daily work.

On 15 September, all MP reporters got a notice by email from Mr. Leung Heung Nam who is in charge of the website. That notice stated that those reporters who had a free news archive account could not enjoy that service in the future. It also said if they wanted to keep their account, they could re-apply for it. The new policy would be reviewed after 30 days.

The MP of the day is provided online without charge and the account is useful because it provides free access to all published news reports of the past. Every journalist knows it is necessary to get information from the news archives in order to generate new ideas and develop better news angles as well as to ensure accuracy of their reports. Therefore, access to news archives is a tool for producing quality news reports rather than a welfare benefit for reporters. It is especially so for reporters who go off on business trips. It boggles the imagination when MP said few reporters used this free account, so they wanted to cancel the unused free accounts.

Does MP senior management understand the wisdom of the chinese saying: ‘sharpening your tool before tackling a task’?

If this is an excuse to force reporters to pay for the service, it takes us back 20-30 years when reporters needed to bring along their own cameras to work. No camera, no pictures, so either reporters or newspapers must do something about it themselves. In relations to information, you can write news reports without using the archive. Not enough background information? Then that’s up to news editors or team leaders to do something about it!

Hong Kong Daily News Shaken Again

There was a re-shuffle at Hong Kong Daily News (HKDN) senior management at the end of last year. Less than 12 months later, senior management has been shaken again. The chief editor as well as publisher Woo Suet-lai left the newspaper in early September. The deputy editor Mr. Wong Kam-fai who was employed by Woo had resigned earlier.

The former chief editor Fung Siu-wing is back again as chief editor.

The circulation of the HKDN stood at several tens of thousands at the end of last year when Woo took up the post of chief editor. After that it dropped 50% to 66%. That may be one of the reasons the Emperor Group, the owner of HKDN, decided to swing the axe.

In mid-September, Fung Siu-wing issued a notice requiring all employees to sign a new contract, effective from October. All employees also had to undergo three months’ probation. It is understood that changes in shareholding had taken place. Dr. Stanley Ho sold his shares to another shareholder, the Emperor Group. After this sale, the Emperor Group became the sole owner of the HKDN.

While a new contract sign is understandable, the probation is not. The journalists had served the newspaper for a while. Such a move is suggested to pave the way for future lay offs.

The signing of the new contract also demonstrates how vulnerable an employee is. When signing the new contract, the year of service of employees will start from zero. Naturally, entitlement to long service welfare is back to the starting point. Even though annual leave is to be reimbursed, the reporters lost their right to take long holidays in coming months.

Such unfair arrangements affect staff morale and will invariably be reflected in the quality of the newspaper. This may further affect circulation. What is the right way forward? The Journalist believes it is not difficult for HKDN to make a wise choice.

Funny Jokes of Intern Reporters

Every summer students from various journalism schools become interns at different media outlets. As interns, their experience and news sense are shallow. So it is no wonder that some of these greenhorns occasionally make a show of themselves.

In a recent case, an intern with a radio station covered an event of the New World Development. That reporter submitted the voice report to an editor. It only took the editor three seconds to say, ‘You need to do the voice over again.’

Why? Because the intern wrongly pronounce the name of the Chairman of the Group, Mr. Cheng Yu-tung(彤) as Mr. Cheung Yu-dan(丹)!

Hope it was just carelessness!

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In another instance, an intern was out of touch all afternoon. The news editor was worried because there was no one answering the phone. In the early evening the reporter returned calmly to newsroom. The news editor promptly asked what had happened. The response was: “I’m sorry! My free calls for my mobile phone plan just finished, so I didn’t want to pick up any calls.’

This was a real greenhorn. The call should have been answered and the media outlet billed for it later. Alternatively, the media outlet should provide mobile phone allowances to intern reporters.