Presented to Thomson Reuters managers by new CEO Andrew Rashbass, the documents propose a streamlining process that will allow for the recruitment of “nimble, high calibre talent,” produce a “sharper news file” and provide “a more flexible workforce.” Yet beneath the dynamic adjectives lies an all-too-familiar tale of high costs at the heart of the news media industry that need to be cut. According to The Baron, Rashbass is having to find a solution to compensate for the higher than predicted severance costs for unionised employees throughout Europe and the US, and editorial costs for this year are on course to outstrip the company’s budget of $15 million.
Under these new proposals services including sports coverage would be outsourced through third-party deals, under-performing staff members would be asked to leave the company and greater emphasis would be placed on concentrating resources on and in emerging economies. During the past year and a half, elements of Reuters News service have already been relocated to the organisation’s 6,000 person campus in Bangalore as part of cost-reduction measures.
Whenever an extensive process of outsourcing and cost-cutting is introduced at the heart of a media organisation, fears abound over a decrease in quality that could ultimately damage an outlet’s brand image. Managers at Thomson Reuters have insisted that the move, nicknamed “The Big Bang” as it would mean a concentration of one-time costs, is in fact a way of protecting the company’s output. The Baron reports that businesses covered by Thomson Reuters are resisting the “streamlined” coverage they will receive as part of the Big Bang project, but Le Monde has suggested that the new plans will allow for “value-added” services, such as the integration of journalists within businesses for special coverage of press releases and conferences.
Despite a certain amount of resisitance from businesses that rely on Reuters coverage, the Big Bang is thought to be a more popular solution within the company than the alternative – continuing with the present business model and waiting for staff numbers to reduce naturally as individuals find new jobs or retire. This would mean that management would be hard-pushed to alter and adapt news departments, which in turn could lead to a certain stagnation in output.
Clearly a change is needed but, as is often the case when news orgs attempt to cut to improve efficiency, it remains to be seen whether it is possible to do more with less.