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We have terrible quality: Reuters editor

E-mail goof-up by Reuters managing editor David Schlesinger triggers angry reactions among its unionized workforce.


19 April, 2005: Reuters is in turmoil. 

Its news is perceived as not having enough insight; its data is perceived as having terrible quality problems. Both news and data are not the differentiating factors in Reutersí offering that they should be, that they could be, that they need to be. Reuters has a web of inefficient and duplicative technology.


The above is part of a memo written by David Schlesinger, managing editor of Reuters to his staff, which sparked an outcry and a resolution by a journalists' union asking him to go. The memo was hastily taken off the network. A Reuters spokesperson described the journos' resolution as "ridiculous".

Poor Schlesinger. It was a memo intended to be read only by 10 senior Reuters execs, but it got posted in the general network Daily Briefing, where it was read by thousands of Reuters employees across the world. Reuters journalists called their group global managing editor's position "untenable".

Reuters, which has a highly unionized workforce in the west, is currently in negotiations with its staff unions for a wage agreement renewal. The employees are upset that the sharp comments from the managing editor come at such a delicate time which could impact the course of negotiations.

The resolution unanimously passed by the National Union of Journalists in London read: "This chapel believes that the note written by David Schlesinger ... makes his position as global managing editor untenable. It's particularly offensive for him to denigrate his staff at a time when Reuters journalists are risking their lives in many countries to provide outstanding coverage." The chapel also criticised Mr Schlesinger for his role in deploying the widely denigrated News2Web editorial system.

A Reuters spokeswoman, however, pooh-poohed the union snub. She denied that his comments denigrated Reuters' journalism, "of which David is very proud". The memo was meant only for some senior executives, but was inadvertently distributed widely, she said.

After his email gaffe on April 16, David Schlesinger sent out a follow-up soon, stating, "Due to a misunderstanding, a note I wrote intended to stimulate discussion among a small group of colleagues was published for a short while on Daily Briefing."


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