New Rules for Times Company Cell Phones

nytimesbuilding1hjpg 3 New Rules for Times Company Cell PhonesIn today’s edition of New York Times cost-saving: Times editors are now strongly encouraging staffers to quit texting on their company cell phones, avoid using the phones entirely when overseas on assignment and never, ever to call 411 with a company phone.  

Back in January, deputy managing editor Bill Schmidt instructed staffers on how to produce cheaper expense reports—book less pricey hotels, monitor lunch and dinner costs, etc.—but this takes the newsroom cost-savings measures to a new level.

First, the texting effectively needs to stop.

“Although we recognize that texting has become an indispensable means of communication for many people, our basic company plans with Verizon and AT&T do not provide for unlimited texting,” wrote Mr. Schmidt. “A lot of texting costs us a lot of money, whether as a per-message fee or as an unlimited-message add-on.”

Specific instructions follow: If you can email or leave a voice mail, there’s no reason to text! Don’t text Twitter messages, either; get a program like Tweetberry! Don’t send texts when you can use BlackBerry messenger, an IMing program that is available to BlackBerry users.

“Do not send picture or video messages (‘MMS’) from company phones except for work purposes,” he continued. “And do not text from overseas.”

Mr. Schmidt wrote that staffers really shouldn’t be making calls on company phones when they’re overseas—even if they’re working on a story. 

“If you are going abroad for work for more than a day or two, please rent a local phone or get a local SIM card, which can be inserted into your phone to make it, in effect, a local phone,” he wrote. “You can forward calls from your U.S. number to the local number of your rented phone or SIM card.”

If you’re on vacation and not on Times business, well, don’t even bother.

As far as 411 is concerned, every time a Times reporter uses that number it costs “us $1.49 apiece,” wrote Mr. Schmidt.

Here is the memo:

If you have a company-paid cellphone or Blackberry, here are some basic guidelines on ways to help us keep down costs. Jessica Bagdorf in News Technology and Gloria Bell in Metro can provide even more detailed information, if you have additional questions. 
 
INTERNATIONAL USE:

Please do NOT routinely use your cellphone or your Blackberry when traveling outside the lower 48 states.
 
Under the company’s plan with AT&T, use of your phone in Alaska, Hawaii or foreign countries is very expensive, even with discount packages applied. (Verizon phones, of course, do not work in most other countries, but may incur similar charges in Alaska, Hawaii and Canada.)
 
If you are going abroad for work for more than a day or two, please rent a local phone or get a local SIM card, which can be inserted into your phone to make it, in effect, a local phone. You can forward calls from your U.S. number to the local number of your rented phone or SIM card. You may include the cost of the phone or SIM card in your Concur report for the trip.
 
If you are going abroad for vacation, please do not use your company phone or Blackberry unless you have urgent reason to contact the office.  If you must use your phone or Blackberry for personal matters while overseas, the company will gratefully accept reimbursement.
 
For help with these or other communications options, please consult News Technology before your trip.
 
DIRECTORY ASSISTANCE:

If you are need help finding a phone number or an address, do not automatically dial 411.
 
Calls to directory assistance from a company cellphone cost us $1.49 apiece. Google’s information line is free. You can use it by dialing 1-800-GOOG-411 (1-800-466-4411) from any phone. Please do so.

TEXTING:

Although we recognize that texting has become an indispensable means of communication for many people, our basic company plans with Verizon and AT&T do not provide for unlimited texting.  A lot of texting costs us a lot of money, whether as a per-message fee or as an unlimited-message add-on.
 
So please use discretion when deciding to send a text, especially if a voice call or e-mail would get your message to the recipient equally well. Do not use Twitter via text messages; install a client like Twitterberry on your phone instead.  Do not send picture or video messages (“MMS”) from company phones except for work purposes.   And do not text from overseas.
 
Also, if you have a Blackberry and are trying to reach someone else who also has a Blackberry, consider using Blackberry’s free Messenger service rather than texting. You will need to know in advance the PIN number that Blackberry has assigned to the other person’s device, but once you have that, it is at least as easy to use as texting. Click on the “Blackberry Messenger” icon on your main screen and follow the instructions. You can find your own PIN number by clicking on “Options” from the main menu, then “Status.”