Thursday, 23 February 2012

13. Most journalists, esp on locals, aren’t well paid. Don’t take a job then whine about pay. Be good at it and find another

Some things happen by chance. One being that just as I am about to start writing about journalists' pay I read the brilliant Simon Kuper in the FT's Weekend Magazine (I'd suggest it's worth a read but at £3 an edition the FT is probably out of your price bracket...I get to claim it back).

But just in case the link goes down or it gets squirrelled behind a pay-wall this is what your average reporter - and he's talking about nationals not regionals or locals - has to contend with:

In 1947, Winston Churchill wrote a story about an imaginary conversation with his father’s ghost. Churchill tells the ghost that he writes books and journalism. “Ah, a reporter,” the ghost replies. “There is nothing discreditable in that. I myself wrote articles for the Daily Graphic when I went to South Africa. And well I was paid for them. A hundred pounds an article.” Churchill’s father visited South Africa in 1891. If he wrote those articles for certain newspapers today, he would still get £100, or maybe nothing.
If you've read the full article he is wrong about one thing - in locals lots of what you write can make a difference...even that week.

In the UK the average salary is £26,200. If you are earning this or possibly even more - congratulations you must be the editor (perhaps you could be kind enough to suggest this blog to trainees or mention it if you give a talk journalism students).

The fact is you are not going to be earning anything like this. Now I could talk about how unfair it all is...or why you should go on strike, but I'll leave that up to the NUJ (these are practical tips not Never Never Land).

Quite frankly if there were a lot less of you so keen to get into this job my pay would go up because there would be a shortage of reporters - so bugger off.

Since you are hell bent on becoming a reporter - stop complaining. The one sure fire way of getting anything like a decent pay increase is to leave the paper - and if that's to stay in journalism it is to move to a bigger one. Either that or get promoted.

So don't - whatever you do - move to your first paper and think that's it. Keep flexible at least for the first few years (unless you are fabulously wealthy and just slumming it or your partner happens to be).

And don't whine about the pay. If you're not a reporter don't bother becoming one if money will be an issue - you've been told. Even if you become a senior in two/three years time the chances are you'll only be on £20,000 - and probably only £18,500 if you are at the same paper you were a junior at).

Loyalty - quite honestly - doesn't pay. But you are still there to do a job. So do it because the best way to get another job is to have great cuts and know what you are doing. And then you can keep moving up.

Tomorrow: Where and tear....


  1. Why is it that we regional journos settle for crap wages? We must either be masochists or, more likely, love the job.
    It frustrates me that we do exactly the same kind of work as our metro cousins, and in the majority of circumstances more of it.
    I'm the editor of a tri-weekly newspaper in Australia. For that I'm paid the princely sum of $60,000 a year (about £40,700).
    But to earn that I have to work like a dog. Just this week I have spent 57 hours in the office (Sun-Fri). Today is Saturday and I have to go out today to take photos of a local store that is closing its doors for the last time and later a group of VIPs visiting the district.
    My (pie-in-the-sky) solution is for the big media groups to pool the money they have to spend on all their journo wages - be it metro or community or regional - and split it evenly, so we're all paid the same no matter where you work.
    I'm not sure if you work to "awards" in the UK (we do in Australia), but we need to have just one award for all.
    That way, too, more journos are likely to want to work in country areas.

  2. Let me assure you in the UK - where I think the cost of living is more expensive than Australia - £41k would be seen as a very good wage on a local...probably even for most editors.

    The irony is that the wages are bad because so many people want to come into it - which means that people who are any good don't go into it or get out pretty sharpish. Meanwhile you end up with people that are not very experienced becoming news editors and editors (fair play) but they are teaching the next generation - and a whole strata of knowledge has been lost.

    That said, when wages were good and staff numbers large a lot of local journos took the Micky - had second jobs etc which they did in work time. That couldn't continue either.