How Dare They Pay Us
Less Than $30,000 A Year!
How Dare They Pay Us Less Than $30,000!
If you work in news, you’ve undoubtedly heard the phrase “we don’t do it for the money.”
When you work in a small or medium sized market, and you look down at your $850 pay stub from two weeks of work, that common industry phrase hits you in a very real way. But just because we love telling stories, chasing down breaking news and, ok yes, the small-town fame that comes with being on TV, that doesn’t mean we should be subjected to near poverty wages.
Tuition at some of the highest profile journalism schools—Northwestern University, Scripps College and Walter Cronkite School of Journalism, just to name a few—costs a pretty penny. Even if you didn’t attend a J-School on some silly Top 10 best list, chances are you’ll still be paying for that education years after you turn your tassel. How, then, has it become an industry standard that TV News employees earn less than $30,000 starting out, with only minor pay increases year after year?
Paying a person with a bachelor’s degree the equivalent of minimum wage is highway robbery.
This applies whether you’re a producer, reporter, photographer or any other newsroom employee. While you earn just enough to keep the lights on, in your shoebox of an apartment, your news director is likely driving a nice vehicle, living in a nice area of town.
There is certainly something to be said for the level of responsibility a news director takes on, and the amount of time they have dedicated to the industry to obtain their title. However, most of them have worked under a news director at some point, who seem to know and/or do little to justify such a higher pay rate.
The discrepancy in pay from upper management to boots-on-the-ground staff is not only unfair, it has seriously negative impacts on overall morale.
If your station is boasting a number one rating in the market, and your commercial breaks are flush with advertisers, that should translate to higher wages for staff.
It’s a simple equation: the more viewers tuning in=the higher the station’s rating in the market=the more money the sales team can charge for an ad=the more revenue coming into the station.
It’s only fair that an increased revenue be applied to the income of staff across the board.
For on-air talent, such as reporters and anchors, maintaining a professional appearance is necessary and expensive. The cost of hair products and makeup, as well as professional clothing, can really add up. And, often times, station’s don’t cover those extra costs.
Pair those personal expenses with the microscopic earnings on your bi-weekly paycheck, and you’re earning even less! Too often local news employees are being paid what people in different industries were making in the 80s and 90s. So if a station refuses to update its pay scale, then they should at least reimburse reporters and anchors for the expense of their on-air appearance.
However, to call that fair is disingenuous. Ultimately, news directors and general managers need to reassess their budgets. They need to reallocate money so they can fairly compensate staff for the difficult, and often dangerous work, impossible schedule, and critical work they do every day.
The consistent number of threads I see on this topic combined with the word “toxic” makes me want to break out of this before even breaking in.