About a month ago, a local journalist approached me and asked to contribute to HTBJ. As a jobbing journalist, what could he want to say? The journalist – who wishes to remain anonymous – tells us why he thinks local journalism is just as exclusive and obstructive to a career in journalism as low-paid, going-nowhere internships…
If you’re young, working class and have hopes of supporting yourself on what a news reporter for a local paper makes then you’d best think again.
I am a junior reporter for a London newspaper and for the past year Lady Poverty and I have flirted quite heavily in advance of making the jump to a committed relationship.
I get paid £15,800 a year. That works out to around £1,120 a month after tax. That is my total income. That’s pretty much the standard starting salary across the board no matter which media company you work for. For those who live in the big smoke you know that’s a pretty tight budget to support yourself on without wealthy parents or at the very least a generous uncle/aunt.
I live in a cheap part of the city (Zone three for those of you who know London’s underground) and pay £575 in rent before bills. More than half my monthly wage is considered cheap in this city.
If you take away the extra £193 in bills (which includes gas, electricity, water, council tax and the internet) that leaves me with a grand total of £88 to spend per week on food, transport, and anything else I might need. Oh, the glamour of journalism.
And the situation is getting worse.
Almost all local journalists have had their pay frozen for the better part of the last six years with near to no hope of this changing anytime soon – at a time when the cost of living continues to rise. This is a huge bummer when you consider that the average rent in London stands at a whopping £1,126 and energy prices set to rise by around 10 per cent next month. That’s an extra £123 a year spent on gas and electric alone.
Publishers often argue that because of shrinking advertising revenues and dwindling circulations they simply cannot afford to pay staff any more money. BULL. SHIT. Latest figures from the Newsquest Media Group, the third largest publisher of regional and local newspapers in the UK, show an operating profit of £58million. The company’s chief executive, Paul Davidson, is on a salary of £612,000 before bonuses and other perks.
Obviously the situation has not been caused by a lack of money but by an abundance of greed.
I, like most people who work in local papers, am extremely pissed off. The insult is compounded when you realise that these days one journalist is expected to do the work of three thanks to relentless cuts to staff and resources.
I’m not asking for the moon here. My demands are simple and reasonable – pay us what we are worth, which is a damn sight more than what we get paid now.
Last week Alan Milburn, the government social mobility tsar, said working people no longer earn enough to escape poverty and because of inflation many are £1,000 worse off than they were in 2008. Preach brother.
All this is worrying – not only because local newspapers are forcing their employees to live in poverty – but more seriously because it is making journalism a career that can only be pursued by those with the money to do so.
Historically speaking local papers are the where the future ‘big name’ journalists cut their teeth before moving on into nationals. If we start closing this route off to lower-income communities, because cutting financial corners is more important than reporting, it will only serve to alienate a large portion of the British population.
The media is quick to attack the current cohort of government ministers for being part of a millionaire elite that can not relate to the man on the street. Well, if wages for local journalist do not improve soon then we will just be kettles and pots calling people black. It will create a situation where working class voices go unheard and unrepresented allowing them to be taken advantage of and mistreated, where a small group of rich people uses established media platforms to decide what’s important and what’s not, to tell people what to think and how to act.
Low paid journalism jobs risk making the industry just as out of touch as it accuses politicians of being – and I for one am saddened by this state of affairs.