Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Hope you're not in it for the money

For the past ten years or so, salaries for broadcast journalists have been dropping like a lead weight. That's no surprise, considering how many stations are being bought out by companies that bleed worse than a hemophiliac with a severed artery. That, and for every new job, there's about 50 people gunning for it, which makes it a seller's market.

But how low can you go?

The latest research from the RTNDA shows that salaries, with few exceptions, either drop or stay the same. TV stations may be willing to pay more for in-demand jobs, like producers, but reporters often get the short end of the stick. Consider that most of those fresh-out-of-college reporters are working for less than $20,000/year. Those student loans from the big, fancy journalism school aren't helping either.

Salaries like that are typically common in small, crappy markets. But not even Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (Market 54) is immune. Starting salaries around here average in the low to mid 20s. And a former reporter from this market e-mailed me to say he was making more money as a freelancer than he was here.

In short, broadcast journalism doesn't pay, unless you're a polished anchor or a news director. But if you're the type who only thinks about money, then you might want to jump to PR.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds like my $8.725/hour radio gig is more profitable... makes you wonder what the smaller markets are paying their reporters (i.e. Binghamton, Elmira, Altoona)

9:22 AM  
Blogger Howard Beale said...

I'm not sure about Altoona/Johnstown, but salaries in Binghamton and Elmira are surely lower, because that's where many new reporters start out. The stations know they can offer crappy salaries to those fresh-out-of-school reporters, because they need to get that foot in the door.

11:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a student heading into Broadcast Journalism, this is concerning to hear. It's not at all a shocker, but it still hurts to hear it. But I'm not in it for the fame, I'm in it because I love it, the day to day work, at least for me, beats just about anything else I can think of. My question is, what benefits come with a Scranton/Wilkes contract. I know atleast one in Binghamton has a $1000 apperal coverage, what about down here?

5:27 PM  
Blogger Howard Beale said...

Contract benefits vary from station to station, and even employee to employee. The higher up you are on the food chain, the more likely your contractual demands will be met. In general, reporters do get a stipend for makeup or clothing, though the amount varies. That's typically hammered out in the contract.

It is good to hear there's a broadcast journalism student who doesn't have their eyes solely on the anchor chair. There's too many wannabe Katie Courics and Matt Lauers out there who aren't interested in doing ACTUAL work, though the starting salary does scare off the people who shouldn't be in this line of work.

How about that? There's an upside to those crappy salaries!

8:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To the Anonymous post at 5:27 p.m., my advice to you is "learn how to spell," before you start worrying about a clothing contract....even if you are heading into Broadcast Journalism.

9:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Who's making $8.725/hour in radio around here? I know of one of the radio companies here start their folks at $6/hour and refuse to give any raises.

9:09 AM  
Anonymous Sounds Fishy said...

Who in this market starts in the low to mid 20s? Can't be on-air. One station here starts their reporters at mid to high 30s. The others would have to start in the teens to get an average that low.

5:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Are you kidding me? Mid to high 30s to start for a reporter in this market? You, sir or mam, are delusional, adjust the meds. No way, no way, no way.

Nexstar - maybe low to mid 20s.
WNEP - maybe mid to uppper 20s.

God, get a grip.

11:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I laugh and laugh and laugh when I read about money in this market. Flatfoot reporters are paid an hourly wage, like their photographers... so your "salary" or what you end up reporting on your tax forms really depends on the amount of overtime you are willing to work. Plus, factor in spot news, which adds to the total, and belt~tightening by the boss, which in a sense takes away opportunities to make money. When I left WBRE/WYOU, I was making thirty-five thousand dollars a year, but I had to put in about fifty hours a week to get it, plus or minus fill-in anchoring gigs.

Tales of doom and gloom are often told by reporters who cut and run.... if you want to make some cash, why not stay a while and earn a raise or two?

2:38 AM  

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