Well-paid reporters, and other fantasies
Mitch Ratcliffe over at ZDNet’s Rational Rants blog is my new best friend because of a post he wrote the other day. At a time when the business of journalism is getting harder than ever to sustain, he articulates a full-blown reporting fantasy: The best kind of reporter needs the best kind of pay to do the best kind of journalism.
Here’s his breakdown:
- $130,000 salary and benefits
- $4,800 a year in subscriptions and other information sources
- $2,500 a month in travel
- $1,250 a month in legal and insurance coverage
- $179,800 total, and that’s before the cost of IT, telecom and office space
I say fantasy because, unless you’re in the major leagues of journalism, this isn’t the kind of pay that most of the press corps made even when their bosses’ coffers were overflowing with money.
(Personal note: My first reporting job was at The Alexandria Gazette-Packet in 1995. I was, either at once or at different times, city reporter, politics reporter and arts and entertainment editor and writer. I resized my photos with a pica pole and a wheel. I laid out my own pages, and I frequently took the paper to a building miles away where it was pasted up and printed. That got me $18,000 a year before taxes. Our paper was in receivership, and we had no guarantees that there would be money in the banks to cover our pay checks. Often, there wasn’t. So I like this $180,000 idea of Mr. Ratcliffe’s.)
Ratcliffe lays out a scenario that involves non-profit cooperation and paying small amounts of money per reader to each reporter to make this work. Read his entry, as it’s lengthy and the rest of the details are there.
The notion of a highly paid reporter has produced more than a few snorts of derision among my colleagues, but I’ll say this: If it takes the death of today’s news model to create a new situation like the ones that Ratcliffe envisions, then bring it on. I have urgent home repairs that need to be paid for.