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Archive for February 23rd, 2007

student journalists strike … for not being paid?

Friday, February 23rd, 2007

Not that I think people shouldn’t be paid for their work, but isn’t not being paid or being paid crap part of the bargain when you sign on for student media?

I just saw this on the Innovations in College Media blog. I don’t know the full story and am actually having a hard time wrapping my head around what little is there in a piece from the Tallahassee Democrat and from the paper’s own editorial.

The basic gist as I understand it is a number of people at Florida A&M haven’t been yet this semester… including the newspaper staffers. Seems to me it’s an error. Hardly worthy of a “strike.” It’s not that the university is refusing to pay, it’s just that somehow the paperwork got messed up.

Hmm. I know of several cases where people’s paychecks were screwed up at Kent State/The Stater. The checks were sent to wrong offices or pushed back until the next month because of an oversight. But then, we only got paid once a month. (They actually switched this semester to bimonthly payments.) It happened. We dealt with it, and we and the world moved on. The thing was, it didn’t really matter. Even as editor, my salary was hardly anything to write home about. It was about enough to keep my gas tank full, food in my stomach, my cell phone connected and to cover a few nights out with friends each month. And I was by far the best compensated person on staff (though not on a per-hour basis at all… I refuse to work out the math on how much I was paid per hour because I’m afraid it will start with a $1… and end with not much else).

I didn’t really look at my work in student media, at the newspaper or any of the magazines, as a job. The purpose was to gain exposure and sample the different positions/media. I wanted experience, not the paycheck. (Though, when I became the managing editor the first time was when I quit my other job, but it was for lack of time not because of the pay. I made more working at the bowling alley.)

The first semester I was hired at the newspaper I didn’t even know I was going to be paid at all. I remember, when the editor mentioned student appointment forms during our all-staff session, I had to ask the copy desk chief (I started on the copy desk at the paper) if I actually needed one. I was only doing it for the experience. I think most students would say the same thing. I can think of only one exception of someone who I worked with who was doing it for the money. And, he no longer works in student media. So there you have it.