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Putting pay in perspective

So, a superintendent and I were talking this afternoon, and he joked that with the money a new proposal would save, maybe he could convince the board to reallocate more money to his salary. He joked that he and I could split the $100K. Which, I of course replied was tempting, but — knowing his salary — I told him he didn’t really need a salary hike. He has a pretty good gig.

He joked that maybe he should just get a job as a part-time reporter to supplement his income. I told him it wasn’t nearly lucrative enough to be worth it for him. Hard work, crappy hours, crabby sources. ;) lol.

This led to a discussion at which he made the comment that, “I bet on a per-hour basis, you (as in me, Meranda) probably make more than me.” I almost died of laughter, and informed him I really don’t think he knows how poorly journalism pays, especially the newbies.

But he challenged me to calculate it. So I did.

Using his salary and my standard per-hour wage — if I worked only 40 hours a week, which I almost never do, it’s probably closer to 50 on average so it’s actually less — I determined that he would have to work 187+ hours each week to make the same rate.

There are only 168 hours in an entire week.

At his salary, it is physically impossible for him to make as little as me. And he’s not even one of the best compensated ones in this area. Plus this says nothing of his vacation, retirement and other perks. Granted he has a Ph.D. and way more experience and licenses than I do or even than I ever aspire to, but still. Puts things in perspective.

I wasn’t surprised by the finding, and it doesn’t change my commitment to journalism. I just thought it was really funny. He severely underestimates both the amount of work I put in each week and how much I’m actually compensated for it. So I think it put it in perspective for him, too.

6 Responses to “Putting pay in perspective”

  1. Howard Owens Says:

    We all have to start some place …

    In my first full-time salaried job, I made $13,000 a year, which even in 1988, wasn’t much money.

    Two years later, I was earning the princely sum of $24,000 a year — the second highest paid reporter on staff. I still had to share an apartment with a friend who was on food stamps.

    I’m sure I don’t make as much as your superintendent friend even now, but I do pretty well.

    Work hard, set goals, stay focused … it works out.

  2. Meranda Says:

    Howard — I don’t mind my pay. Honestly. I am about where I expected to be when I started and consider that I could have done much worse. (Though, if someone wants to throw more money my way, I’d take it. ;) Not rolling in money, but I can pay my bills. It was just amusing to me, almost cute, how skewed his perspective was.

  3. Jaclyn Says:

    Wow, you’re close to your sources. I don’t know that I’d ever be comfortable talking about how much I make with people on my beat, and pastors tend to be pretty nonjudgmental.

  4. Josh Says:

    Meranda,
    I saw your posts on the other site regarding journalism pay scales. You brought up a very interesting point about salaries and job occupations.
    When you’re in high school, be sure to research what you want to do VERY CAREFULLY. With the economy being what it is, the salary consideration really is a tough call versus the good idealism journalism provides.
    Most of us–probably you too–are salaried, not hourly, so a 40-hr calculation isn’t valid (it’s more like 55 hrs/wk, like what you do). So the per/hour calculation of a $13/hr reporter, for instance, at 40 hrs/week, is more like $8 to 9/hr at 50-52hrs/week.
    Plus, what you forgot to factor in is gross versus net income. Net income is roughly 72 percent of gross (after-tax income).
    A $25k j-job is about $17-18k in real-time dollars.
    I have a teacher friend. Her writing skills are borderline East Cleveland. I’m not joking. But because she chose to get a health teacher job in a white, upper-middle class middle school in Baltimore (suburb) she’s making about double what I make. And it’s not a big deal, except when she writes me and I can’t understand half of her sentences. Then I get pissed–being awesome at writing makes me proud because it’s a skill I’m glad I have and that I worked hard at, but the fact is that particular skill set isn’t valued highly enough in the real world. Hence the low journalism pay versus teaching.

    Maybe down the road you could become a journalism teacher at a high school.

    But like the first poster said you have to start somewhere. In spring 2006, when I graduate KSU, I got 6 job offers. The local hometown weekly was the best at $25k. Plus it had a 401k and a $2k a year HSA–good health insurance plan–so that’s why I’m staying for now. The tough part about moving to another job is that you have a comfort level with the 3 people you work with and don’t want to leave. My job is fun, but there’s no growth potential.

    Take care and God bless in your journalism career.
    Josh

  5. Meranda Writes » Blog Archive » TNTJ: For young journalists, it’s all about attitude Says:

    [...] It doesn’t feel good when an official who you know makes $124,000 claims that if you spread the number of hours he works out, you (reporter) probably make more than him. Clearly, newspaper reporters are overpaid and don’t work nearly as much as the rest of America. And you’ll roll your eyes through those contract negotiations where teachers with zero years experience, fresh out of college lament the $33,000 starting salary for a 184-day work year, with health insurance and a government pension, as being “underpaid.” You just have to hold your tongue. Yes it is disheartening. Woe is me. [...]

  6. Tomorrow’s News, Tomorrow’s Journalists » Blog Archive » For young journalists, it’s all about attitude Says:

    [...] It doesn’t feel good when an official who you know makes $124,000 claims that if you spread the number of hours he works out, you (reporter) probably make more than him. Clearly, newspaper reporters are overpaid and don’t work nearly as much as the rest of America. And you’ll roll your eyes through those contract negotiations where teachers with zero years experience, fresh out of college lament the $33,000 starting salary for a 184-day work year, with health insurance and a government pension, as being “underpaid”. You just have to hold your tongue. Yes it is disheartening. Woe is me. [...]