Cartoon by Marty Bucella
I read Joe Grimm’s column on Poynter, and one from yesterday seems to be really hitting a nerve. A few excerpts:
I’m expecting an offer from the paper this week, but the pay rate that the editor threw out in the interview was $9.50 an hour. I had crunched $10 to $12 an hour before I went in to see if I could make my budget work, and $10 was the absolute least I could do. That didn’t account for having to pay for my own insurance, which I absolutely cannot do without.
I see this as potentially a good place to jump-start my career, but without getting a part-time job I literally could not afford to do it. Plus, with covering night meetings, a part-time job might not be the easiest to come by. Not to mention that if I’m working nights for the paper I don’t really want my weekends taken up by work, too.
So the question is: If this offer doesn’t end up being any higher than $9.50, or even $10, should I accept the job? I’m afraid that if I don’t, I’m not going to find anything better since many papers in the area are under a hiring freeze. Also, I’d accept it without hesitation, except I’d have to sign a non-compete contract if I do. That lasts one year from when you leave. I’m just afraid that if I find I really can’t swing what they’re paying me then I’d have to move in order to find a new job, and I have no interest in doing that for at least a year from now.
Thankfully, Joe, and almost all 23 people who have commented so far, have said, “Hell to the no.” From Joe:
Figure in what health insurance will cost you and see what your minimum is. If the paper won’t meet it, keep looking. The non-compete clause here, on a $10-an-hour job, is cheeky. I can see you not being allowed to work for competitors, but being barred from moving to local competitors is asking too much of someone working for so little.
Accepting a job that requires you to keep up a second job just to survive — and that does not allow you to move to other papers in the area — sounds like a trap.
The audacity of this paper: no insurance, and a non-compete clause, so if you leave, you can’t work at any local place for a year? I am afraid if I expressed how I really felt about this, I would start cursing wildly. What are people thinking? That’s no way to run a newspaper. I don’t care how small it is. The low pay might work-I’ve heard of people living, albeit barely, on a wage that low or close (a journalist I know once had to work part-time at a department store to make ends meet).
And you have to have health insurance. I went six months without it after college graduation. I was so relieved the day mine kicked in.
I don’t know why journalists make so little yet still almost always need a college degree, but we do, and most of us have learned to accept it, by and large. But that is just insulting.
There are many good papers that work hard to take care of their employees, even if they can’t offer a fabulous wage or are constricted somehow by corporate. But this paper is clearly not one of those.