Monday, August 15, 2005

Work online, make more money

The guy who can report a news story and write it up for publication is worth less to me than the guy who can report the story, write it and add a video clip.
So I'm not surprised by the latest survey that shows online, multimedia journalists are paid more than single-medium journalists. Similar surveys in the past have yielded similar results.
I don't expect this trend to continue, but that's because I think multimedia skills have become a requirement of journalism. Being unable to edit a sound file, create a hyperlink, resize an image, or create a slideshow is no more acceptable than being unable to type. Soon there will be no breakout of salaries by medium, because there won't be any more print-only reporters or TV-only cameramen or Web-only journalists.
I'm actually old enough to remember when pagination systems first came to the publishing world. I knew paste-up guys in the back room who were convinced that their skill set -- deep and narrow -- had value. They're all gone now. The smarter folks sensed that the world had changed. They learned the early versions of Quark and PageMaker. Look around your newsroom. Odds are some of those people are working on your copy desk even today.
The lesson is simple: either acquire multimedia skills or find another career.

tags: , , , , ,

1 comment:

  1. Hi Lex,
    I'll grant you that it's near impossible to live on $30,000 here in New York.
    When I was at CNN, those underpaid junior-level folks with the lousy paychecks tended to share apartments, cut back on their social lives, and generally struggle to make ends meet.
    But every time we had an entry-level job opening, we had hundreds of applicants to choose from. I think partly that's because the work was so fun. Partly, too, it's because many of us have no choice -- we have to be in journalism. It's in our blood.
    Of course, most of those people will move up enough to earn a decent salary. Poverty doesn't last forever in journalism.
    Besides, the advantage today is that those same underpaid people are picking up skills that they may someday use not just to earn a promotion, but to strike out on their own.
    I think this is an exciting time in journalism (and you're working at one of the most exciting places in our industry -- the Greensboro News & Record!! When I worked for the Winston-Salem Journal and competed against the N&R, the Greensboro paper was a rag. Today you guys are setting the standard for the entire industry.) And I think the possibilities of financial success are much greater now than when I started out. Certainly being a standalone journalist was out of the question back in the old days.
    Sure, journalism pay is lousy, especially at the start. It always has been.
    But the upside potential is greater now than ever before.