Could they survive on £275 a week?

By Sarah Lagan and Dominic Ponsford

The NUJ has challenged bosses at
the four largest regional newspaper groups to live on the average
weekly wage of one of their newly qualified senior journalists – by
sending them each a cheque for £275.

The move comes as NUJ research reveals that journalists earn an average of £6,000 less per year than other professionals.

£275 net figure equates to an annual salary of £17,000, which compares
with a median, or typical, UK annual salary of £22,412.

The NUJ’s
letter to the chief executives says: “We would like you to ‘live’ on
this for a week and tell us how you get on. Of course, do all the usual
things – pay your mortgage, do the supermarket run, pay the bills, fill
the car with petrol – but we’d also like you to have some fun.”

general secretary Jeremy Dear said: “Pay in the media would be a joke
if it wasn’t making the lives of our members all over this country a
miserable daily struggle.

“Our research shows that even for those
with many years’ experience, a house or a pension is out of the
question. But it’s not only in the newspaper world that things are bad
– many magazine reporters have barely seen their pay go up in a decade
and many freelances are also earning the same as they did in 1995.

media employers do not take urgent action to tackle low pay, they could
well face the prospect of mass grievances, protests and industrial
action. Wealthy employers can no longer get away with consigning
hardworking staff and freelance journalists to a lifetime of earning
hundreds of thousands of pounds less than other professionals. We do a
professional job and deserve professional pay.”

According to NUJ research, a typical journalist earns £350,000 less over the course of their career than a college lecturer.

Trinity Mirror has said it will be sending the cheque to the Journalists’ Charity (formerly the Newspaper Press Fund).

spokesman said: “Once again the primary concern of the national NUJ
appears to be generating headlines about themselves. What’s required is
constructive dialogue between local management and recognised NUJ
chapels, not cheap publicity stunts by the union’s head office.”

Johnston Press chief executive Tim Bowdler said: “It’s an amusing stunt, but not worthy of comment.”

studies WORKING WAGES A reporter, who asked not to be named, working on
a weekly paper owned by one of the big groups in London, earns £18,500.

She has a degree, a post-graduate NCTJ qualification and after two years in the job has passed her senior exams.

said: “It’s very difficult. I can’t afford a travelcard, so I cycle to
work. I recently needed dentistry work done, but I couldn’t afford to.
As for buying a house goes, you can forget it. House prices around here
are at least 10 times my salary.”

Former Newsquest journalist
Steve Wrelton worked on the South London Guardian, then left the
company to work for Trinity Mirror’s Communities Today. He said: “It’s
virtually impossible to live in London or anywhere near it and pay the
bills on [regional press] wages. It doesn’t square up. These companies
bring so much money in, but the people who are doing the job are not
seeing any of it. It is a disgrace.”

Dear Please find enclosed a
cheque for £275 – the average weekly pay of a newly qualified senior
journalist on a regional newspaper.

We would like to invite you
to ‘live’ on this for a week and tell us how you get on. Of course, do
all the usual things – pay your mortgage, do the supermarket run, pay
the bills, fill the car with petrol – but we’d also like you to have
some fun.

Go out for a nice meal, enjoy a bottle of fine wine, go
to a movie or even a play. Life is enriched by music and literature –
so buy a book and maybe one or two CDs. If you have any cash left over
you could think about doing a little Christmas shopping – it’s only
around the corner you know. Or who knows, pay off some of your student

So, have a good week, and please use the enclosed sheet to
write back and let us know how you got on. We hope you’ll have enough
left to pay for the stamp.

With all best wishes,

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