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Low pay making journalism careers ‘unsustainable’ warns NUJ

nujlogoUnion chiefs have claimed a career in journalism is becoming “unsustainable” after a survey found one in five working in the industry earned less than £20,000 a year.

Research by the National Union of Journalists also found the income of more than 80pc of staff and freelance journalists surveyed had not kept up with the cost of living, while a quarter of staff and 60pc of freelances admitted they had suffered financial hardship.

According to the NUJ many of those surveyed, particularly younger journalists, said it was a struggle to pay their rent and bills and the prospect of buying a house in London and the South-East of England was just a dream.

A few of the 1,251 journalists quizzed commented their pay was below the national minimum wage, while a number of freelances said they depended on tax credits.

An anonymous Newsquest journalist told the survey: “I earn £15,500 and most months I run out of money a week if not more before pay day.

“This adds a huge amount of anxiety, stress and pressure to my life. I love being a journalist but am constantly looking for other jobs that pay more which are outside the industry.”

Two-thirds of those surveyed said they had received a pay increase of between one and two per cent, but almost 15pc had not had a pay rise for more than five years.

A major complaint was the lack of transparency over pay, with many saying they did not know how their pay compared with colleagues.

Others said pay was decided at the whim of the editor, and the study found women were paid less than male colleagues for doing the same job.

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said: “These findings are very worrying. While most journalists enjoy their job and get a buzz from their work, it is becoming evident that pay is a real problem, with many not being paid enough to cover their bills, never mind have a comfortable life.

“News organisations and publishers are creating a situation in which a career in journalism is unsustainable. Talented staff, sick of poverty wages and living in shared flats will drift off to other jobs and the industry will be the poorer for that.”

“It is totally unacceptable for journalists, at whatever stage of their career, to be paid barely the minimum wage. There is absolutely no justification for this. Yes, times in the media market have been tough, but many of the organisations paying a pittance to their staff are in profit.

“When we look at the salaries and bonuses of executives and managers the story is very different.”


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  • October 28, 2015 at 11:42 am

    Unionise, collectivise and refuse to let the multinats that own the press to pay its reporters so poorly.

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  • October 28, 2015 at 1:13 pm

    Try doing this story in most of the major companies and I would imagine four out of five are paid less than £20,000, especially amongst under 25s . Poor pay shouldn’t be the norm just because you are a junior reporter. There’s hardly any differentiation between juniors and seniors now anyway, especially on London papers.

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  • October 28, 2015 at 1:22 pm

    Hold on please – the NCTJ told us all that everything was fabulous and we would would all have a wonderful future.

    Look at the recent NCTJ survey (see story dated 31st July). 30% of students enter journalism. This is a fact, according to the NCTJ.

    Perhaps the NCTJ Chief Executive would like to comment on this story ?

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  • October 28, 2015 at 2:47 pm

    Teachers, police, and nurses etc are all strongly unionised and all enjoy better salaries and a proper career structure.
    They know how to stick together in pay negotiations, and they know how to get their message across to those that matter.
    Journalists on the other hand are individualistic, impractical, and, in business matters, surprisingly naïve.
    The NUJ has a history of backing crackpot political causes rather than dealing with bread and butter issues.
    There’s a lack of common sense…

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  • October 28, 2015 at 11:27 pm

    And they say that regional press journalism is still a great career to get into , only if you like doing voluntary work with no long term future

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  • October 29, 2015 at 10:43 am

    @sunset. Police, teachers and nurses are all under attack from the Govt and funnily enough, from some sections of the press. Their decent pay and conditions are being whittled away regardless of their unions.
    I think the problem we face today, even if we had a strong NUJ , is the fact that the employers see us as a cost to be reduced, rather than a valuable asset. We can all be replaced by cheap, non-unionised labour.
    I’m a second generation journo and I knew when I started out years ago that I would never make my fortune in it. But I never dreamed that after acquiring years of experience I would be taking home less than a forklift truck driver. I left Newsquest last year because I could not afford to keep subsidising it.

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  • October 30, 2015 at 12:31 am

    So, how much did the NUJ spend on discovering this all-new information? I could have told them the same thing 20 years ago – for nowt!

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