Milking Cows Pays More Than Reporting p. 26

By: M.L. Stein Oklahoma journalism professor says the low wages paid by many newspapers
are 'udderly ridiculous' and hurt the product as well as the profession
By m.l. stein
Milking cows pays more than reporting on many newspapers, says journalism professor Terry Clark, who cited a recent dairy company advertisement to support his claim.
As part of an article he prepared for the Oklahoma Publisher, Clark reproduced an advertisement from Braum's Dairy Farm seeking milkers at $8 an hour.
"This is udderly ridiculous," said Clark, who is chairman of the journalism department at the University of Central Oklahoma. "You don't need to be able to spell, write or edit, run a computer, type, ask questions, take pictures or lay out pages. You don't need a college degree. . . . That's more money than most beginning ? and many experienced journalists ? make in this state."
Clark did a little research on the ad and reports that the company employs 48 milkers who work four days a week. Top milkers on the night shift make $9.15 an hour ? $366 a week or $19,002 a year, plus benefits.
Newspaper salary levels is a subject Clark is intimately familiar with ? beyond what one might expect of a college professor. He owned a weekly for l2 years and worked on weeklies and dailies in Oklahoma and Iowa before becoming a teacher. Currently, he is a night copy editor on the Daily Oklahoman in Oklahoma City.

Shortage of qualified journalists
As a professor in a journalism department, Clark says he routinely receives many calls from newspapers "desperately" seeking reporters, sportswriters, editors and advertising staffers ? jobs that are going unfilled "because there aren't people to take them."
"Even though I've got more people enrolled
in beginning reporting than ever, the word is
out," he continued. "We tell our students . . .
that you're not going to get rich in journalism and you have to love it or get out. But those students do deserve to make a living above the poverty level. I know many small newspaper people who don't make $8 an hour when you count all the hours put in and you're already in a survival mode."
Terming low salaries for journalists a shortsighted policy by management, Clark observed: "In newspapers, our niche, our strength is local news. And you get what you pay for. Low pay will not usually attract the top people and the news is going to suffer and circulation is going to continue to decline until we go out of business."
Rural newspapers are not the only miserly employers, Clark said in an interview.
Harking back to the time he owned the weekly, he said he once hired an editor from a metropolitan paper and "I had to give him a raise from what he was making."
Clark claimed, based on the reports he receives, that the average salary for entry-level hires is $19,000, with many papers offering less.
The writer conceded, however, that some small papers have trouble getting enough advertising or news to adequately compensate staffers. Still,
he contended, "We've got to pay people in whose hands and brains we entrust the future of a free country more than milkers. Starving journalists on stingy salaries will starve newspapers to death."

'Heroism' rather than money?
Commenting on Clark's views in the Oregon Publisher, LeRoy Yorgason, executive director of the Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association, said he also would like to see news staffers getting more money, but at the same time he put in a pitch for the "little guys," who "can't afford to pay professional salaries."
"There is no shame in running a small newspaper," Yorgason argued. "On the contrary, I look at them as heroes ? heroes who are willing to put in long hours, risk their own resources, listen to constant criticism, suffer neglect of their own home and family and beg people to contribute information so a community's citizens can know what is going on in their hometown. They're doing the best they can."
Not only does he want small newspapers to continue publishing, Yorgason said, but he hopes they will find employees who share the ideals of their owners "and are willing to work for small wages ? even for a while ? to keep the dream alive."
"And ? for those who develop their news skills and want to move on ? may they find employment in a news organization that is willing to pay a good salary for a dreamer with mud on his shoes. Meanwhile, may freedom of the press be preserved by idealists with few resources."
?( Jounrlaism professor Terry Clark (left) says it's "udderly ridiculous" that news reporters earn less than cow milkers like this one (below) at Pleasant Pastures Daily in Oklahoma.) [Photo & Caption]
?(E&P Web Site: http://www.mediainfo. com) [Caption]
?(copyright: Editor & Publisher April 25, 1998) [Caption]


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