| Matt Rocheleau's Blog |

‘A million here, a million there’*

Posted in Uncategorized by mrochele on June 9, 2009

After writing 100+ articles, I unveil my total annual journalism income

Sorry for the delay between posts. I’ve been too busy counting my piles of cash as I’m sure any fellow journalist can relate to.

I consider my official career in journalism to have begun in June 2008 when I started my summer internship for The Sun Chronicle in Attleboro, where I was first published. Since then, over the course of one year, I’ve had 106 stories published in print and online – 33 for The Sun Chronicle, 40 for The Massachusetts Daily Collegian at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and 33 for The Daily Hampshire Gazette in Northampton. The Gazette still has several others I’ve written which should be published by mid-June or so, not to mention the various briefs, photos, multimedia pieces and other contributions I’ve made to each of the three newspapers in the past 12 months.

Forty dollars is all journalism has earned me so far. Subtract the out-of-pocket cost of hundreds of pens, a dozen or so reporter's notebooks, over 100 newspaper copies, food and other miscellaneous expenses and the net result is more likely just some spare change. But, I couldn't be happier. (Matt Rocheleau, June 9, 2009)

Forty dollars is all journalism has earned me so far. Subtract the out-of-pocket cost of hundreds of pens, a dozen or so reporter's notebooks, over 100 newspaper copies, food, coffee and other miscellaneous expenses and the net result is more likely just some spare change. But, I couldn't be happier. (Matt Rocheleau, June 9, 2009)

Now, let’s breakdown my annual compensation:

Total earnings from The Sun Chronicle: $0

Total earnings from The Collegian: $0

Total earnings from The Gazette: $40

So, $40 is the grand total from June 2008 to June 2009. The first time I was ever monetarily compensated for journalism netted me 40 bucks for one freelance article I wrote on a Saturday in May to cover the Goshen town election for The Gazette.

Average earnings per article: $0.37

That’s right. Thirty-seven cents per story. And who said journalism can’t be a lucrative career?

But, in all seriousness, I’m not complaining, and the majority of student journalists I’ve worked with – who work as hard, if not harder than I do – aren’t either.

I think that’s the real point. We get paid next to nothing, or in most cases nothing, but we still do it. And, we do it with enthusiasm and passion. As the industry and our future jobs collapse around us, I think a lot of us are excited to have a chance to reinvent the way news is reported.

In late April, I wrote a story giving an inside look at what several Boston Globe employees were thinking as their paper was under threats to close by May 1.

At 135 Morrissey Blvd. in Dorchester, Mass., The Boston Globe, the country's 14th largest newspaper, reported a $50 million loss in 2008 and is on track to lose $85 million more this year. It faces being shut down by The New York Times Co. unless it makes $20 million in concessions.

At 135 Morrissey Blvd. in Dorchester, Mass., The Boston Globe, the country's 14th largest newspaper, reported a $50 million loss in 2008 and is on track to lose $85 million more this year. It faces being shut down by The New York Times Co. unless it makes $20 million in concessions. (Matt Rocheleau/ The Massachusetts Daily Collegian, April 27-29, 2009)

Deputy bureau chief Joseph Williams of the Globe’s Washington D.C. bureau summed up – in what is perhaps my favorite quote I’ve ever reported – why I maintain optimism about the future of journalism.

He said, “people don’t get into journalism to make money and they don’t get into journalism to have nice careers or to be stars. You get into it for the work. You get into it because this is what you want to do. You get into it because you’d do it for free.”

I see it every day among some of my closest friends and colleagues – most of whom are unpaid – at The Collegian. We’re worried about our futures. We’d be idiots to think otherwise. We nervously joke and laugh about how we’ll all be poor, jobless and still living at home with our parents in five years because we just fell in love with the wrong field.

Yet, we are up into all hours of the night putting out our campus’ newspaper and updating the paper’s Web site. We give up time spent going to parties or hanging out with friends because something came up at The Collegian. The majority, if not all, of the few editors who received weekly paychecks volunteered to give up their pay for the final weeks of the spring semester to help keep the paper’s costs down.

We’re excited because we have a chance to make a real difference as we venture into the field, and there’s no way in hell we’d give up our dreams of becoming quality journalists without a fight. Though I only earned $40 all year from reporting and writing, I am undeniably thankful for the experience I’ve gained and the fun I’ve had so far.

If someone would pay to keep me fed, I’d sleep in the newsroom of any newspaper that would let me write for them, free of charge, for the rest of my life. However, it appears The Boston Globe will allow me to avoid that scenario, at least for now, as they have agreed to pay me from June to December during a six-month co-op working for The Globe West bureau in Framingham. Yet, before I even started my first legitimately-paying job in journalism, my wage was cut by 23 percent as part of a slashing that affected all members of the Boston Newspaper Guild (BNG), which represents around 700 Globe staff, including the co-ops.

I’ll miss UMass and The Collegian terribly while I live at home, two hours from campus, during the fall semester; but hopefully I’ll be able to help out if I can, or at least keep in touch, through the Internet and the occasional weekend visit.

I must also mention that journalism indirectly helped me earn the first two scholarships I’ve ever received. I was given $900 from The Gazette and UMass through the Milt Cole Award and another $1,000 from UMass through the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences Dean’s Opportunity Fund Scholarship.

*(A special thanks to rap/rock artist Lil’ Wayne for the title to this post which comes from a line in the GrammyAward-winning single “A Milli” off his album “Tha Carter III” released in 2008.)

Prepared to go down with the ship

In between classes and work for The Collegian and The Gazette, during essentially the entire month of April, I worked on a feature story about The Boston Globe as it was in the midst of threats to close if the paper could not meet The New York Times Co.’s demands to cut $20 million by a 30-day, May 1 deadline.

I was fortunate enough to spend a day with Globe photographer George Rizer while he was out

Veteran Boston Globe photographer George Rizer stands on the already-dented hood of his Buick to get a better angle of B.C. High School's Good Friday Walk. Rizer's last day of work is scheduled for June 26, when he will leave The Globe after accepting a buyout package prior to The Times Co.'s threat to shut the paper. (Matt Rocheleau/ The Massachusetts Daily Collegian, April 27-29, 2009)

Veteran Boston Globe photographer George Rizer stands on the already-dented hood of his Buick to get a better angle of B.C. High School's Good Friday Walk. Rizer's last day of work is scheduled for June 26, when he will leave The Globe after accepting a buyout package prior to The Times Co.'s threat to shut the paper. (Matt Rocheleau/ The Massachusetts Daily Collegian, April 27-29, 2009)

on assignment, which also allowed me a chance to get some photos inside the newspaper’s headquarters.

The tension in The Globe’s newsroom was hard to ignore. I constantly had the feeling, and in fact I was told so on several occasions, that because I was reporting about the Globe’s situation for another newspaper that I wasn’t supposed to be there. Rizer would sneak me in and out of the newsroom as we went from one of his assignments to another. He let me take pictures inside, but only at 6 a.m. or so before most of the staff were around.

For the story, about 200 of The Globe’s 300-person editorial staff were e-mailed in mid-April requesting their thoughts on the paper’s circumstances and its uncertain future. Twenty-five of them responded, 18 of these declined to comment, commonly citing such reasons as being too busy or being uncomfortable to speak on the topic.

However, six Globe staff members – reporter Brian C. Mooney, sports columnist Dan Shaughnessy, chief imaging technician John Ioven, an editor who requested anonymity, deputy bureau chief Joseph Williams and foreign policy reporter Farah Stockman, both from the Washington D.C. bureau – were kind enough to speak with me over the phone and share their thoughts on The Globe’s present and future situation.

I was also able to interview Daniel Totten, president of the BNG, a union which represents over 700 of The Globe’s employees, and former Pulitzer-Prize winning Globe columnist Eileen McNamara. I spent an afternoon at Faneuil Hall in Boston to cover a “Save The Globe” rally hosted by the BNG. Catherine Mathis, senior vice president of corporate communications at The Times Co. declined to comment for the story.

At Faneuil Hall in Boston, the crowd clapped, chanted and cheered as 14 speakers took the stage for a "Save The Globe" rally organized by the Boston Newspaper Guild on April 24. This young girl lets a sign do the talking.(Matt Rocheleau/ The Massachusetts Daily Collegian, April 27-29, 2009)

At Faneuil Hall in Boston, the crowd clapped, chanted and cheered as 14 speakers took the stage for a "Save The Globe" rally organized by the Boston Newspaper Guild on April 24. This young girl lets a sign do the talking. (Matt Rocheleau/ The Massachusetts Daily Collegian, April 27-29, 2009)

As concerned as I was during the negotiations I couldn’t imagine what it was like for those with so much more at stake. So, thanks to everyone who helped me with this story.

The story was published in a three-part series in The Collegian on April 27, April 28 and April 29 and by The Gazette online at GazetteNET.com on May 1. Some of the photos were also used by AmherstWire.com in a special multimedia package called “13th hour reprieve.” I additionally compiled photos and recorded interviews from this story for a podcast/slideshow for a final project in my photojournalism course.

Since this story was written, The Globe’s situation and outlook remain uncertain. It took the entire 30-day deadline and some extensions, which included several late nights and long days down the stretch, of intense negotiations between The Globe management and the newspaper’s various unions before a potential Globe-salvaging deal was reached at 3 a.m. on May 6.

During the extension period, it even got to the point where The Times Co. said they planned to file the paperwork required to provide the Massachusetts government with 60-day notice that the business would close. If it had been filed the paper would have been shut down on July 1 – or two days after my co-op is scheduled to start.

An initial proposal from the BNG the largest union involved in negotiations, called for cutting The Globe’s internship and co-op programs altogether, which, combined, cost the paper about half a million dollars annually. Fortunately, the proposal was rejected, and a couple of days later a deal was reached that did not include my job among the list of concessions.

However, the BNG rejected the proposed deal in a union vote on June 8, causing Globe management to announce they will cut employee salary by 23 percent, which raises more questions and potential scenarios.

The Globe's newsroom is quiet and empty at 6:30 a.m. on a Friday. If the Times Co. follows through with its threats, this scene could become permanent.

The Globe's newsroom is quiet and empty at 6:30 a.m. on a Friday. If the Times Co. follows through with its threats, this scene could become permanent. (Matt Rocheleau/ The Massachusetts Daily Collegian, April 27-29, 2009)

Will the union will try to renegotiate with The Times Co.? Will the union take Globe management’s pay cut to court or before the National Labor Relations Board? Will The Times Co. reignite their threats to shutter the paper?

For now at least, the threats to shut the paper completely have been put to rest. According to The Globe, the Times Co.’s spokeswoman, Catherine Mathis said in a statement. “Because we have achieved the $20 million in savings we needed, we do not foresee closure at this time and are focused on executing the Globe’s turnaround plan.”

Which of course raises the bigger question here. What is that ‘turnaround plan,’ and will it work?

Stay tuned to Boston.com, including a special section dedicated to stories on The Globe’s future.

(Links to stories on DailyCollegian.com were removed from this post because the site has since been completely redesigned which has altered the link paths to these stories, and not all of the archives have transitioned over to the new site yet.)

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: