Testy Copy Editors

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 Post subject: How much would you pay?
PostPosted: Thu Jan 30, 2003 7:33 pm 
Here's an exercise: Say you were in charge of hiring copy editors at your paper (owned by a privately held company, rather than by a publicly traded corporation ... and let's say it's a paper of anywhere between 20,000 and 100,000 circulation.) You are being asked to hire for two positions -- one an entry-level job, another for someone with at least three years' copy-desk experience. Let's say that your only fiscal guideline is to hire somewhere within the spectrum of what's perceived to be "competitive" or "market-rate" -- in other words, you have some wiggle room but can't shoot the moon. Let's say that for each job, you have a candidate to whom you're prepared to make an offer. <p>Now ... what do you offer?<p>(I'm actively testing the job market right now, and have been quite surprised to see what passes for "competitive" and "market rate" at papers within this size so far ... and how widely it fluctuates from paper to paper.) What's your idea of how this scenario ought to play?


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 Post subject: Re: How much would you pay?
PostPosted: Fri Jan 31, 2003 1:25 am 
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Joined: Thu Jan 30, 2003 1:01 am
Posts: 8
Location: Redding, Calif.
Entry-level: 25K or so.<p>Three years: low 30s.<p>But of course, there's a vast gulf in paychecks between a 20,000-circulation paper and 100,000.


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 Post subject: Re: How much would you pay?
PostPosted: Fri Jan 31, 2003 2:01 am 
I've asked several acquaintances at other papers around the Northwest for info on this, and have compiled similiar data from my own recent inquiries and excursions. Here's what I've come up with so far:<p>22,000 circ., 7-day daily, private: Entry-level, $26,700; 3-5 years, $29,800
64,000 circ., 7-day daily, public: Entry-level, $25,600; 3-5 years, $30,500
16,000 circ., 6-day daily, private: Entry-level, $24,200; 3-5 years, $27,600
9,000 circ., 6-day daily, private: Entry-level, $21,000; 3-5 years, $25,000
42.000 circ., 7-day daily, private: Entry-level, $28,000; 3-5 years, "around" $35,000<p>This is fascinating (to me, anyway) ....


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 Post subject: Re: How much would you pay?
PostPosted: Fri Jan 31, 2003 2:48 am 
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Joined: Sun Apr 07, 2002 1:01 am
Posts: 8342
Location: Bethesda, Md.
Call me idealistic, but I see no reason why the pay of individual copy editors should vary much between those at the smallest dailies and those at the largest. The work is the same. The only valid difference I can think of would be the number of editors. Obviously a bigger paper might be able to afford more. It's ludicrous to pay an editor for a daily newspaper less than $30,000 a year. I've always maintained that it is inefficient to take on editors, pay them peanuts, then watch them go after a year or two.


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 Post subject: Re: How much would you pay?
PostPosted: Fri Jan 31, 2003 7:42 am 
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Joined: Mon Apr 08, 2002 12:01 am
Posts: 151
Location: Gautier, Miss.
<blockquote><font size="1" face="TImes, TimesNR, serif">quote:</font><hr>Originally posted by blanp:
Call me idealistic, but I see no reason why the pay of individual copy editors should vary much between those at the smallest dailies and those at the largest. The work is the same. The only valid difference I can think of would be the number of editors. Obviously a bigger paper might be able to afford more. It's ludicrous to pay an editor for a daily newspaper less than $30,000 a year. I've always maintained that it is inefficient to take on editors, pay them peanuts, then watch them go after a year or two.<hr></blockquote><p>One reason the pay might vary greatly is the cost of living. In my hometown, $30,000/year is in the middle of middle class. In Atlanta, 120 miles away, you would struggle to get by on $30,000/year.<p>Also, honchos at small papers believe they will lose many people after a year or two, regardless of pay, and they are probably right. They use the ability to move on to a larger paper as an enticement. "We just lost someone to Major Metro Times and we need her replacement."<p>I'm all for paying someone a decent wage. The profit margins at many small papers are ridiculous. They could certainly afford to pay people better. However, there are many differences between large papers and small. Those differences show up in the paycheck.


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 Post subject: Re: How much would you pay?
PostPosted: Sat Feb 01, 2003 4:00 pm 
I've always maintained that it is inefficient to take on editors, pay them peanuts, then watch them go after a year or two. <p>I couldn't agree more, and this is, incidentally, a big part of why I'm losing my job. My editors were actually forced to concede that for what they wanted to pay and for what their expectations were -- somebody to do the Food section and community calendars and TV Guide as often as hard-news editing and layout -- they were wrong in hiring the most qualified person available at the time (me) and should have instead hired a young, fresh, out-of-college person with little or no professional daily experience who would be willing to do scut work as part of his or her learning curve. Instead, they hired me, with 12 years' newspaper experience -- claiming at the time that my experience and their needs were a perfect match -- and then decided later that what they really wanted was somebody they could plug into any hole, anywhere, at any time. I refused a reassaignment that would have required me to take on more of those tasks, simply because I'm far past that in my career -- a point the editors conceded. Nonetheless, the upshot is that because I won't do what they want, even though they agree that I was right to say no, they're going to go out and hire somebody who will do the shit work.<p>I don't suffer from irony-poor blood ... but even I STILL can't believe this is happening.


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 Post subject: Re: How much would you pay?
PostPosted: Sat Feb 01, 2003 4:52 pm 
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Joined: Mon Apr 08, 2002 12:01 am
Posts: 35
Location: Billings, Mont.
<blockquote><font size="1" face="TImes, TimesNR, serif">quote:</font><hr>Originally posted by Jim Thomsen:
[b]I don't suffer from irony-poor blood ... but even I STILL can't believe this is happening.[/b]<hr></blockquote><p>I'll start with the empathy: Jim, I'm sorry you're losing your job.<p>Now, on to the incredulity: What the hell is so surprising? For months now, you've been bitching about how poorly managed your newspaper is, and yet you're shocked -- shocked! -- at being dumped because management thinks it can find someone to do twice the work at a fraction of the cost?<p>If you're 12 years into your career and are a capable editor, you've done a tremendous disservice to yourself by not getting your ass to a newspaper where employees are valued and/or a union is in place to protect your interests. (I know you had a bad union experience in Seattle; hey, it happens. But I've worked in union and non-union environments, and in terms of job security, there is no comparison.)<p>Maybe you're the sort of guy who prefers a smaller newspaper. Good for you. Find one that is friendlier to its workers, because they're out there.<p>And here's a novel thought: Why not take a stab at management? You've obviously got some ideas about how to do it better, so why not put those ideas to the test? Your paycheck will get bigger, too. Imagine the possibilities.<p>Just please, please, PLEASE don't drop any more posts on us about the the unfairness of it all. It should have been obvious to you, of all people, that the managers at your paper would do this. Your posting history -- in which you've railed about innumerable other idiotic things they've done -- all but predicted it.<p>(Sigh.)<p>I need a drink.


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 Post subject: Re: How much would you pay?
PostPosted: Sat Feb 01, 2003 5:04 pm 
You're right. Okay. Done. And thanks for the hard slap of perspective.<p>At the time I was hired, I was trying -- and failing -- to survive as a freelance writer after being laid off from my last paper following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. I needed a job, any job (which were particularly scarce in late 2001), and needed one close to family members for personal reasons. The job I have now fit the bill, especially after I blew away their style and skills tests. My editors raved about my "hard-news chops" and told me they saw me moving within a few months to A1 design, being a key player in the story-placement process, etc. None of those things happened. And yes, in light of all my bitching, I'm not SHOCKED that I lost my job -- I'm surprised at the acknowledged disengenuity with which it was made. <p>And the job market STILL sucks. I don't care what the economists say about turning the corner toward recovery; the current quality and quantity of job postings don't lie. I'll definitely keep bitching about that!


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