Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Reporters See Their Pay Vanish While Doing Their Jobs

IRS Raises Its Mileage Reimbursement Rate; Gannett Newspapers Among The Many That Nickel and Dime Reporters Squeezed at the Pump

Most newspaper reporters have had to suffer the indignities of their diminished medium, assuming they still have a job.
Many toil off the clock because they are afraid of retribution if they put in for the O.T. they're entitled to. Fewer bodies in the newsroom mean an increased story count for those who remain. Meanwhile, pay increases are miniscule if there are any at all.
Adding to that misery is gasoline north of four bucks a gallon. If you do your job right, you have to get out and cover your beat. That means getting into a car -- your own car. The IRS, at least conceptually, feels that pain. It recently bumped its mileage rate -- for those who itemize and don't get reimbursed -- to 58.5 cents a mile, a whopping eight-cent increase.
But it appears not only will most newspapers not match that for its employees, they haven't even come close to paying the old rates, at least based on comments left on the excellent Gannett Blog, which assiduously documents the underachieving, mediocrity and downright lunacy that is the hallmark of the USA's largest newspaper company.
Most of the anonymous correspondents in Gannettland say they're getting anywhere from 23 to 34 cents a mile. And some of them got increases only in the last few weeks. That's all the more shocking, given I was getting 21 cents a mile at Gannett's Rockland Journal-News --- in 1989.
At those prices in many parts of the country, reporters are effectively losing money every time they leave the office to do a story, when you factor in gas, not to mention wear and tear on the car.
Of course the company doesn't care.
They know you'll go out and do your job regardless of what you get back. What are you going to do, quit because you have to dip into your pocket to cover the tab for a visit to the pump? Where are you going to go? (their attitude, not mine, in case you're wondering).
So, if reporters don't have to absolutely, positively be there then they won't. Reporters will work the story by phone and possibly miss out on some juicy details that only somebody on the scene would spot.
Of course the company doesn't care.
All that matters is you filled some space between the ads. Doesn't matter what you wrote. It's the Gannett way.

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