Mixed news on TV salaries

Pay is up again in TV newsrooms. The annual RTDNA survey finds average salaries increased by 4 percent in 2016, almost twice the rate of inflation. But as usual, some job categories benefited more than others. Five job titles made less than the year before, including news directors. Anchors, reporters and photographers all made more.

Researcher Bob Papper points out, however, that the salary gap between reporters and MMJs is growing. On average, it’s now $14,000. MMJs are being paid on a par with photographers, although they do the job of both photographer and reporter. Papper says median salaries are the best reflection of what people actually make, but even those numbers show a widening gap.

Two years ago, the spread between [MMJ and reporter] was $6,800. Last year, it was $9,000. This year, it’s $12,000. Even accounting for market size, pay for MMJs is noticeably lower.

Since most new hires start as MMJs, the pay differential is significant. In the smallest “starter” markets, 100 and above, MMJs are paid less than almost anyone else in the newsroom. Only desk assistants, social media and web producers make less, although the gap between MMJs and reporters is just $2,000 in those markets. Almost all MMJs are under contract, too. More than 90 percent have contracts that include a non-compete clause.

What that tells you is that if you want to be a TV reporter, you’d best be prepared to live on a tight budget for at least the first couple of years, and maybe quite a bit longer.