Ask a few TV reporters what it’s like working as an MMJ and you might get very different stories. We recently shared advice from KGTV’s Joe Little and KARE’s Heidi Wigdahl, both of whom have embraced careers as solo journalists. Reporter Adam Bagni, on the other hand, couldn’t be happier that he no longer has to work alone.
Bagni has been in the news business for a decade, mostly as an MMJ. He now freelances in Boston for WHDH and strongly believes he can do better work as part of a two-person team.
“If you have two people that are competent, it is not even close what you can do in gathering the facts of the story and the quality of the product.”
When he was working alone, Bagni says he often missed something because he had so much to do. “How can you worry about the facts of the story, following up on things, when you’re worried about audio and video?” he asks. “Are you totally focused on the interview?”
MMJs are often at a disadvantage, he contends. When things move fast, it’s hard for someone working alone to keep up, especially on deadline. As part of a two-person crew, Bagni can keep working on a story while the photographer begins editing. “I can cover more bases, research the story, add more information.”
Bagni contends most stations use one-person crews for one simple reason: It’s cheaper. Research bears him out. The latest salary survey published by RTDNA found the gap between the average amount stations pay MMJs and reporters has widened to $14,000. MMJs and photojournalists make about $37,000 on average; reporters make over $50,000.
As Bagni sees it, the biggest difference between the work of MMJs and two-person crews is the quality of the video. “The dirty secret is most reporters are not passionate about shooting,” Bagni says. “From my experience, the colleagues I’ve been with, they’re forced to do it.” As a result, he says, “the quality of the video [stations] put on the air has never been worse.”
There’s no question MMJs face challenges that two-person crews don’t. Some news managers say that’s why they won’t send someone out alone on a breaking story or on any assignment that might prove risky. When Wigdahl works the weekend night shift at KARE, for example, she works with a partner.
But as long as stations can get one person to do what used to take two, and save $50,000 per crew, MMJs are here to stay. As Wigdahl says, better get used to it and do the best work you can.