The recommendations of the Majithia wage board for journalists and other newspaper employees have clearly split newspaper owners and newspaper workers.
The big dads of the Indian Newspaper Society (INS) have rejected the recommendations, taken out advertisements, filed cases and published articles to build “public opinion”. But two small newspaper owners, both members of INS, have told sans serif that they feel they are being used in the current joust.
The big players who rarely empathise with their woes, and often trample all over them, they say, are firing from their shoulders only because they stand to lose the most.
Meanwhile, while journalists on “contract” maintain a studied silence, workers of newspapers and news agencies have accused INS of spreading falsehoods and exerting pressure on the government. They have now served notice of a nationwide strike on June 28 over the delay in the implementation of the wage board recommendations.
Lost in all the melee is the voice of the ordinary newspaper employee not on contract.
Here, in response to a media baron’s contention that the Majithia wage board recommendations are bad for journalism, an anonymous sub-editor, formerly with The Times of India, makes an impassioned argument for higher wages as recommended by the wage board for one simple reason.
You can argue at length against the Majithia wage board but the fact remains that print media journalists are being paid less than lower division clerks, school teachers, bank employees, marketing and advertising executives in media firms, etc let alone engineers, doctors or MBAs.
Being a senior sub-editor in a news organisation that implements the wage boad, I am earning Rs 18,000 per month. My wife with a simple B.Ed. degree earns as much working fewer hours than I do.
A friend of mine is a senior sports correspondent with a reputed news agency. He has been hired on contract basis at a package of Rs 40,000 (cost to company) although he gets only Rs 30,000 in hand.
He has to pay a rent of Rs 8,000 in Delhi apart from spending money on his travel. He works from 11 am to 10 pm at office and sometimes also after he returns home.
Is he not entitled to a better life?
The chief benefit of the wage board is that employees— though getting paid less than contract employees—are saved from being exploited like machines for 18 hours a day and being paid less than what other professionals with similar or lesser qualifications do for working fewer hours.
I began my career with the Times of India after completing post-graduate diploma in journalism. I was paid less than what the receptionist (who was a graduate) looking mainly after matrimonial section and working fixed hours was receiving.
I met a fresher graduate recently who is working as sales executive with the telecom company, Idea. He delivers post-paid SIM cards at home. I was astonished to learn that he is earning more than I am and had a more or less fixed working time.
Is it a crime to choose journalism as profession where one is ready to devote one’s heart and soul for the sake of news, where one has to beg for quotes and bytes, where the pressure is no less than in any MNC and the only incentive is to share the truth?
Does that mean one is not entitled to good life?
No wonder many of my friends have quit the profession. No wonder that journalism is not attracting the kind of brains it used to once upon a time.
Majithia wage board—whether you all succeed in getting it scuttled or not—is the need of the hour.
Newspaper barons are rolling in riches. Newspaper marketing and advertisement executives are being paid higher for the product that will not be sold if does not contain the main item: news.
External reading: Muzzling the media