May 13, 2022 | OPINION | By Michael Braithwaite
This article is in response to an article published a few weeks ago titled “Writers are Underpaid.” It was written by a staff member of The Catalyst.
Two weeks ago, myself and the rest of the editing team at The Catalyst were doing our normal round of edits on the stories for the week when one of them caught my eye. It was a story written for the Life section of the paper, detailing how writers are underpaid for their work.
It is a well-known fact that the journalism industry is not exactly a lucrative one. Writing for The Catalyst is no different. Writers are paid $15 per article, a meager sum compared to the significant amount of time many put into researching, interviewing, and writing the story.
Despite being on the full-time staff at the paper as the Sports Editor, I connected to this article and completely understood the author’s perspective, as I was also a writer for our paper before I worked in an editorial position.
From last spring up through this past December, I contributed to our paper three times a block as a sportswriter, specifically covering all of CC’s home hockey games as well as writing other content for the Sports section. I loved covering the hockey games and continue to do so even after my promotion to the editor position, however they are a massive time suck compared to the slim compensation for the article.
Each game is about three hours in length, and there are normally two of them per weekend. Adding on the time it takes to transcribe postgame interviews and write the article, it can take up to 10 hours to write one recap of a hockey series.
In a vacuum, $15 for 10 hours of work is an absurdly low pay rate. However, if one’s main goal in working for The Catalyst is to make money, I would recommend that they take their talents elsewhere.
Despite the low hourly pay of being a writer, it is still likely higher than that of a Section Editor and Co-Editor in Chief, even if the writer contributes the usual maximum of three articles per block. Section editors get paid between $80 and $120 per block but can easily put in at least 20 hours of work per block between talking with writers, doing initial edits on articles, and editing as a group on Thursdays before the articles get finalized for publication.
The Co-Editors in Chief, while each earning a $210 stipend per block, easily have the lowest hourly pay rate out of any other position at The Catalyst. The Co-EICs have a tremendous amount of responsibility each week of publication, including talking to editors and writers about stories, helping format both the physical and digital copies of the paper, and editing every single article on Thursday afternoons and evenings before they are published.
What I am trying to say is that it is not about the money. Writing or editing for a college newspaper is not only a great way for one to improve their writing, but it also provides a fantastic experience for those who are thinking about going into journalism after college. In an industry such as news media where entry-level job opportunities pay very little or nothing at all, it is great to have experience working for a paper on your resume that can hopefully land a better paying job in journalism after college.
From my own experience, I don’t cover the hockey games because of the pay rate or because I have nothing else to do on Friday or Saturday nights, but because it is as close to a professional reporting environment as I will be able to get while in college. I get to sit in the press booth next to writers from The Denver Post and The Colorado Springs Gazette, among others, and after each game, I get to personally interview both the head coach and players about their performance.
This sort of professional experience is not confined to only the Sports section. In the past, writers for The Catalyst have interviewed politicians, firefighters, school presidents, and many other individuals in important positions. Being an official writer for our school paper can carry significant influence even outside of Colorado College, and whether one wants to use that influence to cover important stories is up to them.
These experiences allow writers to get a good feel for what the journalism industry is like after college. Although many may see writing for The Catalyst as a small side job or a hobby, the reality is that we are employed at a real newspaper publication, and in doing so we can break news events and share stories in the same manner as The Gazette or The Post. For examples of this, look no further than the story about Bon Appetit’s culture of fear or the COVID-19 outbreak on the hockey team.
I think it is also important to remember how fortunate we are that The Catalyst receives enough funding for its staff to be paid for their work. Many collegiate newspapers don’t pay any of their staff, from the part-time writers all the way up to the EIC.
In conclusion, I agree that writers are underpaid. The amount of time it takes to interview, research, and write an article is in no way reimbursed by the $15 one receives for contributing an article to The Catalyst.
However, earning money is not the point of working for our school paper. Writing for The Catalyst is a great opportunity to make an impact both on the school-wide level and in the greater Colorado Springs area. It is a vessel for those who are passionate about journalism to use their ideas and talents to bring information to the student body that they may not have been previously aware of and share stories about their classmates and peers.
Moreover, the experience we gain now by working for the school paper can be utilized to get a higher-level journalism job out of college, and, in an industry that severely underpays its entry-level employees, that may be the most important part of this after all.