The rate for the job (2): now work for free

Since posting our report on the “horror stories” of freelance sports reporters and photographers having their payment rates slashed, has learned of another move by one national newspaper that manages to impact adversely its staff and freelancers simultaneously.

At Telegraph Towers in Victoria, we hear that subs on the sports desk have been “invited” to work on their days off to cover football matches. This “opportunity” is portrayed as a “good career move”. No fee is payable to the staff members beyond basic expenses.

Sports desk subs on the nationals have long enjoyed the “bonus” of doing the occasional match report. As well as that inner glow from getting a byline in the paper, though, they have normally expected to be paid for their time and efforts.

The Telegraph‘s move has the effect of saving their sports desk around £120 per game covered in this way, because it freezes out regular freelance stringers, some of whom have been covering matches for the newspaper for a decade or more and depend on the work towards their overall income.

This website’s Rate for the Job feature has attracted attention from Press Gazette and other online journalism publications, interested in gleaning more information of this kind of invisible erosion of the working conditions of many SJA members.

For while job cuts are announced in the public domain, freelance cut-backs by many publications are going unreported.

Last week, received this note from a young reporter, typical of some of the concerns expressed by many colleagues:

“I’m working my first freelance job for Sportsbeat, and the match report I do usually goes in the Non-League Paper.

“The rate is £40 for 450/500 words. Most weeks I pay about £10 for petrol, which isn’t covered. I also pay £10 a month for a dongle for wireless internet connection.

“I don’t think it’s well paid but I’m not complaining, as Sportsbeat have been quite good to me… But I’m worried about where career progression is going to come from though.”

Sportsbeat explains that the rate paid for such work is determined by the client. So while the Non-League Paper is at least paying £40 per game more than the Telegraph is offering its own sports subs, it nevertheless earns a place in our payment Hall of Shame for the lowest match fee on offer. Unless, as they used to say on That’s Life, you know different.

What we would like you to do is to pass on the information on payments: Who are the good payers? Do they pay below the rate for the job (the NUJ freelance website offers a useful guide)? Are they just slow payers? Or do they somehow believe that you should be underwriting the expenses of running their (usually) still-profitable business?

We will need full details. We will not identify contributors (unless you ask us to), but we ought to name the publication, provide details of the job involved, and the fee. We have coded each entry: * is acceptable; + is a yellow card; +++ is a red card:

â–¡ Daily Post (Wales edition) – £90, no expenses – 450 words match report, 450 word quotes +

â–¡ Edinburgh Evening News – £50 – 500 word report +

â–¡ The Herald – £120 – 1000 word feature *

â–¡ News of the World – £80 – League Two match report +

Send your examples of contributions payments – whether good, bad or indifferent – by emailing here. Please put “Rate for the job” in the subject field.

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