Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Mailbag: Let's play lowball!

I was sending out some tapes today and I thought to myself, if I was to get a job offer how would I even know if I was getting a good deal? Is their a certain salary that you should expect at certain markets. For instance, Market 180 -I wouldn't expect much, maybe 20,000 - If I'm lucky. But what If I get an offer for a reporter position in the 50-80 range yet I'm fresh out of college and they low ball me... Any advice on salary range, asking for "outs" in your contract, etc...?

Lowball is a really cool game... in poker. Makes you think out of the box. My old roommate used to always call lowball when it was his deal in our Friday nite poker games. The object is to get the worst possible hand (Ace, two, three, four, six is a perfect lowball hand.)

In television news, the News Director's object is to hire someone for the lowest possible salary. It's not that the ND wants to have a staff full of poor people, but he has this thing called a budget that the beancounters keep an eye on at all times.

It's a lot like a salary cap in the NFL. You only have so much you can spend.

So let's say a reporter leaves who was making 35 thousand dollars, and at the time he left I had no more money in the budget. I have a reporter I'd like to hire who I know is making 20 grand in some station in Palookaville. So I know that 25 grand is going to sound like a nice raise. That's my first offer. I start playing lowball becuase I know I have ten grand to play with, and I can come up a bit and make it look like I'm a good guy. In reality, I can spend 35 grand, but I'd like to have a little cash for a rainy day.... or maybe some new equipment.

Now, let's say I want to go no higher than 25 grand but the reporter wants to negotiate. I can throw in some perks that aren't part of the salary budget.... things like hair and makeup, a health club membership, etc. These are things often "traded out" by a station for commercial time, and are kinda sorta off the books as far as the news budget is concerned. So if I go this route I've still saved 10 grand.

Back to our intrepid young reporter's question... if you're fresh out of college you have basically little or no bargaining position. Nada, bupkes. You will get lowballed. But you have a better chance of getting perks than cash... as long as you ask politely. Outs don't cost a News Director money, but they are often reluctant to give them to rookies. Do a little homework and find out if other people within a company have outs. Very often a ND will say, "This company doesn't give outs," which is often not true.

By the way, don't equate market size with salary. Some small markets pay better than some medium ones. A lot has to do with the company, cost of living, etc. There's no formula that tells you what market 100 would pay as compared to market 50.

TVNEWSGRAPEVINE, copyright 2011 © Randy Tatano



Anonymous said...

True, no station is the same, but from my experience it seems the range is...

Market 125-200 = 18k to 22k
Market 80-125 = 25k to 32k
Market 40 - 79 = 40k to 50k
Market 20 - 40 = 50k to 65k
Market 1 - 19 = 65k to 90k

Would anyone disagree with this?

-The Grape said...

I would.

I've got a client in a 50's market making 20k more than a client in a 30's market.

And if you really think 70's markets pay reporters 40-50k, you're dreaming.

Every situation is mutually exclusive.

Anonymous said...

Yeah I should've put the midrange minimum at 33k or 35k, not 40k. (The 50k reference was to certain markets in the low 40s or high 30s.)

I'll tell ya, part of the problem too is reporters who are afraid to negotiate. Maybe they're initimidated by the ND. Maybe they think they'll get dropped if they stick up for themselves and ask for a little bit of money after the initial, low-ball offer. Bottom line is I'm finding that some of these reporters need to grow some cajones and play along in the negotiation process, not keel over after two minutes.