Wednesday, 23 April 2014

What is the Salary of a Journalist in India?

How much do Indian journalists earn in a month? What is the median to the pay package and incentives that news reporters and production journalists share?

Some of the commonest queries that I receive from readers, aspiring journalists, and Mass Communication students revolve around salaries and incentives members of news organizations "enjoy." I wouldn't like to encourage false hopes if you are the socialite-type though.

Money. Money. Money. Who would have thought that the good institution also pays its share of tributes to Mr. Mammon. The new media corporate, after all, is also your livelihood, is it not?

Salaries have not always been compassionate to “third-world” journalists. The United States and the United Kingdom, Australia and Canada are where the greener (and taller) grass is. Prosperous Asian economies such as China, South Korean, and Japan, dole out bigger benefits and higher living-standards-to-remuneration ratios too, obviously.

India woke to the plight of journalists late. Thankfully, for the competitive and skilled Indian journalist of the millennial years things are brighter than it was 10 years ago. He can earn well if he is market-savvy, proficient in news-gathering, is dedicated and loves competition.

From Small Change to Green Winds

The new economic realities globalization brought about also found reflection in the way the media industry began interpreting the economics of its employees. Since 1955, the government’s policy-makers have been instating wage boards to review the salaries of professionals in India. For instance, in 2007, the central government instated the Majithia Wage Board for Working Journalists. The wage board is perhaps the most proactive of the wage boards 

if one compares the industry lacunae of the post-globalization boom and the subsequent recession that saw mass layoffs and buyouts. The only problem: There are just too many publishers that want to hoard the money while the actual revenue generators, the news personnel, languish in the BPL pay band.

Even in my own state, I appreciate that a small state newspaper like The Morung Express would implement, although partially, the Wajithia Wage Board recommendations. The Assam Tribune, a more prominent regional newspaper in the North East Region, has also implemented the wages scale recommended by the board. 

Aside from such small graces, journalists of small news publications generally still toil way  beyond their pay bands while their publishers take home more than they ought to.

In India, the digital media and the broadcast organizations have been nudging into the turfs of the print industry since the digital revolution – the New Media – began in the late ‘90s. The shift from traditional print formats to the more convenient digital form intensified the competition. Meaning, news organizations now offer more competitive paychecks and incentives.

Salaries, incentives journalists in India are paid
Salary Median

Variance, and Base Salaries

In India, a journalist with an experience of 4-and-above years earns an average salary of Rs 2, 20,907 (Median) in a year. Professionals in this profession generally do not have a job experience of more than 20 years. Keep in mind, though, that salaries vary. The salary a reporter receives working for TOI would be lower or higher than his counterpart’s paycheck in the Bangalore Mirror. The same goes for production professionals: An editor in NDTV could be making more than does his counterpart in Times News, and so on.

In other words, a journalist’s salary depends on the reach and extent of the news organization he works with. For Instance, TOI, Indian Express, and Hindustan Times, and CNN, NDTV are large organizations and by casual calculations, their employees make a little more than the smaller news organizations. Salaries also vary, depending on the skills, experience and job profile of the journalist.

The variable applies to regional news groups. For instance, Delhi and Mumbai are the news hot-spots of the country. Salary offered by newspaper organizations in Delhi, or the scale offered by television channels in Mumbai, for instance, could be comparatively (and normally ) higher than those in Bangalore or Chennai.

I hope the following medians give you an idea about the salary journalists make on an average.

Note: All the figures given are in the median, and based on national average, for both newspapers and broadcast journalists. Readers may want to check, or read finance news and corporate blogs regularly to stay updated.

Salary of news production professionals

Let us take a look at the average salary of production professionals – production journalists – working with national news organizations. They are professionals with specialized, applied skills and expertise in various areas of production: language and editing, designing, analysis and knowledge of multi-media platforms and applications.

Senior editor/senior subeditor/senior copywriter/senior copy editor with 6-10 years experience In the country’s metropolitan areas such as Bangalore, Chennai, Delhi, Kolkata, and Mumbai can earn anywhere from Rs. 3 lakh to Rs. 7+ lakh per annum.

For an idea of the base earnings that sub-editors and senior sub-editors make, I asked my recent friend Anirban Roy, a former correspondent with a national newspaper. He sent me this text: “With 2-3 years of experience, one will get around Rs. 30, 000 per month in Delhi, and with more than 5 years experience, salary will be around 45, 000 and Rs. 55, 000.” 

That did not sound too bad, did it?

For journalism students in North East India, particularly Nagaland, I felt to add this piece too in case you wish to know. In the Northeast, the median for production journalists is around Rs. 11, 500 per month. A sub editor with an experience of 2-3 years takes home at least Rs. 12, 000 per month. 

Those with more than 5 years of work experience makes in the range of Rs. 19, 000-Rs.25, 000 a month. This is the base salary, without bonus and performance incentives. 

Salary of Reporters

Reporters are journalists that witness events, or research matter and present the collated information – from hard political news and current events to human-interest stories and, sometimes, painful nonsense – to the public.
Unlike the developed countries, the Indian media woke to globalization only in the early 2000s. 

Prior to the advent of New Media, Reporters in India enjoyed some of the most horrifying salaries ever in the media. Even modern media deities such as the Times of India and the Hindustan Times were paying an emotionally disturbing Rs. 5, 000-6, 000 to entry reporters during the beginning of the decade. Competition, and the demands of modern lifestyles and escalating living standards were the chief reasons for which the Indian media decided on a paradigm shift.

Today cub reporters (They are ‘baby’ journalists, you see) working in the metropolitan areas start in the range Rs 8,000 to 12, 000 a month. The more experienced lot, particularly senior political correspondents,  with more than 5 years, have heavier pockets – they earn anywhere from Rs. 5, 00, 000 to 10, 00, 000 per annum inclusive of bonuses and perks.

At the regional level, a cub reporter receives around Rs. 7, 500 a month while those in the 3-5 years experience receive a package in the range of Rs. 12, 000. Senior reporters who have more than 5 years of experience are paid salaries in the range Rs. 20, 000-25, 000.

Hard Work, Star Power and Goals

Media organizations also ‘market’ popular employees to increase their audience. Big audiences translate into big revenues and growth of the company. Visible and popular professionals are promoted and ‘brand marketed’, and in the process increase circulation (print), audience (broadcast) or traffic (web). 

When blogger Nate Sliver of the New York Times shifted his blog to CNN, there was a drop in the stock at the big apple's, while CNN’s increased. Such is the power of ‘totem workers’ in any company. In India, NDTV’s has a totem in star reporter Barka Dutt who you know is one of the channel’s biggest Nelsen ratings insurance. She reportedly receives around Rs. 5 Lakh a month as basic salary.

Do not expect such gratitude from regional publishers in non-metropolitan, non-national news organizations in India, though.

The variables are extensive. Still, do not forget that the size of your salary also depends on your willingness to work hard, and on the degree of passion and dedication to your craft, and of course, your skill-quotient.

Your skill-quotient and work aptitudes decide how much you can earn.  I know people who earn more in a regional newspaper than others do working in a national publication or a news channel. Seriously. 

Such cases are not common, true, but nor are they a rarity either. You can attain the same mark too if you demonstrate the drive and talent that some of the most successful journalists of our times displayed.

©2012 Al Ngullie ALL RIGHTS RESERVED This article contains material protected under International and Federal Copyright Laws and Treaties. Any unauthorized reprint or use of this material is prohibited. No part of this article may be reproduced in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval systemwithout express written permission from the author / publisher.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Top Qualities of ‘successful’ Journalists

What are the qualities that make for a 'good' journalist? The purists might as well go for the pots and pans here but the industry has long abandoned the beacon of righteous welfarism. 

It is all about being practical with the ethics - you can be good all the time but you are no use if you end up on the streets starving, because someone with consistently upgraded skills, high-relearning quotient, and the right market smarts beat you. 

Interpret that dictum within the context of the new corporate. The context has a new visual: Successful journalist. Skills. Knowledge. Confidence. And, yes, the ability to "learn, unlearn, relearn" (Alvin Toffler). 

I am privileged to introduce my friend, policy digger, conflict journalist Avalok Langer of Tehelka. Mr. Langer is one of the brightest young talents to have come out of the region. At last count, his credits are among some of the more scathing testimonies about policy failure and conflict in North India. 

After NDTV, Langer embarked on what he simply calls a “fact-finding” mission across some of the angriest conflict zones in India. North Eastern India included. The journalist reports mostly on conflict, and he puts it modestly, “social and political issues,” in northeast India and East Asia. 

When I asked him to pitch in with his experience, the man threw in this gem of a post exclusively for jobsjournalism.blogspot (I'm upgrading it to a web domain soon). So now, here is the man.

Traits that make for  ‘successful’ news reporters, and news-everyone

I do not think there is any fixed skill-set or checklist that exists to ensure success as a journalist. However, in my short stint as a 'pressman', I have noticed a few traits that do tend to stick out.


It is important to be confident. So much so that even when we don't know what we are talking about, journalists tend to talk with an air of cool, calm confidence, which is so reassuring that you would imagine that they have recently submitted a thesis on the issue. In reality, we probably just read a headline somewhere.  

This ability to 'bullshit' will not only get you through your weekly edit meetings, but will help your survive. However, there is a flipside: journalists need to have an incredible bullshit meter.   We should be the ones flexing out creative verbal prowess and at the same time be able to sift through the sea of garbled information that others throw at us.


Many people would not agree with me, but it is important in today's media to be a generalist as well as a specialist. When you are young, they will ask you to report on random things, things that do not really interest you. In the start of my career, I was stuck in a rut. Constantly, they told me 'you are too young', 'your time will come', but the line to the top is long. I found it easier to jump the line by finding a specialization of sorts and creating a network to back up my choices.  

Time is going to come when there are so many generalists that the media market will be flooded with them. Therefore, find a specialization. However, it important to have a range of topics you are interested in and can report on, that way you are always relevant.


To write, you have to read. To write well, you have to read the best. It is important to read and follow good news magazines and papers. They set the benchmark for what we should aspire for. At the same time, you are aware of what is happening. This gives you perspective as well as helps you cull out story ideas.


When you are in the field, I find the most useful tools are humour, massaging someone's ego, and being constantly on guard. The combination will keep you safe, get you contacts, and help you build your network.


There is no escaping hard work. I might be because I have have recently crossed into the second half of my twenties. But, of late, I have often found myself saying, "This generation of new journalists doesn't know what we went through."  

When I started of with a national TV channel, I worked 15 hours a day, six and half days a week. I did things way beyond my job description including holding a plate while a senior producer, who was looking into the camera, ate a samosa of it.  

However, through the process I picked up a skill set that allows me to expand my media outreach into the audio visual field even today. It important to want, constantly, to learn and evolve. You never know everything. 

However, the work never stops, some of the journalists that I hold in high regard work non-stop. They write for multiple papers and magazines at the same time, producing fresh work on a day-to-day basis, they are a part of TV debates yet somehow manage to balance their family life. Because of that, they are successful and are names to be reckoned with.


In the era of social media, many reach the top by just their ability to market themselves. They push their names, create a brand, win awards and thereby reach the top. They are not necessarily good journalists, but they are successful.  

Having stated that, the ability to market you as a journalist, is something that is very important. You need to be read, and be seen – that is the only way you will be noticed.

Avalok Langer, Principal Correspondent for Tehelka, is currently based in New Delhi. You can read his mind here blog. He is no nonsense.

©2012 Al Ngullie ALL RIGHTS RESERVED This article contains material protected under International and Federal Copyright Laws and Treaties. Any unauthorized reprint or use of this material is prohibited. No part of this article may be reproduced in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval systemwithout express written permission from the author / publisher. 

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Why copy editing is Important

Are copy editors the next dinosaurs? Just saying

In 2008, the American Copy Editors Society invited comments from the public to give reasons why editing – or most ostentatiously ‘copy editing’ – was still important and relevant for newspapers and “modern content.” Society was convinced that “copy editing at America’s newspapers, a cornerstone of fair and honest journalism, is threatened now more than ever.”

Just not to startle you into splashing a typo across your Word, let us simply ignore the job loss figures all the way down to 2012.

The organization was not worried without reasons. Newsroom copy editors in the US, UK and Canada have been hit hard by a spate of buyouts, and layoffs in the print industry in the recent years since the US economy began lurching.

The American slump was acute. The New York Times even banned copy editors from placing their fingers in the buyout pie. Lawrence Downes, a Times editorial board member, even wrote that when copy editors disappear, no one would even notice.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics rattled off scary numbers at 400-job average decrease.

There are reasons. Take with a pinch of salt, for instance, proficiency levels. Thanks to better education, the quality of spoken and written English is far more pronounced and proactive now than it was two decades ago. The prized reporter is the one that does both stories and copy editing. Unlike 2-4 decades down the boulevard, most reporters today are empirical in expression and intolerant to traditions. 

I believe that the steady impetus of both quality education and the discipline offered by the harsh lessons of corporate vagaries have ensured those copy editors in the US no longer take up office space. A copy editor that also brings in scoops is any publication house's ultimate wallet-saver. 
I think I know what military fame is; to be killed on the field of battle and have your name misspelled in the newspapers.”  William T Sherman
So is this the end of the copy editor and his hard-earned expertise in the way of quality language catering? 

Is it over for aspiring copy editors?

No, not at all, and not that I believe they are not, either. Alternatively, at least it appears to be just another bad company stock and poor marketing fortunes of the moneyed Media, not necessarily a rejection of the skill base. 

Another possible consolation you may take refuge in: the copy editors going out are those with what I call a ‘lesser skill quotient.’ It is something not many human resource reps will tell you. Newspapers retain only the more proficient ones normally. I'm just peddling a theory here.   

Look at it this way: the journalism industry in Asia and Europe is on firmer grounds, for now. Asian countries such as India are some of the biggest beneficiaries of outsourced copy editing manna from the US and the UK. The downturn in the western industries also means that the drought would leave Asian freelancers and contract copy editors looking at a collection of good cents on the freelance market.

The downturn still does not explain the likened economics of field personnel like news reporters, and off-station correspondents ejected by the recession in the industry. The business side aside, there is a world of paradigm to relearn here. The economics do not always dictate the indispensability of correct English. Besides the obvious task – brushing and flossing the fangs of our miscalculation – copy editors represent the finer pursuits of excellence to unambiguous and unprejudiced communication. 

They are the insurance to newspapers’ greatest virtue and most important selling point — credibility; a safety net no self-respecting, quality-conscious and credibility-retentive publication would afford to ignore. It is a good business sense.
This gracious announcement was seen pasted in the copy editing and news section of my organization during Christmas week, 2013. The delightful irony was not lost on the copy desk team.     
Why do copy editors and copy editing matter?

The reasons are obvious. 
  • First thing first: Until the apocalypse comes, there will always be something to write about, and writers will always have to need a copy editor sitting in the second chair.
  • English will always need copy editors for the sake of the language itself. For a language that even ‘native speakers’ grapple with in their course of expressing an idea, writers need copy editors to ensure that the message is delivered to the reader the way the writer originally intended. 
  • Correct English is not enough – clarity, style, presentation, and even aesthetic weight are what copy editors add to content. In spite of the newspaper corporate going for mammon, they still do not dare run the risk of losing readership – and credibility – on the altar of circulation. That is where copy editors come in.
  • The copy editor (and relatively, the proofreader) is the last line of editorial defense against shoddy Grammar. They are the guarantee against typographical bloopers that ambush even the most acquiescent reader. They are the "verifiers" against inaccurate or biased details. Copy editors raid dubious statements, watch out for discrepancies, cut out anything that looks even remotely 'foreign'. They are quality-guarantee.
  • Fred Vultee of American Copy Editors Society: “Editing is central to the process of professional journalism; we’re attentive to threats to the roles of reporters and visual journalists so they will be attentive to similar threats to the value of what we contribute as editors.” 
  • The copy editor is the bridge between the writer and the reader. What credibility could a newspaper or publication house possibly gain if their book contained misspellings, grammatical errors, incomprehensible passages, or muddy ideas. How does the author protect his investment and ensure his credibility as a writer? The copy editor ensures a bulwark for the author from the pitfalls of language. 
  • Copy editors offer publications' a safety net that ensures quality and credibility. They “catch” most of the problems that come with words and sentences, presentation and narration, grammar and semantics attributions, design and content, and ideas and intellectual engagement. They are issues only a reckless author or reporter would drop while beating a breaking news, or for the author, churning out a bestseller. The copy editor is the PR manager there. 
  • The work of the copy editor is something that always manages to elude the hallowed attention of the reader. His work is unappreciated and largely invisible – until the reader runs into a typo. That is the only time the credibility and skill of the editor come into question. That is the only time one feels a need for good copy editors. Copy editors, still.
The copy editor stands in for the reading pleasure of the reader, adds to the intellectual vagabond’s literary experience, and perhaps even stands in to provoke critical curiosity in him just by making a sentence look good. The editor reshapes, clarifies and strengthens the value of the content. That's quality assurance.

Proficient copy editors will not go out of business any huff soon. Curiously, according to reliable sources, the apocalypse is at least 100 billion years away. What do you think?

©2012 Al Ngullie ALL RIGHTS RESERVED This article contains material protected under International and Federal Copyright Laws and Treaties. Any unauthorized reprint or use of this material is prohibited. No part of this article may be reproduced in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval systemwithout express written permission from the author / publisher.