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The media recession: MPR pay freeze

If you recently pitched in to a Minnesota Public Radio pledge drive, rest assured your donation won’t go to higher staff salaries: The news/music behemoth instituted an indefinite employee pay freeze a couple of weeks ago, MPR communications manager Jennifer Haugh confirms.

Haugh insists MPR isn’t in trouble, but prudently limiting expenses in an economic headwind. The budget paradigm is keeping employment up rather than salaries. MPR has had some layoffs recently, though some grant-funded MPR initiatives are hiring. And if I get stray reports of new high-salaries managers coming on board, I’ll let you know.

Staffers with a fall salary review can’t be happy, though. (As a non-union shop, they’re at management’s mercy.) And no, I haven’t seen Bill Kling’s 1040 recently.

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Comments (2)

  1. Submitted by Bob Collins on 10/29/2008 - 12:07 pm.

    Well, no, staffers can’t be happy about it. But that implies an objection and that’s not really the case as near as I can tell. We’re not stupid. We know the state of the economy. We know the state of the news business and we know the devastating effect of layoffs not only on those inside a newsroom, but on the quality of the product that comes from newsrooms with big cuts.

    It’s prudent of MPR to anticipate what every rational person knows is going to be a bad year ahead so that it doesn’t come down to that.

    I admit I told the boss before the pay freeze was announced that I wouldn’t take a pay increase were it to be offered. And for good reason. The people who work here not only love what we do, but who we do it for — the people who are members.

    And I realize it’s chic to take potshots at Bill Kling, but the fact of the matter is that Kling and the people who supported MPR built the most admired Public Radio system in the country thanks to his vision. And every day, he comes in to work and works, just like real people do.

    Are we at “management’s mercy”? Sure. As my old pappy said, “if you want job security, join the Army” (there wasn’t a war back in 1979). And it would be the the Dickensian novel you suggest if it weren’t for the fact that management is right here working next to us to make the product even better. We still are compensated well for our talents, we have health care, we get vacations, and our retirement contributions are still being matched. We spend our money in the community, we enrich the community and we, too, benefit from the community. We have the creative freedom that is the envy of every journalist anywhere. We make a difference by getting up and going to work each day. Boy, if you ask me, that’s as close to a perfect life for a journalist as you can have.

    This isn’t a sweat shop. It’s a damned fine organization full of caring individuals from the very top to the very bottom who work hard. And when other newsies get laid off in this market, even the ones who silently — or not — wish we’d disappear, there’s a reason MPR is the first call they make.

    Yes, we’re all making a short-term sacrifice for the long-term success of the organization we helped build and continue to support. And while we don’t have a union, we do have a team. I’ve worked in both environments. I’ll take this one every time, and thank the members who made it possible.

    In fact, tomorrow, I’m giving a tour of the joint to a guy on Twitter I’ve never met, who posted that he contibuted last week. Trust me, I’ll give that tour with great pride.

  2. Submitted by David Brauer on 10/29/2008 - 12:16 pm.

    Bob – you’re right, the Kling reference was kinda cheap, but I think it’s fair to wonder how the pain gets spread evenly in the upper ranks as well as the lower. (An across-the-board freeze is not progressively equitable, in my opinion.)

    Should mention, too, I have spoke to MPR folks who are anything but sanguine about this. They get the big pic, but they’re disappointed especially since the freeze is effectively retroactive back as much as 11 months for those with reviews just coming up.

    None of this is meant to denigrate MPR’s quality or team functioning, but to illustrate the real world financials of today.

    It’s worth noting that union shops (Strib and PiPress) will still get incremental wages in their contracts, though perhaps at the cost of employment. Different philosophy, but one the workers have a bit more say in.

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