European Federation of Journalists

Young journalists in Germany demand better pay for better journalism

A delegation of about 20 young German journalists together with the Deutscher Journalisten-Verband (DJV) and Deutsche Journalisten Union (dju in ver.di) met with publishers to demand better working conditions on 25 April 2018 in Berlin. They insisted that publishers have to invest in the future generation of journalists or the “generation Erasmus” will leave and with them the young topics that attract young readers. The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) strongly supports the demands for investing in young journalists.

This happened in the context of very difficult negotiations between the unions, DJV and dju in ver.di and the publishers association Bundesverband Deutscher Zeitungsverleger (BDZV). After five rounds, there has been no agreement so far for the about 13.000 newspaper journalists. Strikes throughout Germany have been taking place. The negotiations for the magazine sector are starting as well. The unions request 4,5 percent more income for employed and freelance journalists working at daily newspapers and at least 200EUR more for young editors – these are the demands for newspaper journalists. Read the full manifesto below.

Manifesto of young journalists

Dear ladies and gentlemen, dear publishers,

We are a delegation of young journalists from Baden-Wuerttemberg, Mecklengburg-Vorpommern, Nordrhein-Westfalen and Bavaria. We are here to clarify why we demand more pay in the new collective agreement.

Since our first internships in journalism, we have been warned about the future as journalists. “The future is uncertain” we were told or “you can barely live from journalism.” It was always made clear to us that it would be extremely difficult to find a job in journalism which provides financial security and a perspective for life.

Nevertheless, we are here: we have become journalists. What we do today is much more than journalists in the past. We write articles, create online graphics and multi-media reports or do live-blogs. We write special supplements and thematic series. Or we record videos and podcasts.

Surely, we did not choose journalism to become rich. The way into journalism was difficultAs freelancers we started with 10ct per line. Next to our studies we did many unpaid internships to live of 1500EUR net for two years during our practical training – with constantly increasing cost of living. Despite this long education many starting positions are temporary.

We work overtime, late night and at weekends und send articles on the move. We improve our concept ideas and camera skills during our free time and attend further training seminars at the weekend. The demands rise, our salary does not.

We went into journalism because we believe in the profession and we want to work to secure its future. One could say, it is a passion.

But: At some point even the biggest passion is not sufficient anymore. When we do not have job security, when we do not get space for our own ideas, when we are threatened by cost-saving measures and especially: when our work is not being appreciated, also financially, we leave.

At every restructuring it was said that the newspaper has to become more digital and attract young people. At the same time the profession of the journalist becomes more and more unappealing while we as digital natives are needed.

You cut many allowances since 2014. We only have 30 instead of 34 holidays. We receive less annual payment and less holiday salary…

Especially online editorial offices are out-sourced to avoid the collective agreement. These predominantly young online colleagues are significantly worse off. Is that how you imagine the digital future of the newspaper?

You want well-trained junior staff who feed all channels around the clock and provide us with an offer that causes us to lose real money every year. An offer that is not even above the inflation rate of 1.8 percent. Since 2000 there has not been a revenue increase for journalists that was above the inflation rate. Therefore, your current offer is no basis on which we want to negotiate the future of journalism. Whoever does saving on journalists, loses readers.

The times have changed. We have alternatives. We know many good journalists who after two, three years transferred into the press offices of Audi, Lidl, Bosch and Co.

At young online portals, the public broadcasting channels and in the private sector they are looking for people like us. Because we can juggle with data and master video editing, interact on social platforms and like to try new formats. We maintain the opinion whoever invests, creates and tries not only receives good and motivated junior staff but also pursues new and lucrative entrepreneurial ways. Most companies have realised that and adapt to it.

ANECDOTE: On the journey here a manager from a middle-class company told us “Back in the day young people were simply grateful to have a job. Today one really has to offer them something.” And what about us?

Already in 2013 journalist Anke Vehmeier criticised in a Springer publication that editorial offices do not support young talents sufficiently. We still do not feel any improvement.

We are the generation Erasmus that does not necessarily tie itself to a location or organisation but leaves if the appreciation is missing.

For you, dear publishers, this is a problem. When young people leave, so do the young topics. Of course, you need editors with longstanding experience, with great expertise and noble writing. But with young topics you aim to reach young people online and in print. And it is us whose abilities you need for young topics, the digital now and the future. If you do not invest in us now you will create your own shortage of skilled workers!

We do not demand salaries like those at Bosch or SWR. We demand: make an effort for us! That includes the salary.

For comparison: for press spokes-persons salaries begin at 44,000EUR gross annual income. Even much more. Nationally active corporations pay its press spokespeople 85,000EUR annually. The path into the profession is the same. The salary differs. Many of our former colleagues therefore went into PR.

Chief editors and trainers notice that the number of good applications for practical trainings and journalist schools has dropped. “It is not so easy anymore to find good junior staff”, said one of our chief editors recently.

Nevertheless: we want to stay in this profession and we would like to remain at a daily newspaper. We believe in this kind of journalism and we think that especially with regional digital newspaper journalism good money can be earned.

As publishers you have a sociopolitical mission. In times when journalism is under attack, key word lying press, you need well-trained junior staff that regains the trust of the readers. We have the impression it is only about saving instead of vision. For efficiency instead of quality.

Invest your money rather into our work. You know that we are the future. Show us this through appreciation and a significant salary raise. Only under this condition the profession will remain appealing for top-trained junior journalists.

The newspaper is being done by humans. You do not want an uncritical content-deliverer, do you?

Do not take our idealism for granted. Because we will leave the sinking ship in an emergency. Do not continue to destroy journalism through savings. Otherwise, you will have to build your future alone.

Thank you very much.

Read the German version here.

Photo Credit: DJV Wolfgang Grebenhof