The NUJ has advised its freelance members not to bother writing for local newspapers because it says the fees are too low, writes Dominic Ponsford.
The advice is contained in the latest edition of its Freelance Fees Guide – the annual handbook for self-employed members.
It states: “Freelance rates in many papers have not risen in proportion to either the cost of living or to staff salaries and it is difficult for the NUJ to recommend that members work for these papers.
“For a freelance, the only plus in this area is that it may provide chances to have your byline noticed – useful if you are a newcomer, but not otherwise.”
NUJ activist and freelance journalist Chris Wheal said: “I wouldn’t go to local papers because the pay’s rubbish. I try not to do anything paying under £300 per thousand and you aren’t going to get anywhere near that on a local paper, so what’s the point? “It’s about time we started saying to freelances: stop taking this work.”
The new NUJ fees guide suggests minimum rates ranging from £580 per thousand words for a feature article in the national press to £220 per thousand for small circulation trade magazines.
The guide suggests that the minimum rate is £50 for a page lead published in a regional daily and £45 for an ordered 300-word news story.
The trade organisation for local newspapers, the Newspaper Society, said it did not comment on matters relating to pay. But Society of Editors director Bob Satchwell said: “Editors have to set a rate that their paper can afford.”