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A move to greener pastures.

There are those in journalism who question whether the industry's pay scale sufficiently compensates its newsgatherers. Everyone seems to know someone who crossed over into public relations, corporate communications or another field to find a life of relative comfort, if not leisure.

Paul Critchlow, 44, is a real-life example, not one of those told-around-the-water-cooler myths. This is his story, as told to Heidi Evans.

"I went to work at The Philadelphia Inquirer in 1972, right out of Columbia, where I was making less than $10,000 a year.

"I started out as a transportation writer, then was assigned to the state capital bureau in Harrisburg. Then I became the chief political writer in Philadelphia.

"I was getting good assignments and I just loved it, the thrill of the byline and ability to influence the course of events. My pay just never rose very quickly.

"Then we had a child in 1974. With each move upward, I expected a significant pay raise. In my mind that would be $50 a week, or $2,500 a year. Instead I was told 'we'll see how you do.'

"I thought that implied a lack of confidence. As it turns out I did very well. In six months I was told 'you've done a great job, we're really happy, we are giving you a raise of $20 a week.' That is when it really began to sink in (how poorly reporters are paid) because living in Philadelphia was not cheap. At that time (1976), my pay had risen to $22,500.

"I really worked very long, hard hours. I threw my heart and soul into my job. I still loved it but I was getting very frustrated as I . . . wanted to do better by my family. Then I began to think about the future and it began to trouble me a great deal. Not only myself but my colleagues were not paid even comparable to what communications or public information officers in government were paid.

"You just couldn't get ahead financially. The raises rarely, if at all, kept pace with inflation, which was high in those days.

"My wife was not working. We wanted to have other children. We were constrained from doing so."

Q. So what did you do?

A. "I had met Dick Thornburgh through my work. He then was the U.S. Attorney in Pittsburgh. When he decided to run for governor in 1977 I was one of the first people he hired. I signed on as his press secretary for $27,000 (a $4,500 pay increase over his job at the Inquirer).

"It was risky, but I thought it would be a ticket to a different kind of career. When I presented that to my superiors at the Inquirer, they tried to talk me out of it. They came close to matching it (the $4,500 raise).

"My response was: 'Why didn't you do that all aloong the way? (Raise my pay). Then I wouldn't have ever come to this point.' So I left.

"The rest is history. Thornburgh won. I became his press secretary in January, 1979, when he took office, earning $42,000. By the time I left Thornburgh in late 1984, my salary was $60,000."

"It was a very painful decision at the time. I always entertained the thought that I would go back (to newspapers), but then financially it was not worth it."

Critchlow is now the senior vice-president for communications at Merrill Lynch, having taken the job Larry Speakes left in 1988. While Critchlow declined to disclose his salary, citing company policy, newspaper accounts at the time put Speakes' salary at about $300,000 a year.

Q. Are you saying then, that but for $4,500, you might still have been a reporter at the Inquirer?

A. "I think it's quite possible that I would still be there or in the newspaper business, because I loved it so much. But you couldn't sustain a family. You can't improve the quality of your life in the way that you can in the communications fields.

"I think publishers are shortsighted in not recognizing the professionalism that is required to put out a good product. A newspaper's success is usually based on the quality of its news content. They ought to be investing in the people who produce that content, just as the private sector invests in people to run their computers or manage their sales force."
COPYRIGHT 1991 Society of Professional Journalists
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Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Special Report: Journalism vs. the Economy; journalists' salaries
Publication:The Quill
Article Type:Cover Story
Date:Apr 1, 1991
Previous Article:Working for peanuts.
Next Article:Riding out the storm.

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