Jason Whitlock’s really forgotten about being a small-time journalist. Guess a few years at ESPN will do that to you.
Last night, Whitlock tweeted that he’s looking to hire an intern down in Los Angeles. OK, people do that all the time, and a guy as busy as Whitlock is/wants people to think he is should probably have one.
But he also included in the tweet what he expected to pay said intern/assistant: $8-$10 an hour.
Those who have much more familiarity with the cost of living in southern California than Whitlock replied to him that such a wage is essentially ridiculous. Whitlock didn’t take it well, by this string of tweets:
I started at $5 an hour. I’m looking for someone passionate who wants it. I started at the bottom.
You can see what’s wrong w/America by some of the responses. People think this shit is easy and should be handed to them.
I lived in a 1-room efficiency w/roaches my first year out of college…. Keep watching MTV and VH1 and the un-reality shows.
I was one who fired a retort tweet. No surprise, Whitlock didn’t respond. But I think I’ll embellish on my thoughts here.
It’s obvious I have a problem with Whitlock’s attitude. He’s also comparing apples and oranges.
Whitlock boasts about making a mere $5 an hour and living in a one-bedroom apartment with roaches at his first writing job out of college.
Two important details to note: Assuming his first job was after he graduated from Ball State, Whitlock started in the early 90′s. He also started out in Indiana.
In 1990, the federal minimum wage (which is also the minimum wage in Indiana) was raised from $3.35 an hour to $3.80 an hour. So Whitlock was making somewhere between 31.6 percent to 49.3 percent over minimum wage in his state.
Federal minimum wage now is $7.25, but in California it’s $8.00 even. So if Whitlock really wanted to replicate his experience, he would have to offer $10.50 an hour to $12 and hour at least. (Although if he acts like most media employers, the $10 is a carrot and he’s really not going to go over $8.50.)
Also, an important comparison in real estate should be considered. All things considered, Indiana is dirt-cheap to live in. One-bedroom apartments in Bloomington, a city Whitlock once worked in, can be found for well under $500 a month. You could make a go of that at $8 an hour.
In L.A., however? Whitlock’s rate wouldn’t even get a “one-bedroom efficiency with roaches.” More like the standing-room closet.
But forget a cost-of-living comparison. My annoyance at Whitlock’s statement really comes down to one of attitude.
Whitlock’s statements are an example of a too-frequent attitude among “old-school” journalists or anybody who started in the business before the start of this century: Your first media job should put you in a crappy living and money situation to toughen you up, and make you “earn your keep” in the business.
What a load of crap.
Yes, I have my battle story too, Mr. Whitlock. My first internship was for $500 a month. My first writing gig out of college, a good 15 years after yours, I made $9 an hour. I also had a falling out with my college roommates so I had to move into that one-bedroom roach place you so think everybody should have to live in. But in California, you can’t afford that on $9 an hour, so I was having to get $100 a month from my parents to make ends meet.
I now, of course, make more, but still less per week than Whitlock made when he left the Charlotte Observer and went to the Ann Arbor News 20 years ago. But I don’t look back on it fondly and say “That’s when I became a real journalist, by starting at the bottom” like Jason Whitlock does. I don’t think I grew from that. I don’t look back now on those times fondly.
I only view it as a miserable part of my life. I felt like I was failing myself, failing my parents who had saved for 20 years for college funds (I didn’t have a football scholarship unlike Whitlock) only to have me still needing money from them and failing anybody who thought that weird, quiet kid with a lot of random knowledge in his head was going to be successful.
No, there’s not anything good about that, nothing redeeming to take away from it. When I was there, I told myself “I wouldn’t wish these thoughts and worries on anybody.” I’m sticking to that.
Unlike Jason Whitlock, if I were to ever land a columnist gig with a large Midwest metro paper for 16 years plus ink large-figure writing deals with ESPN, AOL and Fox Sports and then launch out on my own brand, I will not voluntarily put somebody in that same misery-inducing position I found myself in five years ago. Then I won’t have the smug, idiotic attitude to tweet I’m doing them a favor by doing so.
I’m not interested in continuing a semi-hazing culture in the media world that’s already robbed it of too many young, talented writers. Leave that junk in the locker room at Ball State.