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To anyone who believes that upper management at the Washington Post isn’t moving quickly to reduce the cost of getting out the news, take a look at the paper’s latest maneuver. It’s called a “Community Journalist” position.

In a Jan. 29 letter to the Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild, the paper’s newsroom union, the Post proposes that the position’s “primary focus” will be to “report on stories of local and community interest for the Extras and to perform multimedia work,” whatever that means.

And then the important part. Community Journalists at the Post would be paid about $34,000 a year, or about $10,000 less than the minimum reporter’s salary as provided for in the newsroom’s union contract—-and several pay brackets below the newsroom pay average.

Is this just a way around the paper’s labor compacts? Sure looks that way. In the letter to the guild, the Post tries to paint a different picture—-that it’s merely creating a new position within the union’s bargaining unit. If you buy that spin, Community Journalists would merely be adding a new layer of reportorial muscle to the brand.

Newsroom activists see another scenario playing itself out. When contacted on the matter, newsroom guild rep Robert Pierre pointed to a statement he’d put out on the matter. It’s available at the guild’s Web site for Post negotiations: “We say this sounds a lot like the positions we already have. They’re called reporters. In this economy, someone will surely want these jobs. But, be clear, they will do the work we do now for a lower wage.” Also, see pdf of Post proposal.