Career Trajectory & Salary
The individual survey asked respondents about their years of experience in journalism, their years of experience in their current newsroom, how they obtained their current position, and their salary.
Respondents to the individual survey reported a median of 10 years’ experience in journalism, including student journalism, and a median of three years in their current newsroom. We conducted our survey at the tail-end of a shift in labor trends known as the Great Resignation, also known as the Great Reshuffle, which began in 2021 when there was an uptick in worker resignations as the COVID-19 pandemic began to stabilize. We do not have the data to make any conclusions about whether the high turnover rate we saw in this survey was due to the Great Resignation or other factors.
However, our results show there was higher turnover for journalists of color, compared to white journalism employees. White journalism employees had a median of ten years of journalism experience and three years at their current organization, compared to journalism employees of color, who had a median of nine years of journalism experience and one year at their current organization.
About 69% of survey respondents were hired as new employees for their current position, compared to 22% who were promoted to their current position and nine percent who moved laterally into their current position.
Analysts’ Perspectives on Career Trajectories
Analyst Jamila Elder noted the impact of factors such as the exit of journalists from the industry during the COVID-19 pandemic on the ability of newsrooms’ to hire experienced journalists. “Journalists with decades of experience decided to get out of the business because during the pandemic I believe they realized what was important and for a lot of people that was getting to spend time with their families and loved ones. It now appears harder for newsrooms to hire those with years of experience and are now having to hire newer employees with little to no newsroom experience.”
Kaia Niambi Shivers noted the disparity between Black respondents’ years of experience in journalism and their years of experience in the current newsrooms. She wrote, “On another note, career longevity shows Black, white and Hispanic staff had a median of 10 and 11 years as media makers, but they only worked one to three years at the current organization of which they reported. This unsettling trend indicates an issue with representation in terms of the power brokers in newsrooms, which inevitably impact reporting.”
Although comparisons to existing salary estimates are difficult because the survey asked for salary ranges rather than exact figures, estimates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) provides useful context for the salary ranges reported by individual survey respondents. The BLS estimates the mean annual wage of news analysts, reporters and journalists in North Carolina was between $52,440 and $60,880 in 2021. The bottom 25% earn less than $30,580, and the top 25% earn above $60,690.
Only 11% of individual survey respondents earned below $30,000, and 37% earned above $60,000. This may be due to the high proportion— nearly 90%— of respondents from metro newsrooms.
Cost of living data provide another comparison point. More than 40% of respondents to the individual survey earn below $50,000 per year, the approximate threshold of the North Carolina Budget and Tax Center’s Living Income Standard for one adult and one child. The living income standard is distinct from the poverty level and is a calculation of the minimum amount of income needed to pay for basic necessities without any financial cushion for emergencies. In other words, these 43% of respondents earn below the minimum income necessary to make ends meet in the state.
Although the comparison is difficult to make given the small size of subgroups, a similar proportion of leaders as staff earn below $50,000 per year. Nine journalism leaders who responded to the survey made less than $50,000 per year, compared to 13 who made more than $50,000 per year.
Analysts’ Perspectives on Salary
Analyst Kaia Niambi Shivers noted that the percent of respondents earning below $50,000 is particularly troubling given most work in metro areas. “While $50,000 might translate as decent pay in parts of North Carolina, in the metro areas, where most of the reporting news agencies of the survey are located, the rise in the cost of living will strain the bracket of income.” She also notes that sustainable wages are a key component of journalism sustainability, “Part of the issue of sustainability is providing fair and sustainable wages for jobs demanding high performance, long hours, and unaccounted physical labor in traveling, even locally.”
Belonging & Respect
Respondents overall indicated that they feel valued, respected, and have a sense of belonging in their newsroom.
Nearly 70% of respondents to the individual survey agreed that their background and identity are valued in their newsrooms with just under a third saying they strongly agree that their identity and background are valued.
Eighty percent agreed that they feel a sense of belonging in their newsroom, evenly split between those who strongly and somewhat agree.
More than 90% of respondents agreed that they are respected by newsroom colleagues with 56% of respondents strongly agreeing with this statement.
Analysts’ Perspectives on Belonging and Respect
For Cierra Brown Hinton, the results on belonging and respect highlighted respondents’ subjective experiences. “The survey surfaced the possibility that belonging and respect means different things to folks from different cultures; no surprise. The only way we can gain an understanding about what those things mean to our team is through conversation.” She continued, “This also creates an opportunity for us to establish a shared norm for what respect, belonging, or other important values look like within our organization.”