Journo Salary Sharer: How much do reporters make?

A thousand reporters (most in their 20s and 30s) shared their salaries using Journo Salary Sharer, and the majority of them make between $25,000 and $55,000 a year.

One of the most interesting things I saw when I started to look at the survey results was how quickly reporter pay increases with just a few years of experience.

But before we dig into other interesting takeaways from the survey, this is just your daily reminder that this isn’t a scientific study. It’s a self-reported, non-random sample, so while it’s interesting and hopefully useful, it’s not technically statistically representative of the industry.

How many reporters took the survey

As of Sunday afternoon, 1,070 reporters took the survey and entered their salaries (a few dozen more took the survey but did not enter their salary.)

I defined “reporter” as everyone whose title included “reporter,” “writer” or “journalist,” and excluded those who categorized themselves as photo, video, copy editors or marketing. (I’m digging into those categories later in their own posts.)

Of those who entered their salaries:

Slightly more women took the survey than men, at a ratio of 5:4.

There’s an even split between sizes of companies:

  • 338 (32%) from large organizations (100+ editorial staff)
  • 338 (32%) from medium outlets (20–100 editorial staff)
  • 343 (32%) from small newsrooms (2–20 editorial staff)
  • And 47 respondents (4%) who work on their own, which includes freelancers

Half of responses came from high cost-of-living cities. Just less than 30 percent came from medium-cost cities, and 22 percent from low-cost cities.

The majority of respondents were between 24 and 33 years old. Here’s the whole age breakdown:

The majority of Journo Salary Sharer respondents were in their mid-20s to mid-30s.

What’s the range of salaries for reporters who responded?

More than 90% of the salaries shared fall between $20K and $90K. More than 60% fall between $25K and $55K. Here’s a look at the spread of responses:

This graphic excludes ten people who reported salaries higher than $150K.

How does reporter pay increase with experience?

The median salary for first year reporters in the survey was $36K. But by the time a reporter had five years of experience, the median salary increased to $50K. And of the reporters with ten years of experience who took the survey, the median salary was $64K.

The dip at 6 years of experience could just be a fluke from working with a small, self-reported, non-scientific data set — only 56 respondents said they had exactly 6 years of experience, compared with 138 with 5 years of experience. Or it could hint at a real issue — like those who entered the workforce during the recession are still feeling the effects of starting at a lower salary. But it’s impossible to tell from this survey — determining something like that requires professional research methods, not just an online survey.

Here’s a more detailed look at salaries broken down by years of experience, for reporters with 1 to 10 years of experience:

These results suggest that salaries do increase for reporters during their first 10 years on the job. However, there are still a fair number of reporters making less than $40K, even after five or ten years in the industry, especially in smaller cities.

How do salaries for reporters compare between places like New York and San Francisco and less expensive cities?

This graphic uses the middle 75% of respondents in order to exclude outliers. That means 75% of people in each of these categories who reported their salaries using Journo Salary Sharer fall within these ranges.

Not unexpected, the pay is higher in cities with a higher cost of living. The median salary for respondents in a high-cost city like New York was $55K. In more average-cost cities, like Minneapolis or Phoenix, the median salary reported was $43K. And in low-cost cities, like Dayton or Memphis, the median salary was $34K.

(In case you’re an economics nerd wondering what benchmark I used for those examples of what’s a high vs. medium vs. low cost-of-living city, I found those while looking at Bureau of Economic Analysis data on 2013 regional price parities.)

What about the size of the company?

Looking at the responses, it appears that as the newsroom size increases, so does the range of salaries. It’s worth noting, though, that these salaries could be more related to the cost of living than to the organization size — there are fewer large news organizations (with 100+ editorial employees) in low-cost cities, so it’s hard to tell.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this graphic drew the range for large companies incorrectly (but contained the correct numbers: $37,125 to $92,000).

It’s interesting how freelancers and others operating alone have a wider range of reported salaries than those working as staffers within an organization.

What about specialized reporters?

That’s what’s next after I finish these broad categories. I’d love to dig into reporting specializations (both by medium, like radio reporters, and by beat, like education reporters).

I’m hoping in the next two weeks, you can continue to encourage other journalists you know in these roles to share their salaries. I’ll write a post for each reporting specialty that gets at least 50 entries. So far, the leading beat contenders are: investigative reporters, tech reporters, education reporters and sports reporters. But none of those have even 25 entries yet, so if you know anyone in those jobs, please encourage them to share their salaries.

What other questions do you have about how much reporters make?

For more about the limitations of this survey data and my process in handling it, see my earlier post.

CORRECTION: The graphic about salary ranges by company size has been updated.

Holler at me on Twitter (@JuliaJRH) or email (Julia.Haslanger@journalism.cuny.edu).

Next ⇛ How much do editors make?

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