Journalists’ Pay Not Keeping Up with…Anything, Really


Get ready to feel a little more sympathy for your journalist contacts.

We all know that full-time editorializing has never paid as well as it should unless your name happens to be E.L. James, but a new report in the American Journalism Review clarifies just how true that is.

The fact that an American reporter’s mean salary rose 10.7% “from $40,090…to $44,360” in the decade between 2003 and 2013 is already a little depressing, but the fact that the mean salary for all occupations rose at nearly three times that rate (from $36,210 to $46,440) is more upsetting.

Unfortunately, this is just another confirmation of the fact that fewer Americans see journalism as a legitimate and sustainable career option.

In 2009, the advantage reporters had held over everyone else disappeared–and now those who write for a living make, on average, less than those in other occupations.

There are several reasons for this shift: widespread layoffs in the media industry; falling revenues at traditional outlets; the general failure of pay in most industries to keep up with inflation; a lack of career mobility fueled by all of these points.

While it’s true that new media outlets are popping up all over the place–especially in the digital realm–most journalists don’t operate on the power of venture capital. They also don’t have founders like Ezra Klein and Nate Silver with name recognition among astute media consumers (if not among the general public).

The conclusion? As we’ve stated repeatedly on this blog, you can expect to interact with fewer journalists in the years ahead. And beyond a certain point, clients won’t have a choice but to create most of their own content, because there won’t be enough journalists or outlets left to cover them.