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Journalism Salaries

What You Can Expect to Earn In the News Business

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So what kind of salary can you expect to make as a journalist?

If you've spent any time at all in the news business, you've probably heard a reporter say this: "Don't go into journalism to get rich. It'll never happen." By and large, that's true. There are certainly other professions (finance, law and medicine, for example) that, on average, pay much better than journalism.

But if you're lucky enough to get and keep a job in the current climate, it is possible to make a decent living in print, online or broadcast journalism. How much you make will depend on what media market you're in, your specific job and how much experience you have.

Note: The other complicating factor in this discussion is the economic turmoil hitting the news business. Many newspapers are in financial trouble and have been forced to lay off journalists, so at least for the next several years, salaries are likely to remain stagnant or even fall.

Big Media Markets vs. Smaller Ones

It's a fact of life in the news business: Reporters working at big papers in major media markets earn more than those at smaller papers in smaller markets. So a reporter working at The New York Times will likely take home a fatter paycheck than one at the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

This makes sense. The competition for jobs at big papers in large cities is more fierce than for papers in small towns. Generally, the biggest papers hire people with many years of experience, who would expect to be paid more than a newbie.

And don't forget - it's more expensive to live in a city like Chicago or Boston than, say, Dubuque, which is another reason why the bigger papers tend to pay more.

Editors vs. Reporters

While reporters get the glory of having their byline in the paper, editors generally earn more money. And the higher an editor's rank, the more he or she will be paid. So a managing editor will make more than a city editor.

Experience

It just stands to reason that the more experience someone has in a field, the more they are likely to be paid. This is also true in journalism, though there are exceptions. A young hotshot reporter who moves up from a small-town paper to a big city daily in just a few years will often make more than a reporter with 20 years of experience who's still at a small paper.

So Let's Get Specific

In rough terms, reporters at small papers can expect to earn $20,000 to $30,000; at medium-sized papers, $35,000 to $55,000; and at large papers, $60,000 and up. Editors earn a bit more. News websites, depending on their size, would be in the same ballpark as newspapers.

Here are some examples of weekly salaries for experienced reporters at a variety of newspapers from around the U.S. These figures come from the Newspaper Guild, the union for print journalists. All figures are estimates for 2010.

Note: The Newspaper Guild represents about 250 newspapers in the U.S. and Canada. Salaries at non-Guild papers are typically lower.

Reporters

  • New York Times: $1777.83
  • Providence Journal: $1245
  • Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: $1100.83
  • Lexington Herald-Leader Daily: $685

Copy Editors

  • New York Times: $1777.83
  • Providence Journal: $1297.5
  • Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: $1115.14
  • Lexington Herald-Leader Daily: $685

Broadcast

At the low end of the salary scale, beginning TV reporters make about the same as beginning newspaper reporters. But in big media markets, salaries for TV reporters and anchors skyrocket. Reporters at stations in large cities can earn well into the six figures, and anchors in large media markets can earn $1 million or more annually.

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