2020 Research: Newsroom salaries

September 22, 2020 11:00

TV News Salaries

For the first time since 2012, local TV news salaries fell in 2019. Following last year’s 3.1% increase, wages rose by 0.9%, but when accounting for 2.3% inflation, real wages fell 1.4%. after last year’s 3.1% increase.
On average, 65% of salaries increased and 35% decreased. 40% of median salaries— more indicative of typical pay—went up, compared to 35% that decreased and 25% that remained the same.
Generally, those farther down the pay scale did better than those at the higher end. As a group, the salaries of digital team members did better than any other. Download your salary guide to find minimum, maximum, median and average salaries for each newsroom position.
Long-Term Picture
Even with a comparatively poor salary showing this year, TV news salaries are running ahead of inflation compared to both five and ten years ago, though some newsrooms positions aren’t comparable as they’ve evolved over time.
Clearly running well ahead of inflation: managing editor, news anchor, sports anchor, photographer and video editor. Download the complete salary guide to see how your salary is trending over time.
Market Size
Salaries generally go up with market size and staff size.
By market size, more salaries went up in the smallest markets, 151+, than any other. Otherwise, there wasn’t much difference in general movement from one market to the next, although markets 26 to 50 and 101 to 150 had more down salaries than other market groups.
By position, only reporter and news assistant went up in every market size. On the other end, news director and news anchor were both down or the same in four of the five market sizes. Download the full salary guide to see salary breakdowns by market size.
Newsroom Size
No newsroom staff size had more than 60% of the positions move up in salary from a year ago. Newsrooms with 31 to 40 staffers fared a little worse than others, with a majority of newsroom positions dropping in salary compared to last year.
Note that the two smallest newsroom groups include a number of newsrooms in the biggest markets, so salary numbers for those groups tend to be erratic. Independent commercial station salaries tended to be higher than most, and non-commercial salaries tend to be lower -- as both usually are. Differences by network or region were inconsistent and inconsequential. Download the complete salary guide for more on salaries by newsroom staff size.
Starting Pay
After last year’s mixed picture, typical stating pay in local TV news went up by $2,000 this year – from $28,000 to $30,000. Average remained the same at $30,500. Note that, once again, average and median starting pay in radio is higher than average and median starting pay in TV.
The National Association of Colleges and Employers reports that in 2019, the average starting salary for recent college grads was $50,944.
When I started full time work at WCCO-TV in 1970, the station was embarrassed that it could only pay me $175 per week. Based on inflation, 1970’s $9,100 a year salary is worth $60,760 today.
In 1999, I wrote an article for the Communicator magazine, noting that broadcasting is just about the lowest-paying profession a college graduate could enter. Nothing positive has changed over the years.
The order of starting salaries by role is exactly the same as last year (as usual) with three exceptions: web jumped in at number five, weather jumped in at number seven; and studio technical and anchor swapped positions this time around. Download the complete salary guide for average starting salary breakdowns by job title.
How does your salary compare?

Take a closer look at our data and see how your job’s pay compares – in your newsroom, across market and newsroom sizes, and over time – with detailed breakdowns by position in our salary guides.

TV News Salary Guide - Free for members. $25 for non-members.

Radio News Salary Guide - Free for members. $25 for non-members.
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Radio News Salaries

The latest newsroom survey found that local radio news salaries rose by 4.5% from last year. That’s triple last year’s increase of 1.7%. Factor in modest inflation of 2.3%, and radio salaries gained 2.2% in real wage growth. That compares with a small loss against inflation of 0.2% a year ago.

News producer, news anchor, sports reporter and web producer/editor salaries all went up in both average and median salaries. News reporter and sports anchor were mixed. News director dropped in both average and median salary. Download your salary guide to find minimum, maximum, median and average salaries for each newsroom position.

Long-term Trends
Over the last five years, every radio newsroom position salary has been running ahead of inflation. This marks the third year in a row, radio salaries have beat inflation in a five-year comparison. Radio salaries – except for sports reporter – are also beating inflation over the last ten years. Download the complete salary guide to see how your salary is trending over time.
Position and Market Size
News director salaries fell in both major and large markets and came in unchanged in both medium and small markets. News reporters earned more in major and small markets but less in large and medium markets. No market size was consistently up or down.
Mostly, salaries go up as market size goes up. They also tend to go up as staff size increases, but much of that is a function of market size as well. Overall, salaries in the Northeast were higher than other areas, followed by the West. Download the full salary guide to see salary breakdowns by market size.
Commercial vs Public
What makes a huge difference in pay is commercial radio versus non-commercial. Overall, non-commercial salaries are 39.5% higher than commercial ones. But that’s not a fair comparison. The vast majority of non-commercial stations surveyed are in large and major markets. So I compared commercial and non-commercial salaries only in the two largest market groups.
In major and large markets, average non-commercial salaries are higher for three comparable positions, and commercial stations come out on top in two. Median salaries, which tend to be more representative, are higher in all five comparable job categories at non-commercial stations – by 27.5%. That’s four points higher than the margin last year. Find more commercial vs public radio salary comparisons in the complete salary guide.
Starting Salaries
In radio, average starting pay rose $500 and median pay rose $900, continuing a growth trend. News reporter remains the top hire with a more than 3 to 1 margin over news producer, which jumped over news anchor this year. Download the complete salary guide for average starting salary breakdowns by job title.
Note that the average starting pay in non-commercial radio is nearly $10,000 a year higher than commercial radio; the median starting salary is almost $8,000 per year higher. In fairness, more of those non-commercial stations are in large and metro markets which tend to have higher salaries overall.
Major markets are those with 1 million or more listeners. Large markets are those from 250,000 to 1 million; medium markets are from 50,000 to 250,000; and small markets have fewer than 50,000 listeners.
More from the annual newsroom survey including trends and threats and newsroom diversity at RTDNA.org/research.
About the Survey
The RTDNA/Newhouse School at Syracuse University Survey, funded in part by the Lawrence Herbert School of Communication at Hofstra University, was conducted in the fourth quarter of 2019 among all 1,702 operating, non-satellite television stations and a random sample of 3,427 radio stations. Valid responses came from 1,313 television stations (77.1%) and 673 radio news directors and general managers representing 1,996 radio stations. Some data sets (e.g. the number of TV stations originating local news, getting it from others and women TV news directors) are based on a complete census and are not projected from a smaller sample.
About Bob Papper
Bob Papper is Adjunct Professor of Broadcast and Digital Journalism at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University and has worked extensively in radio and TV news.