Local TV news jobs, salaries decline in 2008

2008 saw declines in local TV news employment and salaries but set a record in the amount of news on air, according to the 2009 RTNDA/Hofstra University Annual Survey released April 19 at the Radio-Television News Directors Association (RTNDA) convention during the NAB Show in Las Vegas.

Overall, local TV news jobs declined 4.3 percent, and salaries fell 4.4 percent last year. The survey also revealed that despite the personnel declines, on average, stations did a record 4.6 hours of news each weekday. It also found more than half of stations are making a profit on local news.

Stations are looking for news to carry them forward, said Bob Papper, director of the survey and professor and chairman of the department of journalism at Hofstra University. "Television is clearly suffering from the same stress as the entire economy, but stations are by no means giving up on local news," he said.

Even so, the declines in TV news jobs and salaries are expected to continue this year, but appear as if they will improve in 2010, Papper added.

Key survey findings include:

  • TV news shed 1200 jobs in 2008. The 4.3 percent decline was greater than the 3.8 percent drop in overall U.S. employment. By way of comparison, U.S. newspapers reported cutting newsroom staff by 5900 jobs, or 11.3 percent, in 2008.
  • Almost four times as many stations reported cutting jobs as adding jobs.
  • Hardest hit by salary cuts were news reporters (down 13.3 percent), news anchors (down 11.5 percent), weathercasters (down 9.1 percent) and sports anchors (down 8.9 percent).
  • The typical station added a half-hour of local news per weekday in 2008, setting a new record for the amount of news: 4.6 hours per weekday. Weekends stayed the same.
  • The number of stations running news in 2008 dropped from 774 to 770. So far in 2009, three stations have stopped originating news, but three stations have started or announced plans to start local news, keeping the total at 770.
  • Of the four stations that stopped originating news in 2008, two are running news from another station. In 2009, two of the three stations that stopped originating news are running news from another station.

The RTNDA/Hofstra University Survey was conducted the fourth quarter of 2008 among all non-satellite TV stations and a random sampling of radio stations.