Newsroom staffing remains flat, finds RTDNA/Hofstra survey

A total of 952 television stations are airing local news across the United States, and 717 stations are responsible for originating that news content, according to the latest RTDNA/Hofstra University Annual Survey.

Laying out the survey’s findings on the association’s website, the study’s author Bob Papper, professor emeritus in the Department of Journalism, Media Studies and Public Relations at Hofstra University, noted that while the number of journalists working in local TV news across the country fell by 48 positions to 27,605, the number of journalists per TV newsroom actually grew because of a slight contraction in the number of stations.

Since 2005 when 778 stations originated local news, there’s been a steady decline, according to Papper. “Some of those were marginal operations to begin with, but quite a few TV newsrooms have been subsumed in some sort of consolidation or shared services agreement,” writes Papper, adding that rate of decline in the number stations originating news is now eight per year.

However, Papper said 2012 was the first year the number of stations broadcasting local news originated by a different station has declined.

The annual survey, which tracks newsroom hiring trends, revealed that on average in 2012 stations hired 5.6 replacement personnel. New hires were virtually nonexistent, coming in at .90 additional positions, down .6 from the preceding year.

The top five replacement hires were (in order): reporters, producers, photographers, anchors and multimedia journalist. The top five new hire positions were: reporter, producer, anchor, multimedia journalist and Web producer, according to the findings.

The survey also examines newsroom staffing totals based on factors, such as market size, affiliation (big four affiliates), commercial and noncommercial. The average full-time newsroom staff size for all stations was 38.5, compared to 67.7 at stations in the top 25 markets and 19.1 at stations in the 151 and higher markets, the survey said.