TV news salaries fail to keep pace with inflation, says RTDNA/Hofstra salary survey

Findings from the latest annual salary survey show news personnel lost financial ground in 2011 when inflation is factored into the equation.
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The salaries of TV news staff rose a modest 2 percent in 2011, while the nation’s inflation rate registered 2.9 percent last year, leaving news personnel losing ground in terms of real wages, according to the findings the latest RTDNA/Hofstra University Annual Survey.

In a discussion of the findings, the survey’s author, Bob Papper, chair of the Department of Journalism, Media Studies and Public Relations at Hofstra University, said the razor thin increase suggests that last year witnessed a lot of hiring of younger journalists, who are paid less.

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According to Papper, a median salary of news staff — a better picture of wages — “leaves us with a mixed picture” for TV in 2012.

Of nine median salaries tracked in 2011, seven fell and remained at the same level. Overall, there was not much movement in salaries; however, there were certain positions that saw changes.

While news anchor salaries fell 8.5 percent, the newsroom position taking the biggest salary hit was news assistants, taking an 18.5 percent decrease. Weathercasters saw an increase, and sports anchor wages remained flat.

The wages of news directors and assistant news directors climbed, but managing editors and executive producers experiences a decline. Wages paid to several newsroom positions, including reporters, photographers, producers, assistant editors and tape editors were flat.

“Overwhelmingly, especially for the biggest stations, median salaries have fallen in the last year. That's likely the result of stations adding people who are mostly entry level — or at least paid at a noticeably lower rate than existing staff. As we move into smaller shops, 11 - 20 and 21 - 30, we see most salaries going up,” writes Papper in presenting the findings.

The survey also found that for nearly all positions five- and 10-year salary increases were below the level of inflation in the overall economy.