TV News Salaries ‘Lose Ground’

Wages rose beneath inflation rate in 2011
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WASHINGTON: Salaries in the broadcast TV news business rose just 2 percent in 2011, according to the latest survey from the Radio Television Digital News Association.

“While staffing in TV news soared, salaries did not,” wrote Bob Papper, professor of journalism at Hofstra University and author of the survey. “Local television news salaries rose 2 percent during 2011. That thin margin of growth suggests that a lot of the hiring in 2011 took place among relatively young, less expensive staffers.”

Radio news salaries rose just 1.2 percent from the previous year. With 2.9 percent inflation in 2011, news personnel actually lost ground in real wages, Papper said.

Among TV news personnel on the high end, news directors were at the top, with a median salary of $87,000. (Papper said the median was “typical.”) Assistant news directors were next, at $69,700. Anchors ranked fifth in salary, taking home an average of $64,000 a year—down 8.5 percent from the previous year. Meteorologists were next, at $60,00 a year.

At the low end, reporters made a median salary of $32,000. News writers made $31,500, while tape editors drew a median salary of $28,000 a year. News assistants were at the bottom, taking home just $24,700 a year, down 18 percent from the previous year.

The majority of around 18 positions measured did not keep pace with inflation over the last five years, nor the last decade, the survey indicated. Writers and art directors beat inflation over the last five years, “but art director did it by nearly disappearing from a lot of small stations,” it said.

News staff at smaller market stations generally made less than those at larger market stations, but salaries for more than 75 percent of positions in markets 150-plus increased. This compares to just half of the jobs at the biggest stations.

As for starting salaries, first-time TV news reporters made $22,500 last year, while multimedia journalists started at $25,000. Assignment editors started at $26,000, while anchors started at $22,000.

“All told, 78 percent of the TV newspeople hired in the last year were replacements for those who left,” Papper wrote. “Twenty-two percent were new hires. That's a big jump—9 percent—in new
hires.”

The survey was conducted during the forth quarter of 2011 among “all 1,735 “operating, non-satellite television stations and a random sample of 3,000 radio stations.” A total of 1,238 TV stations responded; 260 radio news directors representing 743 stations responded.
~ Deborah D. McAdams