What kind of salary can you expect to make as a journalist? If you ve spent any time at all in the news business, you ve probably heard a reporter say this: Don t go into journalism to get rich. It ll never happen. By and large, that s true. There are certainly other professions (finance, law, and medicine, for example) that, on average, pay much better than journalism.
But if you re lucky enough to get and keep a job in the current climate, it is possible to make a decent living in print, online, or broadcast journalism.
How much you make will depend on what media market you re in, your specific job and how much experience you have.
A complicating factor in this discussion is the economic turmoil hitting the news business. Many newspapers are in financial trouble and have been forced to lay off journalists, so at least for the next several years, salaries are likely to remain stagnant or even fall.
Average Journalist Salaries
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports an estimate of a median salary of $37,820 annually and an hourly wage of $18.18 as of May 2016 for those in the category of reporters and correspondents. The mean annual wage skews higher at just under $50,000.
In rough terms, reporters at small papers can expect to earn $20,000 to $30,000; at medium-sized papers, $35,000 to $55,000; and at large papers, $60,000 and up. Editors earn a bit more. News websites, depending on their size, would be in the same ballpark as newspapers.
At the low end of the salary scale, beginning TV reporters make about the same as beginning newspaper reporters. But in big media markets, salaries for TV reporters and anchors skyrocket. Reporters at stations in large cities can earn well into the six figures, and anchors in large media markets can earn $1 million or more annually.
For the BLS statistics, this boosts their annual mean wage to $57,380 in 2016.
Big Media Markets vs. Smaller Ones
It s a fact of life in the news business that reporters working at big papers in major media markets earn more than those at smaller papers in smaller markets. So a reporter working at The New York Times will likely take home a fatter paycheck than one at the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.
This makes sense. The competition for jobs at big papers in large cities is more fierce than for papers in small towns. Generally, the biggest papers hire people with many years of experience, who would expect to be paid more than a newbie.
And don t forget—it s more expensive to live in a city like Chicago or Boston than, say, Dubuque, which is another reason why the bigger papers tend to pay more. The difference as seen on the BLS report if that the mean wage in southeast Iowa nonmetropolitan areas is only about 40 percent of what a reporter would make in New York or Washington DC.
Editors vs. Reporters
While reporters get the glory of having their byline in the paper, editors generally earn more money. And the higher an editor s rank, the more he or she will be paid. A managing editor will make more than a city editor.
Editors in the newspaper and periodical industry make a mean wage of $64,220 per year as of 2016, according to the BLS.
It just stands to reason that the more experience someone has in a field, the more they are likely to be paid. This is also true in journalism, though there are exceptions. A young hotshot reporter who moves up from a small-town paper to a big city daily in just a few years will often make more than a reporter with 20 years of experience who s still at a small paper.