Hundreds of Columnists Will Be Surveyed

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By: Dave Astor

A major demographic survey of columnists is in the works, and the results may released as early as next summer.

Questions are currently being solicited for the survey, which is a joint project of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists (NSNC) and University of San Francisco.

NSNC President Suzette Standring said the survey will cover topics such as how many columnists are female or male, minority or white, liberal or conservative, do general-interest or niche features, are newspaper staffers or freelancers, and are syndicated or self-syndicated. Columnists will also be asked if they have blogs, if they have their own Web sites, how much they’re edited, what they’re paid, and more.

“The time is perfect to do this,” Standring told E&P. “There’s so much happening with columns now. And you have online columnists, you have bloggers. … We’re just trying to establish who we are and what’s going on in our profession.”

Standring — a self-syndicated humor columnist — said survey forms will be sent to all 510 members of the NSNC. Columnists who are not NSNCers can also fill out the questionnaires.

“And all columnists, not just NSNC members, can submit possible questions to the survey,” said Standring, who noted that queries can be e-mailed to Standring said it doesn’t matter how the questions are structured; the wording will be adapted to fit the survey’s format.

The survey will be conducted under the direction of J. Michael Robertson, associate professor of media studies at the university, a former San Francisco Chronicle columnist, and author of an upcoming book on columnists.

Respondents’ names will remain anonymous when the survey results are released, but Robertson may do follow-up interviews with some columnists if they’re willing.

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