By: Mark Fitzgerald
Survey shows small dailies are seeking high quality j-school
graduates but looking to pay them under $16,000 a year sp.
DOING THEIR PART to stanch any threat of inflation, the majority of small daily newspaper editors told a survey that journalism school graduates should expect annual salaries under $16,000.
In the survey, 43 of the 82 responding small-newspaper editors said they pay less than $16,000 a year.
Another 36 editors said they pay new graduates between $16,000 and $19,999 annually.
Only three said they paid more than $20,0000 annually ? and none more than 24,000.
And more than half of the editors of dailies with circulations under 25,000 said their reporters will still be laboring for a salary under $20,000 in their second year of employment.
At the same time, the survey showed that editors at small papers are demanding the same quality of journalism school grad as editors at larger dailies.
“The difference [between big- and small-paper editors] apparently lies in more frequent job openings and greater willingness of small-daily editors to hire applicants who have no professional experience,” Michael Shelly, the survey’s research director, said.
Shelly noted that 90% of responding small-daily editors said they hire new graduates.
Shelly, who is the journalism internship coordinator at Illinois State University, has conducted the annual salary survey for several years. His research assistant this year was Robert Stiles, a senior in communications at Illinois State.
As in past years, the surveyed editors believe newspaper internships are valuable.
However, also as in past years, the survey editors stoutly rejected the idea that they should pay a new hire more if he or she has done an internship.
Only 13 of the 87 editors responding to this question thought that was a good idea.
Editors said that journalism school graduates should have a good academic grounding in history, political science, economics and English. These same editors, however, were unimpressed by journalism school students who minor in public relations, finance, psychology or sociology.
And not a single editor encouraged journalism majors to minor in broadcasting.
Similarly, the editors said students should work on campus news media that emphasize writing and editing.
In an indication of the growing importance of standard-platform front-end systems, a solid majority of the small-daily editors rated experience with desktop publishing as an important quality for new journalism school graduates.
Interestingly, these small-paper editors found computer experience more helpful than photography experience.
“Most editors want plenty of hands-on experience and good knowledge of language and of government,” Shelly said.
Despite the rather penurious salary offerings, small-daily editors reject the idea that the standard of living for journalists is slipping.
In a new question for the survey, the editors were asked: “How has the standard of living changed for newspaper journalists in the past 20 years?”
Of the 89 responding editors, a plurality ? 42 ? said it was the same; 25 said it was better; and 22 said it was worse.
A copy of the complete data summary of the survey is available by calling Shelly at (309) 438-7279 or by writing him at the Communication Department, Illinois State University, Normal, Ill., 61790-4480.