Dateline ? The Poor House? p. 13

By: DOROTHY GIOBBE SHOCKING NUMBER of new journalism graduates will start out in the profession making salaries lower than the official poverty level, according to a new study.
The findings come from "Winds of Change," a yearlong study of the current state of journalism education and its implications for the future. The report was prepared by Betty Medsger, former chair of the San Francisco State University Department of Journalism. It was presented this week during a Freedom Forum panel discussion at the Newspaper Association of America convention in New York.
On average, 1996 journalism graduates can expect to make $20,154, according to the report. A number of those new journalists will join the 22% of journalists under 25 whose current salaries fall below the country's average poverty level wage of $15,141.
The average starting salary of new journalists is the lowest of any college-educated workers in the nation's work force, and may pose troubling questions for an industry searching to attract the best and the brightest students.
A journalism degree doesn't seem to help much in securing a high salary. The study found that journalists who majored or minored in journalism are more likely to earn the lowest salaries, rather than the highest salaries.
Perhaps not surprisingly, 43% of new journalists said they might leave the profession entirely. Low pay is the biggest factor in the decision and the relatively higher-paid field of public relations is cited most often as the likely next career move.
The lowest salaries are found in broadcast journalism, and at weekly and small-circulation daily newspapers. Of the total pool of new journalists earning less than $20,000 annually, 48% work for weekly newspapers, 38% for small-circulation dailies, and 32% for medium-circulation dailies.
The study noted a number of other interesting trends, namely the push in some quarters to eliminate journalism as a distinct and separate academic discipline and merge it into a generic mass communications course of study.
That trend runs counter to news organizations which continue to place a high value on journalism education. The study found that among those who became journalists between 1984 and 1994 and worked as journalists in 1995, 73% had studied journalism at some level, including 43% who majored in journalism.
On campuses, the study recorded a decline in the hiring of journalism professors with practical experience in the field. Increasingly, a doctoral degree is one of the most important factors in securing a position as a journalism professor, rather than practical expertise.
Some 17% of journalism educators have never worked as journalists and 47% have less than 10 years experience as journalists in the profession, according to the study.
One point of convergence among new journalists, newsroom supervisors and journalism educators is the need to initiate and sustain continuing education programs.
While only a quarter of journalism education programs currently have continuing-education initiatives in place, 88% of new journalists said they would benefit from it, and 56% said they ought to be required by their employers to participate in such programs on an ongoing basis.


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here