At first, Pew Research Center’s 2018 “State of the News Media” made me concerned for my intended career path and made me feel guilty for my consumption habits.
Nearly every category of traditional news media, from cable and local TV news to newspapers, is experiencing some decline in audience. Meanwhile, digital news sites and audio packaging like public radio and podcasting, is experiencing an upward trend.
As an aspiring journalist, that has me concerned. I have always seen myself working for a metro area’s daily paper, complete with the fedora labeled “PRESS” and messy desk covered in old papers and denied FOIA requests. But Pew’s data on the newspaper work force was particularly eye-opening.
“According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Employment Statistics, 39,210 people worked as reporters, editors, photographers, or film and video editors in the newspaper industry in 2017. That is down 15% from 2014 and 45% from 2004. Median wages for editors in 2017 were about $49,000, while for reporters the figure was about $34,000.”
Since the print industry has cut down nearly half its size in 15 years, I am challenged to work harder, be more flexible and potentially get paid less just to stay in daily, local journalism.
As I read more of Pew’s research, my brow furrowed in concern at my potential lack of a career path.
And yet, as a media consumer, I understand the reasons – mostly because I match the statistics to a T.
According to Pew, 93 percent of U.S. adults get some news online. Nearly half of Americans have listened to a podcast in the last month. Me? I exclusively read written news stories on Apple News or the New York Times app. I listen to The Daily and Up First nearly every morning.
The average audience for evening cable news like CNN, Fox News and MSNBC has declined 12 percent. Me? The last time I turned on CNN was the Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court confirmation hearings. Three months ago.
But the report isn’t all that bad. Pew’s data indicate that digital-native platforms are experiencing successful growth. Multiple platforms for news outlets are being tested and digital advertising grew by the billions from 2016 to 2017. Reporters and editors make better salaries than their legacy news counterparts at $60,000 per year.
All this suggests, to me, that today’s reporters need to be adaptive while the entire news industry rediscovers how to make money well. News consumption is still high. People use portable technology as their daily paper, evening news and specialty magazine. They get in their cars and stream NPR from their iPhones.
If a journalist wants to be successful, she has to think like a media consumer, not like a traditional newspaperman.