First, I must appologize for this taking so long to write this. Most of June and July I was wrapped up with a bunch of training workshops and tying down loose ends before I left for the Reynolds Fellowship and then getting up to speed on the fellowship and three weeks of travel in September sidelined me a lot.
Second, the results are very mixed, so to be honest, I debated even sharing them because I wasn’t comfortable with the number of results. Where as last time we did the survey, we had a lot of feedback from organization leaders and management, this time around the overall submitted survey results were smaller (by 36 %) and generally, the jobs people posted about were not as diverse and not in multiple levels of the organization. In fact, there was very few submissions from management of any sort and many from folks starting out their career.
General trends and thoughts from comparing the results between the two surveys:
Results weren’t as diverse as I’d wished
I’d hoped for more feedback on folks working in specialized areas –SEO optimization, CAR analyists, data divas, news programmers, social media managers, mobile directors — but we didn’t get a lot of that. Which could mean a lot of things, most likely that the folks most interested in the results of this are those in mid-level jobs looking to see how they compare. Folks who’ve specialized perhaps are more comfortable with their careers and don’t care. Job roles from two years are generally very similar to what this survey produced previously, so I won’t re-write all that here (except for some minor things such as “social media editor” is more popular now than “community editor” as a job title). Having acknowledged the lack of diversity, we did get an interesting range — salaries from the low-$20k for entry level reporters to $170k for upper management in the big apple. There was also some weird (potentially fake) postings — including a incredibly detailed and well-paid job profile from a railroad welder in the Great Plains — that I didn’t include. Note to self: Look up community college classes for railroad welding if this journalism thing doesn’t work out.
More skills, with less depth
Overall though, comparing results between the two surveys, skill sets have grown immensely (many of the specialized technical areas above weren’t mentioned in basic web producer positions), but the depth is very minimal — as one respondent acknowledged “I’m not a programmer by any means, I usually end up Googling things and figuring out how to fix the problem.” In this survey’s results, many of the basic web producer positions were expected to have at least a running start understanding of SEO, social media and some very basic programming.
Programming skills are brought up frequently, but trail off quickly
Program skills seem to be highly valued
Maybe it’s a sign of how news organizations are built now, with journalists just working as cogs in the content management machine, but specific content management and analytics programs were mentioned more frequently than programming languages/applications — Omniture, Google Analytics, Caspio, several different CMS/blog systems, a bunch of third-party vendor tools for CMS systems. These tools are ment more for a computer operator than a programmer/creator. (This again could be skewed because the bulk of responses were from web producer-type positions.)
Captain Obvious: Wages / benefits are down for most
Salaries from these survey results are down for most part — not quite as bad as this comical Journalism Jobs ad — but they were down comparing the two surveys. Part of that may just be due to the decreased number of management and senior staffers participating. Part of it could be the economy/news industry tanking. Eighty-eight percent of survey responses acknowledged some sort of salary or benefit reduction in the past couple years. The last survey had the mode salary in the $60k range. This one is in the $45k range.
There are people getting pay raises!
The news isn’t all bad — just over 5 percent acknowledged receiving a raise in the past couple years. So there is growth out there! These positions generally tended to be a larger organizations, for specialized positions such as programming or for someone who left a corporate job for a non-profit gig (which surprised me, I thought non-profits were supposed to pay horribly, but maybe newspapers have sunk below them now with all the cuts?).
Big city doesn’t necessarily mean big money
In the last survey, folks who worked in larger, more expensive markets were generally paid significantly more than in mid and smaller markets. This time around, that difference was minimal and in some case non-existent.
Final lessons learned from this time around
There is a glimmer of hope, some people are getting raises in this rough environment. I think this reinforces my prescription for learning “Peace Out” skills and to never stop learning. It may be a little more challenging to find a job initially if you specialize, at least compared to a “jack of all trades” skill set but your benefits, job security, wages and (most likely) job enjoyment will be higher. You’ll be less likely to be outsourced or easily laid off and hopefully you’ll be able to create excellent things, instead of just feeding the content machine. And if you find you can’t create excellent things at your current gig, you can give them the peace out and move on to something better. I’d also seriously consider non-mainstream / traditional publicly-traded media organizations. There’s a lot of journalism startups out there and some of them appear to be paying nicely (especially their top management) and there’s a lot of new non-profit, NGO, and commercial organizations that value the skills journalists have that pay well also.