Local Journalists Are Not Rich

Creative Commons photo.

Something useful to remember is that most journalists — that is, the vast majority of journalists who make up daily and weekly newspapers in small communities — are not rich, and don’t live on the East or West Coast.

Quick math: The Bureau of Labor Statistics says there 37,140 employed reporters and correspondents in the United States as of May 2018.

Among the big print newspapers that come to mind, they employ:

  • The New York Times: 1,600 (across 150 countries).
  • The Wall Street Journal: 2,000 (across 51 countries).
  • The Washington Post: 640 (last I saw, from a 2013 article, they probably have more now).
  • The Los Angeles Times: From what I can tell by Wikipedia, it’s a few hundred.

So the big newspapers with the big circulations you think about, they are still a minority of journalists. It’s difficult to find a precise breakdown of numbers, but I would wager a bet that the majority of reporters at all of those outlets are not making the higher end of the range ($53,685 to $144,328). However, even the ones who are, most likely are earning it rightfully! Journalism is hard. Journalism at the national level is hard. And doing it well and making it look easy is hard. Give them that wage.

And you can be sure, the ones at CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, NBC, ABC, etc., who are anchoring shows, like an Anderson Cooper, for example, who makes $12 million annually, are not the norm.

Yet, people who already have a critical eye toward journalism and journalists, and think all journalists are “coastal elites,” seem to think all journalists are rich kids from rich families pulling down Anderson Cooper money, or at least that high end number from The New York Times:

But that Tweet perturbs me precisely because it’s not the norm. The vast majority of reporters are like me actually: Someone working at a daily or weekly print newspaper somewhere between the two coasts, and making a middling income, who comes from a regular suburban family.

According to BLS, the median reporter/correspondent salary is $41,260 annually. Quite a few of us are even below that, toiling at our trade. We are hardly coastal elites. We hardly came from elite schools. We hardly came from rich parents.

And while I can’t presume, and would not presume, to speak for all daily/weekly print journalists, we aren’t thinking about the niche issues of vocabulary, symbols, or fringe boogeyman, and in fact, are the ones on the ground covering public schools, violence, poverty and everything else of local concern (which also makes it of national concern).

The problem with the Fangs of the world is that they are Very Online on Twitter (and I’m also Very Online on Twitter), and so, they think the higher-end earners of journalism who are also Very Online on Twitter represent all of journalism. Also, knowing what I know about his politics, he both a.) wants to funnel everything through a “mainstream media are the problem” viewpoint and b.) wants to funnel everything through his preconceived idea about class and “class warfare.” But I think in so doing, he’s actually ignoring those of us at the lower rung of the career ladder here.

But it’s fine. Local journalists are used to being overlooked. If it’s not being covered at the national level, then people think it’s not being covered. If it’s not being Tweeted by Maggie Haberman of The New York Times (who, again, more than earns whatever her salary is, mind you), then that means it’s being ignored.

Meanwhile, us locals are doing our work for our local communities. It is what it is. This isn’t martyrdom or any silly thing like that. But I thought it was worth pushing back on (and ranting a bit). Most journalists are regular people.

In fact, most people are regular, normal people. The less demagoguery the better.

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