Last modified: Thursday, April 10, 2003
Landmark research into the backgrounds of American journalists continues
Study finds them to be older, better paid, better educated
EDITORS: This information is embargoed until 3:45 p.m. CDT on Thursday (April 10). Additional information will be available at the Web site of the Poynter Institute at https://www.poynter.org. Key findings also are available by e-mail and U.S. mail by calling the media contacts listed on this release.
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- The reporters, editors and producers who put out the news every day on television and radio and in print are a more professional group than a decade ago, according to the initial findings of Indiana University journalism professors in their research study, "The American Journalist in the 21st Century."
Traditional, general news journalists make higher salaries. More have college degrees. They are older, but there are still more men than women. More who stay in journalism are happy with that choice.
"The popular image of undisciplined, unknowing and uncaring journalists is not supported by these findings," said David Weaver, the Roy W. Howard Professor in journalism and mass communication research at IU Bloomington, one of the authors of the report. "This core group of journalists takes their work and their reporting ethics more seriously than a decade ago."
The 2002 survey continues the series of major national studies of U.S. journalists begun in 1971 by sociologist John Johnstone and continued in 1982 and 1992 by Weaver and G. Cleveland Wilhoit, IU professor of journalism. Much as the U.S. census does for the general population, these studies provide an important decennial measure of the pulse of U.S. journalism.
It was presented today (April 10) at the annual meeting of the American Society of Newspaper Editors in New Orleans.
Key findings about U.S. journalists in 2002:
-- Traditional journalists are getting older. The median age of full-time U.S. journalists increased by five years to 41 from 1992.
-- Female journalists aren't increasing overall. They're still one-third of all full-time journalists, as they have been since 1982, even though those hired in the last four years outnumber men for the first time.
-- Journalists of color are slowly increasing. The percentage of full-time journalists of color working for traditional news media -- 9.5 percent -- is still seriously below the percentage of people of color in the U.S. population (30.9 percent).
-- Journalists are more likely to have at least a bachelor's degree. Nearly 90 percent do, but slightly fewer proportionately are journalism majors (36.2 percent).
-- Median income has climbed to nearly $43,600, up 39.3 percent since 1992. This increase was ahead of inflation. Women's salaries still trail those of men overall, but not among journalists with less than 15 years experience.
-- The Internet has changed the way journalists do their work. Four in five journalists used Web sites and listservs at least weekly to read news by others, gather background information and get news releases.
-- Fewer journalists say they are Democrats. In 2002, 37.1 percent identified with that political party, down 7 percentage points from 1992. Republican journalists increased from 16.3 percent to 18.6 percent.
-- Job satisfaction rose, but not to its old peak. In 2002, 33.3 percent said they were very satisfied with their work, up from 27.3 percent in 1992.
-- Journalistic values persist despite profit pressure. While three in four journalists said the owners of news organizations think high profits are very important, three in five said journalistic quality was rising.
-- Training is the biggest influence on news judgment. More journalists say that journalism training had more influence on their ideas of what is newsworthy than did their supervisors, news sources or peers in the newsroom.
-- The role of the press as the watchdog of government has increased. When asked to identify priorities for news media, a clear majority of journalists say investigating government claims is extremely important. The perceived importance of getting information out quickly has fallen, as has reaching the widest possible audience. Providing entertainment and relaxation also fell as a priority of news organizations perceived by journalists.
-- Civic journalism has been embraced, but cautiously. The idea of giving ordinary people a chance to express their views on public affairs and motivating people to become involved in issues was supported by a wide majority of journalists. But the jury is out on which methods can be used to achieve this public engagement.
The survey at the IU School of Journalism was funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The authors are Weaver; Wilhoit; Randal Beam, associate professor of journalism; Bonnie Brownlee, associate dean of journalism; and Paul Voakes, associate professor of journalism.
The survey sample included 1,149 randomly selected journalists picked to match characteristics of the universe of 116,000 editors, reporters and producers working full-time in the mainstream news media. The overall number of journalists was down from 122,000 in 1992.
Survey results can be found online at https://www.poynter.org. A book, The American Journalist in the 21st Century, is expected to be available in the summer of 2004.
The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation promotes excellence in journalism worldwide and invests in the vitality of 26 U.S. communities.