Public Radio News Salaries

New data from a 2010 local public radio station survey shows the median news reporter salary under $37,000 per year.

The median for news hosts was $40,000. The median for news directors was $45,000.

The overall highest paid position was vice-president of news with a median of $92,500. The lowest median salary was $32,000 for assignment editor.

The data show vast differences between individuals performing the same job at different stations. For example, the lowest paid content director earns $128,000 less than the highest paid content director.

The most common jobs in local public radio newsrooms are news directors, reporters, hosts and producers.

(Note: See also News Salaries by News Budget and News Salaries by Market Size)

The charts below compare median salaries for 16 newsroom positions. Below each chart is a table showing the salary ranges for each position. In addition to the highest and lowest salary are the median and average. The “count” is the number of stations reporting a position salary. (The “count” is NOT a count of individuals in those jobs.)

Median Public Radio Salaries

News Director Host/Anchor Reporter/ Corresp Producer
Count 169 92 112 67
Low $5,500 $8,000 $7,000 $4,000
Median $45,000 $40,000 $36,500 $35,000
High $140,000 $114,000 $75,000 $60,000
Avg $47,972 $44,786 $37,793 $35,814
Median Public Radio Salaries Chart Two

VP of News Exec Producer Content Director Managing Editor Online Editor Senior Producer
Count 12 25 17 17 14 33
Low $45,000 $10,000 $12,000 $26,000 $49,750 $20,000
Median $92,500 $57,000 $56,000 $55,000 $50,000 $49,000
High $150,000 $97,500 $140,000 $97,500 $62,000 $90,000
Avg $94,167 $60,486 $60,695 $55,889 $48,268 $50,616

Median Public Radio Salaries Chart Three

Pub Aff Director Bureau Chief Asst News Director Web Producer Photog/ Videogrphr Assignmnt Editor
Count 15 15 24 22 11 11
Low $55,369 $48,900 $15,000 $5,000 $17,000 $10,000
Median $45,000 $45,000 $40,250 $38,415 $38,000 $32,000
High $100,000 $76,000 $70,000 $50,000 $51,000 $59,500
Avg $53,677 $47,795 $40,652 $33,149 $34,992 $35,494

The survey was conducted by myself with help from Steve Martin and Ken Mills during July-August 2010. Over 300 stations participated. The survey was a supplement to the PRNDI/CPB census of journalists which has yet to be released by CPB.

This is the first comprehensive public radio news salary survey that we know of. As such, we do not have trend data.

However, we can make some salient comparison using data gathered by Dr. Bob Papper of Hofstra University who conducts an annual newsroom survey for RTDNA. Dr. Papper includes both commercial and non-commerical broadcasters in his survey, though, in general, his data are viewed as a snapshot of commercial newsrooms.

Here is one chart from the radio section of Papper’s 2010 newsroom survey

Credit: RTDNA/Papper 2010

As one can see, public radio stations show a wider range of high and low pay rates for news directors, reporters and anchors. Somewhat encouragingly, public radio newsrooms show overall higher median pay rates for those positions.

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Published by

Michael V. Marcotte

Hi, I'm the (first-ever) Professor of Practice in Journalism at University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. I teach multimedia journalism and launched are innovation/collaboration lab: New Mexico News Port. Previously, I was the 2012-2013 Reynolds Chair in Ethics of Entrepreneurial and Innovative Journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno... and, before that, a 2011 Knight Journalism Fellow at Stanford University. I'm also very active as a consultant in public media news, having spent over 20 years as a news director. My website is http://www.mikemarcotte.com or on Twitter: http://twitter.com/michvinmar

58 thoughts on “Public Radio News Salaries”

  1. This is very helpful information. It is disappointing that our system still seems to undervalue the talent that delivers our most vital service. Clearly market size matters, but it would be interesting to drill down further to find out how these salaries correlate with age and years of experience. The pay scale for non-management positions seems to show little or no improvement. Also, I had thought that the slew of recent hires through CPB-funded LJCs tended to pay more. Any info on that?

    1. Julie, we’ll do some cross-tabs soon and I’m sure we’ll see the correlation between larger budgets and better pay rates in larger markets. But you’re right, our talent is the lifeblood of this system and we should be attracting it and keeping it with competitive salaries.

  2. Having heard and read much about Public Television funding, I decided to Google info on salaries. This article, though it purports to provide information-is incomplete (and inconclusive) for 3 reasons: Using the Median Salary across heterogeneous markets is a questionable statistic-breaking this down based on similar markets and then comparing to the salaries of similar jobs in the same market would be much more meaningful. Secondly, this article DOES NOT address salaries of higher level management-which appear to run in the six figures–perhaps redistributing some of that compensation would improve lower level compensation. Finally, information on revenue and expenditures with net “income” should also be shared in order to truly understand the total picture and the impact of reduced funding. Until meaningful ANALYTIC information is provided in contrast to DESCRIPTIVE information (e.g. Median Salaries) there is NO conclusion one can validly make! Disappoinitng!

    1. Dear Francia,
      Thanks for stopping by.
      If you had continued to the next post on this site you would have found some of what you are looking for.
      We did a comparison of news salaries by market size: https://localnpr.org/2011/02/02/news-salaries-by-market-size/
      And we did a comparison of salaries by news budget size: https://localnpr.org/2011/02/01/salaries-by-budget/
      The focus of the survey work was to provide previously unavailable information about public radio journalists, not to provide a comprehensive snapshot of all public broadcasting employment. While that would be a benefit to you, it was not the focus of this research.
      Let me add that I agree with you that much more analysis would add context to this work. No question about it. That takes time and currently there is only one person (me) doing this during discretionary hours. And before I do analysis, I’m still trotting out the data! (And invite others to help interpret it.)
      I appreciate the comment and will see what might be done to temper expectations about this work in progress — but I certainly welcome comments and criticisms.
      — MVM

  3. Great information. Do you have any data about the number of stations that primarily rely on freelancers as reporters and producers? It seems that more stations are going to that model to lower their expenses through lower salaries and nonexistent benefits.

    1. Why did I not get this message! Marva — that’s more a trend in public television. Not so much in public radio. In general, about 2/3 of journalists in public media are full-time employees. Radio employs more journalists that TV (3:1).

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