2015 Public Media News Salaries

In the last few months, quite a few folks around pub-media-land have asked me if there is any updated data on salaries in public media newsrooms.

I wish there was. If you know of any fresh surveys, let me know.

What I can offer is an adjusted take from our 2010 data, accounting for inflation. (The U.S. government estimates the inflation rate between 2010 and 2015 to be just under 10%. So, if you were hiring a News Director for $50K in 2010, you should now be hiring at around $55K, just to keep up with inflation.)

In the following three charts, the data is sorted by news budget size. You may recall from the 2010 survey (in which Steve Martin, Ken Mills and I questioned more than 300 station managers about their local newsroom staffing and programming), that the most significant variable in salary data was the news budget itself. This was more telling than such factors as station type (radio, TV or Joint), or licensee (community, university), or even market size.

Link to Chart 1

Link to Chart 2


Link to Chart 3

A few more notes about this data:

In the 2010 report, I used a data visualization technique to indicate the sample size for each column of data. The sample size is good to know, of course, because a sample size of 30 is a much stronger index than a sample of 2. I didn’t do that technique here, but below are tables indicating the number of stations that provided the salary data for each job title (per each chart). Remember, this isn’t the number of people in those jobs, it’s the number of stations reporting their salary for that job title.

BDGTS >$750K+ # STATIONS REPORTING
VP of News 11
Content Director 9
News Director 18
Executive Producer 26
Public Affairs Director 6
Senior Producer 23
Managing Editor 12
Online Editor 9
Assistant News Director 5
Bureau Chief 4
Producer 33
Web Producer 12
Host/Anchor 30
Reporter 32
Photographer/Videographer 17
Correspondent 2
BDGTS $250-750K # STATIONS REPORTING
VP of News 4
Content Director 10
Executive Producer 16
News Director 36
Public Affairs Director 5
Senior Producer 15
Managing Editor 6
Online Editor 6
Assistant News Director 7
Bureau Chief 8
Producer 23
Web Producer 13
Host/Anchor 28
Reporter 35
Photographer/Videographer 11
Correspondent 2
BDGT $50-250K # STATIONS REPORTING
VP of News 5
Content Director 6
Executive Producer 11
News Director 80
Public Affairs Director 6
Senior Producer 12
Managing Editor 3
Online Editor 4
Assistant News Director 9
Bureau Chief 2
Producer 33
Web Producer 8
Host/Anchor 40
Reporter 53
Photographer/Videographer 9
Correspondent 1

Finally, we’d all agree that much has changed in #pubmedia between 2010 and 2015, so this adjusted estimate of salaries does not provide a snapshot of what’s actually going on out there. Many stations have been investing in local news and may have changed budget categories, or increased salaries, or — as we know — have begun creating entirely new jobs to manage digital projects and audience engagement.

If anyone wants to talk about a more refined look at this data, let me know. Better yet, if anyone wants to sponsor a fresh salary survey, I’m game for that, too!

News Salaries by Market Size

Larger broadcast service areas correlate with higher salaries, but not as directly as with higher budgets. That’s because you find low budget stations in large markets, and they pay low budget salaries not large market salaries. (Go here for news salaries by news budget size.)

Here are three charts showing the top 10 annual average salaries in public radio news jobs according to the “market size” of the respondents. These market size groupings are based on the population within the broadcast service area of the responding public radio stations. There are more than 100 respondents per each market size sample, but the number of respondents per job title can be quite low depending on the rarity of the title.

Small Markets

Medium Markets

Source: PRNDI/MVM Consulting

Large Markets

News Salaries by News Budgets

I’ve sorted the average annual salaries in public radio newsrooms by their station news budgets. As you would expect, the higher budget categories closely correlate with higher average salaries.

If you look under “news directors,” for example, you’ll see that stations spending between $500k-$1m a year on their newsrooms, spend an average of $60k-$65k for news director salaries.

Again, this is based on a survey of almost 400 U.S. public broadcast station managers last summer.

The thicker the line in each of these graphs, the more the number of stations contributing to the average. Click on the graph to see it larger.

Refer back to the earlier salary charts to see highs, lows, medians, averages and actual station counts per each job title.

News Directors

The thickness of the pink line attests to the many stations in that $50k-$250k newsroom budget bracket. The news directors at these stations share an average annual salary in the low 40s. There is a jump, however, in the newsroom budget brackets above $250k. The managers of these bigger newsrooms are averaging between the mid 50s to the mid 60s.

Hosts/Anchors

Again, we see the thick pink line due to the many stations in that lower budget bracket. Hosts at those stations get paid in the low 30s on average. The newsrooms above $250k push the average pay up over $45k a year.

Reporters

The trend lines for reporters are obvious — more pay at bigger shops — though the upper range of averages is only in the upper 50s.

Producers

Public radio news producers show average annual pay rates quite comparable to reporters relative to their respective newsroom budgets.

Executive Producers/Directors and VPs of News

Note the larger scale range used to display the VP of News average annual salaries. This position is more common in the larger stations.

The Executive Director/Producer chart shows this position can be found in smaller stations, but the pay still scales according to budget.

Senior Producers and Assistant News Directors

Senior producers are averaging salaries just below those of news directors in the larger stations.

The assistant news director chart has enough random deviation in the small sample to limit its usefulness.

New Media News Positions: Content Director, Online Editor, Web Producer

There are few of these in the sample to begin with, so the green line is an outlier (part-time position, most likely). Similarly, the deviation from the normal curve may also be due to the newness of this job title and the likelihood it represents different jobs in different stations.

Again, jobs that focus exclusively online are still relatively rare in public radio (it is far more common to find hybrid positions mixing broadcast with new platforms), yet despite the smaller sample size, we can see patterns emerging in online editor and web producer average salaries.

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.