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!

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Attributes of Local NPR Stations: On Air Content

Our new survey of local public media newsrooms finds a solid commitment to daily coverage, a broad effort to provide depth coverage, and rather sporadic levels of deep engagement and intensive production.

The charts below provide a break-out of NPR member station survey responses on their depth of commitment to local news broadcast elements. (To see all public media results, see this overview piece.)

Two years ago, we took a look at what local NPR stations were calling local news on their airwaves. While we modified the survey and the analysis somewhat, in general the picture looks quite similar.

Here is the stack of local news program types we asked about in the 2012 Survey of Stations (MVM/UNR/USC 2012) — ranked by their mean score. The higher the score, the more prevalent the commitment of resources to this programming type.

MVM 2012 NPR On Air Means.001

This hierarchy of commitments ranks about the same as it did in 2010 — though, as mentioned, the methodology changed to cover more program types and to give us a more refined look.

Here are the charts for each program type.

Interviews

Interviews are such a key element of original news gathering, it’s great to see they rank highest among all NPR stations as a local news staple.

2012 MVM NPR Interviews.001

Newscasts

Most stations are heavily vested in newscasts as the vehicle for their local news.

2012 MVM NPR Newscasts.001

News Features

The 3-5 minute feature is a fundamental unit of news in public radio, which devotes more time to issue coverage. Over half the NPR stations have a high or very high commitment to feature reporting.

2012 MVM NPR Features.001

Breaking News

Breaking news coverage ranks a lot higher than one might guess, given the emphasis on depth coverage on NPR stations. Yet, these radio stations are assuming a larger role in the daily coverage of their communities and that requires some willingness to get on top of breaking news.

2012 MVM NPR Breaking News.001

Beat Reporting

Beat reporting is a sign of a depth and commitment to original journalism. This is less of a program type than it is an organizational approach to news, but it is fundamental to how news is gathered, packaged and presented. Since beats generally require larger newsrooms, there’s a divide in the data.

2012 MVM NPR Beats.001

News Series

Another sign of healthy commitment to depth of coverage is the “news series,” where a topic is too big to be covered in one report, so it is managed in multiple installments. A quarter of stations have a high or very high commitment to series.

2012 MVM NPR Series.001

Specialty Programs

Local stations serve their communities well when they can tailor content to meet local needs. This category shows a rather healthy commitment to specialty programs — whether they be segments on arts, health, business, etc. Sometimes these elements are more attractive to sponsors, which may help fuel wider adoption.

2012 MVM NPR Specialty Prog.001

On Air Calendars

These on-air calendar of events used to be a larger staple of public radio. Websites are better at delivering that kind of information. However, many small stations still provide them.

2012 MVM NPR Calendar.001

Talk Shows

This chart is rather flat indicating that talk shows are not uniformly popular in public radio. But they rank as high or very high commitments from almost a third of stations. In general, talk shows indicate a station’s larger staffing commitment to local news and public affairs.

2012 MVM NPR Talk Show.001

News Specials

This chart shows a low commitment to this kind of local news programming. The news special is typically a timely, one-off, intensively produced program. News stations don’t need to resort to news specials if they are doing a good job of daily coverage, feature coverage, series coverage, beat coverage, etc.

2012 MVM NPR News Specials.001

PSA’s

Public Service Announcements aren’t news but they fulfill a local community service commitment, and sometimes they are handled by newsrooms. More than half of stations have little or no commitment to them.

2012 MVM NPR PSA.001

Town Hall Meetings

In an age of social media, the town hall meeting is more anachronistic than ever. Seventy percent of NPR member stations make little or no commitment to hosting or airing them.

2012 MVM NPR Town Hall.001

Live Reports or Live Remotes

Radio is a medium for immediacy, but two-thirds of local NPR stations are hardly committed to this form of news coverage.

2012 MVM NPR Live Reports.001

On Air Magazines

Most stations don’t produce on-air news magazines, which tend to be labor intensive. Yet, a fourth of stations do have the resources or commitment to produce them.

2012 MVM NPR On Air Magazine.001

Documentaries

The local radio news documentary has been a fading form for years. The most remarkable thing in this chart is that some 12% of stations are committed to them.

2012 MVM NPR Documentaries.001

Commentaries

Radio commentaries give opinion leaders access to the airwaves to provide perspective on the news. This was the least popular form of local news programming found in the survey.

2012 MVM NPR Commentary.001

About the Survey

The 2012 Survey of Stations was conducted by Michael V. Marcotte of MVM Consulting in coordination with the University of Nevada School of Journalism, where Marcotte is a visiting professor. Collaborating on the invitation only, online survey was PhD candidate Sandra Evans of The Annenberg School of Communication at the University of Southern California. 136 stations participated, 103 of them were NPR members.

Attributes of Local NPR Stations: Online Content

Our 2012 survey of local public media newsrooms shows that most stations still have rather stunted commitments to local news online.

The charts in this post provide a break-out of NPR member station findings. (To see all public media results, see this summary piece.)

We begin with this overview picture of online content commitments. The chart is stacked from most prevalent to least prevalent content types (ascertained by gauging “commitment levels” to these options).

MVM 2012 NPR ONLINE Means.001

These 2012 data are similar to the findings gathered in 2010 (though not directly comparable, due to adjustments in methodology).

It should be noted that, while many stations show limited commitments to online news, the survey found a pent up dissatisfaction with online news. That data is here.

What follows is a chart by chart review of these online content types.

Audio

Radio stations specialize in providing audio, so this content type gets the greatest adherence by local public radio newsrooms. Almost two thirds of them have high or very high resource commitments to audio online.

2012 MVM NPR AUDIO.001

Text

Text is the dominant form of communicating news online. The degree of commitment to online text by local newsrooms is tantamount to their overall degree of commitment to online local news. Half of stations are there in a big way. A quarter of stations are doing very little.

2012 MVM NPR TEXT.001

Facebook

Forty percent of stations are highly committed to Facebook as a platform for local news. Another 32% have a medium level commitment.

2012 MVM NPR FACEBOOK.001

Photos

Radio newsrooms are gradually employing their eyes, not just their ears, in their news gathering. So far, only a third have a high commitment to photography in their digital news.

2012 MVM NPR PHOTOS.001

Twitter

Twitter is increasing its importance to local NPR station newsrooms. Commitment to the micro-blogging service is now almost as high as Facebook.

2012 MVM NPR TWITTER.001

Online Comments

As we continue down the list of online content types, there’s a big drop in commitment levels here in looking at online comments. Three quarters of the NPR stations show a low or lower devotion to managing the online comments of others.

2012 MVM NPR COMMENTS.001

Slideshows

While photographic slideshows pair well with audio news stories, local NPR stations express an overall low commitment to slideshows.

2012 MVM NPR SLIDESHOWS.001

Blogging

The NPR Argo Project advanced the virtues of local newsroom blogging on specialized content, but the overall system is not rushing to the use of local news blogging. Only 16% of stations claim a high or very high commitment. Over 70% of stations are on the low end of the chart.

2012 MVM NPR BLOGGING.001

Video

Considered one of the most shareable and promising forms of digital content, videos are also largely ignored by NPR station newsrooms. Three fourths of stations show low, very low or non-existent commitment to video.

2012 MVM NPR VIDEO.001

Other Social Media

Facebook and Twitter got high usage by local public radio stations, but other social networks… not so much.

2012 MVM NPR OTHER SOCIAL.001

Maps

Local news stories are greatly enhanced when we use all our digital muscles to convey information and drive interactivity. Maps are a great example of this. However, at least two-thirds of local NPR newsrooms are doing very little to take advantage of maps in their online journalism.

2012 MVM NPR MAPS.001

Data Visualization

Data visualization, like maps, help tell online stories and make complicated data simple to understand. A whopping 83% percent of local public radio newsrooms are largely bypassing data visualization content.

2012 MVM NPR DATA VIZ.001

User Generated Content

Very few stations are endeavoring to cull content provided by the public.

2012 MVM NPR UGC.001

Crowd Sourcing

We thought this chart on crowd sourcing might have higher levels of commitment because of the Public Insight Network that many stations are using for news research. But the commitment levels are among the lowest of all online content types in the survey.

2012 MVM NPR CROWD.001

Online Polls

The least popular of online content types is the online poll. Almost 90% of station newsrooms have better things to do.

2012 MVM NPR POLLS.001

About the Survey

The 2012 Survey of Stations was conducted by Michael V. Marcotte of MVM Consulting in coordination with the University of Nevada School of Journalism, where Marcotte is a visiting professor. Collaborating on the invitation only, online survey was PhD candidate Sandra Evans of The Annenberg School of Communication at the University of Southern California. 136 stations participated, 103 of them were NPR members.

Attributes of Local NPR Stations: Local News Airtime

Data from the 2012 MVM/UNR/USC survey of local NPR news stations show that almost half the stations in the system are producing an hour or less of local news per day (M-F).

The other half of the stations go much deeper into local news… with a quarter of stations producing more than 12 hours per week.

2012 MVM NPR Air Time Radio.001

 

NPR Stations See Need to Improve Local Online News

New survey results from MVM Consulting show NPR stations far less satisfied with their online local news than with their local news on air.

The data show 72% of NPR stations are “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with their on air local news programming. Only 10% were at all dissatisfied with the broadcast product.

2012 MVM NPR Satisfaction On Air.001
But when the same question was asked about each station’s online local news content, the responses were far less effusive. A third of stations expressed dissatisfaction.

2012 MVM NPR Satisfaction Online.001
As reported earlier, stations are reporting efforts to expand their online news staffing and content. But for now there’s a significant gap between their levels of satisfaction, radio versus online.

The 2012 Survey of Stations was conducted by Michael V. Marcotte of MVM Consulting in coordination with the University of Nevada School of Journalism, where Marcotte is a visiting professor. Collaborating on the invitation only, online survey was PhD candidate Sandra Evans of The Annenberg School of Communication at the University of Southern California. 136 stations participated, 103 of them were NPR members.

Gender Inequality in Public Media Newsrooms

Looks like we have a ways to go in local public radio and television. Like the rest of the media, women are underrepresented in our newsrooms.

What prompted me to take a dive into these never-before-reported numbers was the recent study by the The Women’s Media Center, The Status of Women in the U.S. Media 2013, which reported, “stubborn gender inequality in the ways that women are employed and represented in news, entertainment and technology-related media…”

Thanks to detailed reports filed by public stations… we can begin to examine the composition of local public broadcasting newsrooms.

The theory is simple: women make up 51% of the population, so their presence in media should be comparable. Where it isn’t (and it isn’t), discrimination may be in play.

While the WMC study includes a section on U.S. radio and television, it lumps public broadcasters together with commercial. Moreover, the data used is from an annual survey by Hofstra University’s Bob Papper. Frankly, the survey sample is dominated by commercial stations, so we can’t see with high certainty the state of female employment in public media.

Until now. Thanks to detailed reports filed by public stations to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, we can begin to examine the composition of local public broadcasting newsrooms. (For years, the CPB has requested staffing data from stations, but beginning in 2010, it began asking for much more granular data about station journalists.)

 Women Journalists Employed in Local Public Radio and TV

All the data here are from 2011, the most recent available.

As you can see, right off the bat, when you lump all 3000 news employees from all local stations together (and these numbers do represent over 90% of the actual local public radio and TV workforce), there’s a basic disparity.

Gender-All-PubNews

It gets more interesting when we break out the two main sectors of public media — radio and TV.

Radio is the bigger employer of journalists, by a 2-to-1 margin. This is understandable because there are many more radio stations than TV stations. But, perhaps more importantly, local public radio provides the base of the NPR News distribution pyramid; those stations are growing their local journalism ranks.

So, how are women faring in local public radio newsrooms? Here’s the big picture:

Gender-All-PubRadio

The employment ratio between men and women is better than local public media as a whole.

Of course, that must mean that public TV is the bigger culprit in the gender disparity.

Here’s the local public TV news staffing break-out:

Gender-All-PubTV

Whoa! This is comparable to what the Women’s Media Center found in commercial television. In fact, it’s worse. Women’s share of the commercial television news workforce is closer to 40%.

Public radio, on the other hand, is doing better than commercial radio in approaching gender balance in news. (Public radio: 46% women. Commercial radio: 33% women.)

Women in Leadership Roles in Local Public Radio and TV Newsrooms

One area where the Women’s Media Center was particularly critical of U.S. media was for the dearth of women in executive roles. In general, those percentages show even greater disparity.

Looking at the data from public radio and TV, we can count those women who hold news leadership roles (news director, executive producer, senior editor, senior producer, managing editor, etc.).

We’ll look at radio news first.

Gender-PubRad-Leaders

Sure enough, the disparity increases. (The “non-leader” ratio is 47 to 53, women to men.)

Here’s an even deeper look at what comprises this leadership sector in local public radio news:

Gender-PubRad-Ldr-Detail

You can see that women outnumber men in some of the newsroom leadership roles, but not in the all-important news director (ND) category.

Let’s look at the same charts for local public TV.

Gender-PubTV-Leaders

As expected, the gender gap is worse when we isolate the leadership roles. (The “nonleader” ratio in public TV news is 39 to 61, women to men.)

In the break-out below, you can also see that in public TV, unlike public radio, it’s the executive producer that serves as top news boss in most local PBS stations:

Gender-PubTV-Ldr-Detail

Only one category shows women holding a numerical advantage — Senior Editor — but there are only 7 in the whole country. And the advantage is only by one.

Women in On-Air News Roles in Local Public Media

Finally, there’s the question of women being seen and heard in prominent on-air positions at the local NPR or PBS station.

Again, the WMC study didn’t look at public media, but it found that talk radio hosts were overwhelmingly male. And in newspapers, male bylines outnumbered female bylines, 3-1.

Another pass of our local public media data extracts the ratio of women to men in such on-air presenter roles as host and anchor.

Here’s the male-female split for all local public media journalists combined:

Gender-All-PubNews-Hosts

Still, a pretty big disparity.

Again, we wonder if public radio with its larger workforce is doing better in gender apportionment than the smaller staffs in public TV.

First, public radio news hosts:

Gender-PubRad-Hosts

As one can see, public radio stations are favoring male air hosts over women hosts nearly 2-1.

Public TV does a bit better:

Gender-PubTV-Hosts

 Bottom Line: Gender Inequity Persists Even in Public Media

Somehow, one would expect public media newsrooms to be doing much better than their commercial counterparts. Afterall, they’re tethered to universities and non-profits with more accountability requirements than the private sector. They tend to be bastions of educated, progressive thinkers. And there’s no mistaking years of systemwide efforts at creating a more diverse, women-friendly workforce.

So, while they ARE doing better than their commercial counterparts, public media stations still have work to do if their male-female journalist balance is to mirror the larger society.

As Julie Burton, president of the Women’s Media Center, was quoted: “While media is the most powerful economic and cultural force today, it still falls far too short in its representation of women… the numbers demonstrate that the glass ceiling extends across all media platforms… we’re still not seeing equal participation. That means we are only using half our talent and usually hearing half of the story.”

Partnering with Others

A survey of U.S. public radio stations shows modest levels of editorial partnering with outside organizations.

A notable finding is the prominence of partnerships between local stations and local newspapers (30%).

The data also reveal the involvement of stations with non-profit news organizations (22%) such as ProPublica.

Not surprisingly, the most common news partnerships were between a station and a regional network (40%).

A quarter of public radio stations were frequently involved with a consortium of stations (26%), such as the new “Local Journalism Centers.”

Also found were partnerships with local websites (18%), local radio stations (16%) and local TV stations (14%).

The least common partnership type was that between a station and a local blogger (7%).

Why Partner Up?

Partnerships are widely seen as a low-cost method of expanding a public radio station’s service commitment by enjoining like-minded, complementary organizations to accomplish shared goals, such as

  • engaging the public
  • deepening news coverage
  • distributing coverage more widely
  • combining core competencies
  • creating cross-promotion opportunities
  • cost-sharing

How the Question Was Asked

A 2010 invitation-only survey (to CPB-qualified public broadcasters) contained the following question:

How frequently does your local news and public affairs commitment involve sharing with an outside entity you could call a “partner”?

The rating options were:

None    Infrequently    Frequently    Very Frequently

The 10 partner-types listed were:

  • A Local News Website
  • A Local Radio Station
  • A Local Newspaper
  • A Nonprofit News Org
  • A Regional Network
  • A Local Blogger
  • A Consortium of Partners
  • A Local TV Station
  • NPR Bureau Chief
  • NPR News Desk

The partnerships with NPR were reported earlier here. Below are the individual charts for the remaining eight partnership types, presented in order from most frequent to least frequent.

Partnering with Regional Networks

Regional radio networks are quite common and have been round a long time, so it is not surprising to see them as the most frequent form of partnering.

Regional networks can take many forms. Some are loose networks for story swaps. Some are hub and spoke models in which a central operator provides content out to multiple stations (e.g., The California Report). Some are variations on the news cooperative idea in which stations co-create stories for common usage (e.g., The Northwest News Network).

The chart below shows 40% of public radio stations partner with regional networks “frequently” or “very frequently.” Another 22% partner with regional networks on an “infrequent” basis.

Source: PRNDI/MVM Consulting 2010

Partnering with Local Newspapers

Almost a third of public radio newsrooms partner with a local newspaper “frequently” or “very frequently.”

The survey does not reveal the exact nature of these partnerships, but these are known to range from collaborative reporting projects, to featuring newspaper reporters on the air, to content-sharing arrangements. Newspapers, who have suffered steep losses in advertising, and thus staffing, have been pushing new forms of collaboration — which makes this form of partnering a fairly rich opportunity for both parties.

Note that when you consider another 32% of stations are partnering on an “infrequent” basis, you are left with the lowest “None” percentage of any of the partnership types (36%).

Source: PRNDI/MVM Consulting 2010

Partnering with a Consortium of News Providers

Partnerships built upon a consortium of stations may also take many forms. One of the emerging models in 2010 was the “Local Journalism Centers” sponsored by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. These “LJC’s” consist of 3 to 5 stations working in collaboration to concentrate multi-platform reporting on a specialty topic of regional interest.

The chart below shows the consortium model to be used “frequently” or “very frequently” by 26% of U.S. public radio stations.

Source: PRNDI/MVM Consulting, 2010

Partnering with a Non-Profit News Organization

Public radio stations are non-profit news organizations and thus may readily align with the mission of other non-profit news organizations — especially if those organizations are able to provide specialty coverage or investigative coverage to augment local coverage. Examples of non-profit news organizations include ProPublica, and the members of the Investigative News Network.

About one fifth of public radio stations partner with a non-profit news organization “frequently” or “very frequently.” Another fifth do so “infrequently.”

Source: PRNDI/MVM Consulting, 2010

Partnering with a Local News Website

Working with a local news website would seem to be an emerging form of partnering. An example might be the way KPBS in San Diego draws upon the coverage by Voice of San Diego (and vice-versa).

Partnering with a local news website is more common than working with a local broadcaster but less common than working with a local newspaper.

The chart below shows 18% of U.S. public radio stations have working relationships with local news websites. They aren’t “very frequent” in scope as much as they are just “frequent.”

Still, 82% of stations have infrequent or no relationship at all with news websites.

Source: PRNDI/MVM Consulting 2010

Partnering with a Local Radio Station

Working in tandem with another radio station is not very common. (FYI — The other station’s status as commercial or non-commercial was not specified.) Some 16% of public radio stations were found to partner “frequently” or “very frequently” with other radio stations.

Source: PRNDI/MVM Consulting 2010

Partnering with a Local TV Station

Only 14% of public radio stations say they strike up frequent partnerships with local TV stations. Over a fourth have infrequent relationships with local TV.

(The status of the TV station as commercial or non-commercial was not specified. It’s also possible that joint-licensee radio stations consider their joint-licensed TV station as partners in these results.)

Source: PRNDI/MVM Consulting 2010

Partnering with a Local Blogger

Local bloggers are the least common partnership type among local public radio news providers in the United States.

The “None” percentage of 72% is the highest of all the partnership types measured.

Source: PRNDI/MVM Consulting 2010

All Partnerships Compared

Below then is a final graph showing how all ten partnership options stack up among all U.S. public radio stations. The scale is based on the following values:

4=Very Frequent, 3=Frequent, 2=Infrequent, 1=None

Source: PRNDI/MVM Consulting, 2010

About the Survey

A direct-invitation survey was conducted between July 26 and August 15, 2010 by Michael Marcotte of MVM Consulting with help from Steve Martin of SFM Consulting and Ken Mills of the Ken Mills Agency. This survey was conducted as a supplement to a CPB/PRNDI census of local public broadcasting journalists. (Download a copy of the survey.) Ninty-two percent of all CPB-qualified public broadcast organizations took part in the main survey, and about 80% of those went on to complete the supplemental (or about 380 stations). The section reported here combines the radio and joint licensees, and leaves out the TV respondents.