Is being a journalist a lucrative, sustainable career? Are we educating doe-eyed 18-year-olds about the inverted pyramid, journalistic integrity and multimedia editing, when four years later they’re going to have to work three additional jobs just to pay their rent (because they obviously won’t get approved for a mortgage)?
The median salary for a newspaper journalist is roughly $30,000, where the median income for other college grads is about $42,000 (good for them. I think I started at $26k as a parole officer…) While that’s almost double the income to qualify for food stamps, by the time you take taxes out, you’re taking home about $17k a year. More than half of that would go towards rent, leaving less than $10k for personal expenses including a vehicle, food and utilities. Not a very enticing lifestyle. No wonder Peter Parker moonlighted as a research assistant or Clark Kent secretly robbed banks (just a hunch).
So, what is the draw for journalists? Aside from wanting to tell the story, document history or unveil the truth to the world, why would someone subject themselves to living at a near-poverty level? It’s not like there are too many opportunities to advance in journalism. The career path basically goes: part-time journalist, full-time journalist, editor. Long gone are the days of the “bustling” news room at the local newspaper. With the emergence of instant communication, ANYONE can be a journalist, providing they are at the right place at the right time, and can hit record on their cellphone.