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A columnist is an editorial writer who works, either freelance or on staff, as a regular contributor to a newspaper, magazine or website. Different from reporters who just deliver the facts, columnists interpret news and interviews through their own views and opinions. The average columnist salary is $34,000, according to StateUniversity.com. Syndicated columnists, who see their articles published in multiple media simultaneously, and nationally known columnists working for major media outlets can earn substantially higher salaries.
Being a Columnist
Columnists must develop a steady readership in order to command high salaries. Fashion, personal finance, healthy eating, fitness, sports, politics and celebrity gossip are common topics that columnists specialize in. They might contribute one article per month, week or day, depending on the publication and their terms of employment. Getting a job as a columnist usually requires a degree in English, journalism or communications, along with on the job experience as a copy editor, reporter or freelance writer.
PayScale.com calculates editorial writers’ salaries to range between $22,946 and $81,587, as of June 2011. Online columnists also have the potential to earn high salaries, with famous writers at established websites such as the Huffington Post or The Daily Beast earning hundreds of thousands of dollars per year, according to Henry Blodget, a writer with the website “Business Insider.”
Benefits and Perks
Some columnists get paid travel, profit sharing and bonuses. While meeting deadlines is crucial, many columnists are allowed to work on their articles from home or, while on the road, at hours that they choose. Depending on the employer, columnists might get health insurance or retirement benefits. Fame is one perk for the prolific writer with credibility in the eyes of a wide readership. Book deals and awards could be perks for the columnist who impresses her journalistic peers. Organizations such as the National Society of Newspaper Columnists occasionally bestow notable awards to columnists. Columbia University bestows Pulitzer Prizes in journalism every year.
Freelance column writing is one way to break into the business, especially if you lack sufficient college or writing background. Dave Astor, board member of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists, suggests several self-starter ways to become a columnist, including writing for school publications, starting a blog, writing on a non-local topic that you can pitch to newspapers around the country, or writing on a local topic that you can pitch to your local periodicals.