In the 20th century, the world witnessed a new era of journalism as radio and television programming went head to head with traditional print platforms such as newspapers and magazines. Today, the internet rules the spread of information, offering new avenues for journalists to practice their craft. While reporters, editors and news directors still produce your daily news and monthly magazines, emerging internet platforms enable journalists to work independently, delivering stories about current events, travel, consumer products, lifestyles and more.
Television and Radio Journalism Jobs
During the last century, television and radio dominated the world of journalism, at times threatening to overshadow traditional print publishing. Today, radio and television continue to provide opportunities for journalists in traditional news-gathering roles and specialty programming.
Reporters and News Analysts
Television and radio reporters work for local, national and international broadcast news agencies. Some reporters serve as foreign correspondents, covering news from locations around the world. Reporters research and develop stories about topics ranging from consumer products to political events and from entertainment to natural disasters.
As a reporter, you must interview subject-matter experts and others associated with the story you are covering. The job also requires writing scripts, which you must present in your own voice on camera or over a microphone. Many reporters must also write print versions of their stories for online distribution.
Some reporters specialize in topics such as economics, politics, health and fitness, medicine or technology. Reporters who specialize in a topic must form associations with knowledgeable contacts they can rely upon for interviews, advice and information when developing a story. News analysts, including commentators and anchors, present news stories primarily from a studio. News anchors sometimes begin their careers working as reporters, while commentators often enter broadcasting after gaining expert-level knowledge in a particular field such as transportation, politics or the environment.
Most television and radio stations seek reporters and analysts who have earned at least a bachelor’s degree in communication or journalism. A well-rounded reporter’s education might include coursework in political science, economics, history, creative writing and English.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in 2016 more than 11,000 people worked as television and radio reporters in the United States. In 2017, television and radio reporters earned a median income of nearly $40,000, while news analysts took home about $63,000. The median income represents the wage at the center of an occupation’s pay scale.
The BLS projects jobs for television and radio reporters to decline by around 10 percent from now until 2026. However, positions for news analysts should remain at around the same level over the same period.
Video Editors and Camera Operators
Camera operators caption images in the studio and field for live or delayed television broadcasting. Editors rearrange, or cut, raw video footage to present a cohesive story. Editors and camera operators work closely with producers and reporters to create the intended picture and audio presentation, which typically must fit within a defined time slot during broadcast. Both positions require expert ability in operating video, audio and camera equipment. Many editors also must convert finished stories to a format compatible for internet distribution.
Most employers prefer editors and camera operators who have earned a bachelor’s degree in communication or television and film production. Typically, film and video production programs offer coursework that includes film theory and hands-on operation of camera and editing equipment. Employers often seek experienced camera operators and editors who have amassed a portfolio of previous work.
In 2016, more than 25,000 camera operators and around 34,000 editors worked in the United States, according to the BLS. In 2017, camera operators earned a median income of more than $59,000, while editors made nearly $64,000.
According to BLS projections, the editing profession should see a 17 percent increase in jobs through 2026. During the same period, jobs for camera operators should increase by around 7 percent. The rise in internet platforms such as online news websites accounts for much of the projected employment growth.
A television or radio news director oversees a station’s entire news operation, from creating story packages to studio broadcasts. The news director manages news department personnel; this may include hiring and terminating staff and handling conflicts between employees. She decides which news stories to cover and when stories air, while also ensuring that the news team complies with ethical journalism standards and legal guidelines. News directors also supervise the publication of webpage and social media content. The news director often appears on air to offer the audience her commentary or opinion on a topic. In some television stations, news directors also serve as daily anchors.
Most radio and television stations seek news directors with at least a bachelor’s degree in communication or journalism. Typically, stations also look for news directors with several years of experience in the news industry as a reporter or news analyst.
The job growth for news directors relies on the number of stations operating news departments. In 2015, more than 800 television stations employed news directors, and 32 radio stations featured an all-news format. The United States has about 750 public radio stations, but many of them rely on news packages produced by National Public Radio. Likewise, many commercial radio stations purchase syndicated news packages and do not operate a news department.
According to a Pew Research Survey, in 2014 news directors earned an average income of around $92,000.
Print and Digital Media Journalism Jobs
For a few centuries, journalists have exercised their craft in newspapers, magazines and industry journals. Today, newspapers and magazines increasingly deliver their articles over the internet, providing new opportunities for experienced and fledgling journalists.
Newspaper and magazine news journalists follow current events and write stories for print and online platforms. Some print and digital writers specialize in topics such as technology, transportation, medicine, economics or politics and write for mainstream news publications – such as Newsweek, the Washington Post or the Wall Street Journal – or specialty publications, such as CNET, Vogue or Car and Driver.
Writers must research their topics to find information, communicate with subject-matter experts to gain insider knowledge and conduct interviews with people closely associated with the stories they are writing. They must have expert knowledge of language, grammar and punctuation, and possess the ability to communicate a story that engages the reader from beginning to end, while staying within the physical constraints – usually a word count – of the publication.
As a writer, you must work closely with editors, who often assign and guide your stories, as well as professionals such as photographers, illustrators and web content managers. Often, staff writers receive assignments from editors or other internal clients, while freelance writers frequently must develop and pitch story ideas to editors or publishers.
Typically, staff writing positions require at least a bachelor’s degree in journalism, English or communications. In 2016, more than 131,000 writers worked in the United States, according to the BLS. Nearly 65 percent of writers work as freelancers.
According to the BLS, writers earned a median income of nearly $62,000 in 2017. Writers earning the highest incomes worked in the technology and science industries.
From now until 2026, the BLS projects the need for writers to increase by around 8 percent.
The role of an editor expands beyond simply reviewing and revising articles for publication. Editors evaluate current events and trends, along with the demographics and interests of their publication’s readership, and develop short- and long-term plans for the publication’s content.
In reviewing writers’ work, the editor must have expert knowledge of grammar, spelling and punctuation, as well as the ability to organize, clarify and summarize the writer’s intended message. Editors approve final drafts of written material and work with illustrators, photographers and designers who lay out and illustrate content. As an editor, you must fact check articles or assign the task to an assistant.
Editors for established publications often write opinion articles and newsletter content. Some editors represent their publications on radio and television programs.
Most employers hire editors who have at least a bachelor’s degree in journalism, English, communications or a subject related to the publication’s primary focus. Editors often begin their careers as writers and seek editorial positions after developing a strong portfolio of work.
In 2016, more than 127,000 editors worked in the United States, according to the BLS. Book publishers, magazines and newspapers employed the majority of editors. In 2017, editors earned a median salary of around $59,000. The highest earners worked in science and technology sectors, closely followed by those working for civic, religious and professional organizations. The BLS expects employment for editors to remain at current levels through 2026.
Photographers capture and edit photographs that illustrate print, broadcast or online articles, or serve as standalone galleries to visually present a story. Photojournalists and photographers must possess an expert understanding of photo equipment, such as digital cameras and photo editing software, as well as knowledge of the role light plays in recording an image and visually expressing a mood. Some photographers work in studios and use artificial lights to illuminate a subject, while others work on location in existing light conditions.
Photographers must stay abreast of photography trends such as high dynamic range imaging to offer the most visual options to their editors or clients. Some photographers use trending technology such as drones and panoramic cameras as a primary or secondary photo-capturing option.
Many employers do not require photographers to have a college degree. However, you must build a strong portfolio of work to land assignments regularly.
In 2016, more than 147,000 photographers worked in the United States, according to the BLS. Nearly 70 percent worked as freelancers, and just 2 percent held full-time jobs in the print publishing industry.
According to a BLS survey, in 2017 photographers made a median wage of around $16 per hour. Broadcasting companies paid the highest wages, closely followed by book and newspaper publishers. The BLS expects photographer opportunities to decrease by around 6 percent through 2026.
Alternative Journalism Platforms
As 20th-century newspapers, magazines, television stations and radio stations sometimes struggle to find their place in the digital age, new platforms have emerged for journalists to build upon. Blogs, social media websites and image- and video-sharing webpages have matured into major sources for distributing information.
Some of today’s most popular information websites began as blogs. For instance, Gizmodo, an online source for technology and design news, began as a blog, but now generates more than $300,000 per month, according to Forbes. CopyBlogger, a website centered on digital marketing, earns an estimated $1 million per month.
While many people still turn to YouTube to share videos of their kids or pets, an increasing number of journalists use the platform to circulate news and commentary; offer product reviews; and explore the worlds of travel, cuisine and photography. For example, Tony and Chelsea Northrup turned their passion for photography into a YouTube channel that offers tutorials, industry news and product reviews to their 1 million subscribers. MIgardener founder Luke Marion has more than 300,000 subscribers who visit his YouTube channel to learn about gardening.
Podcasting allows radio presenters to work independently to deliver content ranging from political analysis to serial documentaries. More Perfect covers cases appearing before the Supreme Court; This American Life produces short documentaries about everyday people and crime; Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History presents episodes about the people and events of the past. Websites such as iTunes and Stitcher offer inexpensive platforms for podcasters to broadcast their programs over the internet.
Bloggers, podcasters and YouTubers make money in several ways, including advertising revenue, product endorsements and custom branding. You can generally begin a blog, podcast or YouTube channel with little or no money. Creating an independent career takes time, effort and a lot of trial and error while establishing a following. Many bloggers, podcasters and YouTubers develop content in their spare time, before giving up their day jobs.
The Best Colleges for Journalism
Notable journalism schools often require hefty tuition and may not offer the type of individual attention that can help you learn and grow. When searching for a journalism or communications school, choose among institutions with small class sizes and hands-on opportunities. For example, if you plan to follow a career in television broadcasting, look for a university that has a campus television station manned by students. Likewise, if your plans call for a career in print publishing, enroll in a school that has a student-run newspaper, where you can gain writing or editing experience before graduating.