Newspaper Journalism: Career and Salary Facts

Research what it takes to become a newspaper journalist. Learn about job duties, advancement potential, education requirements, earnings potential and job growth to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Digital Marketing degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Newspaper Journalist?

Newspaper journalists come up with articles and content for print-based news publications, often on a daily basis. Their responsibilities include thinking of good angles for articles, researching for accurate and interesting information, interviewing people for more information, and presenting their findings to their audience in an informative and entertaining way. Since many newspapers have an online component, it is likely that newspaper journalists will produce content for both the physical and online versions. Written communication skills are paramount for this career path, as are good organizational and research abilities.

Career Information at a Glance

Newspaper journalists investigate breaking news, brainstorm ideas or topics for stories, interview article subjects, write articles and sometimes write headlines. The following chart gives an overview of a career in journalism.

Degree Required Bachelor's
Education Field of Study Journalism, communications
Key Skills Research, writing, interviewing, objectivity
Job Growth (2014-2024) -8% (decline) for all reporters and correspondents*
Median Salary (May 2015) $36,360 for all reporters and correspondents*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

What Will I Do As A Newspaper Journalist?

If you work at a larger publication, you may be responsible only for researching and writing the stories assigned to you. Smaller newspapers expect you to come up with your own story ideas, take accompanying photographs, proofread copy or work on layout.

Some newspaper journalists report on anything and everything their employers deem newsworthy - such individuals are commonly known as general-assignment reporters. Other journalists focus on a specific area or type of news, such as local or international, arts and entertainment, sports, business and education. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported in 2015 that most large publications use specialized coverage areas, while smaller ones tend to rely on general reporting (www.bls.gov).

What Advancement Opportunities Are Available?

Newspaper journalists may eventually transition to writing columns or commentary as opposed to reporting news. They can also shift to the editorial department. Editors supervise writers and hand out assignments, as well as revise and finalize copy. If you're an editor for a smaller newspaper, you may handle all editorial duties. A larger newspaper may have you work directly under the editor-in-chief as an editorial assistant; otherwise, you can supervise writers and distribute assignments as a managing or assignment editor.

What Education Do I Need?

Most employers require you to hold a bachelor's degree to become a newspaper journalist. Colleges and universities commonly offer bachelor's degree programs in journalism itself, some with minors or specializations in newspaper or print journalism. You can also earn your degree in communications and declare a concentration in journalism. If you want to cover a specific type of news, such as sports or business, you can take elective courses in that area or, in some cases, minor in it.

Bachelor's degree programs in journalism or communications educate you in the basic functions of the media, along with specific news writing and reporting skills. You typically learn to write specific types of articles, such as editorials, human-interest features, investigative reports, local news and scientific pieces. You also take several courses in editing and at least one each in layout, newspaper design and media ethics. Basic journalism programs may teach broadcast and online journalism skills in addition to newspaper writing, since many newspapers also offer online news.

What Should I Expect On The Job Front?

The BLS anticipated the job market for newspaper journalists to be a highly competitive one between 2014 and 2024, particularly in large cities. They also projected that employment for journalists may be harder to come by: newspapers' ability to sell advertising is dependent upon circulation numbers, which the BLS expected to decrease. Decreased revenue translates into fewer jobs for journalists. You may benefit from entering the job market with internship experience. Many communications and journalism programs require internships for graduation, but you can also get hands-on journalism practice by writing for your school's campus newspaper. The American Society of News Editors (ASNE) also lists numerous internship opportunities by state and job title (www.asne.org).

How Much Could I Earn?

As of May 2015, the BLS reported that the median annual salary for all reporters and correspondents was $36,360. According to PayScale, reporters working in the newspaper industry earned a median salary of $33,736 in 2016, and newspaper editors-in-chief earned a median salary of $41,332.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

There are many different careers that are relatively similar to becoming a newspaper journalist. With a bachelor's degree in journalism or communications, you could also become a professional writer or author. You may create content for online publications, magazines, journals, or write your own material to be published as a book. If you are particularly knowledgeable about current events or political affairs, you may choose to become a broadcast news analyst, offering opinions and insights on news stories. These professionals tend to have already gained some experience in the field before finding positions as broadcast news analysts. Another option is to become a public relations specialist, maintaining a favorable public image for an organization. These professionals are required to have very strong communication skills, including written, as much of their job involves writing and managing correspondence between their client and the media.

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