$41K should be a milestone, not a calling

By Mike Jago

Journalism students are constantly told that in order to be successful, you need to start at the bottom. Journalists coming straight from college aren’t going to be writing for The New York Times, The Washington Post, or any of the big name papers. While there is money to be made in the field, recent graduates may not see it for a while.

According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers and Poynter.com, Journalism graduates’ average starting salaries were up 3.3 percent in 2013, making an estimated $41,000.

$41,000, while not a terrible starting salary, is far from being well of for the amount of work a journalist does in today’s society. But, is the figure accurate? We’re constantly told that you need to endure the bad to experience the good, and that’s especially true in the field of journalism.

The big problem we face in today’s economy is finding a job. Journalists have an even tougher road because the state of today’s newspaper industry is in dire straits. Unless you work for the big time national newspapers, small time journalists must reflect on the fact that they might not have a job.

Up and coming journalists need to realize that the job won’t be a walk in the park from the start. Most successful journalists have worked long, hard hours to get where they are. A figure like $41,000 may alter a student’s work ethic, and the next generation of reporters needs to keep a level head. In my own opinion, the $41,000 starting figure is way off, and people need to realize that.

On the day that Poynter released the statistic, Richard Deitsch, a reporter at Sports Illustrated, took to Twitter to voice his opinion. His timeline was filled with retweets from other journalists’ experiences with starting money. These experiences included a man that “started in Yakima, WA in ’05 for 20k/yr as a sports reporter,” to another man claiming he had “been in the business 16 years and still don’t make that figure.”

There’s no way to sugarcoat it, the job market in the journalism field isn’t very good. Newspapers around the country have laid people off, and many newspapers are folding under the current economy. To fill the heads of graduating journalism students with a figure like $41,000 is nothing short of ludicrous.

In a society where kids are used to getting handed whatever they want, future journalists need to realize that hard work will equal great success. You shouldn’t see $41,000 as a starting salary; you should see it as a milestone. Work towards that $41,000 and then blow past it. A good reporter is worth every penny they are getting paid.

My advice to those that want a journalism degree, keep focus and work hard. If you are in journalism to make money, then you are in the wrong field. The ability to report the news to people, talk about a favorite sports team or make others feel good with a nice feature is something that shouldn’t be taken for granted.

As Grace Kelly once said, “the freedom of the press works in such ways where there is no freedom from it.” If you want to be a successful journalist, a simple money figure shouldn’t be your motivation.


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