Business journalists continue to earn premium salaries; 70% report salary increases


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Business journalists continue to earn an impressive premium over their general-news peers, while demographic data indicate a strong cohort of female business journalists is making its way up the ranks, according to the most recent salary survey conducted by The Reynolds Center for Business Journalism, housed inside the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

Front-line business journalists — reporters, correspondents and freelancers — who responded to the survey, conducted from April 15 to May 1, reported a median salary of $75,599. That’s $18,099 higher — or 31.5% more — than the median salary published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics for news analysts, reporters and journalists in May 2023 — the most recent data available at the time of publishing. This is the third consecutive year the Reynolds Center has conducted this survey and demonstrates a clear and consistent premium in the salaries reported by business reporters. 

Although a majority of respondents (72.7%) stated their current position was a reporter/correspondent or freelancer, another quarter of respondents were editors, supervisors or in senior management positions. The median annual salary for all respondents was $82,250, with editors and managers reporting a combined median salary of $105,000. Almost 70% of respondents stated their salary had increased in the past year.

“The data are clear: Business journalism is a valued, and valuable, career,” said Jeffrey Timmermans, director of The Reynolds Center. “The entrenched salary premium enjoyed by business journalists shows no signs of disappearing.”

A total of 209 journalists from 34 states responded to the survey, with almost a third of respondents reporting from four states: New York, Texas, California and Massachusetts. The average age of respondents was 42.6 with an average of 17.7 years of experience as a journalist.

"The findings from this latest salary survey reinforce the value and demand for skilled business journalists," said Jim Nelson, president of the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing (SABEW). "Not only do they earn a significant premium over general news reporters, but they are also highly valued in leadership roles within their organizations. As the media landscape continues to evolve, businesses and audiences alike recognize the critical importance of in-depth financial and economic reporting." 

Over 90% of respondents stated they work in print or digital media outlets, with a very sparse distribution of business journalists in other mediums such as radio, podcasting, television or wire service. For those working in print/digital outlets, the distribution was almost evenly split between the American Business Journals (23.2%), regional/local publications (34.2%) and global/national publications (29.5%). A small percentage of respondents stated they work for a magazine (4.7%) or trade publication (4.2%).

Business journalism is a place for young and diverse reporters

One of the main objectives of the annual survey is to promote the appeal of a business journalism career to high school and college students by showcasing what business journalists actually cover. Although plenty of respondents stated they cover traditional business topics such as development, labor, stocks, and banking, respondents self-reported a vast array of coverage areas. This included hospitality and tourism, retail, space and satellites, sports business, women in the workforce, consumer affairs, biotech, social justice and workplace trends, cannabis and minority businesses.

A little under a quarter of respondents (21.5%) in this year’s survey were under the age of 30 and reported a median salary of $65,000, which is in the upper range for entry-level journalism positions in the United States. The average annual pay for an entry-level journalist position according to recent job posting activity on ZipRecruiter.com is $60,979 as of April 30. This once more indicates that business journalism is a promising field for recent journalism graduates to jump-start their careers.

Similar to the 2023 salary survey results, younger respondents in this year’s survey were more likely to be women and from diverse racial backgrounds than their older counterparts. While 85.3% of journalists who were 35 and older selected white as their sole race/ethnicity, only 70.5% of journalists under the age of 35 selected white. For journalists under 30, that number drops down to 57.8%. Additionally, while women only accounted for 43.4% of journalists that were 35 and older, they represented 70% of journalists under the age of 35 in the survey, and 80% of those under the age of 30. These results point towards a future field of business journalists that, compared with previous generations, is more representative of the communities it serves.

Investing in journalists

There was not enough data in the current sample size to accurately compare the median salaries of individual racial groups, as the vast majority of respondents (79.9%) reported their sole race/ethnicity as white. In total, 41 respondents self-selected their racial identity as something other than solely white, which included multiracial (6.2%), Asian (4.8%), Black (3.8%), Latino/Hispanic (2.9%) and other (2%). 

The median salary for those 41 respondents was $68,999. Although less than the median for all respondents in the survey, a closer look shows that this group of journalists was on average 10 years younger, with half as many years of experience (10.6 vs. 19.6) than their white counterparts. When accounting for years of experience, many of the other descriptive statistics — such as age, type of publication and percentage of the group who are editors/managers — become much more comparable. However, the median salary of those journalists remains $9,000 lower than their peers.

One major difference between the two groups other than the median salary that may be important to note is that there were twice as many men in the group of white journalists than in the group of nonwhite journalists. Therefore, gender may be a compounding factor for the pay discrepancy between the two groups.

About the survey

This is the third consecutive year The Reynolds Center has conducted this salary survey after reviving it in 2022. You can view past data results, compare between years and read more about the survey process on The Reynolds Center website.

The center reached out to business journalists throughout the country from small and large publications, including the American City Business Journals. The center also collaborated with SABEW to invite their 2500-plus members to participate between April 15 and May 1. Although this survey is by invitation only, business journalists are welcome to sign up to receive information about participating in future surveys.

The Reynolds Center for Business Journalism was established in 2003 in order to broaden the understanding of business journalism among journalism students, give journalists tools to improve their business coverage while promoting industry best practices and help freelancers navigate working with a variety of publications.

For more information about the Reynolds Center’s salary survey, contact: reynoldscenter@gmail.com.

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