The Journalism Job Market: Part I, Looking Back

Posted by: Michael Mandel on September 16

I’m going to give a shot at assessing the state of the journalism job market, based on government data and what I know about the dynamics of labor markets and industries. I’ll need at least two posts, and maybe three. This first post will take the long view, looking back, to see where we’ve been. Then I’ll look at what has happened during the recession. And then, if I’m feeling really brave, I’ll take a look forward.

I’m going to base my analysis on government data, primarily from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The BLS collects information on both industries and occupations. For this post, I’ll focus on industries.

Let me start off with the single most depressing chart.

journalism_13168_image001.gif

This is, of course, employment in the newspaper industry. Basically, this is an industry in decline since the beginning of the 1990s.

In terms of job loss, the newspaper industry looks remarkably like manufacturing. Take a look at this chart.

journalism_9330_image001.gif

Not good news, by any means.

But the newspaper industry is not the only place where journalists are employed. Here’s the long-run trend of employment in periodicals.

journalism_16220_image001.gif

Periodicals are pretty bad, but not quite as appalling as newspapers. Until the crisis hit in September 2008, periodical employment was pretty much holding its own—down after the tech bust, but still running even compared to the first half of the 1990s. That leaves open the possibility that part of the latest decline is cyclical.

In fact, print periodicals look roughly like radio and television, in terms of jobs.

journalism_17682_image001.gif

Let me put both industries on the same chart.

journalism_2478_image001.gif

This chart suggests that both industries are buffeted by similar combinations of long-term competitive and cyclical pressures.

Now we get into some of the ‘new’ media, which have very different job characteristics. Let’s look at cable and subscription programming:

journalism_19523_image001.gif

What’s interesting here is the way that cable employment leveled out since the 1990s boom. A visual medium, not subject to the problems of print—but no job growth.

And now we come to the Internet. The BLS has a category they call “internet publishing and broadcasting and web search portals.” I just call it “Google and Yahoo”. Here’s what it looks like:

journalism_21577_image001.gif

Whee! A ski jump! The problem is that the numbers are rising, but slowly—and we still haven’t recovered back to the peak levels. That’s weird and disturbing.

Now, one final industry called “all other information services”. This is a catchall category, which includes “news syndicates” (think Associated Press). It may or may not include all or part of Bloomberg (part of Bloomberg might be under financial services). Be that as it may, here’s what it looks like:

journalism_23740_image001.gif

Now there’s some upward movement! In a subsequent post, I will analyze this sector further. Just let it be said for now that someone is hiring out there.

Final thought: It seems clear that newspapers have a very different long-term job pattern than other “journalistic” industries. So let’s compare newspapers with periodicals plus radio plus TV plus cable plus internet plus other information services.

journalism_6986_image001.gif

What we have is a wipeout in newspapers, plus what looks like a combination of secular and cyclical declines in other “journalistic” industries.

Important caveats: We are working with blunt tools here. It’s very hard to know exactly what’s in each of the BLS industries. Moreover, these industries may include a combination of technical, production, and journalist jobs, especially in radio, TV, cable, and internet (for newspapers and periodicals, the actual physical printing should be tracked in a separate category if it is done in a different location).

My next post on this subject, in a couple of days, will look at the effects of the downturn in more detail, including occupational data on reporters and editors.


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Reader Comments

Manuel

September 16, 2009 06:36 PM

Really interesting post! I look forward to reading the second!

lucyfur

September 16, 2009 11:54 PM

It's not "weird and disturbing" that we remain below Internet publishing peak levels of 2000-01.

This is how it work back then: VCs and Mastercard funded a publishing start-up, which was then supported by advertising from other start-ups that really couldn't pay for the ads. Madoff's Ponzi scheme had more legs.

Next slide:

There are more people "working" in Internet publishing today than in 2001, but they aren't measured because they're below the poverty wage.

I'm actually confident about the future. Instead of funding kool-kid startups, the market is seeing first what works in the big, vast soup of experimentation. A new generation of newshounds will find employment.

LAO

September 17, 2009 12:02 AM

From my point of view, this is a sorry testament to the threatened state of the 4th leg of democracy. Sadly, I can't figure out what to do about it. If there's optimism in the forward outlook, I hope you'll write about it.

Pierre

September 17, 2009 12:14 PM

Those are some ugly Excel graphs. Can't you make them look a little better?

Mary Adams

September 17, 2009 12:23 PM

Michael - You need to look back much further--look at this history of the last century: http://www.pbs.org/fmc/book/15communication2.htm

Newspaper circulation peaked in 1950.

Ajay

September 17, 2009 11:34 PM

How typical, a journalist writes an article and merely extrapolates the past into the future. The fact is that the internet represents a vastly evolved communications system that's going to need many more people feeding information into it than any technology of the past. That means plenty of work for bloggers, podcasters, online video, everything you can imagine. However, this is mostly held back because of the economic illiteracy of the interested parties, journalists are mostly leftists who know almost nothing about economics and techies are usually interested only in technology and affect a hippie mentality of "everything must be free." The solution is micropayments, once they're here, all this work can be monetized and we'll see an explosion of information work, whether writing, editing, reporting, programming, financial analysis, doesn't matter what it is. Until then, these economic illiterates deserve the pain they bring on themselves.

curious

September 19, 2009 09:12 AM

Michael,

I wonder if some of the steep drop in newspaper jobs, especially in the 1990s, track with manufacturing because many of those jobs WERE manufacturing jobs--that is, printing press operations. Up until the early 1990s, I seems to recall, lots of newspapers still were printed in the basement below newsroom. Newspapers, unlike periodicals, traditionally had lots of non-journalist jobs--press operators, layout, truck drivers, etc. Didn't technology and outsourcing take a hammer to a lot of those jobs well before the Internet really started changing reading habits?

Beth R

September 19, 2009 06:28 PM

Hi Michael -- Do you have any data on what specific types of jobs were lost at newspapers? Editors? reporters? Photographers? I can use the information for my Masters thesis. Thanks!

kat

September 20, 2009 08:55 AM

Great stuff. I enjoy reading stats with accompanying charts, which show trends and comparisons. It helps to understand the big picture and where future jobs may lie.

Dontrushme

September 21, 2009 07:48 AM

News from the front, the Great State of DeCline, Michigan . . . our big dailies have either folded, cut back production (print edition) to 3 or 4 days a week (online the remainder -- think the Detroit News and Free Press, Flint Journal)or gone totally online (think Ann Arbor News). Dailies have suffered. Which means the manufacturing of newspapers has suffered. You can outsource the layout of a page to India for about a buck. Printing is done whereever is cheaper. The amount of printers, comp staff and reporters out of work in Michigan is amazing . . . that said, community newspapers (think weekly)have weathered-the-storm or grown. And, these newspapers will continue to grow. I beleive the daily journalists are starting their own publications. I see new niche publications popping up everywhere and new "marketing" start ups.

Amy O

September 21, 2009 10:32 AM

Thanks for the info. I appreciate the simplicity of your message. I also like reading all the feedback. This is what makes internet writing such a great medium.

VVT3D

September 23, 2009 06:47 PM

Perhaps a new trend... some good old newspapers have paid attention to their audience and improved their format, style and content. I've just re-subscribed to the PRINT version of the San Francisco Chronicle after years of getting all my news online.

Oneofem

January 1, 2010 11:26 AM

I am interested in the jobmarket for war journalists- how easy is it for them to 1) find jobs and 2) find well paid jobs? Is it easy to get the job of a journalist somewhere in Iraq, Afganistan, Chechnia, etc? Are the professionals who go to hot spots around the world well remunerated for their sacrifice? I am thinking of doing studies in journalism and am willing to specialize in war journalism. Which school would you recommend for this? Many thanks in advance for your answers.

Jenna

January 26, 2010 11:42 PM

Oh Boyy

Howard Cossman

April 20, 2010 11:55 AM


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Today, we all agree that small business is the engine that creates jobs and grows our economy, however most Americans have no idea how to get a product to the marketplace. Over the years, schools have taught most Americans how to be corporate employees. It’s time to go back to the basics and teach Americans how to start and build a business of their own.

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Cossman International Marketing

Howard Cossman

April 20, 2010 11:55 AM


“When you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day ...

when you teach a man to fish, you feed him for life”

Dear BusinessWeek,

Like millions of legal immigrants, my grandparents came to America for the freedoms and opportunities this exceptional country has to offer. They worked 15 hour days to give their children a better life than they had. My father, in the spirit of Horatio Alger, worked his way from rags to riches. By building his own business, he not only created a job for himself and his own employees, he helped to create and sustain jobs for the employees of all his suppliers.

Today, we all agree that small business is the engine that creates jobs and grows our economy, however most Americans have no idea how to get a product to the marketplace. Over the years, schools have taught most Americans how to be corporate employees. It’s time to go back to the basics and teach Americans how to start and build a business of their own.

After starting from scratch, we spent 25 years, selling over 20 million of our own diversified products ... and, we spent another 25 years teaching our proven methods to over 2 million Americans. Most of our students experienced great success, and were able to employ many others. In the past few years, we made our methods even more user friendly, affordable, and accessable, by digitizing all our instructional materials. We are offering a free video presentation at www.cossman.com, which shows Americans how they can start and build their own full-time, or part-time business, with little or no money, even if they have never been in business before.

We sincerely believe that our program could help get Americans back to work, create jobs, and stimulate our economy. Any mention of our program on your behalf would be greatly appreciated. For more information about us and our program, please visit our website at: www.cossman.com

With Kind Regards,

Howard Cossman
Cossman International Marketing

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About

Michael Mandel, BW's award-winning chief economist, provides his unique perspective on the hot economic issues of the day. From globalization to the future of work to the ups and downs of the financial markets, Mandel-named 2006 economic journalist of the year by the World Leadership Forum-offers cutting edge analysis and commentary.

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