What Salary Freeze? Newspaper Wages Are Actually Rising

imageYou may have heard about the salary freezes and wage cuts at media companies like the NYTCo (NYSE: NYT), Gannett (NYSE: GCI) and Dow Jones (NYSE: NWS). But that’s not the full story: A new report says that overall, newspaper salaries have actually been on the rise. E&P’s Jen Saba cites a study of 400 papers in the U.S. and Canada by the Inland Press Association that found that newspaper wages rose an average 2.1 percent from 2008 to 2009.

To be sure, the gains were concentrated in a few areas, such as graphics and on newspaper websites. “Interactive producers” saw their pay jump 13 percent, while those in “new and alternative business development” are making 5 percent more than the year before. Salaries for new reporters and editorial-page editors didn’t move up at all.

Considering the wave after wave of layoffs in the media industry, it’s natural to ask: are new graduates of the nation’s journalism schools finding work? Daily Finance’s Jeff Bercovici finds that j-school grads at two relatively elite New York schools are doing pretty well.

Since graduating last month, 197 people, or 64 percent, of the 306 Columbia University j-school students who have left have lined up work within their chosen profession, a rep for the school says. However, that might not necessarily mean actual paying jobs, as it includes internships, fellowships and continuing ed. The Columbia rep tells Bercovici that the 64 percent is higher than last year, and some students have gotten job offers from places like The New York Times, NPR, CNN. Meanwhile, CUNY’s Graduate School of Journalism is claiming that 60 percent of the 45 j-school grads who finished last December now have full-time editorial work, while another 15 percent are doing internships or have been getting steady freelance work.

Rafat adds: Couple of counter-points here: First, it is misleading for Bercovici to take two “elite” NYC J-schools and extrapolate from that “as bad as things are in the media industry, J-school grads are, far more often than not, finding jobs.” Reality is, speak to even a smattering of J-schools outside of the main cities, and it will become amply clear that the job market even for fresh graduates remains dismal, at least in the traditional reporting jobs. Secondly, it is important not to brush off the “internships, fellowships and continuing ed” numbers from Columbia because that data helps shed light on the real number of grads who got full-time paying jobs. Also, the better statistic would be to find out the nature of students going into these programs, whether the trends are moving more towards students who have some prior experience in journalism and want to get additional skills (and a shelter from the cruel economy), or these are undergrads. A list of the right questions to ask is here in a comment on a previous Forbes.com story. Cynical tone, yes, but ignore that.

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