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Business journalists survey: Bullish about economic future

U.S. business journalists – who report daily on the economic conditions in their communities – say they expect their local economic conditions, including the number of jobs available, to improve in the next six months, according to a new survey commissioned by the Donald W. Reynolds National Center for Business Journalism.

Reynolds Center research 2012:
What Business Journalists Think about their Local Economy (PDF) | Slideshow: Research questions and results (PDF) | U.S. business journalists’ median salary is $56,591

“There is growing optimism on the part of journalists who cover the economy each and every day about their local economy,” said Andrew Leckey, president of the Donald W. Reynolds National Center of Business Journalism. “A full 45 percent of them said they see things getting better… at least the perception is on the right track.”

The research was based on 300 phone interviews Jan. 18-24, 2012, with randomly selected business journalists around the United States. Respondents, who have been journalists an average of 20 years, with 13 years as business journalists, reported a marginal increase in business journalists’ annual pay.

“It’s a good sign that more business journalists are seeing their companies hiring news staff, although it’s rising from a really low level in many places,” said Kevin Noblet, managing editor for wealth management at Dow Jones Newswires and president of the Society of American Business Editors and Writers (SABEW). “It’s also comforting to hear that one out of five are working in newsrooms with more staff now, and that pay is inching up. Business journalism has weathered the news industry’s deep troubles much better than most other areas of reporting, but there have been deep cuts in lots of business news departments, particularly at newspapers.”

Pamela Yip, personal finance columnist at The Dallas Morning News and SABEW board member, said the fact that the job market for journalists appears to be improving is encouraging.

“It’s reasonable to expect that more jobs will be available six months from now,” she said. ” The caveat is that job growth needs to be a lot faster to get more unemployed people back into jobs. The improvement we’re likely to see is an improvement compared with very low, awful levels.”

Highlights from the study:

  • The research was based on 300 phone interviews with randomly selected business journalists throughout the United States.
  • Questions were asked Jan. 18-24, 2012.
  • The respondents came from print, broadcast, wire services, freelance and online.
  • Respondents have been journalists, on average,  nearly 20 (19.9) years, with 13.1 years as a business journalist.
  • Business journalists are expecting their local economic conditions, including the number of jobs available, to get better in the next six months.
  • Jim Haynes, president of Behavior Research Center, whose firm also asks the general public about the economy, says business journalists are more optimistic than the general public. He believes that the general public may be lagging behind business journalists who are more closely reading economic data.

Local markets.

  • When asked how they think general business conditions in their local area will be in six months: 45 percent said better. That was up from 35 percent who said better in July 2011.
  • A high percentage reported that local jobs are “hard to get” (40 percent) or “not so many” (42 percent ), but when asked to forecast local jobs in six months, 43 percent expect “plenty” or “more” jobs, which is up from 33 percent in July 2011.

Residential real estate.

  • Local residential real estate is about the same as July 2011, but 40 percent of journalists expect it to be better in six months, up from 24 percent in July 2011.

Commercial real estate.

  • Of the journalists surveyed, 54 percent said commercial real estate is about the same as six months ago and 52 percent said they expect it to stay that way in the next six months.

Journalism in general.
When asked, “Is your newsroom currently hiring full-time journalists?”

  • 32 percent said yes. This is up from 14 percent in July 2011.
  • 21 percent said there are more journalists in their newsroom than 6 months ago.
  • Just 10 percent reported growth in July.

 

Business journalism.
The number of business journalists in newsrooms is about the same as 6 months ago. (66% reported that.) And 69% of the respondents believe that the number of business journalists will remain the same.

Pay.

  • We’re seeing a marginal increase in business journalists’ pay.
  • 42% report an increase in the past 2 years. That’s up from 36% six months ago.
  • The median base salary for business journalists surveyed is $56,591.

SABEW’s Noblet added, “I’m not sure journalists are especially skilled at economic forecasting, but they do tend to both fact-based and well-informed. That could put them ahead of the curve. Of course, the fact that hiring and pay may be getting just a little better in their own workplaces may color their view. It would for most people, I think.”

Links to previous business journalists’ research reports:

 

About the Author

I am digital director at the Reynolds Center for Business Journalism, which I joined in 2009. Before that I was Online Community Manager for azcentral, the online site for The Arizona Republic. Before arriving in Arizona, I worked at Newsday where I was Deputy Business Editor. I was the small business editor at BusinessWeek Online. I teach journalists to use Twitter, Facebook and other social media tools to expand and manage their networks. And I am a cofounder of #wjchat, a weekly Twitter chat about web journalism. You can reach me at Email: Robin.Phillips@BusinessJournalism.org OR RobinJPhillips.com OR @RobinJP

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