Change and Stability in the Newspaper Industry’s Journalistic Labor Market


Lee B. Becker, Tudor Vlad and Hugh J. Martin


Among the common assumptions made about the journalistic labor market is that is hierarchical, with entry-level hiring done almost exclusively by smaller organizations. Individuals are thought to be able to gain employment at larger media organizations only after they have served time in smaller ones. The assumed normal career progression for a newspaper journalist is from a small newspaper, perhaps even a weekly, to a larger one and on up the chain, with employment at larger organizations open only to those who have served their time at the lower levels of the employment chain. It generally is assumed that these patterns of employment have remained relatively stable across time.

This paper draws on an unusual data source consisting of surveys of daily newspaper editors in 1986 and every five years after, with the most recent survey conducted in 2001. Questions on each of the instruments provide basic data on hiring in the newspaper industry the year before.

Analysis of these data shows that most entry level hiring is done by smaller daily newspapers. There are exceptions, however, with some larger organizations also hiring journalists with no prior journalistic experience. The analysis shows that this pattern has not changed markedly over the last 20 years. It also shows that membership in a newspaper group impacts hiring.

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