TV station newsrooms staffed up in 2011, as print newsrooms shrank

RTDNA/Hofstra University | Associated Press
TV news staffing rose 4.3 percent across the U.S. in 2011, to its second-highest level ever, according to a new study by the Radio Television Digital News Association and Hofstra University. Although the industry’s total employment, 27,653, is lower than it was in 2000, staffing at the average station is higher because there are fewer stations producing news now than in 2000.

The remaining stations are going full-tilt, adding an hour of newscasts since 2009, reports the AP’s David Bauder. The average TV station now produces five and a half hours of news.

“What it tells you is the local TV business, for the most part, sees local news as more and more of its future,” Bob Papper, the Hofstra professor who did the study, told Bauder. The reporter noted:

For some stations, political advertising is a factor in making news broadcasts a more attractive commodity. Political ads are often concentrated on local newscasts, and the more newscast time, the greater chance to sell ads. For stations in states considered battlegrounds in the presidential election, politics represents a good revenue opportunity, Papper said.

The situation couldn’t be more different from the newspaper industry, where staffs and page counts continue to shrink. Newspaper staffing is the lowest since ASNE started its annual census in 1978. Several newspapers have announced plans to stop printing on certain days. Still, the newspaper industry had 40,600 newsroom employees at the last count, many more than television stations.

TV stations are generally hiring for traditional broadcast news jobs — reporters, producers, photographers and anchors — but they’re also looking for multimedia journalists and Web staff.

Top job categories for new hires

  1. producers
  2. reporters
  3. web
  4. anchors
  5. photographers
  6. multimedia journalists
  7. tape editor
  8. weather, associate producers/news assistants and executive producer

Other findings from the study:

  • Median employment “skyrocketed” in the top 25 markets and rose in markets 51 and under. It dropped in markets 26-50.
  • Hiring was particularly strong at stations in the South.
  • Most news directors expect their staffs to remain the same or grow this  year, though news directors in the Midwest are less optimistic.
  • Budgets were the same or larger as the year before at about three-quarters of stations (split almost evenly between the two).
  • 59 percent of stations say they’re making money on TV news, which is the highest level since 1998.
“Stations in the smallest markets, with the smallest staffs and outside the big four networks all brought the profitability numbers down,” according to the report.

Related: Newspaper employment continues to drop, especially among minorities (Poynter) | News trumps entertainment for most memorable TV moments (Poynter)

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  • Anonymous

    Something else I don’t see in this story: TV stations can get retransmission fees from cable and satellite companies, and thus have extra money to bulk up their newsrooms. Newspapers (unless their parent companies also own TV stations) don’t have that same stream of revenue.

  • Anonymous

    they will get what they pay for: not much. you can’t be good on-the-cheap.

  • Anonymous

    they will get what they pay for: not much. you can’t be good on-the-cheap.

  • Steve Outing

    Steve: You don’t mention the issue of “covert consolidation,” or local TV stations running the same reports due to (dubious) agreements with each other, which has been the subject of criticism by (see Your note of “fewer stations producing news now than in 2000″ alludes to this. While it’s good news that local TV news is adding staff (albeit at lower wages, as suggested by the report’s indication that budgets are mostly the same while staffing is up), there’s still the issue that Free Press raises of less coverage of local news because of fewer outlets in a market actually putting reporters on the streets. Just as news coverage of a community suffers when a newspaper dies and leaves a sole survivor, fewer local-TV stations covering news does likewise.

  • Mu Lin

    Hmm, this survey doesn’t include information about how the new hires are being paid. A LinkedIn user, a TV reporter, responded to this news saying although the hiring is up, the wages are low; the stations are looking for cheap talents.