SABEW survey shows median salary of $65K to $70K for business journalists

Posted By Chris Roush

Business journalists in the United States make a median salary of $65,000 to $70,000, according to an informal poll of nearly 400 business reporters and editors conducted by the Society of American Business Editors and Writers.

The median salary for a business reporter was between $60,000 and $65,000, while the median salary for a business section editor was between $75,000 to $80,000. An editor of a business print publication makes a median salary between $95,000 and $100,000.

SABEW received 394 responses in July and early August in the first attempt at quantifying compensation among the estimated 8,000 business journalists working in the United States. More than 3,000 business journalists were invited to participate through direct e-mail to SABEW members, notices on sabew.org and other communications.

SABEW, which has its headquarters at Arizona State University, plans to ask business journalists for such information annually to determine how compensation and other demographics among them change.

“This first SABEW salary survey shows that reporters and editors who chose to learn and practice financial journalism are making a good living at it — those who are still employed, that is,” said Rob Reuteman, SABEW’s president and a Denver freelance writer who is the former business editor of the Rocky Mountain News. “It also shows that publishers too understand the importance of a strong business report, by showing such willingness to compensate for it.”

The survey discovered that nearly half of the respondents — 46.4 percent — are in their first or second job in business journalism. About 20 percent have had four more jobs in business journalism.

The field is also attracting young journalists. Sixty percent of the respondents have been in business journalism for less than five years, while just 4.3 percent had been in financial reporting for more than 20 years.

More than 40 percent of the business reporters who responded — 170 — work in the Northeast, while the South and the Midwest each had 16.5 percent of the respondents.

There was also a wide spread among the salaries. While there were 10 business journalists who responded to the survey making less than $30,000, another 39 business journalists, or nearly 10 percent of the total, make more than $120,000 annually. And there were eight business journalists who responded to the survey who make more than $200,000 annually.

More than half of the respondents — 216 —- to the survey said they were reporters covering business topics. Among the business reporters, wire service employees make the most money, with a median salary between $70,000 and $75,000.

Reporters for business magazines make a median salary between $65,000 and $70,000, while reporters for Web sites and daily newspapers make a median salary between $60,000 and $65,000. Reporters at weekly business newspapers make a median salary between $45,000 and $50,000.

Editors in business journalism make more than reporters, with wire service employees again making the most, with a median salary of $100,000 to $110,000. Editors at Web sites make a similar amount. Business news editors at daily newspapers make a median salary of $70,000 to $75,000, while business news editors at weekly papers make a median salary of $55,000 to $60,000.

Reporters and editors in business journalism make more in the Northeast than any other geographic area, while the South has the lowest median salaries for reporters and editors.

For example, business reporters in the Northeast make a median salary of $65,000 to $70,000, while business reporters in the South make a median salary of $50,000 to $55,000. Business reporters in the Midwest and Southwest make a median salary between $60,000 and $65,000, while business reporters in the Pacific region make a median salary between $55,000 to $60,000. The differences in salary due to geographic regions may be due to cost of living issues.

Business journalists were asked to respond to a confidential, online survey that asked for their job title, their compensation, the type of media outlet where they worked, their geographic region and length of time in their current job and in business journalism. Journalists were not asked for their specific place of employment, but were required to provide their name to verify that they were a business reporter. Those names were kept confidential.

The results included SABEW and non-SABEW members, and full-time business journalists and freelancers were included. Results for some job categories are not included in this report because there were not enough responses to be statistically significant. The results have a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percentage points from what is contained in the actual responses received.

A panel of SABEW business journalism professors reviewed the poll beforehand and the results. The professors included Marty Steffens, University of Missouri; Mary Jane Pardue, Missouri State University; Pam Luecke, Washington and Lee University; and Andrew Gabor, Baruch College/City University of New York.

(Chris Roush is SABEW’s research director. He is the Walter E. Hussman senior distinguished scholar in business journalism at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.)

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