Journalists of the '90S: Study Indicates They Are Graying Homebodies with Less Respect for Their Newspapers and Their Managers

By Fitzgerald, Mark | Editor & Publisher, April 26, 1997 | Go to article overview
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Journalists of the '90S: Study Indicates They Are Graying Homebodies with Less Respect for Their Newspapers and Their Managers


Fitzgerald, Mark, Editor & Publisher


Daily newspaper journalists these days are a graying group who don't get out into their community much and don't feel they get much leadership at work.

Nearly half -- 44% -- of newsroom journalists are over 40 years old, up from just 26% eight years ago. And the number of young journalists is slipping just as dramatically: While those 30 and younger accounted for 29% of the newsroom workforce in 1988, they represented just 20% last year.

Journalists in the 1990s are also increasingly likely to feel alienated from the community they cover: Fully 55% of the reporters, for instance, say they are less involved in community groups than they were eight years ago.

On the job, too, journalists are feeling more alienated.

They are far less likely to rate their own newspaper as top-notch than they were eight years ago, and they are not much impressed with their newsroom "leaders."

"Decision-making, goal-setting and leadership -- these are not seen as major strengths of newsroom supervisors. In fact, 36% (of nonsupervisory journalists) see `lack of leadership' as their boss's major weakness," said Paul S. Voakes, assistant professor of journalism at Indiana University.

In a survey conducted for the American Society of Newspaper Editors, Voakes has assembled a provocative -- and sometimes troubling -- portrait of today's daily newspaper journalists.

The survey, entitled "The Newspaper Journalists of the '90s," is a follow-up to the landmark 1988 ASNE survey that was published as "The Changing Face of the Newsroom."

In the latest survey, conducted in the fall of 1996, Voakes polled 1,037 scientifically sampled journalists at U.S. daily newspapers.

What Voakes found was that journalists comprise a hardy breed who are generally remaining true to their calling despite what they perceive as mounting obstacles.

For instance, while significant percentages of journalists bad-mouthed their profession throughout the survey, on the crunch question of whether they would do it all over again, fully 77% say they would choose a newspaper career.

Well more than half -- 58% -- say their job gives them an "opportunity to be creative" and that they enjoy "the daily challenge." At the same time, however, fewer than half say they would "feel pretty good about it" if they found themselves doing the same thing in five years that they are doing now.

And only 43% of those surveyed say they expect to work as journalists into their 60s.

Behind those numbers, too, there is an even more unhappy trend: Women, African Americans and Hispanics -- precisely those journalists underrepresented in newsrooms -- are most likely to picture themselves gone from newspapering.

Just 34% of women expect to work into their 60s, and only 29% of Hispanics expect to reach retirement age at newspapers. Most worrying, though, are the expectations of black journalists: Just 18% say they plan to stay at dailies into their 60s.

In fact, 52% of African-American journalists expect to be done with newspapers before they are out of their 40s.

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