Research by the National Union of Journalists also found the income of more than 80pc of staff and freelance journalists surveyed had not kept up with the cost of living, while a quarter of staff and 60pc of freelances admitted they had suffered financial hardship.
According to the NUJ many of those surveyed, particularly younger journalists, said it was a struggle to pay their rent and bills and the prospect of buying a house in London and the South-East of England was just a dream.
A few of the 1,251 journalists quizzed commented their pay was below the national minimum wage, while a number of freelances said they depended on tax credits.
An anonymous Newsquest journalist told the survey: “I earn £15,500 and most months I run out of money a week if not more before pay day.
“This adds a huge amount of anxiety, stress and pressure to my life. I love being a journalist but am constantly looking for other jobs that pay more which are outside the industry.”
Two-thirds of those surveyed said they had received a pay increase of between one and two per cent, but almost 15pc had not had a pay rise for more than five years.
A major complaint was the lack of transparency over pay, with many saying they did not know how their pay compared with colleagues.
Others said pay was decided at the whim of the editor, and the study found women were paid less than male colleagues for doing the same job.
Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said: “These findings are very worrying. While most journalists enjoy their job and get a buzz from their work, it is becoming evident that pay is a real problem, with many not being paid enough to cover their bills, never mind have a comfortable life.
“News organisations and publishers are creating a situation in which a career in journalism is unsustainable. Talented staff, sick of poverty wages and living in shared flats will drift off to other jobs and the industry will be the poorer for that.”
“It is totally unacceptable for journalists, at whatever stage of their career, to be paid barely the minimum wage. There is absolutely no justification for this. Yes, times in the media market have been tough, but many of the organisations paying a pittance to their staff are in profit.
“When we look at the salaries and bonuses of executives and managers the story is very different.”