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Training Matters: Journalists at Work 2012

How much do we know about Britain’s journalists? Who they are; that they think; how they see the future.

The answer is surprisingly little. That’s why we have been working on a big survey of journalists and putting the results together with other statistics gathered by Government agencies.

The result is Journalists at Work 2013, published today. It’s a follow-up to a similar exercise conducted in 2002 and funded by the National Council for the Training of Journalists.

The report is full of new information, some of it pretty uncomfortable, as you’d expect after a decade of unrelenting pressure on news industry profitability.

Many journalists are not happy about their pay, which is down 12 per cent in real terms over the decade, against a background of falling wages across the whole economy.

Yet most journalists still say, as they did in 2002, that they enjoy their jobs, even in the more demanding working conditions which have come with multi-platform journalism. We also asked our sample of more than 1,000 journalists a question I get asked all the time – whether they would recommend their profession to a young person. A bare majority (51%) said they would.

Perhaps more surprising is that we find no evidence of any dramatic fall in the number of people (just over 60,000) who say they work as journalists, though we do find that journalists increasingly work in hybrid situations, combining professional journalism with other activities to which the skills of journalism are relevant. The research also tells us that more than one in five journalists are now self-employed, a significant increase over the numbers in 2002.

Some things haven’t changed. Journalists continue to be very well educated. Some 82 per cent have a degree and more than a third have a post-graduate qualification. Our survey tells you which subjects they are most likely to have studied at university.

The lack of social and ethnic diversity in journalism, which generated much comment after Journalists at Work 2002 continues to be a problem. The parents of journalists tend themselves to work in higher status jobs. Unpaid internships are common and levels of student debt are much higher than ten years ago. On gender, the picture is less troubling: on this report’s evidence, women seem to match men in terms of overall numbers and levels of seniority.

In 2002, we did not ask journalists their views on ethics or regulation, but in 2012, these questions were inescapable. More than 80% of journalists say that they do not consider themselves under personal pressure to transgress ethical boundaries, but a quarter believe that such pressures do exist in newsrooms. Asked about their level of confidence in the current (ie pre-Leveson) regulatory structure of journalism, only 29 per cent replied that they are confident.

So there’s a lot to digest and to talk about here. What do you think of the survey and its findings?

The full report can be found here on the NCTJ website.

  • Ian Hargreaves is Professor of Digital Economy at Cardiff University and a former Editor of the Independent and the New Statesman. Other previous roles include Deputy Editor, Financial Times, and Director, BBC News and Current Affairs. He chaired the group which delivered Journalists at Work in 2002 and 2013.