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Training Matters: The changing employment patterns of journalists

‘What are my employment prospects on completing my accredited course?’ It’s a question often asked by our journalism students. In September, the NCTJ published Emerging Skills for Journalists, a research report into the issues affecting journalism and the impact these changes are having. In this blog, the NCTJ’s research consultant Mark Spilsbury provides an update on the employment patterns and trends affecting the industry.

The recent NCTJ publication ‘Emerging Skills for Journalists’ commented on the apparent ‘dispersion’ of journalists away from their mainstream, core sectors of newspaper and magazine publishing to other sectors of the economy. New data published from the Office for National Statistics allows us to look at the employment patterns of journalists and to see whether this trend is set to continue.

If we consider only the publishing sectors, then the overall context for journalism employment does not seem positive. Overall employment (ie employment of journalists and all other occupations) has decreased in all of the 3 main publishing sectors of books, newspapers and magazines. Magazine publishing as a sector is currently bigger than the newspaper sector.

Table one: employment by sector 2012-14

Sector 2012 2014 Change
Name Code n %
Publishing of books 58.11 47,000 35,500 -11,500 -24
Publishing of newspapers 58.13 48,500 39,000 -9,500 -20
Publishing of journals and periodicals (including magazines) 58.14 47,500 42,500 -5,000 -11

Source: Labour Force Survey data, 2012 is April 2011 – March 2012 and 2014 is Summer 2013 to Spring 2014.

Note: numbers rounded to nearest 500

However, if the sector is broken down by occupation, and we look specifically at those classifying themselves as journalists, it suggests that the number of journalists working in the economy has actually increased over the same period, from 63,500 in 2012 to 69,500 in 2014, an increase of 9 per cent. It is of interest therefore where this growth has taken place.

The table below shows the sectoral employment of journalists and how it has changed from 2012 to 2014. The numbers in individual sectors does become small and so we have grouped these into 3 main groups :

• ‘traditional publishing’ which includes book publishing, newspaper publishing, magazine publishing, other publishing activities and news agency activities;

• ‘traditional broadcasting’, which includes motion pictures and video programme production activities, radio broadcasting and TV programming and broadcasting activities, and

• ‘non-traditional activities’ which includes employment in other sectors, including advertising agencies, media representation and all other sectors of the economy. This group also includes self-employed journalists, who are classified into a category called ‘artistic creation’.

Where the data allows we show the significant sub-groups within these broader categories.

This shows that:

• journalism employment within the traditional publishing area has fallen by 3,500 (11 per cent over the two years. The fall in newspapers has been offset by the increase in magazines (with the balance being in other sectors within this broad area). This means that the magazine sector is now a bigger employer of journalists than the newspaper sector – with newspapers now employing 17 per cent of journalists – down from 25 per cent in 2012 (and looking further back, down from over 40 per cent found in the 2002 JaW study).

• Journalism employment in the ‘traditional broadcasting’ sector remains the smallest of the three groups, but is buoyant; and

• journalism employment in the ‘non-traditional’ sectors is now significant – accounting for 40 per cent of all journalism employment. This has been driven by the increase in self-employment (from 9,000 to 13,500, an increase of 50 per cent) but also in employment across the remainder of the economy, from 7,500 to 11,000 (3,500, or 45 per cent). Of course, we do not know where these self-employed are ‘selling’ their work. It may well be that they are delivering work to newspapers and the ‘decline’ in this area reflects differing employment relationships as much as a decline in the level of output.

Table two: journalist employment by sector 2012-14

Sector 2012   2014   Change
  n % n % n %
Traditional publishing 34,500 54 31,000 44 -3,500 -11.1
  Newspapers 15,500 25 12,000 17 -3,500 -24
  Magazines 10,000 16 13,500 20 3,500 36
Traditional broadcasting 7,500 12 10,500 15 3,000 46
Non-traditional 21,500 34 28,000 40 6,500 29
  Self employment 9,000 14 13,500 20 4,500 50
  Other sectors 7,500 12 11,000 16 3,500 45
Total 63,749   69,477   5,728 9.0

Source: Labour Force Survey data, 2012 is April 2011 – March 2012 and 2014 is Summer 2013 to Spring 2014.

Note: numbers rounded to nearest 500

Whilst this is only a snapshot of two years, it does seem to confirm that the trends we discussed in the Emerging Skills for Journalists are continuing. There is no decline in employment per se, but a shift, with a decline in traditional sectors, such as newspapers, an increase in self-employment and an increase in dispersion across the economy.