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About the methodology and sample

The survey was conducted online through the lists of alumni of the 22 participating schools and was distributed through partner alumni email lists between April 14 and June 29, 2015, with the dates varying within that time frame among different schools.

The survey was executed using the SurveyMonkey survey tool, with consultation from senior SurveyMonkey research staff. The results were moved to and analyzed using SPSS. The following institutions participated in the project:

  • Arizona State University, Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication
  • Arizona State University, Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication
  • Boston University, College of Communication
  • City University of New York, Graduate School of Journalism
  • Columbia University, Graduate School of Journalism
  • George Washington University, School of Media & Public Affairs
  • Louisiana State University, Manship School of Mass Communication
  • Michigan State University, School of Journalism
  • Northwestern University, Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications
  • Pennsylvania State University, College of Communications
  • Stony Brook University, School of Journalism
  • Syracuse University, S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications
  • Temple University, School of Media and Communication
  • University of California, Berkeley, Graduate School of Journalism
  • University of Florida, College of Journalism and Communications
  • University of Iowa, School of Journalism & Mass Communication
  • University of Maryland, College Park, Philip Merrill College of Journalism
  • University of Nebraska, Lincoln, College of Journalism and Mass Communications
  • University of Nevada, Reno, Reynolds School of Journalism
  • University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, School of Media and Journalism
  • University of Southern California, Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism
  • University of Texas, Austin, Moody College of Communication
  • Washington State University, Edward R. Murrow College of Communication

Potential partner institutions were identified by several factors including size, location and history of their journalism and communication schools. Twenty-five schools were approached and 22 participated in full. Representatives from all schools consulted on the design and wording of the questionnaire. Schools were also given slots for four proprietary questions. The data from any one school will remain anonymous except for that school. Each school was given its own dataset of its alumni, which it can compare to the aggregate dataset. Schools can compare graduates in detail (i.e., those with only journalism programs will be able to compare their graduates just to other journalism graduates). The identity of any one graduate will remain confidential, and all schools agreed that they cannot use the individual responses to contact that alumni for fundraising or other purposes.

For most schools, all communication with the alumni came directly from the individual educational institution. Two institutions requested that API send the invitation to participate. At no time did API or its consultants have any identifying information on the graduates invited to participate. Schools used similar language in their emails and follow-up reminders to encourage participation to ensure uniformity in the how the study was presented (to minimize bias across the schools in terms of who might respond). The invitations and reminders were sent through email. The link to SurveyMonkey was included in each of these emails.

The survey was not generic; instead it was tailored to each school with school name and other identifying features to ensure comfort on the part of the respondent. After the data collection, the surveys for each of the schools was consolidated into a single dataset. A total of more than 105,000 invitations were sent, and 11,931 accessed the survey. Some respondents did not complete the entire survey. To be considered a “completed survey” respondents had to answer to a certain point and had to be a qualified alumni. Of these, 89 percent reached the required completion point. Fully 69 percent of those finished the survey in its entirety; 10,482 met the criteria to be included in the dataset.

In addition to the 22 schools, the survey was also sent to the membership of the American Society of News Editors (ASNE) and the Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA) to supplement the managers dataset. A total of 254 members of these associations accessed the survey and are included in the dataset used in this report. The questionnaire for these respondents was essentially the same in order to allow for some comparison between industry leaders and the alumni.

Due to a variation in programming, the wording for one school’s questionnaire was slightly different than the rest. While the data for this school are valid, those are not included in the dataset for this report or in the totals of completes.

The survey included a combination of closed- and open-ended questions. Open-ended questions were coded into meaningful categories.

This analysis is limited to workers who indicated that the work they do is journalism or those who worked in the following industries: digital-only news organization, freelancing, magazines, newspaper media, radio media, technology or social media company, TV media, film media, news agency/wire service, multimedia, book + journal publishing/writing.

Managers (n = 1,604) were categorized as media workers in journalism who indicated that they did one of the following: assignment/section editing, product management, or senior management. Staff members (n = 3,579) were workers who did not perform one of these functions.

Including those who may have more than one degree, the managers and staff members included in this sample reported a similar mix of college degrees, with about ¾ of each group majoring in journalism. Communication was the second most common major, with about 11 percent of managers or staff members studying this field in college.

Major Managers Staff members
Journalism 73.0% 75.2%
Communication 11.5% 11.3%
Advertising/PR/marketing 6.6% 6.3%
Other subject 7.0% 6.5%
None/no degree/incomplete 1.9% 0.6%

American Press Institute

The managers and staff members in this sample span generations. Unsurprisingly, managers tend to be older, with 30 percent graduating in 1980 or before compared to 21 percent of staff members. At the other end of the spectrum, 24 percent of managers graduated between 2006 – 2015 compared to 37 percent of staff members.

Managers Staff members
1980 and before 29.9% 20.7%
1981 - 1995 28.3% 21.9%
1996 - 2005 18.2% 20.0%
2006 - 2015 23.6% 37.4%

American Press Institute

In terms of employment status, managers in the sample are more likely to be employed full-time (69% compared to 60%). Staff members are more likely to be freelancing full-time/consulting (17% vs 8%).

Managers Staff members
Full-time 69.4% 59.8%
Part-time 3.0% 6.7%
Freelancing full-time/consulting 7.5% 16.5%
Currently not employed/seeking employment 3.1% 4.0%
Currently employed full time but seeking new employment 0.6% 1.3%
Retired/ not in workforce 16.0% 10.7%
Internship/fellowship 0.5% 1.0%

American Press Institute

The sample includes workers in a variety of subfields, from newspapers and TV media to companies specializing in science or sports. When comparing where managers and staff members work, the percentages are generally similar, except staff members are more likely to be freelancing (21% vs 10%).

Field Managers Staff members
Newspaper media 26.5% 21.6%
TV media 18.2% 23.0%
Magazines 15.3% 9.6%
Advertising/marketing/public relations/communication/media 12.7% 11.0%
Technology or social media company 11.6% 8.5%
Digital-only news organization 10.4% 8.2%
Freelancing 10.1% 21.1%
Self-employed, entrepreneur 9.0% 9.1%
Educational institution 8.6% 12.3%
Advocacy/public interest/think-tank group (nonprofit) 6.7% 4.3%
Radio media 6.6% 5.5%
Commercial product or services company (for-profit, non medi 5.7% 3.5%
Government 3.8% 2.7%
Book + journal publishing/writing 2.3% 1.8%
No answer 1.2% 2.7%
News agency/wire service 0.7% 1.1%
Commercial/financial services 0.6% 0.7%
Film media 0.4% 1.3%
Multimedia 0.4% 0.1%
Health/well-being 0.4% 0.4%
Arts/Entertainment 0.3% 0.3%
Science/engineering 0.3% 0.1%
Sales/retail/rental/wholesale 0.2% 0.4%
Other 0.2% 0.1%
Law 0.1% 0.3%
Sports (not broadcasting) 0.1% 0.3%
Housing/construction 0.1% 0.1%
Food/beverage 0.1% 0.1%
Research/development 0.1% 0.1%
Retired/disabled 0.1% 0.1%
Transportation 0.0% 0.1%
Stay-at-home 0.0% 0.1%
Seeking employment/unemployed 0.0% 0.0%
Continuing education 0.0% 0.1%

American Press Institute

This analysis was completed by Alex Williams, a PhD Candidate at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School, under the guidance of the American Press Institute and in cooperation with Maria Ivancin, president of the Market Research Bureau and adjunct associate professor at American University. For the full list of those who contributed to the larger research effort, please see the methodology on the original findings.

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