Local TV Newsroom Investment
2006 Annual Report
Like news budgets overall, newsroom staffing seems to differ depending on whether the stations are affiliated with one of the four major networks.
When asked their plans for 2005, more than half (53.5%) of the news directors at network affiliates said they would keep newsrooms staff sizes the same as 2004. News directors of independent stations, on the other hand, were pessimistic about 2005. Most of them (54.3%) said they didn’t know what changes they would see in the newsroom staff, and more than 20% said they would decrease employees.
A worrisome figure, though, may be the disparity between the predictions in late 2003 for staff cuts over the next year and the percent actually reporting cuts in the most recent survey. Heading into 2004, just under 4% of news directors had predicted that they would cut their staffs in 2004, but almost five times that many reported doing so at the close of the year.
With that in mind, the 9% that predicted cutting staff in 2005 could prove to be a much greater percentage in the end.4
Changes in Staff Size: 'Big 4' Affiliates
2003 - 2005
Source: RTNDA/Ball State University Surveys
The number of people employed in the average newsroom (including both full-time and part-time employees) has been steadily increasing.
At the network affiliates, the average number of full-time staff people was 37, up from approximately 36 in 2003 and 35 in 2002. For both the network affiliates and other commercial stations together, the pattern is similar — full-time staffs have grown to an average of 35 from 34 in 2003 and 33 in 2002. On the other hand, part-time staff has shown a decline.5
But the averages may mask what is really going on. It is possible that most of the growth is occurring in a few newsrooms, and that their expansion is skewing the averages.
If we look at growth in 2004 in terms of market size, it occurred mainly in the largest markets.Graphing the full-time staff over time shows that it’s the largest markets that have seen the most fluctuation in the newsroom, as well. The average newsroom in the top 25 markets was particularly large in 2000, but the number of employees went down sharply in the next few years. In 2004, it seems, those stations were re-staffing their newsrooms again, though whether that is a trend is uncertain.