Industry Outlook

Although the total number of news outlets continues to expand, the overall employment outlook for journalism is not good.

Print journalism has traditionally relied on advertising as its main source of revenue, and the Internet has eroded this business model by offering news free of charge and by diverting classified advertisers to free services such as craigslist. The Web sites of newspapers have earned meager revenues from banner advertisements, and only a few prestigious papers, such as the New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, have been able to charge a subscription fee for Web content.

The coronavirus pandemic has had a significant impact on the journalism industry since late 2019. Publishing companies have continued to operate during the pandemic, with employees teleworking and also reporters and other related professionals going out into the field for reporting. They have had to adopt social distancing protocols in their work. Journalists have also had to commit more time to fact-checking information, and disinformation, about the virus and the pandemic. According to a report by the International Center for Journalists, the pandemic has also taken an economic toll on newsrooms that had already been struggling to survive in the years leading up to the pandemic. Many newsrooms reported to have had at least a 50 percent decline in revenue due to the pandemic. To survive, many news outlets scaled back on content, reduced salaries, and laid off employees. The rollout of the vaccine in 2021 will help the economy rebound, offering relief to some sectors of the journalism industry.

Some news Web sites and blogs, known as aggregators, have a parasitic relationship with the newspapers, collecting from or linking to news stories on the papers' Web sites rather than offering original content. This phenomenon of aggregation has even spilled over to print journalism: One newer print newsweekly adopted the look of the now-defunct Newsweek although its content is almost entirely aggregated from other publications, both print and digital.

As a result of this competition and loss of advertising revenue, newspapers have been reducing their staffs, larger media organizations have been buying up smaller operations, laying off redundant workers, and some major dailies have shut down. Declines in the number of dailies, Sunday papers, and industry employees have occurred in conjunction with falling revenues. According to the Pew Research Center, estimated advertising revenue totaled $14.3 billion in 2018, down 13 percent from the previous year. Circulation revenue totaled $11 billion, down slightly from $11.2 billion the previous year. The research group IBISWorld predicted that in 2021, there would be 3,536 newspaper publishing businesses in the U.S., representing a 3.2 percent annual decline from 2016 through 2021. In 2021, the research group estimated a 2.2 percent decline in the U.S. newspaper publishing industry. Post pandemic, the newspaper industry is expected to continue to decline slowly through 2025. 

For the period from 2018 to 2028, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 10 percent overall reduction in the workforce of reporters, correspondents and broadcast news analysts. Reporters and correspondents, specifically, will experience a 12 percent employment decline. Faced with falling revenues, news organizations are expected to downsize, resulting in fewer opportunities for journalists. "Increasing demand for online news may offset some of the downsizing," the BLS explains. "However, because online and mobile ad revenue is typically less than print revenue, the growth in digital advertising may not offset the decline in print advertising, circulation, and readership." In addition, the aggregator sites, which provide little or no original content, employ few or no journalists.

Job-seekers can expect heavy competition for the declining number of openings, especially in large metropolitan areas and at media outlets with large markets. Job candidates with the best prospects will be those who have experience from college media outlets and internships. In addition, those who are highly skilled with electronic media and with the tools used for producing news for these media will have a definite advantage. A master's degree in journalism or communications may be helpful if the program has a good reputation and provides instruction in the most up-to-date technologies.

Technology may create opportunities for new reporting techniques. For example, reporters may be able to create innovative stories by analyzing massive data sets ("big data"), and news photographers and videographers may employ miniature drone aircraft to obtain visual images from novel angles.