Research Spotlight: Still in Growth Mode

Newspaper revenues, salaried positions grow; Online editions expand as well

By Lillian Lodge Kopenhaver
Florida International University

College and university student newspapers have long been positioned as training grounds for the professional press, modeling them in many aspects.

The newspaper business has faced financial challenges and technological change. So too have student newspapers wrestled with some of the same issues. This study was designed to look at how college and university student newspapers and online editions have fared in these economic times, and how they have also met some of the same challenges as their professional counterparts. Results show that total operating budgets and the number of salaried staff have increased. More papers report revenue from advertising, the first step to gaining greater independence and professionalism. In addition, the student press has welcomed technology and created and expanded online editions.

Methodology

In an effort to report on and provide comprehensive data on salaries and benefit packages for students working on college and university newspapers across the United States, in the spring and summer of 2011, surveys were sent via Qualtrics to 580 active College Media Association adviser/members; 219 responses (37.8 percent) were received.

In order to track trends over time, this survey replicated one sent out in the spring of 2007 using a similar target audience of active CMA members as well as student newspapers listed in the 2006 Editor and Publisher Yearbook. The resulting article was published in the Spring 2008 issue of College Media Review. Initially, the current survey was also sent to the college and university newspapers listed in the Editor and Publisher Yearbook as well, but responses were very limited. Therefore, they were eliminated and the survey was re-sent only to CMA members. Cross tabulations were run on all salient aspects to provide a full picture of staff salaries and newspaper finances and demographics. Comparisons were also made to data from 2007 to illustrate changes over that period.

Since the last survey was conducted four years prior, online editions of college and university newspapers have increased. Therefore, this survey included a number of extra questions dealing with online newspapers, including budgets, sources of revenue, role of advertising and frequency of information updates.

Demographics of respondents

Nearly half those responding (47.9 percent) are from four-year public colleges, and slightly more than one-third (34.9 percent) are from four-year private schools. Two-year public colleges account for 17.2 percent; there were no respondents from two-year private institutions.

Respondents represent 45 states and the District of Columbia. Texas had the most respondents with 17, followed by Pennsylvania with 14, Illinois and North Carolina with 13 each and Georgia with 11.

The highest percentage of colleges and universities represented (40.4 percent) have 1,001-7,500 students; 23.8 percent enroll 7,501-15,000, and 34.3 percent have 15,001 or more students. Five schools have 1,000 or fewer enrolled.

More college or university newspapers (45.1 percent) publish weekly than any other frequency; 17.4 percent publish daily.  Those publishing alternate weeks account for 15 percent, while those coming out twice a week number 8.5 percent; those three times a week represent 2.3 percent, and those monthly, 11.7 percent.

Papers published weekly show the largest increase in number from 2007 figures, with 40.5 percent falling into that category at that time; those publishing alternate weeks decreased from 22.9 percent. Dailies increased from 14.6 percent; those publishing twice weekly increased from 7.6 percent, and monthlies remained constant.

Most daily newspapers (83.8 percent) are at four-year public colleges; the rest are at four year private schools. Dailies account for nearly one third (30.7 percent) of public college newspapers, but only 8 percent of private school newspapers.

Most of those publishing twice weekly are at four-year public colleges (77.8 percent), where they account for 13.9 percent of the papers. The rest of the twice-weekly papers are at four-year private colleges, where they comprise 5.3 percent of papers. All three-times-a-week papers are at four-year public universities; they account for 5 percent of the papers published there.

At four-year public colleges, 41.6 percent of papers are weeklies, while at four-year private schools, 64 percent fall into that category. Weeklies comprise 16.2 percent of papers at two-year public institutions, a significant decrease from 23 percent in 2007.

Alternate week papers tend to be the predominant type of publication at two-year public colleges (51.4 percent), a significant increase from 41.9 percent in 2007; 13.3 percent of four-year private school papers, a substantial decrease from 28.1 percent in the last survey, and 13.3 percent of four-year public college papers, an increase from 2007, also fall into this category.

Of all monthly papers, nearly half (48 percent) are found at two-year public colleges, where more than one half (51.4 percent) are published monthly, a substantial increase from one third in 2007. At four-year private schools, 9.3 percent are published monthly, an increase of 2 percent from 2007; six four-year public institutions have monthly newspapers.

Newspaper size

Newspapers continue to move to a broadsheet format, with 49.8 percent reporting that size in 2011 as compared to 43 percent in the last survey and 35.5 percent in the 1999 questionnaire.

Four-year public colleges and universities have continued to take the lead in printing broadsheet papers, with 57.8 percent reporting that format. At private four-year institutions, 40.8 percent are broadsheets, a significant increase from 2007 (29.2 percent).  Most two-year public college papers are tabloids (55.6 percent), a decrease from 72.6 percent in 2007, illustrating more of shift to broadsheet there, too. Daily newspapers have the highest percentage (70.6 percent) of broadsheet formats, followed by those publishing twice a week (61.1 percent) and weekly (47.4).

More newspapers (32.4 percent) average eight pages than any other size, an increase from 27.7 percent in 2007. Twelve-page papers come next with 28.6 percent, a slight decrease from 29.4 percent in 2007, and then 16 pages (18.1 percent), comparable to the last survey. The percentage of those publishing 24 or more pages (7.1 percent) is comparable to 2007; another 11.9 percent publish 20 pages.

More broadsheet papers (46.6 percent) have eight pages than any other number; 29.1 percent have 12 pages, 10.7 percent print 20, and 2.9 percent have 24 or more. Tabloids are typically 12 pages (27.6 percent), with 26.7 percent of schools printing 16, and 19 percent printing eight. Only 11.4 percent have 24 or more.

At two-year public colleges, most papers are eight (35.1 percent) or 12 (22.3 percent) pages; 21.6 percent print 16 pages, and two schools publish 24 or more. At four-year public colleges, one-third print eight pages and one-third, 12; both are increases from one-fourth each in the 2007 survey. Twenty-page papers are found in 13.5 percent of all schools, and 3 percent print 24 or more; the latter is a sharp decrease from 10.9 percent in 2007.  At four-year private institutions, 27.8 percent publish eight pages and one-fourth 12; 8.3 percent average 20, and 13.9 percent print 24 or more.

Newspaper budgets

Overall, newspaper operating budgets have grown. More newspapers (59.1 percent) have budgets exceeding $50,000 annually in 2011 than in 2007 (45.2 percent), and more than one-third (35.8 percent) have annual budgets exceeding $100,000, an increase from 28.1 percent in 2007. Twelve schools report budgets of more than $1 million, a decrease from 16 schools in 2007, and six report $750,001 to $1 million, a decrease from nine in the previous survey. Three-fourths of the former are at four-year public colleges, as are all of the latter except one, which is at a four-year private college. In 2007, only one private four-year college had a budget exceeding $1 million. In this survey, three do. Only 8 percent of college papers have budgets of $10,000 or less, a decrease from 15.9 percent in 2007.

TABLE 1

One-third of four-year public college papers have annual budgets of $100,001-$500,000, an increase from 28.9 percent in 2007, while 43.2 percent have less than $100,000, comparable to 2007. More than one half (58.2 percent) of papers at four-year private colleges have budgets of $50,000 or less, a decrease from 68.8 percent in 2007, and 6.9 percent exceed $250,000. At two-year public institutions, nearly half (47.2 percent) report budgets of $25,000 or less, a significant decrease from 68.5 percent in the last survey.  No two-year college budget exceeds $250,000. (See Table 1)

In addition to the growth in budgets, advertising as a major source of funding for college newspapers has also increased since the 2007 survey. General college and university funding has decreased, and student activity fee funding has remained flat. The larger growth in advertising enables greater financial independence for college and university newspapers.

Most newspapers (86 percent) receive funding from advertising, up from 81.5 percent in 2007, but the amount generated by advertising has slightly decreased. More than half (53.7) percent) receive 50 percent or more from this source, comparable to 2007. Only a few (7 percent or 15 schools) are funded totally by advertising, down slightly from 8.9 percent in 2007. Nearly all these, 86.7 percent or 13 schools, are at four-year public colleges, and the other two, four-year private schools. Of these 15 colleges, 13 have operating budgets of $100,001 or more, and five have $500,001 or more.

Of the 12 college newspapers reporting budgets of more than $1 million, three are totally supported through advertising sales. Five dailies also report being totally supported by advertising. More than half the four-year public school papers (60.3 percent) are funded 50 percent or more from advertising; this is a substantial decrease from 73.6 percent in 2007. The same is true for 21.3 percent of four-year private colleges, a sharp decrease from 41.7 percent in 2007, and 19.5 percent of two-year institutions, also a significant decrease from 33.8 percent in the last survey.

The next most common funding source is student activity fees with 53.5 percent of papers reporting these subsidies, comparable to 2007. More than one-third (38.6 percent) of college papers receive half or more of their funding from these fees, up from 34.2 percent in 2007. Eleven papers are totally funded by activity fees, down five from 2007. Two are at four-year public colleges, eight at four-year private schools and one at a two-year public institution.  Two college papers totally funded by activity fees have budgets exceeding $100,000. Nearly half (43.2 percent) of the two-year public college papers receive half or more of their funding from activity fees, an increase from 39.2 percent in 2007. So do 38.9 percent of four-year public schools, an increase from 30.2 percent in 2007, and 36 percent of four-year private institutions, comparable to 2007.

General college funds subsidize 31.6 percent of college newspapers, a decrease from 37.4 percent in 2007; 21.2 percent receive half or more of their funds from this source, a sharp decrease from 31.1 percent in 2007, and 15 papers receive their entire budget from general college funds, half of the number in 2007. Of those 15 papers, seven are at four-year private colleges, seven at two-year public schools and one at a four-year public institution. Only one paper totally subsidized by these funds has a budget exceeding $100,000. A significant number of four-year private college papers (38.1 percent) receive half or more of their budgets from this source, a slight decrease from 41.7 percent in the last survey, as do those at 36.1 percent of two-year public colleges, down from 47.3 percent in 2007. Only 4 percent of papers at four-year public institutions fall into this category, a decrease from 9.3 in 2007.

Subscription sales provide funding for 10.8 percent of college newspapers, a decrease from 12.6 percent in 2007. Most report only 1 to 10 percent of funding from subscriptions. Five papers list 20-50 percent of funding from this source, while none report more than half.

Several listed endowments, scholarships, interest and investments under “other” sources of funding, but none were substantial.

Editorial salaries

TABLE 2

A majority of student newspaper editors, reporters and photographers are paid for their work. The percentage of editors and staff on all levels who are paid has increased from the last survey in 2007, even though the amount they are paid for their work has not in all cases increased. (See Table 2 and Table 3).

TABLE 3

Most (81.4 percent) editors/editors-in chief receive salaries, an increase from 74.4 percent in 2007. Of those receiving salaries, more than half (53 percent) receive $500 or less per month, a decrease from 57.3 percent in 2007. Sixteen editors earn $1,001 or more, a decrease from 19 in 2007.

Two daily editors are not paid; of the remainder, none receives less than $250 a month. Nearly one third (32.4 percent) receive $251-$750; 29.7 percent receive $751-$1,000, and 24.3 percent, more than $1,000. At weeklies, nearly one fourth (22.2 percent) of editors are not paid; of those paid, one fourth receive $250 or less, and 48.8 percent receive $500 or less. Four editors are paid more than $1,000 a month.

At monthly papers, 44 percent are not paid; of those receiving salaries, all but three earn $500 or less.

Of those top editors who are paid, more than three-fourths (76 percent) of those at four-year private college newspapers, more than one-third (37 percent) at four-year public schools, and nearly two-thirds at two-year colleges (63 percent) receive $500 or less a month. One-third (34.8 percent) of four-year public and 12 percent of four-year private college editors, as well as 11.1 percent of two-year public school editors, are paid $751 or more; 13.5 percent of four-year public school editors are paid more than $1,000, as are eight four-year private college editors.

However, 37 percent of two-year college editors receive no salaries, down from half in 2007. The same is true for 38 percent of four-year private college and 10.1 percent of four-year public institution editors; both are increases over 2007.

More than two-thirds (68.2 percent) of managing/associate editors receive salaries, an increase from 62.9 percent in 2007; of those paid, one-fourth receive $250 or less per month, a decrease from 37 percent in 2007. In addition, 2.2 percent earn $1,001 or more, while nearly another third (30.4 percent) earn $251-$500, the highest frequency.

Of the daily managing editors, 16.2 percent are not paid; of those who are paid, one-third (32.3 percent) are paid $101-$500 and 38.7 percent, $751-1,001 or more. At weekly papers, more than one-third (36 percent) do not pay managing editors; of those receiving salaries, more than half (52.6 percent) are paid $250 or less, and 22.8 percent, $251-$500. Slightly less than half (41 percent) the managing editors at monthly newspapers are paid, an increase from 32.4 percent in 2007; of those who receive salaries, two-thirds are paid $250 or less.

Of those managing editors who are paid, 58 percent at four-year private colleges, as well as 41 percent of those at two-year public colleges, and one-fourth at four-year public colleges, receive $250 or less a month; all are increases from 2007. Only 18.7 percent of four-year public college editors and 8 percent of editors at four-year private institutions are paid more than $750. Three managing editors at four-year public schools receive more than $1,000.

On the reverse side, 39 percent of two-year public college managing editors receive no salaries, a sharp decline from two-thirds in 2007; 42.4 percent of four-year private college managing editors receive no salaries, comparable to 2007, and 22 percent of those at four-year public schools are not paid, an increase from 16.3 percent in the last survey.

More than two-thirds (67.7 percent) of news editors also receive salaries, a sharp increase from 58.5 percent in 2007. Of those paid, 45 percent receive $250 a month or less and 21.3 percent receive $501 or more, both comparable to the last survey.

A high percentage of news editors in all institutions receive $250 or less a month; that is true at 71.4 percent of four-year private schools, nearly half (41.2 percent) of two-year public institutions and more than one-third (35.7 percent) of four-year public colleges.

At daily papers, only four news editors are not paid; of those at dailies who receive salaries, 27.3 percent are paid $251-$500, and 24.2 percent are paid more than $750. Nearly one-third (31.5 percent) of news editors at weekly papers are not paid; of those receiving salaries, two-thirds are paid $250 or less. At monthly papers, More than three-fourths (78.3 percent) are not paid; of those receiving salaries, 60 percent receive $250 or less.

Nearly two-thirds (65.2 percent) of sports editors are paid salaries, a slight increase from 61.9 percent in 2007; of those paid, 45 percent receive $250 or less a month, a decrease from half in 2007, and 20.6 percent earn $501-$1,000 monthly, an increase from 16.8 percent in the last survey. However, 13.7 percent are paid $100 or less, and 6.1 percent earn $750-$1,000.

Three sports editors at daily newspapers are not paid; 60.6 percent of those who are paid receive $251-$750 a month, and 18.2 percent receive more than that. Nearly two-thirds (64.4 percent) of sports editors at weeklies are paid; of those, 65.5 percent receive $250 or less, and 12.1 percent earn more than $500 a month. On monthly publications, most (82.6 percent) sports editors are not paid. Of those who are, three-fourths receive $100 or less.

Of sports editors who are paid, more than three-fourths (77 percent) of two-year public college editors receive $250 or less a month, as do 90.6 percent of four-year private and three-fourths of four-year public school editors; all are increases over 2007. One sports editor at a two-year public school, two at four-year private colleges, and five of those at four-year public colleges earn more than $750.

Of all features/entertainment editors, two-thirds are salaried, an increase from 62 percent in 2007; 47.8 percent of those receive $250 or less a month, while 18.5 percent receive $501 or more. Four of the daily features editors are not paid; of those who are paid, nearly two-thirds (60.6 percent) receive $251-$750. Seven editors receive $751-$1,000; none receives more than $1,000. More than two-thirds (68.3 percent) of features editors at weekly papers receive $250 or less, while two earn $751 or more. Only 17.4 percent of monthly features editors are paid; most receive $100 or less.

At four-year private colleges, more than two-thirds of features editors (69.6 percent) receive $250 or less. The same is true of one-third of two-year public school editors and 42.4 percent of those at four-year public colleges. On the other hand, 22.2 percent of features editors at two-year public colleges, 21.2 percent at four-year public institutions and 9 percent at four-year private schools are paid $501-1000.

Far fewer campus/assignment editors (38.3 percent) receive salaries, an increase from 28.2 percent in 2007. Of those who are salaried, more than half (55.6 percent) receive $250 or less a month, an increase from 42.4 percent, and 16.7 percent receive $100 or less; the latter is a decrease from 18.8 percent in 2007. Conversely, 13.9 percent receive $501-$1,000, a decrease from 17.6 percent in the last survey. At dailies, nearly two-thirds (61.8 percent) of campus editors are paid, and nearly two-thirds (61.9 percent) of those receive $251-$750. At weeklies, 37.6 percent are paid; most (81.3 percent) receive $250 or less. Only three monthly campus editors are salaried; all receive $100 or less.

At two-year public colleges, only 15.2 percent of campus editors are paid; of those, 40 percent receive $100 or less, an increase from 30 percent in 2007. One third of editors at four-year private schools are paid; of those receiving salaries, 76.2 percent are paid $250 or less. The situation at four-year public institutions is slightly better, with half receiving salaries; however, 47.8 percent of those receive $250 or less, an increase from 32.7 in 2007, and 19.6 percent receive more than $750.

More than two-thirds (63.1 percent) of the copy editors receive salaries, a significant increase from 53.2 percent in 2007; of those paid, more than one half (56.8 percent) receive $250 or less monthly, a slight decrease from 59.4 percent in 2007. Only 12.8 percent earn $501-$1,000, and none earns more than $1,000.

Most (94.6 percent) of the copy editors at daily newspapers are paid. Nearly one half of those (48.6 percent) receive $251-$750. Nearly two-thirds (63.2 percent) of the weekly copy editors are paid, with 76.4 percent receiving $250 or less. Only 18.2 percent of the copy editors at monthlies receive salaries; most earn $100 or less.

Only one-fourth of copy editors at two-year public colleges are paid, with 44.4 percent receiving $250 or less monthly; two are paid $501-$750. At four-year private colleges, 53.8 percent receive salaries. Of those, nearly three-fourths (71.4 percent) are paid $250 or less, while one receives $750-$1,000. More than three-fourths (83.5 percent) at four-year public colleges are paid; 52 percent receive $250 or less, and 14.8 percent are paid more than $500.

Slightly fewer than half (48.4 percent) of editorial page editors receive salaries, comparable to 2007. More than half (52.7 percent) of these individuals receive $250 or less a month and 17.2 percent receive $501 or more; both are comparable to the last survey. Of the editorial page editors at dailies, 77.1 percent are paid; two-thirds of those receive $251-$750, a decrease from 82.9 percent in 2007, and two are paid more than $750. At weeklies, 44.7 percent of editors receive salaries; of these, most (84.2 percent) are paid $250 or less, an increase from 69 percent in 2007. Only 13.6 percent of monthly editorial page editors are paid; none receives more than $100 a month.

More than half of the 20.6 percent of editorial page editors at two-year schools receive $100 or less monthly. More than one-third (36.5 percent) of these editors at four-year private colleges receive salaries, a decrease from 41.7 percent in 2007, and of those who are paid, nearly three-fourths (73.9 percent) receive $250 or less. At four-year public institutions, two-thirds are paid; of these, 44.4 percent receive $250 or less, and 20.6 earn $500 or more, comparable to the last survey.

Nearly half (42.6 percent) of all college newspaper reporters are paid, an increase from 35.5 percent in 2007; nearly half of those (48.8 percent) make $100 or less a month. Two schools report paying reporters more than $500 a month.

At dailies, more than half (54.1 percent) are paid, a decrease from 63.6 percent in 2007. Of these, 70 percent receive $250 or less a month, an increase from 53.6 percent in 2007; none earn more than $500. At weeklies, 40 percent of reporters are paid, an increase from 30.3 percent in 2007; 53 percent of those receive $100 or less. Of the 16 percent at monthly newspapers who are paid, an increase from 11.6 percent in the last survey, half earn $100 or less.

At two-year public schools, most (83 percent) reporters receive no pay; of those who do, half receive $250 or less monthly. At four-year private colleges, nearly one-third (31.3 percent) of reporters are paid, nearly double the number in the last survey. Of those, more than half (52.3 percent) receive $100 or less, fewer than 68.8 percent in 2007. At four-year public institutions, 60 percent of reporters receive salaries; most (80.7 percent) are paid $250 or less, an increase from three-fourths in 2007.

Photo editors fare better than many other editors, with nearly two-thirds (64.3 percent) salaried, an increase from 59.5 percent in 2007. Half receive $250 or less a month, comparable to 2007. Of the 10 photo editors who are paid $751-1000, seven are at four-year public colleges.

At daily newspapers, nearly all (94.6 percent) photo editors are paid, an increase from 81.2 percent in 2007, with nearly half receiving more than $500 a month. At weeklies, more than half (59.6 percent) receive salaries; 70 percent of those paid receive $250 or less. At monthly newspapers, of the 22.7 percent who receive salaries, 80 percent are paid $100 or less.

Nearly half (41.7 percent) the two-year public college photo editors are not paid, an increase from 35.1 percent in 2007; of those paid, more than one-third receive $250 or less monthly, down from 69.2 percent in 2007. Another 46.7 percent receive $251-$500. At four-year private colleges, more than half (52.3 percent) receive salaries; of those, two-thirds are paid $250 or less. Of the photo editors at four-year public institutions, 80.6 percent receive salaries, with 44.3 percent being paid $250 or less, and 24.1 percent receiving more than $500. Seven earn more than $750.

Nearly half (49 percent) the photographers are paid, a substantial increase from 35 percent in 2007; most common (30.9 percent) is payment of $10.01 or more per published photo, followed by 19.6 percent who are paid $5.01-$10 per usable photo and 10.3 percent, $1-$5 per usable photo. Others listed payments per month ranging from $35 to $220; an hourly wage, generally $8.50 per hour; and scholarships. Two-thirds of photographers are paid at dailies and weeklies; $10.01 or more a published photo is most common. At weeklies, 46 percent are paid, and $1-$5 per usable photo is usual. At monthlies, only 16.7 percent are paid, and $1-$5 per usable photo is the norm.

At two-year colleges, more than one-third of the photographers are paid, and $10.01 or more per published photo is most frequent. At four-year private colleges slightly more than one-third are paid, and $5.01-$10 per usable photo is the norm. At four-year public schools, two-thirds of photographers receive compensation, with $10.01 or more paid per published photo.

Business salaries

Salaries of students on the business side are comparable to those on the editorial side, both in the percentage of those paid, which has generally increased, and the amount they receive, which has generally decreased. More than two-thirds (67.2 percent) of advertising managers receive salaries, an increase from 61.3 percent in 2007; of those paid, 35.9 percent receive $250 or less, a decrease from 39.1 percent in 2007. However, a higher percentage (40.5) receive $500 or more a month.

Most (83.3 percent) daily newspapers pay salaries to advertising managers, an increase from three-fourths in 2007. Slightly less than one-third (30 percent) pay more than $1,000, and fewer yet (23.3 percent) pay $500 or less a month. More than two-thirds (67.4 percent) of the weeklies pay salaries, an increase from 58.7 percent in 2007; of those, nearly half (48.3 percent) pay $250 or less per month, and 12.1 percent pay more than $1,000. Only 28.6 percent of monthlies pay advertising managers, and only one of those pays more than $500.

At two-year public colleges, more than half (54.3 percent) the advertising managers receive salaries, an increase from 43.2 percent in 2007; slightly more than half (52.6 percent) receive $250 or less and one receives more than $1000. At four-year private schools, 59.1 percent are paid salaries, an increase from 56.3 percent in 2007; 41 percent are paid $250 or less, and 12.8 percent receive more than $1,000. More than three-quarters (77 percent) of advertising managers at four-year public colleges are salaried, a slight increase from 2007. More than half (52.1 percent) receive $501 or more and 15.1 percent receive $1,001 or more a month.

Fewer business managers (37.6 percent) are paid than advertising managers, comparable to 2007; half of those paid receive $250 or less a month, and 22.5 percent receive more than $500, a decrease from 44 percent in 2007. Only 8.5 percent are paid more than $1,000, a significant decrease from 23.9 percent in the last survey. Of the one-third of daily business managers who are paid, nearly half (45.5 percent) make more than $750, a significant decrease from 70 percent in the last survey; 27.3 percent earn $1,001 or more, also a significant decrease from 55 percent in 2007. At weeklies, 44.7 percent are paid, with most (81.6 percent) receiving $500 or less. Of the 23.8 percent of monthly papers that pay business managers, a large increase from 8.8 percent in 2007, all receive $250 or less.

Only 18.8 percent of two-year public college business managers are paid; of those, all receive $250 or less. At four-year private schools, 40 percent are paid, up from 36.5 percent in 2007; of those, more than half (56 percent) receive $250 or less. Nearly one half (42.6 percent) of the four-year public college business managers are paid, with 27.5 percent receiving more than $500, a sharp decrease from 58.7 percent in 2007, and 10 percent being paid more than $1,000 a month.

Classified ad sales managers are paid less than any editorial or managerial slot, with only 14.8 percent salaried, comparable to 2007. More than three-fourths (78.3 percent) of these individuals are paid $500 or less monthly, and 13 percent receive $1,001 or more. Nearly one-fourth (23.4 percent) of classified ad sales managers at dailies are salaried. Three of these managers receive more than $1,000 a month, and nearly two-thirds (62.5 percent) are paid $500 or less.

Advertising sales representatives are paid at 40.8 percent of colleges and universities; of those, 46.4 percent earn $250 or less. Another 20.5 percent receive more than $500, and five individuals make more than $1,000.

At most (83.9 percent) dailies, advertising sales representatives are paid, a significantly higher number than 47.7 percent in 2007; 15.4 percent make more than $1,000 a month, and half receive $251-$500. At weekly newspapers, 40.5 percent are paid; more than two-thirds (68.8 percent) of these reps are paid $250 or less, and one receives more than $1,000.  At monthly papers, none of these reps are paid.

At four-year private colleges, 36.1 percent of ad sales reps are paid; of those, 59.1 percent receive $250 or less, and one receives $1,000 or more. At four-year public institutions, more than half (57 percent) receive salaries; nearly three-fourths (71.4 percent) are paid $500 or less, and 8.2 percent receive more than $1,000 a month. Only 6.3 percent of two-year public college sales representatives are paid; all receive $500 or less.

More than one-third (36.5 percent) of advertising sales representatives receive 6-10 percent commissions, the most frequent method of payment; 1-5 percent commission ranks next for 20.5 percent, followed by 11-15 percent commission for 12.2 percent of reps, and 16-20 percent for 10.3 percent; 7.1 percent receive an hourly wage, and 6.4 percent are paid an hourly wage plus commission.

At four-year public colleges, a 6-10 percent commission is most common for nearly half the respondents; this is followed by an 11-15 percent commission at 18 percent of these schools. At four-year private institutions, one-third pay a 6-10 percent commission, followed by a 1-5 percent commission for 31.9 percent of reps.

Two-year public college papers most often pay a 1-5 percent commission (31.3 percent); another 30 percent pay 16-20 percent. More than half (54.8 percent) the dailies pay a 6-10 percent commission, followed by 16.1 percent which pay hourly wage plus commission. More than one-third (36.1 percent) of weeklies also pay 6-10 percent commissions; and 19.4 percent, 1-5 percent. At monthlies, 6l.5 percent pay 1-5 percent, and 16-20 percent is paid to 23.1 percent.

 

Online Editions

Nearly all (94.5 percent) colleges and universities publish an online edition of the newspaper, and nearly half (44.2 percent) update them daily. More than one-third (36.3 percent) update weekly, followed by twice weekly (9.5 percent) and alternate weeks (8.4 percent).

Most (85.7 percent) online editions use 76 to 100 percent of the articles and stories from the print version of their paper; 7.9 percent use 51 to 75 percent, and 3.2 percent use none of that content. At four-year public colleges, 57.3 percent update daily, followed by one-fourth who do so weekly. At four-year private schools, 39.4 percent update daily and 45.5 percent weekly, while at two-year public institutions, 53.6 percent update weekly and one-fourth, alternate weeks.

With regard to total operating budgets for the online edition, three-fourths (76 percent) report $5,000 or less annually; 8.9 percent have $5,001-$10,000, and 6.7 percent, $30,000 or more. At two-year public institutions, 92.6 percent have $5,000 or less; 67 percent of four-year public colleges report the same, although 7.8 percent have $30,000 or more. Nearly three-fourths (71 percent) of four-year private schools report budgets of $5,000 or less, and 8.1 percent report $30,000 or more.

More than one-third (36.8 percent) of the online editions receive funding from advertising, with 41.9 percent of those being supported totally by this source; 43 percent of four-year public colleges fall into this category, as do 44.4 percent of four-year private school editions and one two-year public institution.

Most (84 percent) run banner ads. Nearly half (42.1 percent) charge $1-$100 for this type of ad, followed by 26.3 percent who charge $101-$250, and 22.8 percent who ask $251-$500; 8.8 percent charge more than $500.

Only 26.2 percent receive student activity fees for online editions; of those, more than half (56.6 percent) are totally funded from this source. Fewer online editions (21.3 percent) are supported by college and university funds; of these, nearly two-thirds (62.8 percent) are totally supported in this manner. Other funding includes the following: agreements with College Publisher, part of newspaper budget and student government.

Sixty percent of newspaper operations do not have a different editor for the online edition from the print version. Of those which have a separate editor, more than half use the title of online editor, while 15 percent use web master. Under the “other” category, seven listed web editor, while individual mentions included web director, multimedia editor/coordinator, online manager/managing editor and web news coordinator.

More than half (59.7 percent) the online editors are paid, an increase of 10 percent from 2007. Of these, 47.5 percent are paid $250 or less, a decrease from 60.8 percent in the last survey; 12.5 percent receive more than $750, double that of 2007. More than three-fourths (78.9 percent) of the online editors at daily newspapers are paid; 28.9 percent earn $251-$500, and 42.2 percent receive more than $500 a month. Nearly half (42.9 percent) the online editors at weeklies are paid; of those, nearly three-fourths (71.4 percent) are paid $250 or less. No monthly online editors are paid.

Two-thirds of online editors at four-year public colleges are paid, a decrease from 73.6 percent in 2007; of those, more than one-third (39.1 percent) receive $250 or less, and 8.8 percent are paid more than $750. More than one-half (52.2 percent) these editors at four-year private institutions receive salaries, an increase from 38.5 percent in 2007; nearly three-fourths (70.8 percent) receive $250 or less. At two-year public colleges, half are paid, an increase from 20.3 percent in 2007; one-third receive $250 or less.

 

Course credit

A number of schools offer student editors course credit in a variety of options, but all papers have shown decreases from the last survey in 2007. Slightly more than one-fourth (26 percent) of editors/editors-in chief receive course credit, a decrease from 31.9 percent in 2007; of those, most (81.1 percent) receive 1-3 semester hours. With respect to dailies, only one offers 4-6 credits, a decrease from 13.6 percent in 2007. Nearly half (44 percent) the monthlies, a decrease from 47.1 percent in the last survey, also offer credit, as do 28.4 percent of weeklies, a decrease from 35.2 percent in 2007. Two-year colleges are most likely to offer credit (45.9 percent), a decrease from 48.6 percent in 2007, followed by four-year private colleges (27.5 percent), a decrease from 35.4 percent, and four-year public schools (17.3 percent), a decrease from 21.1 percent. Most common are 1 to 3 semester hours.

Other editorial positions have fewer individuals receiving credits: 23.1 percent, managing editors; 24.8 percent, news editors; 24.5 percent, sports editors; 24.5 percent, features/entertainment editors; 18.1 percent, campus/assignments editors; 24.4 percent, copy editors; 22.5 percent, editorial page editors; 20.7 percent, online editors; and 26.2 percent, photo editors. Reporters fare better, with 35.4 percent receiving credit. All are decreases from 2007.

On the business side, the percentages are even smaller: 21 percent, advertising managers; 15.3 percent, business managers; and 7.2 percent, classified ad managers.

In almost all cases on both the editorial and business sides, whenever credit is offered, it is 1 to 3 credits per semester. This is more common at two-year colleges and on monthly and alternate weeks newspapers.

Very few papers offer tuition waivers. They are most common for editors/editors-in-chief, (14.1 percent), and less frequent for other editors as follows: managing/associate editors, 8.2 percent; news editors, 5.9 percent; sports editors, 6.4 percent; features editors, 5 percent; campus/assignment editors, 2.7 percent; copy editors, 4.6 percent; editorial page editors, 5.5 percent; photo editors, 6.4 percent; reporters, 2.3 percent; and photographers, 1.4 percent. On the business side, waivers are more common for advertising managers, 4.6 percent, followed by business managers, 2.3 percent; and classified ad managers and ad sales reps, .9 percent each.

 

In the final analysis

Major professional newspapers in communities across the country are faced with challenges and uncertainty: circulations are declining; revenue is down, particularly from advertising; and staff layoffs are commonplace.

However, at the beginning of the second decade of the 21st century, college and university student newspapers appear to have met many of the challenges they have faced and made some progress.

With regard to the all-too-critical issue of finances, operating budgets have increased across the board from the last survey in 2007. More budgets exceed $50,000 and a substantial number exceed $100,000. Advertising revenue provides income for an increased number of newspapers, ensuring more substantial independence from reliance on institutional funding. Support from student activity fees has increased slightly, while college and university funding has decreased.

In addition, a majority of editors, reporters and photographers are paid, exceeding the percentage in the last survey. However, even though more staffers are paid, salaries have not increased noticeably.

All types of papers except alternate weeks editions publish more frequently, but papers print eight pages more frequently than 12, a change from 2007 when 12 pages were the norm.

One of the most significant changes is evident in online editions. Nearly all papers publish online, and most update daily. In addition, most of these publications are supported by advertising rather than by other sources. The growth of online since 2007 has been rapid.

The 2007 survey concluded that “a full complement of adequately compensated editors and managers, as well as an adequate budget to support a campus paper that meets the needs of its community, is critical to ensure the stability and success of the media operation.” This conclusion is as valid today and, indeed, progress has been made since 2007 toward these goals. Even with the economy and the challenges facing professional media, college and university student media have evolved and are meeting the challenges they face.


Dr. Lillian Lodge Kopenhaver is professor and dean emeritus of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Florida International University. She is past president of CMA and AEJMC, recipient of CMA’s Distinguished Service Award and was inducted into CMA’s Hall of Fame. She was also named the Outstanding Woman in Journalism and Mass Communication Education for 2009 by the AEJMC Commission on the Status of Women and was the 2011 recipient of FIU’s Distinguished Service Medallion.

One thought on “Research Spotlight: Still in Growth Mode

  1. A very interesting article! I’m the adviser for the paper at a small mid-western private college. Our funding comes from some advertising but mostly student activities fees. What I’m wondering is if it is common for papers to have their budgets approved by student government. This is what we have and most of the time over my last 22 years it has been fine, but we’ve been cut by 50% and I’m trying to make a case for getting our funding another way.

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