Research (Vol. 51): College Student Media Advisers Fare Well

Faring Well Despite Uncertain Times


Editor’s Note: This is the first in a two-part series on college media advising. This first article discusses the role of the adviser, salary/compensation packages and job  characteristics. Part 2 will appear next week and profiles student media operations, including demographics, budgets, financing support, and staffing.


By Lillian Lodge Kopenhaver
Associate Editor, CMR


As the song says, “The times they are a-changin’”(1964). And that is true of the college and university student media scene as well.

The three decades since this survey was first conducted have witnessed tremendous changes in the way student media advisers do their jobs and in the way the media themselves deliver the message. The biggest change, of course, is in the media themselves which these individuals advise.

lillian (2)
Lillian Kopenhaver

In order to trace those changes, over the past three decades the College Media Association has regularly surveyed its membership to provide longitudinal data on the role, responsibilities, working conditions, compensation and status of college and university student media advisers in the U.S. These surveys request data about the media operations they advise as well. This is the eighth survey in that series; the first was in 1984, followed by replications roughly every four years up to this one in 2014.

Advisers today are dealing with issues and advising models that could not even be imagined 30 years ago when the surveys began. “Collectively, advisers, educators and student journalists are witnessing or participating in the biggest shift in college media since campus newspapers appeared in modern form in the mid-to-late 1800s. Their move from print to digital mirrors what is occurring in the larger media industry…”(Reimold, 2014).

Yet one of the leaders of that industry, Caroline Little, president and CEO of the Newspaper Association of America, warns that media “are tasked with balancing and integrating strategies across each platform and generation to effectively reach every audience. Indeed, one of the biggest mistakes leaders in any industry could make today is eschewing one platform for another, trendier medium without considering how they complement each other” (Little, 2014). This all leaves advisers today with many challenges.

One adviser in response to the survey stated that the “largest growth area in hits is mobile and will be where the future lies.” Another noted he advises a “yearbook magazine, an online magazine, an online TV station and an online radio station.” Still another described her job as a visiting professor of journalism, adviser to the newspaper and magazine, and staff writer and media liaison for the university’s marketing department.

A number of respondents described themselves as part time or adjuncts. One said she was a part-time adviser for the newspaper, website and video production arm of the paper and taught a one-unit journalism course each semester. Another said she retired after 30 years in the newspaper business and advises part time along with freelance writing.

Today a profile of advisers reveals that a greater number bring professional media experience to their positions with college and university student media, and an increasing percentage have longevity in both the number of years they have been advisers and in the length of time they have been in their current positions than was reported in the last survey in 2009.

In addition, in 2014, an increasing number of advisers are tenured or are in positions that lead to tenure, although slightly fewer are full time with no direct classroom assignment. However, for those who are full-time advisers, salaries on all levels have substantially increased in the last four years.

Slightly fewer media are independent in 2014 than in 2009, with fewer operations reporting to student affairs, and more being responsible to academic affairs. And, on a positive note, significantly more advisers are crafting their own job descriptions rather than having this task done by an administrator who might lack the knowledge of the rights and responsibilities of the advising profession.

Methodology

In spring 2014, surveys were sent via Qualtrics to 841 active members of the College Media Association at that time. A total of 379 were returned, for a response rate of 45 percent. Respondents represented all 50 states and the District of Columbia, with Illinois having the largest percentage of returns (7 percent), followed by Texas (6 percent), Pennsylvania, California, New York and Georgia (5 percent each).

The 69 questions on the survey were designed to provide information on a broad range of topics, including the role and responsibilities of advisers, their levels of education, their tenure status, salary and other compensation models, reporting responsibilities, titles and rank. The first 31 questions related to advising and are the basis for this article. The subsequent 48 sought information on the newspapers, both print and online, yearbooks, magazines and radio and television operations advised by those responding, including financial, organizational and demographic data, in order to provide a profile of the nation’s college and university student media. In addition, there was an open-ended question at the end soliciting further comments that advisers would like to share.

Frequencies were run on all questions, as were cross tabulations on selected questions to ascertain trends and specific demographic information on respondents and the media they advise.

Profile of Respondents

The largest group of respondents (37 percent) advise newspapers and online.This is a significant difference from just four years ago when the largest group, 49 percent, advised only newspapers, showing the rapid growth of online operations. The next largest group (20 percent) advise all media. That is followed by 17 percent who adivse newspaper only; 6 percent who advise radio; 4 percent who advise newspaper and yearbook; 4 percent, newspaper, yearbook and magazine; 3 percent, radio and TV; 3 percent, yearbook; 3 percent, magazine; and 2 percent each, TV and online only. The broad range of combinations of media advised illustrates just how diverse advising models and student media operations are across the country and how rapidly they are changing. In fact, in the open-ended section, 10 advisers offered other models, including one who advises a yearbook magazine, an online magazine, and online radio and TV; another has eight specialty magazines and two radio stations; and still another, an online newspaper and radio and TV.

Of those who advise newspapers, nearly three fourths (71 percent) advise all areas;

15 percent supervise editorial and production; 10 percent, editorial only; 2 percent, business/advertising and production, and 2 percent, business/advertising.

The length of professional experience of advisers has also increased substantially. Nearly all (93 percent) have had some professional media experience, up from 91 percent in 2009. More than half (57 percent) have nine or more years experience, up significantly from 44 percent in 2009, and 29 percent report 18 or more years working in the media before becoming advisers, an increase from 17 percent in 2009; 17 percent have 23 or more years professional experience, again an increase from 8 percent in 2009. Only 17 percent reported 1-3 years experience, down from 26 percent on the last survey.

Fewer (23 percent) advisers have been in their positions four or fewer years, down from 32 percent in 2009. Of those, 6 percent are in their first year of advising, comparable to 2009. Nearly half (43 percent) have been advising for 15 or more years, an increase from 28 percent in 2009. Of those, 21 percent have advised for 20 or more years, an increase from 18 percent on the last survey.

As far as their current jobs are concerned, more advisers (33 percent) have been in their positions for 5-9 years than any other length of time; in 2009 that was true for those advising 2-4 years. The number of advisers with 15 or more years in their current position (23 percent) has remained constant from 2009; 14 percent are in their current jobs 20 or more years, up from 11 percent. Only 9 percent were in their first year, a slight decrease.

More than half the respondents (51 percent) work at four-year public colleges and universities; more than one-third (34 percent) are at four-year private schools, followed by 15 percent at two-year public colleges. There were no respondents from two-year private institutions.

As far as enrollments are concerned, more advisers (40 percent) represent institutions with 7,500 or fewer students than any other size; another 25 percent work at colleges and universities with 7,501 to 15,000 students, 10 percent at those with 15,001 to 20,000, 7 percent at those with 20,001 to 25,000, and 17 percent at schools with enrollments exceeding 25,000.

The Adviser’s Position

More advisers (37 percent) hold the title of publications/media adviser than any other, an increase from 26 percent in 2009. The next most common designation is publications/media director (24 percent), a decrease from 28 percent in 2009; 10 percent are general managers, a decrease from 16 percent in 2009, and 11 percent are editorial advisers.

Others with smaller percentages include assistant director of student media/publications (4 percent), media supervisors/coordinators, 3 percent, and ad/production managers (1 percent). Other titles reported by one or two individuals include such diversity as follows: assistant director of marketing and media, director of career services, student life coordinator, assistant director of student activities, director of the student union, and faculty managing editor.

More than half (59 percent) of the advisers have master’s degrees, an increase from 51 percent in 2009, and 23 percent have their doctoral degrees, an increase from 21 percent on the last survey. Several noted that they hold the MFA degree.

Nearly half (42 percent) the advisers have both faculty rank and staff title, an increase from 30 percent in 2009.

Of those with faculty status, more are instructors (28 percent) than any other rank, an increase from 25 percent in 2009 when assistant professors were the majority with 29 percent. Assistant professors follow with 24 percent, down from 2009, followed by associate professors with 19 percent, a decrease from 21 percent in 2009, and professors, with 17 percent, an increase from 15 percent in 2009. Lecturers stand at 11 percent.

When rank is broken down by type of institution, there are more instructors at four-year public colleges (33 percent), comparable to 2009, and more assistant professors at four-year private institutions (30 percent), a decrease from 44 percent, than other ranks.             Assistant professors follow at four-year public colleges with 21 percent, then lecturers with 17 percent and professors with 15 percent. At four-year private institutions, 26 percent are associate professors; 18 percent are professors and another 18 percent are instructors, while 6 percent are lecturers. Professors dominate at two-year public schools (33 percent), followed by instructors with 31 percent, assistant professors with 18 percent, associate professors with 16 percent and lecturers with 2 percent.

Tenure

Being successful in attaining a tenured position continues to be a challenge for college media advisers, although the situation has improved significantly in 2014. More than one third (38 percent) of respondents indicate that their advising position does not lead to tenure, a significant decrease from 48 percent in 2009. Of those positions that do lead to tenure, 44 percent of the advisers are tenured, an increase from the 39 percent in 2009 who reported having tenure.

Nearly half (43 percent) the advisers at four-year public colleges and universities are in positions that do not lead to tenure; this is a substantial decrease from 59 percent in 2009. At four-year private schools, 36 percent are in positions not leading to tenure, a decrease from 38 percent in 2009. Two-year public institutions have the smallest percentage of advisers in positions not leading to tenure (23 percent).

Of those advisers in positions that lead to tenure, 77 percent of respondents at two- year public institutions are tenured, the highest of any type of college, and an increase from 68 percent in 2009. Nearly one third (31 percent) of those at four-year public colleges are tenured, a slight increase from 28 percent in 2009. At four-year private schools, 46 percent are tenured, an increase from 37 percent in 2009.

More station managers (67 percent) are in positions not leading to tenure than any other job title (75 percent). They are followed closely by general managers and business managers (50 percent), publications/media directors (49 percent), publications/media advisers (48 percent), and editorial advisers (46 percent).

More than one third (31 percent) of the publications/media advisers who are in positions leading to tenure are tenured, a significant decrease from 52 percent in 2009, as are 42 percent of general managers (an increase from 17 percent in 2009), 16 percent of publications/media directors (a decrease from 25 percent in 2009) and 27 percent of the editorial advisers (an increase from none in 2009).

Assignments

Nearly one third of advisers (32 percent) are on 12-month contracts, a decrease from 46 percent in 2009; 28 percent have nine-month contracts, also a decrease from 31 percent in 2009. Another 12 percent are on 10-month contracts, an increase from 9 percent, and 19 percent state they have no contract, an increase from 11 percent. Nearly all (95 percent) are on the semester system. Most have a nine-month teaching load of 12 semester hours (29 percent); 15 semester hours is the next most common load (16 percent), followed by 18 semester hours (12 percent), 24 semester hours (9 percent), 21 semester hours and12 quarter hours (5 percent each), and 16 and 24 quarter hours and 30 semester hours (4 percent each).

Nearly three-fourths of the advisers (73 percent) are faculty and are assigned to a department, a significant increase from 59 percent in 2009; two thirds (66 percent) are found in journalism/communications, while 14 percent are English faculty. English/communication accounts for 2 percent, arts/humanities for 1 percent, and not assigned to a department, 8 percent.

Of those who do not have faculty rank but do teach, 23 percent instruct journalism/communications classes, while 6 percent teach English, comparable to the last survey.

Of those advisers who are regular faculty, nearly two thirds (63 percent) at four-year public colleges, less than 70 percent in 2009, and more than two-thirds (67 percent) at four- year private schools (comparable to 2009) are assigned to journalism/communications units;

11 percent at the former and 14 percent at the latter report to English. Nearly half (46 percent) of those at two-year public colleges, an increase from 39 percent in 2009, are assigned to journalism/communications, and another one fourth (24 percent) teach English, a sharp decrease from 36 percent in 2009.

Nearly one third (32 percent) of advisers are full time and have no direct classroom assignment, a decrease from 41 percent in 2009. This model is more common at four-year public colleges, where nearly half (43 percent) the advisers do not teach, a decrease from 54 percent in 2009; 22 percent of advisers at four-year private schools and 15 percent of those at two-year public institutions also fall into this category, both percentages less than 2009.

Of those who are not full-time advisers, 42 percent spend 25 percent or less of their work assignment in advising, a decrease from 46 percent in 2009; 21 percent spend half their time advising, and 13 percent spend 75 percent.

At four-year public colleges, slightly more than one third (34 percent) said they advise full time, down from 43 percent in 2009; only 16 percent of those at four-year private institutions, the same as 2009, and 8 percent of advisers at two-year public schools, up slightly from 7 percent, are full-time advisers.

Of those who are not full-time advisers, nearly two thirds (63 percent) at four-year private colleges and universities spend 25 percent or less of their work assignment advising; so do 54 percent of those at two-year public schools, and 49 percent of those at four-year public colleges.

One fourth of advisers report spending more than 40 hours a week doing student media work, while 39 percent spend 20 hours or less; the former is a decrease from 33 percent in 2009 and the latter is comparable. One fifth spend 21 to 30 hours and 17 percent spend 31 to 40 hours advising.

With regard to reporting responsibility, one fourth (26 percent) of advisers report to a department/division chair, a slight increase from 24 percent in 2009. Those reporting to a student affairs dean/vice president decreased to 17 percent from 18 percent in 2009, and those reporting to an academic affairs dean/vice president increased to 20 percent from 12 percent.

Respondents reporting to a student activities/student life director decreased to 15 percent from 17 percent in 2009, while those reporting to a student media/publications board or chair decreased to 4 percent from 12 percent in the previous survey. The percentage of advisers reporting to a publications/media director or general manager increased 1 percentage point from 2009 to 6 percent.

Other areas to which advisers are responsible include a corporate board of directors, public relations dean/vice president and president, all 1 percent. Another small group, 2 percent, said they were not sure to whom they reported or they reported to no one.

With regard to full-time media advisers, more than half (58 percent) report to student affairs personnel; 24 percent report to a student activities/student life director, while more than one third (34 percent) report to a student affairs dean/vice president. The former is a decrease from 31 percent in 2009 and the latter an increase from 22 percent in 2009.

Only 8 percent of full-time advisers are responsible to a publications/media board or its chair, a decrease from 13 percent in 2009. Responsibility to a department chair increased to

8 percent from 7 percent. Other areas of reporting include publications/media director (12 percent), an increase from 7 percent in 2009, and academic dean or vice president (12 percent), up from 4 percent.

At four-year public colleges more advisers are directly responsible to a department chair (27 percent) than any other area, an increase from 21 percent in 2009. That is followed by student affairs/student life director and student affairs dean/vp (18 percent each), both decreases from 20 and 21 percent in 2009. Publications/media board or chair supervises 10 percent of advisers, a decrease from 11 percent in 2009; academic dean/vp, 8 percent; and publications/media director or general manager (6 percent each), comparable to 2009.

At four-year private institutions, the academic dean or vp supervises most advisers (31 percent), up from 15 percent in 2009. Other areas include department chairs (24 percent), down from 28 percent in 2009; student affairs dean/vice president (15 percent), up from 17 percent; publications/media board (6 percent), a decrease from 16 percent; and student activities/student life director (9 percent), comparable to 2009.

Most advisers at two-year public schools report to the academic dean/vice president (27 percent), an increase from 23 percent in 2009, followed by the department chair (22 percent), a decrease from 30 percent, the student activities/student life director and student affairs dean/vice president (both 18 percent), the former down from 24 percent and the latter up from 8 percent in 2009 (See Table 1).

Table 1: Reporting Responsibility for Student Media Advisers (in %)
Area

4year

public

4year

private

2-year

public

PR dean/vp 0 1 1
Student affairs/life dir. 18 9 18
Pub/media director 6 2 5
President 0 3 0
Dept. chair 27 24 22
Student gov’t 0 0 2
Academic dean/vp 8 31 27
Student aff. dean/vp 18 15 18
Media board or chair 10 6 6

Note: Percentages do not total 100 since some listed “other” smaller areas.

Most student media operations are assigned to either student affairs (39 percent), a decrease from 45 percent in 2009, or to communications/journalism (35 percent), up from 33 percent in 2009.

Advisers listing their media operations as independent account for 10 percent, down from 12 percent in 2009. Other areas of assignment are minimal: student government (6 percent), a slight increase from 4 percent in 2009; humanities/arts and sciences, 3 percent; and the president and academic affairs, both 2 percent.

Student media are assigned to departments of communications/journalism more frequently than any other unit at four-year private colleges (39 percent), a decrease from 44 percent in 2009, followed by student affairs (30 percent). At four-year public colleges, more media operations are responsible to student affairs (47 percent), down from 56 percent in

2009, followed by journalism/communication with 30 percent, up from 25 percent in 2009. At two-year public colleges, most report to communications/journalism (37 percent), comparable to 2009, followed by student affairs (30 percent), down significantly from 45 percent in 2009.

Independent media comprise 12 percent of operations at four-year public colleges, comparable to 2009, 10 percent of those at four-year private schools, a decrease from 18 percent, and 7 percent of those at two-year public institutions, an increase from none. A small percentage of media operations (5 percent) at both four-year public and four-year private colleges and 7 percent of those at two-year public schools report to student government (See Table 2).

With regard to the issue of who is publisher of the student media operation, respondents most frequently listed the publications/media board (21 percent); other areas included the newspaper editor (18 percent), the president (7.7 percent), the adviser (9 percent), board of trustees/regents (8 percent), journalism/communications (7 percent), student affairs dean/vice president/director (5 percent), and the university, editorial/management board and president, (3 percent each). Independence was listed by 15 percent of respondents. Three percent said they did not have a publisher or one was not defined.

At four-year public colleges, the publications/media board is most frequently listed as publisher (28 percent), while the newspaper editor is mentioned most frequently at two-year public schools (23 percent). At four-year private colleges, the trustees/regents/university is most frequently listed as publisher (19 percent). See Table 3.

More than half the advisers (59 percent) supervise full-time, three-fourths-time or half- time employees, a decrease from 71 percent in 2009; 54 percent of those supervise 1 to 2; 21 percent, 3 to 5; 15 percent, 6 to 11; 10 percent, 12 or more; and 6 percent, 21 or more. All are fewer than the last survey.

 

Table 2: Areas of Assignment for Student Media (in %)
Area

4year

public

4year

private

2-year

public

Comm/journ 30 39 37
Student affairs 47 30 30
Independent 12 10 7
President 0 4 4
Public relations 0 2 2
Student gov’t 2.5 4.4 6.5
Academic aff/provost 2 2 3

Humanities/liberal

arts/English

2 2 4
Media board 1 1 0

Note: Percentages do not total 100 since some listed “other” smaller areas.

Job Descriptions.

One of the most vital documents that an adviser can have to ensure and protect his or her rights as an adviser, and to protect the students’ rights to a press free from censorship, is a written job description. In 2014, 57 percent of advisers have written job descriptions, a decrease from 62 percent in 2009 and 60 percent in 2005.

Publications/media directors have the highest percentage of job descriptions (88 percent), followed by general managers and editorial advisers (75 percent each), and publications/media advisers (64 percent).

With regard to areas advised, most of those advising newspaper and yearbook (88 percent), an increase from 73 percent in 2009, have written job descriptions. They are followed by nearly three fourths (73 percent) of those advising all media, a slight decrease from 81 percent in 2009, 65 percent of those advising newspaper, yearbook and magazine,

62 percent of those working with newspaper and online, 54 percent of those advising radio, half of those advising online only, 40 percent of those advising radio and TV, 37 percent of those working with newspapers, 36 percent of those advising yearbook only, one third of TV advisers, and 18 percent of magazine advisers.

A majority (87 percent) of the full-time advisers have written job descriptions, a substantial increase from 54 percent in 2009.

More than three fourths of advisers (77 percent) reporting to student affairs deans/vice presidents have written job descriptions, as do 75 percent of those responsible to student activities/student life directors, 72 percent of those reporting to publications/media directors,

53 percent responsible to academic deans/vice presidents, half of those reporting to the president, 46 percent of those responsible to publications/media boards or their chair, 35 percent of those reporting to department chairs, and the one adviser responsible to a public relations dean.

Nearly two thirds (64 percent) of advisers at four-year public colleges have written job descriptions, a decrease from 68 percent in 2009. At two-year public schools, 58 percent have descriptions, an increase from 56 percent in 2009. At four-year private colleges, advisers having written job descriptions decreased to 47 percent from 54 percent in 2009.

In most instances, advisers themselves are responsible for writing their own job descriptions (33 percent), a significant increase from 23 percent in 2009. This is followed by student affairs directors/deans/vice presidents (16 percent), a decrease from 20 percent in

2009; publications/media boards or chairs (12 percent), a decrease from 15 percent; department chairs (13 percent), a decrease from 14 percent; academic deans/vice presidents (11 percent), an increase from 8 percent; media/publications director/ general manager, 4 percent; newspaper editor/editorial board, 2 percent; and president, student government, board of directors, media/publications board chair, and self with student affairs officer or chair, all 1 percent each.

At four-year public colleges and universities, most advisers write their own job descriptions (24 percent), an increase from 22 percent in 2009, and a change from the last survey when most (30 percent) were written by student affairs deans/vice presidents (17 percent in 2014). Publications/media boards follow with 18 percent, a slight increase from 16 in 2009, and department chairs write 13 percent, comparable to 2009.

Nearly half (41 percent) the advisers at four-year private institutions write their own job descriptions, a significant increase from 21 percent in 2009; academic deans/vice presidents follow with 16 percent, then department chairs with 12 percent, and student affairs with 11 percent.

At two-year public colleges, 45 percent of advisers write their own job descriptions, an increase from 36 percent in 2009; 10 percent are written by academic affairs deans/vice presidents, a contrast to 14 percent in 2009, and 10 percent are completed by department chairs, a substantial decrease from 29 percent in the last survey.

Nearly one third (30 percent) of publications/media advisers write their own job descriptions, comparable to 2009. In 18 percent of the cases, descriptions are written by student affairs, a sharp decrease from 39 percent in 2009, and by department chairs/academic deans/vice presidents in 23 percent of the cases, an increase from 17 percent in 2009. Publications/media boards/board chairs write descriptions for 14 percent of these individuals, an increase from 8 percent. The role of student affairs in writing job descriptions for media advisers has decreased significantly, while academic affairs has increased.

Nearly half (46 percent) the publications/media directors write their own job descriptions, a substantial increase from 18 percent in 2009. Student affairs author one fourth of these descriptions, a significant decrease from 42 percent in 2009; 6 percent are completed by publications/media boards/board chairs, a decrease from 18 percent in 2009, while 13 percent are written by department chairs/academic deans/vice presidents, an increase from 9 percent in 2009. These figures show a significant increase in publications/media directors writing their own job descriptions with a significant decrease in student affairs involvement.

In the case of general managers, 14 percent write their own job descriptions, a substantial decrease from 35 percent in 2009; department chairs/academic deans/vice presidents, and student affairs, each write 23 percent of job descriptions, an increase for the former from 13 percent.

Only 17 percent of editorial advisers write their own job descriptions, while 29 percent are authored by department chairs/academic deans/vice presidents, a decrease from half in 2009; one fourth are written by publications/media boards or their chairs, comparable to 2009.

The fact that one third of advisers write their own job descriptions, an increase from 23 percent in 2009, is a positive trend. College Media Association has two long-standing codes for its members: a Code of Ethical Standards for Advisers and a Code of Professional Standards for Advisers, both of which define the job of the adviser as a professional journalist, a professional educator and a professional manager, and speak specifically to both the rights and responsibilities of the advising position. Advisers must protect their rights and define their professional responsibilities to administrators, colleagues, staff and students. Advisers should take the initiative to craft these documents themselves to ensure that the responsibilities listed in the position description are those that are appropriate to the job.

Table 3: Who is Publisher? (in %)
Area

4year

public

4year

private

2-year

public

Pub/media board 28 14 11
Independent 18 10 16
Journ/comm 6 8 6
Newspaper editor 22 11 23

Student affairs

dean/VP/director

2 10 7
Editorial/manag board 4 3 4
Trustees/univ./regents 4 19 7
President 2 6 0
Adviser 6 11 13

Note: Percentages do not total 100 since some listed “other” smaller areas.

Compensation

Advisers receive a broad variety of compensation packages. Of those who are not full-time advisers, 58 percent have a reduced load, while advising counts as one or more courses, comparable to 2009. However, 23 percent receive no released time or extra compensation for advising, an increase from 20 percent in 2009.

Another model includes advisers who carry a regular teaching load and are paid extra for advising (14 percent, comparable to 2009). Others have a reduced teaching load, where advising counts as one or more courses, and are paid extra (6 percent), comparable to 2009.

More than three fourths (76 percent) are not paid directly for their advising responsibilities, but their duties are part of their teaching or administrative assignment; this percentage is comparable to 2009. At four-year private colleges, 76 percent follow this model, up slightly from 73 percent in 2009; at four-year public schools, 80 percent fall into this category, comparable to 2009. At two-year public institutions, the percentage increased to 76 from 50 percent in 2009.

Broken down by student media operations, those not paid directly for advising include100 percent of yearbook, online only, and newspaper and yearbook advisers, followed by advisers to radio (94 percent), newspaper, yearbook and magazine (82 percent), all media (80 percent), newspaper and online (78 percent), magazine (64 percent), newspapers (61 percent), radio and TV (60 percent), and television (50 percent).

Of the one-fourth who receive partial remuneration for advising, nearly three fourths (71 percent) are paid $5,000 or less, a significant increase from 51 percent in 2009, while 11 percent receive $5,001 to $10,000, and 19 percent are paid more than $10,000, the latter a decrease from 26 percent in the last survey.

By media operations, of those receiving partial remuneration, 9 percent of advisers to all media receive more than $5,000, as do 8 percent of newspaper and online advisers. All the rest receive less. This is significantly less than in 2009.

At four-year public colleges, nearly 15 percent of advisers receiving partial compensation are paid more than $5,000, a significant decrease from 71 percent in 2009; at four-year private schools, 8 percent are so paid, a decrease from 25 percent in the last survey. At two-year public institutions the percentage decreased to 6 percent from 46 percent in 2009.

Salaries of full-time advisers vary widely and exceed 2009 at all levels. Only 9 percent are paid $35,000 or less; that is progress over 2009 when 15 percent earned that amount. A majority (84 percent) are compensated at a level of more than $40,000, a significant increase over 68 percent in 2009, while two thirds earn more than $50,000, another significant increase from 34 percent in 2009. In fact, 40 percent earn more than $60,000; 23 percent are paid more than $70,000, and 13 percent earn more than $80,000. All substantially exceed 2009 levels.

By media advised, more than three-fourths (73 percent) of those working with newspapers receive more than $40,000; 59 percent receive more than $50,000; 45 percent more than $60,000; and 14 percent more than $80,000. Of those working with newspapers and yearbooks, 79 percent are paid more than $40,000; 36 percent more than $50,000; 21 percent more than $60,000; and 14 percent more than $80,000. Of those advising all media, most (88 percent) earn more than $40,000; 68 percent more than $50,000; 36 percent more than $60,000; and 14 percent more than $80,000. More than two-thirds (78 percent) of radio station advisers earn more than $40,000; 56 percent, more than $60,000; and 11 percent more than $80,000. Of the newspaper and online advisers, 84 percent earn more than

$40,000; 68 percent more than $50,000; 36 percent more than $60,000; and 14 percent more than $80,000 (See Table 4).

Table 4: Compensation for Full-Time Advisers by Media Advised (in %)

Salary Range

News

only

Radio

only

New &

online

News &

yearbook

Newsp. yrbk & mag. All Media
$20,000 or less  14  0  2  0 0 2
$20,001-$25,000  0  0  2  0 0 0
$25,001-$30,000  9  0  0  7 0 2
$30,001-$35,000  0  0  5  7 0 3
$35,001-$40,000  5  22  8  7 9 5
$40,001-$45,000  5  0  2  21 0 10
$45,001-$50,000  9  11  8  21 46 10
$50,001-$55,000  14  11  20  14 9 22
$55,001-$60,000 0 0 6 0 0 10
$60,001-$65,000  14  0  20  0 0 8
 $65,001-$70,000  54 11  5  0 18 7
$70,001-$75,000 9 22 8 7 18 5
$75,001-$80,000 5 11 2 0 0 2
$80,001 or more 13 11 14 14 9 14

 

All categories of full-time advisers have made significant salary gains since 2009.

More than three fourths (81 percent) of the full-time advisers in four-year public colleges earn more than $45,000, an increase from 58 percent in 2009, while 43 percent are paid more than $60,000, and 16 percent, more than $80,000. At four-year private institutions, figures are lower; 75 percent receive more than $45,000, an increase from 37 percent in 2009, while 26 percent are paid more than $60,000, and 8 percent more than $80,000. See Table 3.

At two-year public colleges, 69 percent earn more than $45,000, an increase from 17 percent in 2009; 58 percent receive more than $60,000, and 12 percent earn more than $80,000 (See Table 5).

Table 5: Compensation for Full-Time Advisers (in %)
Salary Range

4year

public

4year

private

2-year

public

$20,000 or less 2 0 12
$20,001-$25,000 0 0 4
$25,001-$30,000 4 0 0
$30,001-$35,000 2 6 4
$35,001-$40,000 7 9 8
$40,001-$45,000 5 9 4
$45,001-$50,000 10 19 8
$50,001-$55,000 17 26 4
$55,001-$60,000 10 4 0
$60,001-$65,000 13 2 22
$65,001-$70,000 5 2 14
$70,001-$75,000 6 13 8
$75,001-$80,000 3 2 0
$80,001 or more 16 8 12

Most (95 percent) of the full-time advisers with the title of publications/media director earn more than $40,000, while 79 percent make more than $50,000; 28 percent exceed $65,000 and 18 percent earn more than $80,000. All are increases over 2009 levels except for those earning more than $65,000.

Of those with the title of publications/media adviser, 75 percent earn more than $40,000, double that of 2009; 56 percent exceed $50,000, a substantial increase from 9 percent in 2009, and 17 percent make more than $65,000. One person earns more than $80,000.

Of the general managers responding, 88 percent earn more than $50,000, up from 57 percent in 2009; 59 percent earn more than $65,000, an increase from 36 percent in 2009, and 29 percent earn in excess of $80,000.

More than half (59 percent) the advisers who are compensated for working with student media have no formal provision for how frequently they are granted salary increases; this is a substantial increase from 40 percent in 2009. Only 17 percent have annual salary reviews, down from 36 percent in 2009; 14 percent receive automatic annual increases, down from 17 percent in 2009.

Academic affairs deans/vice presidents or chairs most frequently determine advisers’ raises (40 percent), an increase from 37 percent in 2009. Student affairs deans/vice presidents or directors grant raises in nearly one third (32 percent) of the cases, down from

37 percent in 2009. Publications/media boards or their chairs perform this function in 3 percent, a significant decrease from 13 percent in 2009. Contracts determine increases for 5 percent of advisers; 4 percent receive raises from the president, and 1 percent each have raises determined by student government, the general manager, and the board of directors of the corporation.

Conclusions

Both the times and the student media world are indeed changing. Technology has brought about a revolution in the last three decades in what student media look like, how information is disseminated and how and when the audience accesses the message.

So too has the role of the college and university media adviser evolved and changed. Advising has become a career path, one in which longevity is a hallmark. Three decades ago nearly half the student media advisers had spent three or more years in their positions. Today half have spent 10 or more years in their jobs and one fourth, 20 or more years.

Salaries, also, have matured. In 2014, more than double the number of full-time advisers make salaries exceeding $60,000 than four years ago. On the other hand, however, those who advise on a part-time basis and receive partial remuneration for that job have not seen much improvement in salaries. In fact, the number of those who receive no released time or extra compensation for advising has increased slightly.

A lingering challenge is that the number of advisers who have no formal provisions for salary increases has increased to 50 percent from 40 percent in the last survey. In addition, fewer have annual salary reviews (17 percent) than four years ago (36 percent).

A critical issue for advisers is having written job descriptions spelling out the rights and responsibilities of their positions and protecting them as they work to uphold the free press rights of their students in their work on campus media. In 2014, 57 percent of respondents indicated that they had job descriptions in writing, a decrease from 62 percent four years ago. On a positive note, however, is the fact that one third wrote their own descriptions, a significant increase from the 23 percent who did so in 2009.

An indicator of the career status of student media advising is the fact that nearly two thirds (62 percent) of respondents indicated that their job is tenured or leads to tenure, a substantial increase over 52 percent in 2009. And of those, nearly half (44 percent) are tenured, also an increase from 39 percent in the last survey.

The evolution of the student media advising profession over the last three decades has encountered significant challenges and opportunities. But it has always embraced the ideals of a free and vigorous student press and welcomed the opportunity to strengthen the avenues of communication with the audience the student media serve. Advisers have made a great deal of progress in the professionalism of their careers. This survey indicates some areas to which attention needs to be paid, but also provides a breadth of information to assist advisers in doing so.

References

  • Dylan, Bob, “ The Times They Are A-Changi n’,” Studio album, Columbia Records, 1964.
  • Kopenhaver, Lillian Lodge ,”2009 Study of Advisers Shows Improvements, Causes for Concern,” College Media Review, Vol. 46, No. 4 (Summer 2009).
  • Kopenhaver, Lillian Lodge, Many Campus Media Operations Reflect the Economy,” College Media Review, Vol. 47, No. 1 (Fall 2009).
  • Kopenhaver, Lillian Lodge, “The Adviser’s Role: CMA survey reveals broad differences in salaries, job descriptions of student media advisers,” College Media Review 23, No. 4 (Summer 1984).
  • Little, Caroline, “What the Newspaper Trends of 2014 Mean for the Industry’s Future,” www.naa.org, June 2014.
  • Reimold, Daniel, “Student newspapers move to mobile as interest in print wanes,” www.Poynter.org, April 10, 2014

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