Career satisfaction high among journalists, but industry-wide concerns remain

By Eva Herscowitz


Journalism News
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Most of the 12,000 surveyed U.S.-based journalists are happy with their jobs. But worries about misinformation, partisanship and online harassment remain, according to a recent survey.

Most journalists are happy with their jobs. But the majority of U.S.-based journalists also recognize the wide-ranging challenges facing the press, from the proliferation of misinformation to the lack of newsroom diversity to online harassment. 

That’s the conclusion of a recent Pew Research Center survey of 12,000 working U.S.-based journalists, which indicated that while most media professionals express a “high degree” of job satisfaction, many remain concerned about misinformation, press freedom and political polarization. 

“When asked to describe the industry today, most would use a word with a negative connotation,” Pew senior Researcher Jeffrey Gottfried said. 

image of graphics in survey

Authored by Gottfried, Amy Mitchell, Mark Jurkowitz, and Jacob Liedke, the study also reported a “deep disconnect” between journalists and readers: Just 14% of surveyed journalists said they think the public has a “great deal” or “fair amount” of trust in information from news organizations.

Avoiding — and identifying — misinformation has become a requisite aspect of the reporting process. Pew found that a majority of reporting journalists “sometimes” come across misinformation while working on a story, and a quarter reported they have unknowingly reported on a story later found to contain false information. 

While the cascade of politicians amplifying falsehoods has made misinformation a timely concern, other concerns Pew documented are more evergreen. 

Political sorting in news consumption — the tendency for people with the same political views to get their news from the same news organizations — concerns the majority of U.S.-based journalists. The public, however, is far more passé about the problem. Roughly 4 in 10 U.S. adults characterize politicized consumption as a problem. Concerns over accuracy, too, afflict most journalists; roughly half say reporting news that “nearly everyone finds accurate” simply isn’t possible. 

The report indicates that an industry subject to much public scrutiny is self-aware of its own shortcomings. Still, journalists are more positive about their performance than the public. Nearly 65% of journalists say news organizations do a “very” or “somewhat good” job reporting the news accurately, though only 35% of the public affirms that positive self-assessment. 

Less familiar than the lack of public trust in the press are contemporary concerns — about social media, harassment and newsroom diversity, among others. 

The racial composition of outlets often scarcely resembles the places they cover, prompting 68% of journalists to characterize the racial diversity of their newsrooms as insufficient. Race-specific survey responses more clearly illuminate concerns about racism in journalism. Black, Hispanic and Asian journalists are less likely than white journalists to say that their organization treats everyone fairly based on race, according to Pew. “Younger journalists tend to be more engaged with issues of diversity,” Gottfried added. 

Taken together, the responses of journalists also represent social media as something of a necessary evil. While nearly all (94%) of U.S.-based journalists use social media in their reporting, about two-thirds of all journalists say online platforms have a “very” or “somewhat negative” impact on the state of journalism as a whole. 

Such platforms can also harbor online harassment: For the roughly 4 in 10 journalists who have experienced online harassment, the vast majority (78%) of that vitriol has occurred on social media. 

Despite the myriad tribulations of a career in media, journalists are an optimistic bunch. Most of them would do it all over again (that is, pursue a career in journalism), and about half said a journalism job has a “positive impact” on their well-being. When asked about their work, a sizable majority of surveyed journalists used words such as “excited,” “proud” and “satisfied.”  

“Even with this overwhelming view of concern, we see that journalists continue to express this really high degree of satisfaction and fulfillment in their jobs,” Gottfried said. “What we make of that is that journalists really have a passion for the industry. Even with the notion that there is this broad negativity, there’s this passion for the work that they do.”

To read the full survey, click here