Real data and real choices for journalists

Montpellier wedding

A wedding in Montpellier, France

This photo grabs a street scene from a wedding in Montpellier, France, and was originally captioned with these words:

“future job: wedding photographer in france?”

Not long ago, serious photographers sneered at shooting weddings. But in the last few years, that sneer turned to respect as the market changed. Some of the best photojournalists from the past are now running their own businesses and shooting weddings, portraits and even pet photos.

Things change.

Of course, the price reset for photography has also hit other “content providers,” especially desk journalists, focused on headlines, visuals and print. The ramifications are broad, including the rise of newspaper print production hubs at large chains and pay-per-piece companies.

It’s capitalism at work.

Freelance journalist Carmen Sisson has pointed out on Twitter a journalism job listing that says,

“If you are as good as you think, you won’t be deterred…that we are offering starvation wages.”

At least the job listing was transparent about the rate: $20,000 to $25,000. That transparency in job listings is rare.

You can read plenty of theory about those changes elsewhere and what they mean for the future of journalism. But when all that theory hits your house and your job, it becomes a matter of math and quantitative, personal decision-making. The myth and romance of poverty-stricken artists only go so far.

You need hard-to-find data.

You can get a sneak peek at salary levels from The organization has an interesting crowdsourcing model, with a requirement to contribute information in order to get more than a sneak peek.

Or you can check the University of Georgia’s annual survey of journalism and mass communications graduates, partly financed by the Society of Professional Journalists.

Annual national membership for SPJ costs $72, and helps provide real data for people like you. That’s money with a decent return on investment.

Armed with data, you can decide whether to shoot weddings in France or to do photojournalism in the United States. You can do piecemeal work from your couch or fight for a spot at a new or old media company.

It’s your choice. The sneers are gone.

Financial information, including 2009 Form 990, from the Society of Professional Journalists

Photo credit: Sarah Acuff (my daughter)


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