Journalists aren't quite so blotched from pens and printers, now that the newspaper die-out has wiped out 50 years of advertising gains in a decade. With cleaner shirts, less paper, and worse pay, we're more like carpal-tunnel wretches. We're older on average than we used to be, slightly more moral, and far more lugubrious about the future of our profession.
Here is the state of the American journalist, according to a survey from Indiana University.
1. They're more liberal.
Like the rest of the country, journalists feel more comfortable identifying themselves as independents rather than shacking up with a particular party. But among journalists who align with one of the two major parties, four in five said they're Democrats.
Unambiguous proof of media bias? Perhaps. But this is a poll of all kinds of reporters and editors, not just political reporters. Plus, the rise of explicitly ideological media in the last generation, on TV and the Web in particular, makes the question of "bias" somewhat moot in many cases. If you're getting your news from a source you understand to be liberal or conservative, you're consuming the bias you're seeking. If there were a tremendous shortage of conservative journalists to fulfill the demand for more conservative news, this might actually be good news for those conservative journalists: It should make it easier for them to find a job and demand a high salary.
2. They're sadder about their jobs.
The size of America's newsrooms peaked in 1992, but since then the profession has lost a third of its workers, and 60 percent of journalists say their newsrooms shrunk in the last year. Even before the industry reached its employment saturation point, job satisfaction had taken a plunge, down from a high of 49 percent in 1971.
It might be a heyday for speed, data, infographics, and diversity of accessible media, but not all journalists are feeling the love. A clear majority think the Fourth Estate is headed in the wrong direction.
3. They're older (than you'd think).
America is getting older. Journalists are getting older faster. The industry's median age has increased from 32 to 47 in the last three decades, during which time the age of the typical American went from 30 to 37.
4. They're mostly guys—but that's changing.
The profession isn't getting much more diverse: 92 percent of journalists were white in 1992, and 92 percent of journalists were white in 2012. But the gender makeup is changing pretty radically. In 1971, journalism was 80 percent male. Now it's 62 percent male. And among newer journalists ...
... there are slightly more women than men. To be clear, this graph below shows years in the profession, not age. So while I think it's reasonable to assume that twentysomething journalists are the most gender-diverse generation so far, this chart could also reflect the fact that women are more likely to leave the profession early, either to change jobs or drop out of the workforce (e.g. to raise a kid).
5. They're very, very highly educated...
Journalists have long been more educated than the typical American. In the period that college graduates went from 11 percent to about 30 percent of the country, the share of journalists with a college degree went from 58 percent to 92 percent. (Editorializing side note: Do keep this in mind when you read journalists making the case that college is a waste of time. Maybe this is self-deprecating, or perhaps it even qualifies as a "lesson learned." But a profession where non-college grads are so scarce they practically qualify as endangered instructing the country at large to not go to college is a weird phenomenon.)
6. ...but not rich.
$53,600 as a median salary (for men) is not a pittance. It's exactly the typical household income, according to Census figures, and it represents almost 2X the median per capita income. It's also pretty much in line with a typical bachelors's-degree salary. But, like the rest of the country, journalism wages aren't keeping track with inflation. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' inflation calculator, a 1970 salary of $12,000 translates into a $72,000 for men today. Journalists' actual salary today is about 35 percent lower.
I've now written "for men" twice. For women, the median income gap in journalism is considerable. Women make $0.82 for every $1.000 earned by a guy in the 2012 survey. In 1970, she made $0.64. Progress, but not equality.
7. They're more moral.
Journalists in 1992 basically had no ethical code. Or, if they did have an ethical code, it was buried under their aggressively extra-legal instincts to get information by bribes, lies, and hidden microphones. More than 60 percent of journalists said it would be fine to get a job simply to expose the company (the '90s would have loved Edward Snowden) and 20 percent said they were fine with lying to sources or bribing them. Today, we're either more moral, less dedicated to The Truth, more scared of getting caught, or some combination of the three.
Today’s empires are born on the web, and exert tremendous power in the material world.
Mark Zuckerberg hasn’t had the best week.
First, Facebook’s Free Basics platform was effectively banned in India. Then, a high-profile member of Facebook’s board of directors, the venture capitalist Marc Andreessen, sounded off about the decision to his nearly half-a-million Twitter followers with a stunning comment.
“Anti-colonialism has been economically catastrophic for the Indian people for decades,” Andreessen wrote. “Why stop now?”
After that, the Internet went nuts.
Andreessen deleted his tweet, apologized, and underscored that he is “100 percent opposed to colonialism” and “100 percent in favor of independence and freedom.” Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO, followed up with his own Facebook post to say Andreessen’s comment was “deeply upsetting” to him, and not representative of the way he thinks “at all.”
Why the Syrian war—and the future of Europe—may hinge on one city
This week, the Syrian army, backed by Russian air strikes and Iranian-supported militias including Hezbollah, launched a major offensive to encircle rebel strongholds in the northern city of Aleppo, choking off one of the last two secure routes connecting the city to Turkey and closing in on the second. This would cut supplies not only to a core of the rebellion against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, but also to the city’s 300,000 remaining civilians, who may soon find themselves besieged like hundreds of thousands of others in the country. In response, 50,000 civilians have fled Aleppo for the Turkish border, where the border crossing is currently closed. An unnamed U.S. defense official toldThe Daily Beast’s Nancy Youssef that “the war is essentially over” if Assad manages to seize and hold Aleppo.
By announcing the first detection of gravitational waves, scientists have vindicated Einstein and given humans a new way to look at the universe.
More than a billion years ago, in a galaxy that sits more than a billion light-years away, two black holes spiraled together and collided. We can’t see this collision, but we know it happened because, as Albert Einstein predicted a century ago, gravitational waves rippled out from it and traveled across the universe to an ultra-sensitive detector here on Earth.
This discovery, announced today by researchers with the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO), marks another triumph for Einstein’s general theory of relativity. And more importantly, it marks the beginning of a new era in the study of the universe: the advent of gravitational-wave astronomy. The universe has just become a much more interesting place.
When four American women were murdered during El Salvador’s dirty war, a young U.S. official and his unlikely partner risked their lives to solve the case.
On December 1, 1980, two American Catholic churchwomen—an Ursuline nun and a lay missionary—sat down to dinner with Robert White, the U.S. ambassador to El Salvador. They worked in rural areas ministering to El Salvador’s desperately impoverished peasants, and White admired their commitment and courage. The talk turned to the government’s brutal tactics for fighting the country’s left-wing guerrillas, in a dirty war waged by death squads that dumped bodies in the streets and an army that massacred civilians. The women were alarmed by the incoming Reagan administration’s plans for a closer relationship with the military-led government. Because of a curfew, the women spent the night at the ambassador’s residence. The next day, after breakfast with the ambassador’s wife, they drove to San Salvador’s international airport to pick up two colleagues who were flying back from a conference in Nicaragua. Within hours, all four women would be dead.
The number of American teens who excel at advanced math has surged. Why?
On a sultry evening last July, a tall, soft-spoken 17-year-old named David Stoner and nearly 600 other math whizzes from all over the world sat huddled in small groups around wicker bistro tables, talking in low voices and obsessively refreshing the browsers on their laptops. The air in the cavernous lobby of the Lotus Hotel Pang Suan Kaew in Chiang Mai, Thailand, was humid, recalls Stoner, whose light South Carolina accent warms his carefully chosen words. The tension in the room made it seem especially heavy, like the atmosphere at a high-stakes poker tournament.
Stoner and five teammates were representing the United States in the 56th International Mathematical Olympiad. They figured they’d done pretty well over the two days of competition. God knows, they’d trained hard. Stoner, like his teammates, had endured a grueling regime for more than a year—practicing tricky problems over breakfast before school and taking on more problems late into the evening after he completed the homework for his college-level math classes. Sometimes, he sketched out proofs on the large dry-erase board his dad had installed in his bedroom. Most nights, he put himself to sleep reading books like New Problems in Euclidean Geometry and An Introduction to Diophantine Equations.
Once it was because they weren’t as well educated. What’s holding them back now?
Though headway has been made in bringing women’s wages more in line with men’s in the past several decades, that convergence seems to have stalled in more recent years. To help determine why, Francine D. Blau and Lawrence M. Kahn, the authors of a new study from the National Bureau of Economic Research parse data on wages and occupations from 1980 to 2010. They find that as more women attended and graduated college and headed into the working world, education and professional experience levels stopped playing a significant role in the the difference between men and women’s wages. Whatever remains of the discrepancy can’t be explained by women not having basic skills and credentials. So what does explain it?
By mining electronic medical records, scientists show the lasting legacy of prehistoric sex on modern humans’ health.
Modern humans originated in Africa, and started spreading around the world about 60,000 years ago. As they entered Asia and Europe, they encountered other groups of ancient humans that had already settled in these regions, such as Neanderthals. And sometimes, when these groups met, they had sex.
We know about these prehistoric liaisons because they left permanent marks on our genome. Even though Neanderthals are now extinct, every living person outside of Africa can trace between 1 and 5 percent of our DNA back to them. (I am 2.6 percent Neanderthal, if you were wondering, which pales in comparison to my colleague James Fallows at 5 percent.)
This lasting legacy was revealed in 2010 when the complete Neanderthal genome was published. Since then, researchers have been trying to figure out what, if anything, the Neanderthal sequences are doing in our own genome. Are they just passive hitchhikers, or did they bestow important adaptations on early humans? And are they affecting the health of modern ones?
The Islamic State is no mere collection of psychopaths. It is a religious group with carefully considered beliefs, among them that it is a key agent of the coming apocalypse. Here’s what that means for its strategy—and for how to stop it.
What is the Islamic State?
Where did it come from, and what are its intentions? The simplicity of these questions can be deceiving, and few Western leaders seem to know the answers. In December, The New York Times published confidential comments by Major General Michael K. Nagata, the Special Operations commander for the United States in the Middle East, admitting that he had hardly begun figuring out the Islamic State’s appeal. “We have not defeated the idea,” he said. “We do not even understand the idea.” In the past year, President Obama has referred to the Islamic State, variously, as “not Islamic” and as al-Qaeda’s “jayvee team,” statements that reflected confusion about the group, and may have contributed to significant strategic errors.
When two black holes collide, the noises scientists hear are birdlike.
This morning, scientists from the Laser Interferometer Gravity Observatory announced that LIGO had detected gravitational waves from the collision of two black holes, an event so cataclysmic that it converted the mass of three solar systems into pure energy in about a tenth of a second.
Scientists have been trying to figure out how to “listen” to gravitational waves—and to prove their existence—ever since Einstein predicted them in 1915. But until September 14, 2015, when the colliding black-hole event was first detected, this was beyond our technical abilities. In the words of Scott Hughes, “Gravity is a weak force. Measuring these things is bloody hard.”
Hughes is a theoretical physicist at MIT who has been contemplating LIGO since its inception in 1992. He has struggled with a question at the heart of the observatory program: Once we do hear gravitational waves, how will we know where they come from? How can we use them to explore the mysteries of the cosmos? To this end, Hughes has modeled the “sounds” of a host of astrophysical events, including colliding black holes. (You can listen to his impressions of these sounds below.)