Do Journalists Hate Their Jobs?

Three surveys checking in on newspaper layoff victims

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An informal survey of 146 journalists who lost their jobs two years ago when the Rocky Mountain News closed has revealed a surprising finding: A majority of the journalists who've left the industry say their lives are now better--even though most are making less money. The results come from John Temple, the former publisher of the paper. In a piece for The Atlantic, Temple writes that a number of his former employees say "more time with family, learning new skills, and new opportunities made up for the loss of a job."

His survey found that 70 percent of the laid off journalists are making less money today than they did at the Rocky Mountain News. So what's happening here? Is journalism such a soul-crushing profession that when its adherents leave and subsequently earn less money they're actually more satisfied? Maybe, maybe not. If anything, the experience of journalists at the Rocky Mountain News seems to be an outlier.

Another recent survey by The Journalism Shop, questioned 124 writers, editors, news editors, managers and artists who were laid off at The Los Angeles Times. Though the respondents weren't directly questioned about quality of life, the responses were anything but upbeat.

“Week-to-week takes on a whole new meaning,” wrote a man in his 40s.

“Lost more than a third of my 401K in the recession, and have had to tap into what was left to keep the house,” wrote a woman in her 50s wrote. “There is little likelihood that I will be able to put enough away to ever be able to retire now.”

The responses that really challenge the Rocky Mountain News finding, however, is found in one of the final questions: "Do you want to remain in journalism?" For that query, 64% answered "yes" while 35% answered "no."

Another survey published in January looks at laid off journalists from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. This one has precisely the opposite outcome of the Rocky Mountain News survey:

Half of those working outside of journalism reported lower job satisfaction than at the P-I -- even though almost 60 percent are better paid. One-third are happier in their new gigs, while the rest feel about the same.

Huh. Maybe being a reporter in Denver just isn't all that satisfying.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.