Despite years of cutbacks, layoffs and the stresses of covering COVID, a new survey of U.S. journalists finds seven in ten are satisfied with their job and 77% say that if they could go back in time, they’d pursue the career all over again. But in a polarized America, the Pew study of the news media finds a growing challenge too. Four in ten audio journalists say they have experienced harassment from someone who works outside their organization during the past year. That’s a higher rate than what people working at newspapers or online outlets faced.
Yet the stresses that come with job-related harassment may be more a nuisance than a serious threat. Nearly half (47%) of the audio journalists surveyed by Pew described such harassment as a not that big a problem.
A lot of the harassment directed at journalists arrives through social media. It’s why those surveyed describe social media as a double-edged sword. On the one hand, 94% of journalists surveyed say social media has helped them do their jobs. But among the roughly four-in-ten (42%) journalists overall who have experienced job-related harassment, a large majority (78%) say that harassment came through social media at least once.
“That means that one-third of all journalists surveyed report being harassed on social media in the last 12 months,” the report says. But not all harassment comes via the web as 11% say they’ve had a harassing phone call, 8% say it came in-person, and 4% say they were harassed via mail.
Digging deeper, Pew disturbingly reports that the threat of physical harm is the most common form of harassment with 45% of those surveyed saying they received such threats. It was followed by sexual harassment threats based on race or ethnicity, and threats of exposing personal information -- at 21% each.
Some groups of journalists are more likely than others to have experienced harassment or threats than others. Pew says about a quarter of Black (27%) and Asian (27%) journalists say they have experienced threats or harassment compared with just 5% of White journalists. The data shows women and those under 50 also tend to be harassed at higher rates than their male and older than 50 colleagues.
Despite the challenges the modern world brings, the Pew study also reveals reporters working in radio and on podcasts feel more closely connected to their audience than any other medium. Nearly six in ten (59%) of audio journalists surveyed say they feel either “extremely” or “very” connected to their listeners. That is well above 45% of print reporters who feel that for readers or 44% of television reporters who say that about viewers.
In a related finding, Pew says just under half (44%) of radio journalists say they interact with the public at least once a day about their work or the work of their organization. That is on-par with television’s 46% but well above the roughly one-third of print (34%) and online journalists (35%) who report such interactions.
The pandemic has put an increased focus on news and according to Pew’s survey, a sizable number of news operations are growing. In radio, 28% of journalists surveyed say their organization is mainly expanding. That compares to 19% who say they’re facing cutbacks. Pew says radio also has the largest number of those indicating a status quo with a majority 53% of radio journalists saying there are no significant changes underway at their workplace.
At the same time, nearly four in ten (38%) of reporters working in radio or on a podcast say they received a salary increase during the past year. That’s lower than television (49%) or online (43%), but higher than print (36%) journalists.
With talk of a recession and continued struggles at print outlets, Pew says about four-in-ten journalists (42%) are at least somewhat concerned about their job security, though fewer express high levels of concern – 16% say they are “extremely” or “very” concerned. Instead, most (57%) are “a little concerned” or “not at all concerned” about their job security.
The Pew study is based on survey of 11,889 U.S.-based journalists who are currently working in the news industry and say that they report, edit or create original news stories in their current job. The survey was conducted online between Feb. 16 and March 17. Among those surveyed, 12% work at either a radio or podcast company.
Download the full Pew report HERE.