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RTDNA/Newhouse School Study Shows Radio Newsrooms Are Increasing Staff.

Newsrooms at radio stations across the country are staffing up, to an extent, but not in every market.

The Radio Staffing Study conducted by the RTDNA/Newhouse School at Syracuse University shows the typical (median) radio news operation in 2023 had a full-time news staff of two for the first time in the 29-year history of the study. In past studies, a median staff of one was reported. The increase was led by non-commercial radio stations which came in with a median of three news people; commercial radio remained at one.

“The overall staff size differences between commercial and non-commercial stations remains steady at around 3:1, non-commercial to commercial,” Bob Papper, Research Professor of Broadcast and Digital Journalism at Syracuse University wrote in the report. “However, last year, commercial radio station staffs decreased, on average, by 0.2 employees and non-commercial station staff fell by 0.8, while this year, we see both commercial and non-commercial radio staffing have increased by 0.4 and 0.2 workers respectively.”

This year’s study indicates that overall news staffing has improved since last year. The average radio news operation increased from three full-timers to 3.2 while part-time remains unchanged at 1.6. While staffing improved across major, medium, and small markets, large markets stations report a full-time staffing decline of 1.1 from last year and a 1.6 decline overall.

“We should note that we continue to see a much larger survey response from small and medium-sized markets, however, based on percentages, major markets reported hiring at a much greater rate than any other market size,” Papper explained. “Meanwhile, large-sized markets were the least likely by far to hire new staff out of all groups surveyed.”

According to the 2023 study, the use of a centralized newsroom by multi-station groups has returned to numbers resembling pre-COVID years. Last year, two-thirds (66.6%) of all multi-station local groups operated with a centralized newsroom, which was a surprising 10-point drop. This year’s report of 79.4% usage of a centralized newsroom is another indication that radio staffing is returning to pre-COVID levels.

Concerning news on the TV side of the broadcast industry is the amount of burnout being felt in the newsroom. More than two-thirds (68.9%) of all TV news directors say staff burnout is worse now than it was one year ago. The percentage was a bit lower in the top 25 markets (at 59.4%), but all other market sizes were in the two-thirds range or higher, peaking in the smallest markets at 77.3%.

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