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What people get paid to work in journalism (cjr.org)
139 points by laurex 28 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 216 comments

I was in broadcast journalism for 20 years, and these numbers seem about right to me.

When I started out, small market media outlets would find ways to pay recent J-school graduates sub-minimum wage and make them feel grateful to even get that. A surprising number of journalists, even TV news anchors, will have second jobs in small markets.

A place that tried to recruit me in Indiana wanted me to report the news in the morning, then sell advertising for the news in the afternoon, and half of my pay would be sales commissions. Naturally, I turned it down. I dated a newspaper reporter who did her reporting second shift, then worked third shift at a small factory.

Once you get to a medium-sized market (30 and up), you can make enough to survive, if you don't have a lot of debt or expectations.

It really wasn't until I got into a top ten market that I was able to keep up enough to stop getting calls from bill collectors. Once I got into a top-five market, then I could live well.

I loved journalism. I loved reporting. I loved telling stories. I hated the pay and the industry and got out.

What does it mean when a market is "size 30"?

The size of the viewing audience.

Here’s the list for the us https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_United_States_televi...

Seems like part of the compensation these days is influence - on Twitter, especially.

That can be turned into additional income through book deals, which in turn can be turned into movie deals, etc.

In a small market, there aren't going to be enough Twitter followers to be noticed for a book or movie deal. And even in markets large enough for those to be possible, they're one in a million or less.

How do people wind up working for seemingly big outfits at a young age? That seems like a recipe for a very slow to grow or advance career.

Also makes me wonder about my local news celebrities. But then my most easily brought to mind is a weather forecaster in a beautiful climate...

>How do people wind up working for seemingly big outfits at a young age?

Most likely connections (and talent). They have also almost certainly done some journalism work, even if only freelance and student newspaper, so they have a resume to point to. The more common historical route was to work through a bunch of small market papers as the parent suggests.

>recipe for a very slow to grow or advance career

Not sure why--at least more than journalism generally. If I had a choice, I'd get on board the Wall Street Journal or the New York Times early on rather than spend a decade "paying my dues" covering high school sports and whatever else mostly passes for news in a 10,000 person town.

"If I had a choice, I'd get on board the Wall Street Journal or the New York Times early on rather than spend a decade 'paying my dues.'"

What an asinine remark.

Do you want the work? Do you want to be in the industry at all? Then you take the jobs that are on offer.

Who wouldn't skip to the top if they could? In all other cases, you take the long road, the hard way, the slog, and tough it out because you're made of thick skin, stern stuff, and strong character. You don't bail because it's hard.

What the F are you going on about? The parent suggested that going with a big outfit early on was a recipe for slow growth. I responded that, if you have the chance to land with a major pub early on, you should probably grab it. Of course, most will not have that opportunity and--perhaps more than many fields--may well have to work their way up. And, if that sounds singularly unappealing, maybe it's not the profession for you.

Leaving aside the question of whether, say, Google is actually a great place to work or not, I'd say more or less the same thing to a would-be software developer who didn't want a job in the field unless they could get a top-paying position at Google HQ.

Actually my impression was it would be difficult to find work at a big outfit early in a career.

Yes, that is certainly the case unless you have great connections and are likely especially talented.

I’m wondering also what could be done to help increase those wages?

So with 15 years of experience as a New York Times editor, you make about 80% as much money as a newly hired software engineer at Google with zero experience. No wonder traditional media is bitter about the tech companies.

That's not new though. In 1984 a senior editor at the Times was making less than a junior bond trader at Pierce & Pierce.

Jeez, are entry-level devs really making 180k at Google?

‘Entry level’ at Google means someone who is already top of their field so it’s not surprising.

Bollocks. I know quite a few Googlers, most of them hired well above entry level but also mostly not top of their field. Entry-level devs at Google, Facebook, etc. really are paid obscene amounts of money. Non-entry-level devs are paid even more, but it's not quite as obscene because at least they've done something to justify it. Don't listen to sour-grapes talk from people who washed out of FAANG interviews.

"Top of their field" isn't the right way to put it. Entry level at Google means roughly, someone with no experience, or maybe one year of experience. Usually a new graduation from college. However, based on all the interviews and so on, Google thinks they are one of the top new graduates.

Someone who is the "top of their field" and gets employed at Google, like someone that people in a specific technology would know of, would be making a lot more. It depends a lot on what that field is, but making over a million dollars yearly wouldn't be surprising for an individual contributor.

For a more "middle" statistic, someone who is average-quality for a Google engineer, and has five years of experience, would be making around $350,000.

My source is https://www.levels.fyi/ and the verbal descriptions of what exactly the levels mean come from working there. L3 is a new grad, L5 is a solid contributor with some experience, someone "top of their field" would be L6, L7, or more.

Yes. Sometimes more, sometimes a bit less. See https://levels.fyi


This is a common HN fallacy. The reality is that most software engineers wildly overestimate their own intelligence and are barely even competent at their own jobs. The notion that they could quickly get up to speed on another complex job is ludicrous. For starters most engineers struggle with interviewing people and extracting accurate information from them; that's one key reason why most new software fails to satisfy user requirements.

Thanks for saying this. I am sick of software engineers thinking they are smarter and than other people because they make more money.

How much money you make does not equate to your worth as a human being.

Software engineering is not that difficult.

There are lots of things just as difficult if not more difficult than software engineering.

The majority of software engineers contribute very little to society if anything.

Just because you have a good software engineering job does not make you a successful person or better than other people who are pursuing other ways of living their lives.

Software engineering is pretty darned difficult. But it turns out that there are also plenty of difficult-but-poorly-paying fields. Journalism is one of them. GP is absolutely wrong that a bunch of software engineers can stand up a decent news reporting org.

As a journalist turned software dev, it is not hard to write text, and it is not hard to display text on a screen at scale.

It is, however, difficult to land advertising deals that are needed to fund the company.

I thought that "write text" was the easiest part of journalism. Most people capable of getting through college (usually required for both software and journalism jobs) are capable of writing at a high enough standard for any journalism outlet.

Doing research, then understanding and distilling it, developing contacts, networks, and sources - these seem like the hard parts of journalism.

If "display text on a screen at scale" wasn't hard it was it wouldn't be a multi-billion dollar industry with crazy high salaries. Not to mention, it's not just displaying the text but everything that goes into it - figuring out product market fit, getting hundreds or thousands of engineers organized and productive, logistics of data centers and hardware.

If writing good news and good software both come easily to you, you just might be an outlier. Or you're taking a very superficial view of both kinds of work.

Coming from the self-taught perspective, I disagree that software engineering is not difficult. It is difficult. Otherwise everyone would be doing it just for the money.

Though I do agree with you on the other points, although it seems like you are bitter about something.

That said, I work with a company that makes stuff that does contribute to society in a positive way, and because of that I make less than most.

When I started to teach myself, I knew I never wanted to work on something that was involved in ads, data collection for ads, or making junk software, which seems to be the focus of the majority of software companies.

> Otherwise everyone would be doing it just for the money.

This is pure survivor bias talking while ignoring impediments that make switching careers, retraining, &c., not a viable path for most people. The fact that there are structural impediments does not make it difficult.

Your comment makes no sense. Survival bias? Structural impediments? I get that not everyone can become a software engineer due to many different reasons.

Your comment can literally be applied to any other industry that someone might try to get into when changing careers. It's a poor reason.

> Your comment can literally be applied to any other industry that someone might try to get into when changing careers.

I think that is their point. Software developers are no different than any other craft.

Seriously. It's especially laughable to say that a room of software engineers could become journalists, of all things. The vast majority of the SWEs I know, even the rockstars at FAANG companies, can hardly write coherent emails or give a presentation during a 5-person standup meeting. To think they could write entire news articles is hilarious.

It's about bargaining power. The simple fact is that the income gap is widening, and wealth is increasingly held by a small minority. This indicates that a small elite disproportionately reap the rewards of increased efficiency in production. Software engineers are better able to claw back some of this gap (and are often responsible for automating jobs away, increasing efficiency).

We went to 5 day work weeks with full pay during the industrial revolution - it's probably high time to consider a 4 day week / 6 hour day with full pay as a result of the increased efficiency since.

I've always found it interesting that the Dunning-Kruger effect especially applies to software engineers. And I think the reason is actually really simple - software engineering is actually really easy to get started and start making an impact. Think of the early engineering projects college students learn: mechanical engineers might develop a racing chassis for FSAE, civil engineers may design a small-scale structure to withstand an earthquake simulation, electrical engineers can build a superheterodyne receiver - all of these require planning for hardware because it's not as easy as recompiling software. The amount of time and work the compiler magics away is utterly astounding, and an extraordinarily small percent of software engineers appreciate it. The reason software engineers think they are so smart is because they are operating in one of the easiest work-to-reward environments imaginable, and this is only reinforced by their high salaries.

That said, the opportunities for learning and growing as an engineer are just as large in software engineering as other disciplines (probably greater given the current economic environment). Most software engineers have shaken off a lot of this hubris by the time they have 'senior' in front of their title.

Personally I greatly prefer HN comments over most news articles.

Until someone shows up and claims that a bunch of developers could start a “functioning news organization” overnight. Comments like that are so eye-rollingly naive that they make all of HN look bad.

I have extreme doubts that anyone could take a room full of software engineers and start a functioning news organization the next day. We're not even good at estimating the amount of effort it takes to get things done in our own field (witness "I could have built Stack Overflow in a weekend"); I think we all need a lot more humility about what it takes to do other people's jobs.

It would take years for most software engineers to write material up to the questionable standards of journalism, but you could have them writing functional articles in a weekend. You won't have most journalists writing functional code in a weekend, even if you don't hold them to the questionable standards of software development. Practically every field is deeper than a single human can delve in their lifetime, but that doesn't mean that every field has an equally high barrier of entry.

I'm not sure I have a grasp on what you believe journalism to be. Could a room full of software developers write a bunch of blog posts about random topics? Sure. But, as much as it may seem otherwise from the outside, that's not what a newsroom is doing. In fact, that's not even what the trade press does.

We also, as a profession, have a real problem with the rift between our enthusiasm for the work we do and its real world complexity. An enormous chunk of all software development work could be approximated or even substituted entirely with a reasonable set of Excel spreadsheets (spreadsheets, of course, being the world's most popular software development environment); many of us spend entire careers simply plumbing one set of database columns into another set of form fields and tables. Could I teach a bunch of journalists to model a bunch of business processes in Google Sheets? Yes, I think I could.

If you think that's a laughable comparison, I'd ask you to consider whether your conception of the work of a journalist isn't akin to my hypothetical conception of the work of a software developer.

And to add on to your point, what makes a news organization successful is not just good writing, but good journalism, which comes from journalistic and beat experience – i.e. you couldn't produce a successful news org by hiring English PhDs.

The original commenter's thought process is as absurd as a layperson bragging they could just as easily produce a functioning website with production-ready code because they've learned how to write the <link> and <script> tags needed to include Bootstrap and jQuery. It's not the code itself that makes a tech company. Just as it is not just words strung together in paragraph form that makes a news org.

I'd argue that you can have a successful news organization through producing lots of profitable content that has poor journalism and poor writing, but is sufficiently aggressively optimized clickbait - and that's the cause of the current degradation of news quality; good news and good writing have become neither sufficient nor absolutely necessary for success in news (or "news") industry.

And that's even not that new, already a hundred years ago there were highly successful news organizations that thrived not despite but because of bad journalism, exploiting misleading sensationalism to its full potential.

This has already been attempted for nearly a decade, by traditional journalists and outsiders (e.g. Demand Media), and the number of successful/sustainable/functional such companies is as infrequent as any tech unicorn, so the empirical evidence does not support your argument.

> And that's even not that new, already a hundred years ago there were highly successful news organizations that thrived not despite but because of bad journalism, exploiting misleading sensationalism to its full potential.

No argument there. And the golden era of American journalism – e.g. the 1970s to 1990s – produced great journalism and printed money for its owners (30%+ profit margins were not unheard of), but it's because established outlets had a virtual monopoly in their regions, especially newspapers (because TV/radio killed the need for evening newspapers, and in smaller cities, multiple newspapers).

But it has never been easy to create a successful/functional news org by just doing journalism. Just as it has never been easy to build a useful tech startup by creating production ready code.

Thank you. I write and edit professionally and am constantly amazed by how often people overestimate their own writing abilities, especially if they are very skilled in other fields. There is a difference between "using words" and "writing". The thought process usually goes: we all do the former every day, so how hard can the latter be? (Also, there are non-writing skills that are hugely important in journalism.)

The original post about journalists vs. SWEs is a comment on the content-mill, lowest common denominator nature of huge swathes of the current online publishing landscape, not about the difficulty(??) of Journalism vs. Coding or whatever.

Aren't we passed the point where good journalism drives a successful news org? The mainstream media is controlled by a few large companies. They buy up chains and hire like minded writers. Journalism has become a cog in a bigger machine.

I have worked with old-school journalists, and have done my share of freelancing between ~1993 and 2005.

Even reasonably well done journalism is like debugging complex technical problems, but instead of working with systems that behave in a well-defined manner, you are dealing with people and complex wetware systems. They do not behave well at all.

Journalist hunting for confirmation or corroboration of a good lead is like a software engineer doing root-cause analysis in a byzantine maze, where reliability of information is suspect and all interactions with various interfaces must be assumed adversarial. Or at best to provide wildly incomplete data.

And the final output, the article that eventually gets published? Ask yourselves: have you ever written postmortems that must make sense to an audience who do not have the technical background to understand the nuances of the problem domain? Audience who will actively try to misunderstand what you have written, and extract soundbites out of context? Could you include enough information in the postmortem to pre-emptively defuse such attempts, so that you could trivially quote a section to point out the strawman attempt?

That's what proper journalism is like. And I consider myself privileged to have worked with people that; they taught me skills I could not have picked up in the university or most workplaces.

> Could a room full of software developers write a bunch of blog posts about random topics? Sure. But, as much as it may seem otherwise from the outside, that's not what a newsroom is doing. In fact, that's not even what the trade press does.

This is an accurate description of most of the news I see. For every piece of news that's actual original journalism, there's 2 articles that essentially amount to summarizing C-Span and another 2 that are essentially blog posts. And then there's the editorial section that really is essentially a collection of blog posts.

Most of them are re-hashes of AP, AFP, Reuters, etc. articles.

Go to the front page of the Washington Post right now and count the stories sourced from Reuters or AP.

Your internet browsing habits are not a substitute for journalism.

What the hell is a "functional article" though?

No, a group full of software engineers definitely couldn't start a news room on their own in a day, week, or month. But there's definitely still a huge hole in the news room for folks who "know how to code [together]", or at the very least folks who know how to build the support infrastructure. At many of the biggest news rooms, it's often a single person building infrastructure, ETL pipelines, performance tuning, visualization, etc etc. Taking away a lot of the drudgery of dealing with ETL pipelines could go a very long way for the news room. The competition for these jobs is so high that newsrooms end up with data folk who can wield magic, but with very little pay, support, and equipment (one data reporter I talked to had a windows machine with 4gb of ram!) to fulfill their jobs.

My point being that there's a middle ground where we simply have more software folk inside, or close to, the news room. Consider that as more information is created/stored (regardless of government, corporations, or private), the requirement for collecting/parsing/cleaning through that information for the news room will become harder and harder. I'm sure some phase transition will happen, but probably not for a while.

It's funny this came up. Before Al Jazeera shut down their American operations, I met with a number of software engineers in their employment who were embedded with news teams and whose primary responsibilities were to do journalism.

They were trying to recruit more. This was 5 years ago. They were ahead of the curve and I think they were so ahead of the curve they realized that journalism was a dead end here and closed up shop.

Also "learn to code". heh.

A former Al Jazeera America journalist/coder literally just published an A1 NYT investigation.



We've established, unsurprisingly, that there are journalists who can code and coders who can do good work in journalism. I'm not clear on where that gets this thread though.

Ahh, that's one of the folks I met!

Hi that is me. I do not think journalism is a dead end nor have I ever thought that. From my personal view, Al Jazeera America failed largely because of the TV and broadcast market, not its digital presence. We had a pretty good publishing system that the multimedia team, which I was on, built our own tools to integrate with. Many of them we open sourced: https://github.com/ajam

That's an interesting extrapolation of your personal experience. You think that's more likely than the widely reported explanations of why Al Jazeera America closed up shop?



Your example of a room full of software developers running a newsroom appears to be a newsroom that wasn't run by software developers, and which failed.

I've worked at Google and a newspaper (Chicago Tribune). I can guarantee you that a room full of Google SWEs could not start producing an edition of the Trib one day later, though they could absolutely put words into articles.

There's so much more that I want to say to you but I'll leave it there. You are wildly incorrect.

+1 as a current member of a Big Tech product org and a trained journalist.

The basic information gathering skills of a junior reporter would be completely foreign to most engineers. These are real skills like navigating a FOIA request or pulling financial information from public filings. Soft skills like effective interviewing, structuring an article, translating technical topics to non-technical audiences, writing good headlines.

If your idea of a functional newsroom is a wordpress instance, sure, but the hubris here is cringeworthy and demonstrates a clear misunderstanding of the work that goes into good reporting.

I wonder how much overlap there is between the group of software engineers who eschew writing documentation and the group of software engineers who believe they could start a functioning news organization the next day.

I think the quality of journalism done by a bunch of software engineers will be identical to the quality of the software written by a bunch of journalists.

The amount of hubris and cynical populism in this comment is almost breathtaking.

> and some say that the news is just a loss leader for the media a

If you use the phrase "some people say..." at the New York Times, you're fired, because it's international shortcode for I-just-pulled-this-theory-from-....

You don't know that, and that's not terrible. But you should at least be aware of how little you know about the profession you're so keen on ridiculing.

This exactly.

So few people understand this. Even engineers who undervalue salespeople misunderstand this as well.

No matter what your job is, at a company you either cost money or you bring in money.

You want to be on the "bring in money" side of the business 99 times out of 100. The career path of being "obviously valuable" and a bottom-line employee is difficult. While I've been there and it's rewarding, one change in management where someone comes in who doesn't "get it" and you're screwed (and usually so is the company).

You're right about where you want to be, because a lot of managers think like you do.

But if a person cost money and provided no value a rational company would fire them. Either almost every company is insanely dumb or you need the employees not directly bringing in wads of cash to support the ones that don't.

This isn't an original idea of mine, if you want to see discussion of the issue Google "cost centers and profit centers", the technical terms for those sides.

To provide a totally trivial example suppose your business is going to people handing out free money, taking the money, and putting it in the bank. Suppose different people in different locations hand out different amounts of money. Suppose you have a data scientist who predicts the optimal route for your money getters to travel. This person is a cost center, and firing them would be dumb. Now suppose you have a caterer who makes sure they don't need to leave for lunch...

Edit: Looking at your last paragraph again I think you might possibly agree with me? I'm not sure if that quote is sarcastic...

"cost center vs profit center" are the same thing as "bottom-line vs top-line" (as I referred to) just different audience.

I'm not saying that people that cost money don't provide value but your compensation will always be minimized by management and bad managers will look for reasons to remove you from the balance sheet, even if they're bad ones.

If you're bringing the company money, the company could be literally on fire and you can still command a sizeable salary.

Companies pay what the market will bear.

If you're bringing in millions and could be replaced easily you'll make peanuts. If you're bringing in millions but don't negotiate your salary at all your employer will generally happily pay you less than your work is "earning".

If you're a dev for a newspaper you'll be paid around what other similarly qualified devs make irregardless of whether you work on their subscription system (allegedly profit center) or on the backend their journalists use to post content (allegedly cost center)

Edit: I absolutely agree our terms mean the same. That's why I said I was just providing the terms so people can Google existing articles on the subject.

Lets take the argument one step further. You could take the room full of software engineers and automate most writing. Business, sports, not a problem. So the question is, how many journalists work as actual journalists in their field and which are easily replaceable by AI or unskilled humans. Here i think the initial comparison comes back. You could also get the room of software engineers to get a newspaper running. Full of clickbait, chum and all the other psychological tricks to get people hooked over shit content. Producing such content is an organization task like any else. Its not quality content but it doesnt have to be, you only need clicks. You wouldnt have journalists, but how many do we currently have who also work as such in "functioning news organizations"? Unless payed by a benefactor with deep war chest, very few journalists get to do any real journalism, simply because its not a profitable venture to pay all the research that didnt turn into big stories. The few that do have been on their deathbed for a while.

So on that level, sure, journalism isnt a profitable career option. The stuff that you do get paid for likely can also be done be anyone else who can handle the advertisement financed industry. Its the basic crux of the problem, journalism isnt profitable. Trying to solve that problem by trusting the market will leave us without professional journalism.

What would be the coverage area and audience of this software-engineer-staffed news organization?

edit: to elaborate on my question, when you imply that, unlike journalists, a room full of software engineers could write "production ready code in under a month" – what are you talking about, exactly? Because most readers of HN are well aware of tech firms pouring venture money into rooms full of software engineers and producing production code that is as ephemeral and lasting value as any blog.

Ya right.

Try getting your avg software engineer to get out from behind a desk, and go have a conversation with someone they have issues with.

> Sure, but journalism is a low ROI product

What? Journalism can drive whole political landscape. I can bring issues to people they'd never heard of else. This can start such a huge feedback loop that has the power to help changing the world (for better or worse).

Journalism has a very high ROI on the long run. High profile and quality Journalism, especially Investigative one, can be worth so much that its hard to comprehend, as it shows..

I would love - love - to see a room full of software engineers actually attempt this.

I think that what I like the most about this comment is that it involves a professional engineer announcing a time estimate for a complex project with a three word specification.

Writing is art. It doesn't pay that well for most. But to think you could get good journalists out of random software developers is insulting.

You wouldn't get top quality journalism on day 1, and you wouldn't get as much per person, but you would get something publishable.

Lots of real journalism is really low quality, so this means you would have a product that is in some sense competitive.

You've weakened the claim a lot. Do you mean competitive with the New York Times, or competitive with The Register?

Huh? No I didn't. The claim was never the New York Times.

The register is competitive with the times, they compete for clicks on reddit/google news and so on. I expect the quality to start out more akin to the register (or really, more akin to Wired).

I assumed that because you didn't override the parent assumption. The Register may compete with a very narrow section of the times, but I wouldn't call them competitive (and I doubt many others would either). For example, only one of those outlets regularly breaks stories that are reported on in every other outlet and only one of those outlets has our highest politicians regularly read and quote from it.

The Register is pretty good trade journalism. I doubt your average software dev would get anywhere close to that anytime quickly especially in the absence of existing source networks. Probably closer to whatever write up press releases sources there are.

I agree it's pretty good, and that the average software dev couldn't do it. However, I have seen a few of their articles in passing and haven't run into any that involved non-public sources. I just went to their website and all four of the top stories have no information that couldn't be found by googling. For 3/4 I'd seen an article closer to the original source on HN.

There's very little about trade journalism that involves true scoops.There used to be more but the economics mostly don't support a lot of trawling for unannounced information.

Context is still useful. But if you already have the context, the pub may not be that useful.

That makes sense. What makes source networks essential if there aren't any scoops?

Pretty much what I wrote. Providing context, interpreting what was said, providing additional/opposing data points.

Reporting on an announcement still has value if you position it relative to other products/market even if there's no secret information. Bringing in other perspectives.

Look MA! I doing journalism right now!

Writing words - an opinion piece no less - and somebody - THE PUBLIC even - actually reads it.

Take that journalist! I bet you can't just write code with the ease I just wrote this very article!

Writing can be art. Not all writing is art. Plenty of professional work is denominated in writing (expository writing, persuasive writing, contractual writing) that clearly isn't art. We're all writing here. If we're artists, it's in the "Sandwich Artist" sense.

There are works of journalism so carefully written that they have artistic value, but most of it has no such pretense.

You should've left it after the first paragraph. The problem of journalism is one of scalability.

Your run-of-the-mill software has good returns over periods way larger than the development time. Your average article has a low return over a mean life way shorter than the time it takes to produce it.

It's a fallacy to say that Engineering is "harder" than Journalism and expect that to mean anything. They are different skill sets. Is being a Mechanic harder than being a Musician? These are meaningless comparisons.

I agree insofar the bread and butter of most "news organizations" is not serious journalism.

It's garbage opinion pieces and "analysis"(also opinion pieces). Take scraps of news and figure out how to craft a narrative out of it that appeals to a certain target audience with the least amount of effort. Use clicks to dial it in. Sprinkle a few reuters copy pastas. Maybe a few top 10 lists. Bingo bongo.

Isn't this how Buzzfeed got off the ground?!

I've worked with software engineers of various stripes for over 20 years. While more than one knew how to write, a plurality were not very good writers, and very few wrote at a professional level. This has, at least in my experience, been getting steadily worse, as students seem to be receiving ever less meaningful instruction in composition, research, outlining, and even startlingly (to me) basic grammar. Writing is a skill an awful lot of people undervalue in a very Dunning-Kruger Effect fashion, which bluntly can get pretty frustrating at times.

The notion that news is something that nobody wants to pay for honestly strikes me as relatively new; people paid for newspapers and weekly newsmagazines for generations, and broadcast nightly news shows -- paid for indirectly through advertisements -- likewise lasted for decades.

There's also the misconception that journalism is mostly about competent writing, which it is not; news writing has a particular structure, but more importantly, much of the work of a journalist is research and investigation (particularly, in cultivating and corroborating sources).

I'm not sure how people read my comment as an implication that journalism is the same thing as writing blog entries.

Part of what I'm getting at is that I don't believe that it's that complex for someone to learn about proper story structure, investigation, and the various techniques in effectively getting a reader both interested and informed about the right things. Textbooks on the subject aren't particularly long for a reason. Competent writing may not be all that journalism is about, but it's a large part of it, and you even used it as your first example(a writing structure).

Just because I don't believe that journalism is as rigorous a profession as others doesn't mean that I believe that it's worthless, takes no talent, etc.

I'm astonished by the sheer ignorance and under-appreciation of journalism.

First, good journalism is extraordinarily important. (In case that's not obvious in times of Brexit and Trump I can expand on this. Snowden and Daniel Ellsberg released their documents to journalists.) Sure, most stories are not that important, but they are still an important part of a community.

Second, journalism is not trivial. Good writing is hard. Understanding a subject that you're not necessarily an expert in enough to explain it to others is hard. (Have a look at most documentation!)

Third, many journalists are not only very well educated, but with an admirable idealism (well, initially) and a desire to make the world a better place (really better, not peddling ads). A friend of mine was science journalist, and he had studied physics, philosophy, and psychology (with a PhD in the philosophy of mind).

The decline of journalism is something to lament (and I don't how their coding ability has any bearing on the subject whatsoever).

To put it in economic terms: I submit that the good work of journalists has massive positive externalities, while the work of lots of techies has huge negative externalities.

> many journalists are not only very well educated

So then where exactly do you disagree with me? I never said that I don't appreciate journalism. What am I ignorant about?

You're ignorant about what journalism actually entails, especially journalism that is consumed and found to be useful (i.e. what anyone will bother reading, nevermind paying for).

It's no different than someone arguing they can be a successful software engineer just because they've literally created "production ready code" by incorporating Bootstrap.css and jquery.

> You're ignorant about what journalism actually entails

How about you enlighten us as to what journalism actually entails? You completely dodged my question.

Sorry, but your original comment said “you have no doubt” that you (or anyone) could get a bunch of software engineers and within a day create a functioning news org. But now it sounds like you have no core concept about what journalism is?

edit: just to expand on this, I'm declining to respond to your overly broad request, in the same way that I would decline to respond to someone who, after taking 10 minutes to roll out a beautiful SquareSpace template, mocks the tens of thousands of computer science grads who fail to be even 0.001% the success that dropout Mark Zuckerberg is.

Your original comment, without further clarification on your part, carries an amount of arrogance and likely ignorance that doesn't feel worthwhile to engage with in good faith. But for starters, you make a major categorical error by conflating "functioning news organization" – an entity that requires social and political power, entrepreneurship, and business acumen – as something that only requires a bunch of people (journalists, or not) getting together and doing whatever you think "journalism" is. No non-foolish journalist would ever argue that a roomful of journalists could produce a "functioning news organization" in a day or even in a month.

And recent counter-examples to your belief are plentiful. If it were possible to throw a bunch of software devs into a room to create a "functional news organization", then Facebook would not be throwing millions [0] at existing news orgs for the rights to display article headlines and previews, when it could be using the hundreds/thousands of not-fully-utilized software engineers it already has in-house to produce news, if your hypothesis were based in reality.

[0] https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/08/technology/facebook-news-...

> edit: just to expand on this, I'm declining to respond to your overly broad request, in the same way that I would decline to respond to someone who, after taking 10 minutes to roll out a beautiful SquareSpace template, mocks the tens of thousands of computer science grads who fail to be even 0.001% the success that dropout Mark Zuckerberg is.

No, you're declining to reply because you don't know anything about journalism and are talking out your rear end.

See? Anyone can play your ridiculous game.

> Your original comment, without further clarification on your part, carries an amount of arrogance and likely ignorance that doesn't feel worthwhile to engage with in good faith.

What on earth are you talking about? You claimed to know something that I don't, and asking you to provide something more specific besides just saying I'm "ignorant" is perfectly reasonable. All you've done is gotten pissed at the fact that I don't see journalism as being as rigorous or valuable a profession as you believe they are, and you're reading my intent through that lens. Would you believe me if I told you that I am genuinely trying to describe the situation in an honest way?

> And recent counter-examples to your belief are plentiful.

Can you name a single one? Surely, you are much less ignorant about this than I am.

> If it were possible to throw a bunch of software devs into a room to create a "functional news organization", then Facebook would not be throwing millions [0] at existing news orgs for the rights to display article headlines and previews

First of all, I never said that software engineers + wordpress = The New York Times. Everyone seems to forget that there are tons of news organizations out there that aren't even a 10th of the scale of big-name newsrooms.

Second, Facebook paid those organizations as an incentive because publishing articles in Facebook potentially threatens their ad revenue because it could draw users away from their own websites. Facebook wants people to stay within Facebook and not navigate away when they look at a story, and they have the money to make that happen. Lots of people read NYT, WaPo, etc. It's an audience Facebook wants to keep. This has nothing to do with how monetarily valuable journalism is or how much talent it requires. These organizations were selling their audience to Facebook.

Good journalism is extraordinarily important.

If you go read a few random article about a topic that you are an expert on, you will quickly realize that good journalism is not the norm.

Also applies to code.

>> "Here's how I think of it: I have no doubt that anyone could take a room full of software engineers and start a functioning news organization the next day."

Go ahead. Let's see it.

Can confirm. Spent 12 years at a tech magazine and was making $70K at the end. Was laid off for being too expensive. Now I work at a large tech company and make double that. Oh, and no one threatens my life if I get a detail wrong anymore, so that's an improvement. Honestly, being a journalist is like working in a kitchen. Super high stakes and everyone is always 1 step away from complete panic and super stressed out, yet no one is paid enough to make that kind of pressure worth while. At least in journalism, you get access, a modicum of power, and the ability to change the world around you. As a chef, it's just insane pressure for no real world-changing reason.

In my senior year of high school I was heavily involved in my school newspaper. I and put more effort into that then I did 90% of my other classes and some of my best memories from high school are because of that class. My teacher would bring in local reporters in every so often to talk to us about the field and answer our questions, and there was a very common theme of 'landing lob in this field is hard, the work will always be hard, and you won't get paid very well' among most of the speakers.

Luckily for me I was also learning how to program in C++ in my spare time and decided to take some computer science classes my freshman year of college to see what the field had to offer.

Yes, the salaries for journalists are low but another factor is that even those poorly paid full-time staff positions are hard to get.

For CS students about to graduate, there are recruiters competing with each other at campus actively looking to hire you. On the other hand, the newly minted Journalism/English/Communications majors often struggle with freelance gigs with low rates[0]. They hope to impress editors and get their "foot in the door" to a salaried writing job.

[0] https://contently.net/rates-database/rates/

The same is true for most fields of academia, the arts, or professional sports.

In fields where people are doing things primarily for love, they are willing to accept comparatively low salaries, crowded labor markets, and poor conditions to get a chance to do what they love for a living.

Source: am physicist.

"Get a job doing something you love and you'll never work a day in your life."

If I had a dollar for every time I heard something along those lines while in schlol, I really wouldn't have to work a day in my life.

Advice like that is repeated ad nauseam in acadamia and I loathe it. Schools (at least in the US) do a terrible job at setting realistic expectations for labor markets. Worse, I think they are guilty of misleading students' perceptions of the market in fear of them otherwise dropping out.

When it comes to overcrowded labor markets, I put most of the blame on academia.

You're taking that quote way to literally. It means if you do something you like, it won't feel like work.

It has nothing to do with job security.

That's the "status economy" for ya.

You're either fighting to get it or fighting to hold on to it.

has more to do with scarcity of talent and demand rather than "things people love to do." Coding pays well because it is important and few people are smart enough to do it well. Service sectors jobs are not fun and pay poorly and there are a ton of job seekers relative to demand due ot low cognitive barriers to entry. Most job that would be considered "fun" either have low demand and or low cognitive barriers to entry.

The idea that few people are smart enough to code well is probably the great myth of our field. When people say that, no doubt they're thinking of Febrice Ballard (and, human nature being what it is, assigning themselves to that same category). Spend some serious time as a consultant working with software developers in reality. Most of the day-to-day work of most software development shops is straightforward, trainable, and less complicated than a lot of other white collar jobs.

Every competent woodworker does stuff that is at least as intellectually challenging as routine software development. But you don't see a lot of people saying "few are smart enough to cut mortises and tenons".

I would pay good money to watch someone who considers themselves in the group of "the few smart enough to code" try to trim a room with crown molding.

I think if they were taught (i.e., if they looked it up on youtube), they'd be pretty good.

I remember about 20 years ago being just fascinated by the folks hired by my dad who came to do construction at our house, the key thing I learned watching them was that you needed the right tool for the job at hand (and you don't even have to own a lot of it -- you can rent from Home depot a lot of the big tools).

Insofar as smart coders are good engineers who know what tools to use and follow directions, they'd be pretty good at it. I do most of my car work in my garage myself, and I'm planning to build a room in my basement next year myself. Not only is it not that hard, it's actually extremely fulfilling and fun to do it yourself.

As a beginning amateur woodworker with an extensive Youtube education, but now being overseen directly by an actual professional woodworker, and without intending any snark or malice, let me just respond to that: "hahahahahahahahaha".

Watch someone hand-cut a dovetail (heck, watch 10 different people hand-cut them), then get a chisel and a coping saw and a marking gauge and try it yourself. It is not easy, even if you (as I did, to little effect) condense all the video tutorials you watch and the chapter in the Tage Fried book into written step-by-step plans.

You can absolutely do it! I'll eventually be able to do it semi-competently, I think. But I doubt you'll get there without learning to respect the challenge at least as much as you respect the work that went into getting you to a comparable level of coding aptitude.

I'd say physics is a lot harder to do than your average SV developer's job. Even more so playing sports at a level that brings in real money.

What is "physics" as a job? The problem with physics is that there are few applied physics jobs compared to CS and applied CS (software developer) jobs. Similar things can be said about CS, there aren't very many CS jobs and I'd say it's comparable in difficulty to physics.

> The problem with physics is that there are few applied physics jobs compared to CS and applied CS (software developer) jobs.

Isn't every engineering job essentially applied physics?

that is why there are two variables: difficulty and demand. There is more demand for coding than physics work.

Except coding jobs that are heavily sought after also pay a lot less than those that aren't, and often have worse conditions. See for example, game development. It can be as tough as working as a software engineer at say, Google, but pays significantly less because of how many people want to get involved in the industry.

That's exactly what op's saying.

Lots of people competing for a small number of jobs does tend to put downward pressure on wages.

Reporting, like teaching, sadly falls into a category of jobs where the demand (for the jobs themselves) far outstrips the supply of jobs. It seems almost wrong because journalism (and teaching) is so important to our collective understanding of the world, but the other side of the coin is that it is that very importance which makes the jobs so desirable.

you forgot the important part -- ability to leverage others to make them pay you.. it is the "elephant in the room"

>ability to leverage others to make them pay you

That's an interesting phrasing. In other words: ability to provide a valuable and scarce service that people are willing to pay for?

Background: I'm an engineer who has previously worked on research related to misinformation and built data tooling for news organizations, and I now work at a news organization myself.

Journalism is in a bad place in the United States. The number of journalists has shrunk dramatically, particularly at the local level, over the past decade. (In case it isn't immediately clear that journalism is a public good, the decline of local news has been linked to increases in local corruption and borrowing costs/debt as well as a decline in civic engagement in communities: see https://journalistsresource.org/studies/society/news-media/l... for a roundup).

I think there's a lot of work to be done from a number of angles in this space, including exploring new and innovative business models for news organizations; leveraging advances in technology and data science to improve existing products; and encouraging shifts in consumer attitude (similar to the way that attitudes towards paid entertainment content - movies, music, etc. - have shifted over the past 15 years).

I sincerely believe news orgs are hugely (not wholly) responsible for their own demise. I'll explain using print news as an example.

For newspapers, the internet changed the competition field, from one or two competitors to dozens (maybe hundreds).

When that happened, US news consumers noticed some things. A multitude of (or maybe most) editors & journalists are profoundly, unconscionably lazy.

I'll offer some Examples.

1) Lots of ink but not a lot of news gathering: Most (hundreds?) US news orgs all lead w/ the same ½doz headlines - and those are likely Reuters/AP/UPI reprints. How many national stories are in play any given day? Six? I think there are dozens and dozens - and they're all ignored in favor for whatever editors think is sexy. (I suppose editors tend to have similar tastes.)

Local stories are likely to be original. Well, except when they're parroting press releases. Or worse - they're parroting PR without any analysis or historical context. In this case the readers are given no tools to tell if the PR is crap or not. This turns the journalist into the official spokesbot of the police, government or local corporation. It's publishing but it isn't journalism.

2) Fluff: Sports journalism. Celeb journalism. etc. Is it journalism? Lets go in that direction some more. Stamp collecting journalism. Paint swirl journalism. Concrete curing journalism. There are people who like those things. Is that enough?

Consider this. Journalists are afforded extra 1st Amendment protections, to encourage them to unearth and reveal misdeeds by the powerful. The intent seems to be to help citizens learn where their rights and liberties might be being eroded. Reporting that depends on those protections would seem to be a strong candidate for what constitutes journalism.

I suggest that reporting on paint swirls and sport stats is probably a pretty safe thing.

3) Lastly, uneducated journalists: One example. During the Obama administration I'd participate in journalism chats. I had a regular question. Did the reporters know that Pres Obama prosecuted more whistleblowers for espionage than all previous presidents combined?

Now this could be a good or bad stat, depending on one's perspective. Regardless, it was an undeniably powerful, historical statistic. Depressingly, that stat wasn't well known by journalists. In fact most journalists seemed resistant to believing it or they felt the stat misrepresented some larger situation.

This lapse was a terrible thing. Whistleblowers have always been a incalculably valuable to journalists, who were oblivious to what seemed to be a crackdown by that administration.

(Fortunately, that's changing a bit & whistleblowers are suddenly revered again. Or at least that's the lip service.)

Conclusion: To me, if news orgs want to survive, they each need to bring something to the table. Some do. Some are exceptional. Some are consistently exceptional. Some screw it up occasionally but that's reasonable in the larger context.

But if news orgs are largely reprinting others' content, then they are largely not serving a critical public function. Worse, they're abdicating the duty inferred by their extra constitutional protections.

I believe those news orgs should die.

I think your reply misses a powerful factor: economics.

Newspapers used to rely on print advertising to make the majority of their money. And they made enough of it to do a good job.

It's much harder to report original stories when you have no revenue. Nowadays, advertising revenue is mostly driven by clicks, hence the rise in clickbait, reprinting of Reuters/AP/etc. (as opposed to "real" local stories) and fluff journalism as you mention. Local news has been hit the hardest because these newspapers made more of their money, percentage-wise, from advertising and classifieds.

(Also, worth noting: the link I provided contains studies showing that local news nowadays provides an important net good to society. So while you may be of the opinion - anecdotally - that all local news is just PR, that hasn't been found to be true in the academic literature.)

As to your third point, the prosecution of whistleblowers was heavily covered during the Obama administration. While I obviously can't speak to the specific conversations and interactions you had, it seems to me that you're tarring journalism with an incredibly broad brush by calling journalists uneducated based on a few chats (also, journalists cover a wide variety of subjects - were the journalists you were chatting with covering national politics?). There are more and less educated journalists, just as there are in every profession.

Obviously the old models don't work for journalism, and a lot of the onus is on journalism to change and to innovate. But if we value journalism as a society, some of it is also on us to change the way society works. I think the challenge is not dissimilar to what we saw with movies/music in the early 00's when piracy was rampant. The rise of streaming and the willingness of the general public to pay for entertainment media again has been a game-changer in that industry.

The flaws and issues I brought up weren't caused by post-1995 realities. They were what news consumers had been given for a long time, in exchange for their subscription dollars & eyeball time.

The demise of news kingdoms happened when it became impossible for us to ignore what we were getting for our money.

Going forward, the economics issues are as stark and complex as you say. A new challenge is they're being used to justify feeding us the same diet of crap (not exclusively - wonderful exceptions abound) that our parents were served.

In the midst of all this is a comprehensive lack of self-awareness by news orgs who exist to state reality in helpful terms. Step One should be clearly stating the core reasons that quiet Americans lost their trust in the press. It's been 20 years and news orgs are still unable (again, lots of exceptions like CJR) to discuss these crippling flaws. How can any economic solutions help if news orgs offer little more than fluff, recycled content and 1st-impression reporting?

I don't agree with your assertion that "the demise of news kingdoms happened when it became impossible for us to ignore what we were getting for our money," and I haven't seen any literature which would back up the argument that people suddenly woke and realized "we ain't paying for this shit anymore." There is, however, plenty of literature showing that with the advent of the internet the shortfall in print advertising was not made up for by online advertising.

The "diet of crap" that you bemoan has always existed to a certain extent because of economics. More people want to read about celebrity gossip or sports than the CJR. The internet has simply exacerbated this issue because the online advertising model rewards eyeballs and clicks, and what you would call "crap" content generates more of them.

Your rebuttal places responsibility for what news orgs print - on everyone but the news orgs.

So your argument seems to be this. News orgs have to defer their 1st-Amendment-inferred duties in favor of printing pap because otherwise they'll go broke. In the mean time they're going broke.

Americans have more sources of pap than ever before yet that is the arena where news orgs want to compete. Like news orgs, you appear to have zero concern with this plan.

As an aside, did you know that House voted to reauth Sect 215 surveillance? WaPo barely mentions it in their own article. https://www.washingtonpost.com/us-policy/2019/11/19/house-pa...

I doubt you knew because 1000 news orgs are thoughtlessly, compulsively covering [SUPER SEXY STORY] today, to the exclusion of all else. I don't know how much other critical information I'm missing bc (like every day) the vast bulk of news orgs can't be bothered to fulfill their constitutionally-protected purpose for existing.

Do you have a specific argument as to why news orgs are not earning their collective death? Other than some belief that they should continue to profit at pap, I mean.

I would like to see this for other fields. It seems as if few really understand how the other half lives, which is a general cause for confusion, and the unwarranted animosity that can arise from it, in society.

You could also apply the principle to diets: I feel as if weight management is so difficult for so many because they have no real idea of what their meal frequency and portion size are in the grand scheme.

In fact, can anyone think of any examples of issues that affect most of the population, wherein lack of general knowledge of the spread of circumstances leads to more amenable outcomes, individually or overall?

For software engineering, levels.fyi is my go to

I've seen this information gathering exercise be successful in other fields during conferences. These aren't your company peers so the fear of offending/being offended by your co-workers doesn't exist.

edit: just curious about the downvote, any reason?

/r/sysadmin did one recently

Honestly, that doesn't look as bad as I thought it would be considering all the reports of how journalism is dead. US median wage for those with a bachelors degree is about $62,000 dollars a year [0] which seems similar to the median in the sheet from eyeballing it.

[0]: https://www.bls.gov/emp/chart-unemployment-earnings-educatio...

Not to suggest they aren't also struggling, but mostly-national outlets with a strong or exclusive web presence aren't the epicenter of the crisis in journalism--they're the outlets weathering the storm.

Newspapers, particularly local and regional ones, are the epicenter of the crisis--and they are being hollowed out. This AP article (https://apnews.com/a0409119ab71400b944662fc770593a0) is a good place to catch up.

(Anecdata, but FWIW: GateHouse, mentioned in this article, acquired my hometown paper in the past year. My mom has variously worked residential and single-copy delivery for this paper for decades. My stepdad worked delivery, managed a delivery district, and was an early employee in the paper's online operations. Subjective, but their stories, firsthand and from friends, make it hard not to see it as an extractive vulture operation.)

Clean the data, normalize, make some multiple regressions and you may have something interesting

Edit: The data is honestly a mess. Good luck to anyone that want's to make any analysis. They should have done a proper form.

On the Google form, under the Salary header, there's a text box. Which imho is fine, given the inherent complexity of the potential input (some salaries are annual, others are by the hour or by the story, with a cap on the latter), and without adding multiple fields to the form.

Thanks for linking to the real data. Why does everyone call themselves a "cis", though?

Cisgendered, means they identify as the gender they were assigned at birth and are not transgender or genderqueer (Queer in this sense doesn't mean gay, it means they have some combination of gender traits that doesn't fit neatly into either male or female).

Here I am thinking that gender is observed at birth, not assigned.

The practice is commonly referred to as sex (or gender) assignment.

These gender/orientation demographics are important to identify demographics that may be receiving a disproportionate salary.

> A web producer for Wirecutter, the consumer review site now owned by the New York Times, makes just $45,000, according to the list. An editor at the same site with three years of experience has a salary of only $62,000. For a job based in New York City, that seems barely livable.

The median household income in NYC is ~$51k: https://project.wnyc.org/median-income-nabes/

Agreed. That being said, you need to separate Manhattan from the outer boroughs. There is tremendous inequality in NYC.

That'd be excellent pay in most of rural America (the ~99%).

That’s not what the 99% means. Most Americans live in a city. Relatively few people love in rural areas.

How many people actually pay for news? I certainly don't, not in the traditional sense of paying for WSJ or NYT subscription (I donate to youtubers that cover current affairs).

Most revenue from news must come from advertising, and I think advertising is a poisoned chalice. It makes the news organisations beholden to corporations they should be reporting on, and fulfils the adage "news is what they don't want you to hear, everything else is PR".

Chomsky and Herman discuss this in Manufacturing Consent: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manufacturing_Consent

Good video / overview here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=34LGPIXvU5M

For the NY Times, the assertion that most of their revenue comes from advertising just isn't true. 60% of their revenue now comes from subscription fees, and advertising's slice of their revenue has shrunk consistently.


To be fair, getting high percentage revenue from subscriptions is a very recent phenomenon, and the NYT is one of the exclusive few (arguably the only one) that is finding this strategy and trend to be viable.

I think they're mainly benefiting from the Trump era. When it ends, I think their subscription numbers will plummet, since there won't be so many shocking things happening every day.

> I donate to youtubers that cover current affairs.

Where do those YouTubers source from? Most likely it’s more established news organizations.

Wow, reporters make squat. Editing is a bit more lucrative.

Leaving aside copyeditors, etc. editors tend to be more senior. Furthermore, a lot of "editors" also write stories; it can be more an indication of seniority than an indication that they just assign stories and edit other people's work. (Which there's often not a huge amount of these days.)

Its not great but its not terrible. Just software is way overpaid.

Median Household Income 2017

Bronx $37,397 Brooklyn $56,942 Manhattan $85,071 Queens $64,509 Staten Island $79,201 New York City $60,879 New York State $64,894 United States $60,336


> Just software is way overpaid.

That indicates to me how underpaid most other jobs are, not that programmers are way overpaid.

Or, you know, the market is dictating the rate.

The market is rarely as good at setting prices as its most ardent defenders claim. (Or, to be fair, as bad at setting them as its most ardent critics claim.)

What does this statement tell anyone reading it? Or, in pretentious terms, this involves an argumentum ad temperantiam (fallacy that you can compare two unquantified extremes and get something useful)

That the market is manipulable should be evident from the quantity of money that is spent on lobbying legislators about it, and how much opposition there is to unions.

Belief in a totally free and natural self-regulating market is just as bad an appeal to Naturalism as to say we should eschew health care because people were meant to die if they get sick.

There is very, very little money in politics given the power that’s at stake.

> (in case you’re keeping track: all donations to all candidates, all lobbying, all think tanks, all advocacy organizations, the Washington Post, Vox, Mic, Mashable, Gawker, and Tumblr, combined, are still worth a little bit less than the almond industry. And Musk could buy them all.)


We haven't even begun to see the ceiling for experienced engineers imo. We hit $500k TC not being a completely-unthinkable offer for anyone other than extreme domain experts way earlier than I expected.

"The market is dictating the rate" is pretty tautological. The interesting questions are whether the market is rational, whether this is what we as society want the market doing (which is not to imply regulation, just that we could collectively decide to prioritize other things), whether existing regulation is influencing the market in some way, etc.

It is a little confusing to me that tech salaries are broadly consistent between various forms of tech - e.g., without negotiation or stating an expectation, I got offers within $10K of each other from a tech-heavy hedge fund and a tech-heavy advertising giant. It isn't obvious to me that these two companies have approximately the same hiring budget, or if one has a higher budget than the other than giving market offers to start negotiation instead of above-market is a winning strategy.

> It is a little confusing to me that tech salaries are broadly consistent between various forms of tech - e.g., without negotiation or stating an expectation, I got offers within $10K of each other from a tech-heavy hedge fund and a tech-heavy advertising giant.

From your first paragraph I get the feeling you might be familiar with this, but for others the term this is alluding to is called elasticity. Essentially a little change in supply and a little change in demand aren't always worth the same. What you experience (and what others have measured) suggests the demand for competent software developers (the company side) is relatively inelastic compared to the supply of competent software developers (the employee side). Put another way, if they tried to pay you less the number of applicants they got would go down quite fast. Put even simpler, the market for software developers is a seller's market.

What do you think the average wage should be? I'm getting the impression that a lot of people think $100-200,000 a year should be the 'norm' for many jobs, but I'm not entirely sure myself.

Part of the difficulty in that question is that if everyone makes $100K, the purchasing power of $100K will drift pretty rapidly.

For what it's worth, I'm of the opinion that the long tail of high-paying jobs (which I count myself in, to be clear) is having a negative effect on the cost of living by making it easy for us to drive up the prices of limited resources like housing near an urban core, restaurant reservations near an urban core, etc. If you curtail that somehow (my preferred approach is heavy taxation, but you could also regulate salaries or perhaps encourage the free market to charge people disproportionately more if they make more money), I suspect the problem will fix itself, and <<$100K salaries will start to go farther.

Then you don't need to solve the problem of where we get more funding for journalism / taxi driving / whatever from.

> Part of the difficulty in that question is that if everyone makes $100K, the purchasing power of $100K will drift pretty rapidly.

The economy is more complicated than that. Debt allows people to continue to purchase beyond their means and obviously there's massive debt in the economy right now. With higher salaries, prices could stay the same but there could be less debt.

Sure, but the reality is I have greater access to debt (credit) with a greater salary. I can buy a house in the small town I grew up in, in cash, but instead I'm going to get a mortgage and buy a tiny place in this expensive big city (and participate in this big city's increasingly expensive housing market). I don't think it follows that if you pay everyone more, the appetite for debt goes away. I think you'll just get inflation, and the same amount of debt after adjusting for inflation.

On the other hand, one of the primary advantages that the US has over Europe in hiring software engineers is that they pay them dramatically more. If US companies started paying less I could see software engineers leaving for countries with higher standards of living.

I think anyone who works a 9-5 job should be able to take care of a parter and raise a couple kids, not have to worry about healthcare or being able to afford basic housing and the necessities of a modern life, and be able to save for retirement.

Using the Raleigh metro area, for example, that works out to about $90K/year, not including retirement:


To the extent that isn't possible, I think something is wrong in the labor market.

> I think anyone who works a 9-5 job should be able to take care of a parter and raise a couple kids, not have to worry about healthcare or being able to afford basic housing and the necessities of a modern life, and be able to save for retirement.

I'd definitely agree with this.

And I'd also partly wonder whether this could be used to sell companies/the well off on better housing/land use/rent control policies too, since in many places, the only reason the expectations have gotten so high is because the system is simply broken/completely unaffordable.

For someone to get the kind of lifestyle mentioned in central London or near Silicon Valley, you'd need at least a couple of hundred grand a year. Maybe this would change if people realised that the more they fight affordable housing, the more it'll hit them/their companies financially having to pay out for their workers to live in such broken systems.

> To the extent that isn't possible, I think something is wrong in the labor market.

Or, perhaps even more common, something wrong with the housing market.

Total compensation in the United States is $10 trillion. There are about 190 million people aged 18-64. If you gave everyone a job paying the same salary, everyone would make about $53,000. (If you make more than that, you benefit from income inequality!)

So no, the data shows that these jobs are paid a normal amount, while programmers are vastly overpaid.

You can't just decide overpaid = anyone over mean, underpaid = anyone under mean.

If a brain surgeon is a hard job and takes 15 years of school, and a crossing guard is an easy job that you just show up and stand with a sign... both should be paid 53k? I think a lot of people would have a problem with this.

I don't really follow the argument you're making here or how it connects to 'js2's original argument, but I'll make the obvious observation that there are extraordinarily difficult jobs that don't tend to pay well (professional classical musicians, for example), and easy jobs that pay better than the mean (garbage collectors).

Garbage collecting may be "easy" in a cognitive or skills sense, but it's unpleasant, surprisingly dangerous and hard on the body.

Sure. My point is that supply and demand does not in fact map directly to talent and difficulty.

It has a very high correlation. Also ability to generate money.

Pro NBA player and pro violin player are both hard. The pro NBA player is paid more, but he generated a lot more wealth. Most orchestras rely on donations just to keep the lights on.

It's hard for me to see how you didn't refute your first paragraph with your second.

This is a straw man. I made no statement about income inequality and I'm not calling for everyone to make the same amount.

The economy doesn't obey immutable laws of the universe. It works the way it does because of rules that we constructed[1]. Nothing prevents total compensation in the US from being higher allowing everyone's salaries to rise. With more progressive taxation, we could reduce the amount of inequality.

[1] e.g. per https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Income_inequality_in_the_Unite...

> Labor's share of GDP declined by 4.5 percentage points from 1970 to 2016, measured based on total compensation. The decline measured for wages and salaries was 7.9 points. These trends imply income due to capital (i.e., asset ownership, such as rent, dividends, and business profits) is increasing as a % of GDP.

You implicitly did make an argument about income inequality when you said that other jobs are underpaid compared to software developers. You're now walking that argument back, which is fine, but you should just do that, rather than accusing people making the obvious rebuttal of attacking straw men.

I don't understand this argument. You could instead lament that "journalists are overpaid" or "software developers are underpaid" with ample evidence for either. Looking at medians or other aggregate stats doesn't prove much of anything.

It appears to demonstrably rebut the comment to which it responds, which implies that the problem isn't that software developers make six figures, but rather that everyone else doesn't.

> So no, the data shows that these jobs are paid a normal amount, while programmers are vastly overpaid.

You are speaking a lot these days about the ills of socialism in contrast to capitalism. Programmers being paid well is a great example of capitalism at play. If you're a great programmer, you can make a lot of money. This is now common knowledge, and it should encourage more people to get in the field. It's an example of capitalism working well, why do you have a problem with this?

The only person in this entire thread talking about socialism is you.

1. I didn't say he was speaking about socialism/capitalism in this thread, I said he'd been speaking about it a lot lately. [1]

2. It wasn't meant to be a snark (though I can see that it came off in a bad way, and I regret that), it was a genuine question taking in consideration his stated views in past comments, and I actually just really wanted to hear his thoughts

3. While I have your ear, and while I see that you seem to be defending rayiner against any critique he receives; presumably you guys are thus on the same page on this, so I would like to hear your response on the question I posed to him: programmers getting paid a high wage is a manifestation of capitalism, what's your problem with it?

[1]: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21520234 https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21446484 https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21442814 https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21439347 https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21438960 etc.

I'd answer that question, though my answer would be boring, but for the "you seem to be defending rayiner against any critique he receives" barb, which is both uncivil and incorrect. What is true is that I tend to read all of Rayiner's comments, because he thinks differently than I do and writes carefully, and I find his perspective valuable. I do not, on the other hand, find the enterprise of trying to hound him off threads useful.

I would like to apologize for the barb, and then pose the same question. Programmers getting paid well is a result of capitalism, they are valued and in low numbers -- if this was not so, if they were in great numbers, they would not be paid as well. This is basically capitalism. Where do you take issue with this?

I'm generally positive about capitalism. I think software developers are not going to make anomalously high incomes forever and if people want to enjoy it while they can, mazel tov. The corrective to software developer overcompensation isn't to artificially restrict their income; it's to break down gatekeeping barriers to the profession, which is what I think will happen.

Got it, thank you for sharing your thoughts.

> it's to break down gatekeeping barriers to the profession

What are some good ways to break down these gatekeeping barriers, in your view?

I feel like you’re reading more of a value judgment into my post above than intended. When I said “programmers are overpaid” I mean in the very specific, arithmetic sense described in my post. Programmers are overpaid relative to what an even distribution of income would produce. (So are doctors, lawyers, advertising professions, and indeed almost all white collar professionals.) The point was merely to refute the idea that jobs paying $60k are “underpaid”—the economy doesn’t produce enough for all jobs to pay like programmers make.

Low pay, long hours, difficulty of obtaining employment, low long term stability of employment for most places.

The state I used to live in had two newspapers employing maybe 1000 people between them.

Now, there is one newspaper that went bankrupt and lost the building they were in. For several months, there was no statewide newspaper. The bankrupt newspaper was resurrected and now employs less than 20 people, and is primarily an AP news reprinting service with two pages of local news on the weekend.

I worked there one summer in college and briefly after college. I filled in on the city desk a few times, and it was an interesting experience putting out a good daily rag that had excellent content for the most part.

The resurrected paper doesn't even have their own printing press anymore. A local print shop runs them out.

> A web producer for Wirecutter, the consumer review site now owned by the New York Times, makes just $45,000, according to the list. An editor at the same site with three years of experience has a salary of only $62,000. For a job based in New York City, that seems barely livable. A deputy editor with the Times with 15 years experience reportedly makes $145,000, but those kinds of figures are the exception rather than the rule. A senior video producer at USA Today makes just $50,000.

Nothing wrong with any of those salaries. It's more than I earn.

Do you live in New York City? I think that's the point.

The spreadsheet (https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1SP3Sqqdv6R8chFamjtgd...) could use some normalization and sanitation, but this would make some very interesting data stories.

I tried to find data on media trends to cross-reference the salary data with industry revenue to get a better understanding, and the best source I could find was Pew Research (https://www.journalism.org/fact-sheet/digital-news/) but it only covers Digital News.

Overall, my initial gatherings from perusing the spreadsheet are:

- Don't expect to see Software Engineer salaries in the dataset (6-figures is the exception, not the norm).

- Biggest surprise was a Reporter in Boston with a 22-year career making $62k/yr.

- The most frequent locations seem to be NY, DC, Boston, and LA (perhaps unsurprisingly), so I'm not sure how capturing that is of wider domestic and international salary information/trends for the industry.

Another question: I wonder how profitable these companies listed in the spreadsheet are, and how much their owners are making?

Journalism has never paid great. And a lot of jobs for those who weren't at the top of the heap weren't that great in other ways as well.

The stark contrast is with software jobs at a few companies in a few locales. But, in general, it's hardly surprising that journalists often end up in other, sometimes adjacent, jobs that value being able to deliver quality prose quickly.

I know a lot of people who have worked as journalists who work for tech companies in various roles.

This links to the U.S. Department of Labor's prevailing wage database. Sort by geography, then job: https://flcdatacenter.com/OesWizardStart.aspx

This seems to be a direct link to "Reporters and Correspondents", for employment and wages through May 2018: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes273022.htm

For every 1 good journalist and editor that has their career stagnate because they are not sensational or biast (or bends the knee to management agendas), there 4 shitty journalists and editors that progress because they are masters of bullshit and manipulation.

The salary and cut throat competition is why the worst rise to the top and we have this cesspool of a news feed we see now on a daily basis. I just stick to WSJ, Bloomberg, and this website to get the headlines that actually matter and ignore the rest of the bullshit.

As one of the founders of http://levels.fyi, it’s great to see transparency enter journalism. We’re working on some new tracks including media / publishing and hope to provide some nice visuals alongside some of the data.

One of the things that we do on our site is collect official offers anonymously, which we use to benchmark non-verified submissions. Might be interesting here too!

It's harsh, but it really just comes down to supply and demand. The barrier to entry is basically zilch, and lots of people want to do it. Same story with acting.

Frankly (and this is just my opinion here), a lot of reporting is just very low value. Analysis is shallow, or just plain wrong. I find that reporters are way too credulous, have limited quantitative faculties, and tend to start from a narrative and find facts to fit that narrative.

Talking about this reminds me of the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect, in which people read a news article about something they know a lot about and realize it's riddled with errors (and then promptly forget about it; I try to avoid that second bit). I so often read things that are either only part of the story or incorrect. Is it any surprise that there's limited value in reporting that can be inaccurate as often as it is accurate?

I don't think this will ever be "fixed". I just try to pay for news sources I like, and that's probably the best thing anyone can do (right now that's thecity.nyc and ProPublica. I also pay for WSJ and NYT, just because they get shared around so much and the paywalls annoy me).

And judging by how crappy content they produce they are overpaid ...


For non-celebrities, Twitter is low-rent. Spend your day refreshing HN for a salary boost.

If you are business insider, it's probably best to refresh r/wallstreetbets.

No one in the industry actually looks at wsb except to laugh at them. The people there are... to put it nicely, uninformed.

It was a joke about how they have ran multiple stories sourced from there due to them finding bugs in robinhood and exploiting them, most recently the infinite leverage cheat code.

Did this really require a throwaway? I thought it was funny.

It’s basically just trolling, which HN usually frowns on. No useful discussion is gonna come from this snark.

Worked in a non editorial role in media for 10 years. It's mostly therapeutic...

Maybe post it on Twitter instead

Not just twitter, but Reuters. You'd be surprised how little actual journalism is done. Like 90% of what you hear and read comes from one or two organizations who operate as the primary sources.


Please don't post unsubstantive comments here.

Feel free to argue your case.


Please don't post unsubstantive comments here, and especially not ideological flamebait.


wnevets 28 days ago [flagged]

Is it still unsubstantive and ideological flamebait if it accurately portrays the GP's comment based on their comment history?

Yes. They are properties of your comment, not somebody else's.

I suppose I'm guilty-ish too... in a way... My ideology (the relevant one anyway) is that people should argue their case, at least briefly. But I ask/tell people to do that without a supporting argument, which always feels like an odd and somewhat dishonest thing to do. Sigh.

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