Thursday, August 12, 2010

Updated: How many journalists are there in the UK? This is why I guestimate around 40,000 (that's more than a third less than the number often quoted)

[Update 14/08/2010: My guestimate has been revised to "around 40,000" following input from John Thompson at, Carolyn Werry at Meltwater Press and Sabina Rosander of Cision Research.]

I'm spending some of my summer writing up my #laidoff study- conducted in collaboration with - which explores what UK journalists do next.

It got me wondering: Just how many journalists are there in the mainstream media?

A straightforward question, yes. But, unfortunately, there is no straightforward answer. I've discovered that the most widely quoted figures on the size of the industry comes from the Journalists at Work study published in 2002 by the Journalism Training Forum, which was set up in 2001 to advise the Publishing National Training Organisation and Skillset.

Based on a self-completion survey completed by 1,238 journalists “and other data”, Spilsbury (2002), estimates that there are approximately 70,000 journalists in the UK. Of these, roughly 60,000 journalists work in publishing and 10,000 in broadcasting.

The study’s author is upfront about the difficulty of coming to that conclusion: “Estimating the number of journalists in the UK using national data sources is problematic, as these are very limited and subject to a wide margin of error” (Spillsbury 2002: 17). The main data source of occupational employment is the Labour Force Survey 2001 (which was last conducted in 2004). Even then, that study grouped together people who stated they worked as “authors, writers and journalists,” which is not the most useful for the purposes of industry-specific studies like these.

While Spilsbury attempts to be conservative in his estimates, saying “it would be better to work with a ‘safe’ estimate that may under-estimate the total number rather than make exaggerated claims that cannot later be substantiated,” there is some evidence that suggest the figures might still be exceedingly generous.

Consider, for example, this examination of the editorial employment figures in the local and regional newspapers: The Journalists at Work (JAW) study says that the Local and Regional Press comprise 30% of the estimated 60,000 print journalists, which would be around 18,000 journalists. However, the following year, the body representing that sector, the Newspaper Society (NS), started issuing reports based on an annual survey of their members and put the total number of editorial staff in 2002 at 13,020, which is almost 28% less than the JAW study.

So, even if all the other estimates were accurate, it would still bring the total number of journalists down by 5,000 or almost 10% of the lowest range of the estimated number of print journalists.

It is not only the baseline figures from that study that should be re-examined, but also some of its key conclusions: “Whatever the current number of journalists, it seems clear that the numbers will continue to grow in the future” (Spilsbury, p. 17). Drawing on general employment forecasts that put UK employment growth at 2.5%, the authors conclude that “by 2010, industry forecasts suggest that there will be an additional 20,000 journalists”” and then add “ pointing to significant demand upon the industry’s training, education and recruitment infrastructure” (p.

What a difference a decade makes. With the benefit of hindsight, we can point to the structural changes in the industry that have seen changes in consumer behaviour, consolidation of enterprises and the convergence of job roles. Cyclical changes in the economy and have driven further driven down the number of people employed across the mainstream media.

A review of all the NS employment figures from 2002 to 2007 (the latest available), show a decline of about 30% across all divisions. In general, editorial workers were less affected. Fulltime editorial staff declined by 14% (see Figure), while part-time staff declined by 9.6%. The total editorial workforce in the Local and Regional Press shrunk by 13.75% over the period – which was before the global economic meltdown that started at the end of 2007.

A review of report on job losses published in, Press Gazette and the Guardian Media sections between January 2007 and June 2010, indicate the number of jobs have continued to decline at even greater speed since the start of what is often called the “Great Recession”.

There is some evidence to suggest that the cuts in the regional press have been deeper than in the national press. At the Daily Mail and General Trust, for example, losses at their regional division, Northcliffe Media, over the past few years has typically be more than double those at the national division, Associated Newspapers and are reflected in the redundancy plans. In 2008, DMGT announced 500 regional job cuts , which was then revised to 1,000 in March 2009 and climbed to 1,500 “across the company” in a statement made in May 2009.

A “Redundancy Round-up” in further points to possible differences between the levels of staff cuts in the regional and national newspapers. In reference to 78 job losses at Trinity Mirror Regionals, it is noted that the Press Gazette had reported, “The bulk of the job losses will come in Liverpool, where the 175-strong editorial team will be cut to 132 and the Liverpool Daily Post will scrap its Saturday edition.” The loss of 43 jobs represents a reduction about 25%. Other reports detailed additional cuts at the same offices.

The summary of activities in the national press includes this note: “Fifty editorial staff are to lose their jobs at Telegraph Media Group, management told staff today. ‘It is understood the cuts represent a 13-14 per cent saving to the editorial budget and will be brought into effect by Christmas at the latest,’ reports MediaGuardian."

The reports suggest that no media sector has emerged unscathed, including television. In September 2008, for example, the Media Guardian reported that ITV were cutting 1000 jobs, including 430 newsroom positions, accounting for almost 20% of its total workforce .

And jobs cuts have not only been ordered at advertising-supported media companies. For example, in October 2007 the BBC announced that 2,500 jobs would be axed as part of wide-ranging reforms driven, in part, by budget shortfalls .

A tally of the numbers reported in the survey of three trade sites -, Press Gazette and the Media Guardian - suggests that more than 9,500 journalism jobs were cut between January 2007 and June 2010.

This is in line with the National Union of Journalists’ estimate that in the newspaper sector alone there have been at least 8,800 jobs lost and 54 local offices closed since December 2008. Based on a revised baseline estimate of 40,000-50,000 55,000-60,000 jobs in the mainstream media that would suggest that, as a result of structural and economic changes affecting the sector, the UK’s mainstream journalism corps has shrunk by about a quarter between a quarter and a third since 2001 (or between 40% and 50% down on the 2002 JAW report estimates).

So, back to the original question: How many journalists working if the mainstream media in the UK today? By my guestimation (which has been corroborated by researchers at Cision): 30,000 around 40,000.

How does that sound to you?

- Also: When it's done, the #laidoff study report will be available on the site. Feedback would, of course, be much appreciated.
- An appeal invitation: I would welcome discussions with those in the public and private sector bodies who would help fund a much-needed centre for industry intelligence (perhaps along the lines of the Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism in the US).
- Next post: How many students enrolled in journalism courses each year?


Mark Bentley said...

A centre for industry intelligence sounds like the way forward.

Francois Nel said...

PS. the Meltwater Press list includes contacts for "online and offline newspapers, radio, television, and magazines".

Unknown said...

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aon10003 said...

This is from many is there today.

We talked to a press photographer recently. He said that in one department there was 2 people doing 7 persons job. So they do not only underman the redactions. they also try and do more and more with the same people. It's getting worse and worse.