How newsrooms pay journalist-coders today

Salary findings from the 2022 News Nerd Survey

A crowd of about 20 people gathers in front of a board with a bunch of post it notes, as other participants sit at nearby tables in discussion.

SRCCON attendees come together every year to talk about roles, careers, and salaries—we hope this latest data feeds into a new round of conversations like this one, which is part of what kicked off this survey. (Staff photo)

In 2017, OpenNews shared results from their second News Nerd Survey with a detailed analysis of salaries in journo-coder roles by gender, geography, managerial status, and more. Now, more than five years later, new survey data confirms old findings on pay disparities based on gender, and newsroom role, along with the financial benefits of working for unionized newsrooms. 

The overall findings from the recent survey showed changes in demographics and priorities for the news nerd community. We hope that the salary data can now serve as one piece of the puzzle to improve equity in newsroom culture.

Here’s what we learned.

1. Compensation is now the top motivator for leaving a job.

For the first question, we counted 578 respondents who told us whether or not they left or considered leaving. For the 46% of journalists who left or considered leaving their roles since the last survey, salary and benefits were the top motivators. This indicates a major shift: back in 2017, compensation fell third behind lack of career opportunities and lack of newsroom leadership and direction. 

In 2020, Carla Murphy’s “Leavers Project” gathered exit data on journalists of color who had left journalism. 60% of respondents left due to low pay. While the project focused on people of color, this year’s survey shows us that compensation is a concern for people across the board. 

Respondents include 578 people who filled out the question on why they left (or didn’t leave) their jobs in the past five years.

2. The pay gap between journalists who code and newsroom technologists persists, especially for those not in management

For the next two sections, we filtered respondents for full-time newsroom employees who code.

For this year’s survey, we offered higher salary options to address the lack of better management data surrounding the 2017 survey when more than half of managers in news products had salaries above $110,000. The move to capture salaries up to $150,000 with ranges of $15,000 allowed us to capture a larger range of earnings while maintaining a sane number of salary buckets for comparison.

As shown in the last survey, management is a reliable path to higher pay. For newsroom and non-news managers, the median salary is in the $135,001 to $150,000 range. At the opposite end of the salary scale, the median salary for nonmanagerial journo-coders, ranges from $90,001 to $105,000.

Although we can’t make direct comparisons to the 2017 survey due to different salary ranges, findings were similar; journo-coders not in management earned less than other technologists in the newsroom.

With this information, it’s hard to not sympathize with those who are ready to call it quits due to salary and benefits. Particularly, when another factor, such as “lack of promotion/career pathway opportunities” gets coupled with discontent around salary and benefits, some journo-coders may find it hard to stay.

Respondents for this section included people who identified as technologists, coders, or data scientists/analysts and work full-time in news or media organizations in the US. Those who listed their primary work as graphics were not counted as coders, unless they selected a coding affiliation listed above. Respondents who additionally identified as journalists were grouped into the journalist category, while those who did not were grouped into the non-journalist category. Jobs in academia, startups, and software companies were excluded.

Breakdown of respondents: 

  • 116 journo-coders, non-managers 
  • 37 journo-coders, managers 
  • 32 non-journo-coders, non-managers
  • 21 non-journo-coders, managers

3. The gender pay gap among coders remains stark

In the 2017 survey results, the salary ranges for women managers closely mirrored earnings of male managers when looking at the bottom, median, and upper quartiles. Over time, the gap seems to have widened. Our most recent survey data shows that women managers working in newsrooms are earning about the same as non-managerial men.

A NewsGuild pay equity study on earnings in Gannett’s newsrooms and news organizations revealed pay equities by race and gender. White men in their 40s earned a median salary of $53,500 and women of color in their 40s earned a median salary of $42,000. While this was an analysis of just one large media organization, our data, along with other studies, show that the gender gap in journalism persists. 

Respondents for this section include people who identify as men or women and work full-time in news or media organizations who code. We did not include nonbinary respondents due to low response rates and privacy concerns.

Breakdown of respondents: 

  • 56 non-managerial women
  • 83 non-managerial men
  • 26 managerial women 
  • 31 managerial men

4. New York and Washington, D.C. have the highest concentration of high-salary earners

For the last two sections, we used data from full-time employees working in newsrooms

New York and Washington, D.C.’s metro areas had the highest concentration of news nerds. The median salary for managers in the New York and DC metro areas is in the $135,001 to $150,000 range. For managers living elsewhere, the median salary is much lower at $90,001 to $105,000.

For non-managers, the highest salaries are in the New York Metro Area, with a median salary of $120,001 to $135,000. At the other end of the spectrum, the median salary range for non-managers living everywhere else, is between $75,001 to $90,000.

In the 2017 survey, managerial news nerds in the New York Metro Area earned the most. The most recent survey shows that news nerds in the DC metro are out-earning New York news nerds at the lowest quartile; still, those salaries match up at the median and upper quartiles.

So how far does $120,001 get you if you live in New York City? Ranked as the most expensive city in the United States by the World Economic Forum, the higher cost of living may cancel out salary gains. If a journo-coder making $120,001 in Washington, D.C. were to move to Brooklyn, New York, they would need to make $134,310 to afford the same lifestyle, according to NerdWallet’s cost of living calculator.

Respondents for this section include people who live in the United States and work full-time in news or media organizations. 

Breakdown of respondents: 


  • Elsewhere: 54
  • New York Metro: 16
  • DC Metro: 13


  • Elsewhere: 135
  • New York Metro: 33
  • DC Metro: 22

5. Unions raise salaries across the board

In the 2017 survey, news nerds employed by unionized newsrooms earned higher salaries regardless of their eligibility to join. Our 2022 results show that the trend continues. For non-managerial news nerds, the top quartile of salaries in non-unionized newsrooms started in the $105,001 to $120,000 range; salaries in the top quartile of unionized newsrooms started in the $120,001 to $135,000 range.

For managers, who are ineligible to join federally certified and protected unions, the trend holds true, as well. In non-unionized newsrooms, the top quartile of salaries started in the $135,001 to $150,000 range. In unionized newsrooms, managers only needed to be in the top half of earners to make between $135,001 to $150,000. Managers in the top quartile made more than $150,000. News nerds working in unionized newsrooms earn more overall than those working in non-unionized newsrooms.

Breakdown of respondents:


  • No union available: 107
  • Not eligible for union: 36
  • In union: 79


  • No union available: 61
  • Not eligible for union: 39

New Survey, Same Problems

In the five years since the last survey, many of the findings remain the same.

  1. News organizations are at risk of losing journalists with technical skills due to low salary and benefits, but they also have many options for keeping employees happy. A Forbes article on employee retention explains that in addition to offering a competitive benefits package, organizations can work to reduce employee burnout and offer employees more flexibility. 
  2. Journo-coders who are managers make more than those who are not. And while some may opt to work for a news organization with strong leadership and a solid sense of direction, or a news organization offering higher pay, others may not see a reason to stay. Journo-coders who encounter “lack of promotion/career pathway” and are not content with their financial compensation may be tempted to leave journalism altogether.
  3. Women coders at the managerial level are earning about the same as male coders who are not managers. Although the picture is stark, there are steps newsrooms can take to address these pay gaps, according to a 2020 Neiman Report. One potential solution is to remove questions on desired salary and salary history, which may be illegal depending on where the job is based. Another is to strengthen the salary review process, which could bring much needed transparency to most newsrooms. 
  4. Five years later, the New York and DC metro areas still have the highest concentration of news nerds and continue to draw the highest salaries. Salaries in Washington, D.C. come out slightly ahead in the lower quartiles, but overall match New York salaries at the managerial level.
  5. Salaries are higher in unionized newsrooms, whether or not you’re eligible to join. The move to unionize has become popular in newsrooms in the past few years; catalyzing reasons such as low pay and a lack of benefits have pushed workers to organize. News nerds and journalists across the board want better compensation for the work they do. Journalists are also pushing to organize to protect the quality of their work and to impact their workplace in a positive way.

Discussing and using this data

This survey is meant to be a community resource. We hope you can use it in your own personal salary negotiations as well as in collective efforts to change policies in your organizations and the field. If there’s other ways we can make this data more useful to you or if you have any followup questions, please reach out!

We would also like to invite YOU to SRCCON, our annual conference to dig into questions in journalism and tech. Have an idea for a session or a panel based on the findings of this survey? Want to extend the dialogue that these findings sparked at your newsroom? 

Here are some session ideas:

  • What newsrooms can do to shrink pay gaps
  • How unionizing has impacted the culture and journalism in newsrooms
  • How newsrooms can retain and nurture talent

Our call for session proposals will be open May 31-June 14! Start that brainstorm document you’ve been avoiding, we’d love to see you there. 


Dilcia Mercedes is a data journalist at CBS News. They previously worked at Big Local News and Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting and is a graduate of Stanford’s M.A. in journalism program.

Soo Oh edited this story. She joined OpenNews’ survey advisory committee in 2017 and wrote our initial salary analysis as part of her work as a Stanford JSK Fellow researching how newsrooms can better manage and support technical journalists. She has previously edited and reported data stories, coded interactive visuals, and built internal tools at Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting, the Wall Street Journal, Vox.com, and the Los Angeles Times. She is currently a lecturer at UC Berkeley’s School of Journalism.



  • Dilcia Mercedes

    Dilcia Mercedes (they/them) is a journalist and developer interested in building tools for newsrooms. Dilcia graduated with a master’s degree in journalism from Stanford University and interned with Reveal before joining Big Local News as a data journalist.


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