Journalists at Work blog: An increasing number of journalists?

By Mark Spilsbury, NCTJ research consultant

One of the clearest trends shown in the Journalist at Work research ??insert link?? is the increasing number of people who report that they are working as journalists. Data from the Office for National Statistics suggest that there are 73,000 people working as journalists in the UK, an increase from 65,000 in 2012.

This statistic is often met with some scepticism as it jars with the perception that journalism is an occupation under pressure and even in decline. What has happened is that the declining employment in the ‘traditional’ areas of journalism has been more than offset by increasing employment in other areas – particularly in broadcasting and PR and communications.

There has also been a change in the nature of employment, with a decline in those employed on a full-time contract as an employee and an increase in those working part-time and self-employed. It is certainly the case, that those working on as full-time employees in a ‘traditional’ journalism sector (such as newspapers, magazines and broadcasting) are no longer the majority of journalists, making up (Journalists at Work estimates) less than half of the 73,000.

The question that immediately follows this discussion is whether these people who are self-reporting as ‘journalists’ is a matter of some debate. It used to be clear what a journalist was and where they work, but these lines of demarcation have become increasingly unclear.

The debate perhaps now centres around whether being a journalist relates to a place where someone works or to a set of skills that are brought to bear. What is not surprising, is that in an economy where the ability to research and tell a story is in much more demand, that those people who have been trained to do exactly that, should find themselves more widely in demand.

These fundamental questions on the nature of journalists, and the skills that are needed (and will be needed in the future) are to be explored in a new NCTJ research project starting in July. If people have contributions to make to this discussion, then feel free to contact the NCTJ and join the debate.

You can read the full Journalists at Work 2018 report here.