Every so often, a journalist who thrived in the old days decries the current state of mostly digital journalism and discourages youngsters from pursuing a career there. Things were so much better in the old days, these columns usually say. Nowadays, everybody’s just chasing clicks, it’s a race to the bottom for advertising money, great journalists can’t find decent paying work, and the work isn’t very satisfying — basically woe and gloom.
Here’s some data that suggest journalism isn’t such a bad career choice after all. This chart from McKinsey used U.S. Bureau of Labour Statistics stats to plot compound annual wage growth in various industries between 1997 and 2014 (vertical axis), and guess which industry came in 2nd place? Media. Wages grew at an average rate of more than 4%, second only to the oil and gas industry.
What’s more, that growth is directly related to the shift to digital. The horizontal axis on the chart plots industries on McKinsey’s “digital labour index,” which measures factors such as the amount of digital capital invested and the share of occupations and tasks that are digital. Media has undergone the most dramatic transformation to digital of any industry in the U.S.
It’s true that not all “media” jobs are journalism jobs, and money is certainly not the only factor in job satisfaction. But as somebody who started a journalism career back in 1992, this rings true to my experience: There are far more living-wage entry-level journalism jobs today than there were before the internet took off.