Poynter’s fuzzy numbers

Those "starting salary for j-school grads" figures come with caveats

Current journalism majors probably thought they had reason to celebrate when Poynter’s Andrew Beaujon elaborated on the latest survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers of recent bachelor’s degree recipients’ average starting salaries:

NACE’s annual report on college grads has good news for 2012 communications majors: Their starting salaries were up 4 percent on average over 2011 grads’. Reached by email, NACE Employment Information Manager Andrea Koncz says journalism majors, who are counted in that category, saw gains of their own: “Their specific average salary is $40,900, up 3.3 percent from $39,600 last year,” she writes.
This seems like great news for recent grads — there are paying jobs out there for them after all, and $40,000 a year is just about enough to pay for food and shelter while paying off those massive student loans. Allow me to rain on that parade a bit. Here’s what those optimistic numbers don’t say:
  • That 3.3 percent increase was not adjusted for inflation, Koncz tells me. Inflation from 2011 and 2012, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, was 2.1 percent. Adjusted for inflation, the increase is just 1.012 percent.
  • The average starting salary is based on full-time, salaried positions. It does not count interns or freelancers, nor does it indicate how many journalism grads can’t find work at all.
  • While the numbers reflect starting salaries for people who majored in journalism, Koncz says that, “The positions may or may not be in the journalism field.”

The most puzzling numbers of all, though, come at the very top of the post:

So, the bad news: Those journalism starting salary survey results aren’t quite as good as Poynter’s post implied. The good news: The Poynter Institute has a time machine that should allow us to go back in time and fix everything.

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Sara Morrison is a former assistant editor at CJR. Follow her on Twitter @saramorrison. Tags: , ,