At a time when newsrooms in the United States are seeing a wave of unionization, around one-in-six U.S. journalists at news organizations report being in a union and many more say they would join one if it were available to them, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey.
Overall, 16% of U.S. journalists who are employed at least part time at a news outlet say they are currently a member of a union at their organization. Another 41% would join one if it were available to them, according to the survey of nearly 12,000 working U.S.-based journalists, conducted Feb. 16 to March 17, 2022. (Freelance, self-employed and student or intern journalists are not included in these figures. Overall, 28% of the journalists surveyed by the Center report that they are either a freelancer or self-employed, and fewer than 1% are students or interns.)
The source of data for this analysis is a Pew Research Center survey of 11,889 U.S.-based journalists who are currently working in the news industry and said that they report, edit or create original news stories in their current job. The survey was conducted online between Feb. 16 and March 17, 2022, by SSRS. A detailed demographic profile of the journalists who completed the survey can be found in the main survey report’s Appendix.
Because there is no readily available list of all U.S. journalists, Center researchers relied on commercial databases of journalists based in the U.S. as well as supplemental lists of news organizations to create a broad and diverse sample of over 160,000 journalists from as many types of outlets and areas of reporting as possible. Although it is impossible to be certain every segment of the journalism profession in the U.S. is covered by the sample, the use of multiple databases and supplemental lists ensured that journalists from a variety of different reporting areas, news platform types, as well as outlet sizes and types – such as those who work for organizations that are intended to primarily reach a particular demographic group – were represented.
Propensity weighting was used to ensure that the responses of the 11,889 respondents aligned with the full sample of over 160,000 journalists with respect to job titles, media outlet type, freelance status and geographic location.
This is the latest report in Pew Research Center’s ongoing investigation of the state of news, information and journalism in the digital age, a research program funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts, with generous support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.
The desire to join a union is much more prevalent among younger journalists than among their older peers: 77% of full- or part-time journalists ages 18 to 29 are either already a member of a union at their news organization (20%) or would join a union if it were available to them (57%). This is nearly twice the share among journalists 65 and older (41%) – 13% of whom report already being in a union and 28% of whom say they would join one if it were available to them.
Differences also emerge by journalists’ gender, race and ethnicity. About six-in ten journalists who are women (63%) say they are either currently a union member or would join one if available, compared with 52% of journalists who are men. Black, Hispanic and Asian journalists are all more likely than White journalists to say they are either in a union or would join one if it were available to them.
Journalists at large news outlets are most likely to have a union available to them
Overall, 26% of U.S. journalists who are employed by a news organization full time or part time say their organization has a union.
Journalists who work for larger news organizations are far more likely than those who work for smaller ones to say their outlet has a union. About six-in-ten journalists who are employed full or part time at an organization with at least 500 employees (57%) say their organization has a union. This falls to 40% among those who work at an organization with 101 to 500 employees and to just 4% for those who say they work for the smallest organizations – those with 10 or fewer employees.
One other characteristic strongly relates to the availability of a union at U.S. news organizations: the reported political leaning of the outlet’s audience. Among journalists who say they are employed at least part time at an outlet whose audience leans left politically, about four-in-ten (39%) report that their organization has a union. This is far greater than the 12% of those who say their organization’s audience is right leaning, and is also higher than those whose outlet has a more politically mixed audience (25%).