Local TV News Employment Up During Pandemic

KTLA news team
KTLA news team (Image credit: KTLA)

Against what would seem to be long odds, local TV news employment actually increased during the pandemic year of 2020, according to the latest data out of the RTDNA/Newhouse School Newsroom Survey.

The study found that 500 jobs were added in 2020, compared to the 300 lost the previous year. Total TV news employment stands at 28,000. But that good news doesn't look like it is holding. RTDNA also said more than 400 jobs have been lost in the early months of 2021.

RTDNA earlier reported that despite budget cuts and the challenges of operating in a pandemic-battered economy, more local TV news aired in 2020 than ever before.

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The latest data from the survey, released Wednesday (May 19) showed that full-time local TV news employment was up 1.8% in 2020, a record for local news employment and more than covering the job losses a similar survey found in 2019.

That overall increase came despite staff cuts in a record 30.2% of stations, which was offset by growth in about a fifth of stations, as well as the addition of new newsrooms. Affiliates of the top four nets were the most likely to have added staff, but stations in larger markets, non-network affiliates and stations in the Northeast were all more likely to see cuts than gains.

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Staffing of websites was up slightly, led by stations in the top 25 markets. There were gains in social media producer/editor jobs and station managers surveyed said more staffers were being dedicated specifically to digital.

RTDNA said fewer news directors predicted staff increases in 2021 than in past years.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.