2019 Research Finds Radio Outlets Are Producing More News


The annual RTDNA/Lawrence Herbert School of Communication at Hofstra University Newsroom Survey provides an in-depth look at the local broadcast news business from the eyes of news directors and General Managers. The 2019 survey shows several positive developments for local news as more radio outlets are producing more news, hiring more staff, investing in investigative and community-service reporting and adapting to changing technology.

More than 25% of radio newsrooms represented in the survey were non-profit newsrooms, a percentage that's been growing steadily for the past several years. The number of large radio newsrooms in all market sizes that participated in this year's survey, particularly large public radio newsrooms, increased significantly from past years, giving a better picture of radio newsrooms.

The median, or typical, number of news staffers per radio newsroom remains at one, but jumps to three for public radio stations. And on average, commercial radio stations employ 1.7 newsroom staffers -- up from 1.6 a year ago -- while public stations employ 6.4, up 2 from a year ago.

Public radio stations were nearly four times as likely to have increased staffing over the past year and are more than five times as likely to be planning to grow in the coming year. Just 1% of radio managers, overall, expect to lose staff in the coming year.

When asked about hiring for replacements and new positions, more radio stations this year reported hiring reporters than in past years. Newsroom managers reported hiring primarily beat-specific reporters, including those covering education, specific geographic areas, government, the environment, health and even innovation.

More commercial radio news stations report they are breaking even and fewer report a loss this year than last year, though slightly fewer report a profit. Public radio budgets are slightly growing.

Of the 26.1% of radio respondents representing non-commercial stations, nearly 30%, or twice as many as the previous year, report a budget increase in the last year, versus less than 10% of commercial stations.

According to the latest survey data, more radio stations have apps than ever, with 63% reporting having one or more apps. 70% of public stations and just under 60% of commercial stations say they have an app. Fewer radio stations report that their websites are operating at a loss, and more say it is breaking even or even making a profit. More radio stations also report increasing online content. Radio stations are growing social media strategies to include more photo- and video-based platforms and content.

The survey has been conducted for the past 25 years by Emeritus Distinguished Professor Bob Papper. He's Emeritus Distinguished Professor of Journalism at Hofstra University and has worked extensively in radio and TV news. This research was supported by the Lawrence Herbert School of Communication at Hofstra University and the Radio Television Digital News Association.


Return to Menu