Columnists interpret the news or offer opinions to readers, viewers, or listeners.
Common Work Tasks
- Write a story from information collected and submitted by reporters
- Tape an introduction to or commentary on their story in the studio
- Investigate leads and news tips, look at documents, observe events at the scene, and interview people
- Organize the material, determine the focus or emphasis, write their stories, and edit accompanying video material
- Enter information or write stories using laptop computers and electronically submit the material to their offices from remote locations
- Specialize in fields such as health, politics, foreign affairs, sports, theater, consumer affairs, social events, science, business, or religion
- Present points of view on current issues
- Gather information and prepare stories
Other Job Titles
Columnists are also known by other titles, including:
Education, Training, and Experience
Education and Training
Most employers prefer individuals with a bachelor’s degree in journalism or mass communications, but some hire graduates with other majors. They look for experience at school newspapers or broadcasting stations, and internships with news organizations. Large-city newspapers and stations also may prefer candidates with a degree in a subject-matter specialty such as economics, political science, or business. Some large newspapers and broadcasters may hire only experienced columnists.
Columnists typically need more than good word-processing skills. Computer graphics and desktop-publishing skills also are useful. Computer-assisted reporting involves the use of computers to analyze data in search of a story. This technique and the interpretation of the results require computer skills and familiarity with databases.
Columnists should be dedicated to providing accurate and impartial news. Accuracy is important, both to serve the public and because untrue or libelous statements can lead to lawsuits. A nose for news, persistence, initiative, poise, resourcefulness, a good memory, and physical stamina are important, as is the emotional stability to deal with pressing deadlines, irregular hours, and dangerous assignments.
The median annual salary for a Columnist is $34,000. The top 10 percent earn more than $76,000, and the lowest 10 percent earn less than $19,000. Median earnings in the industries employing the largest number of columnists are:
- Newspaper, Periodical, Book, and Directory Publishers- $40,420
- Radio and Television Broadcasting - $51,270
- Other Information Services - $57,180
- Internet Publishing and Broadcasting - $49,210
- Management of Companies and Enterprises – N/A
- 2006-2016 Employment growth: 1%
- Number of new jobs created 2006-2016: 700
- Employment 2006 : 59,000
- Employment 2016: 60,000