Reporter Salaries In China

In the previous post titled Two Views Of The Chinese Newspaper Industry, the root cause of the dysfunctional nature of the industry can be easily traced to the edict: Follow the money.  If editors and reporters are poorly paid, it is inevitable that they will seek other sources of income through their job positions.

So how much do reporters get paid?  This is an anecdotal (and therefore unscientific) survey of reporter salaries in four cities.  These are big cities, so the salaries are lower elsewhere.

(Secret China News)  A Comparison Of Reporter Salaries in Four Chinese Cities.  November 14, 2004.



Among the major media in Beijing, most reporters receive a base salary between 3,000 to 5,000 yuan per month, with a small number receiving as little as 2,000 yuan.  At the more senior level, an assistant editor-in-chief receives about 10,000 yuan per month.

Among the smaller media companies, the reporters receive 2,000 to 3,000 yuan per month and the editors receive 3,000 to 4,000 yuan per month.  Within some business media, the reporters has a base salary just over 1,000 yuan per month.

Ordinarily the reporters' income comes from the salary plus payment for articles.  But there is an open secret within the media community.  Whenever there are company press conferences, the attending reporters will receive travel reimbursements between 200 to 500 yuan from the sponsors.  This is a significant source of income for many reporters.  Therefore, the reporters who are responsible for covering information technology (IT), real estate and automobile manufacturing tend to have relatively higher incomes, as some of them make as much from attending press conferences as their regular salaries.

Reporters can paid for their articles by word count based upon their experience and standing.  Usually, the rate is between 60 to 300 yuan per thousand words.  According to a reporter who has worked for a financial/economic media company, the base salary for reporters was only 800 yuan and that of an editor was 1,500 yuan.  Even the managing editor only gets 3,000 yuan.  But they all wrote articles, for which they get paid 100 yuan per thousand words.  So a good editor can make as much as 10,000 yuan per month and a good reporter can make 6,000 to 7,000 yuan.


Compared to Guangzhou and Beijing, the print press in Shanghai offer lower levels of pay.  Prior to 2002, the situation in Shanghai was calm and the reporters have stable incomes.  In 2003, the <<Riverfront > and <<Eastern Morning News>> appeared, the <<Shanghai Youth Daily>> was redesigned and media from other regions of the country entered Shanghai.  There were more skilled workers coming to Shanghai.  The southern media companies began to invest heavily in Shanghai.  This has caused the incomes of Shanghai media workers to change slowly.

The <<Liberation Daily>> and <<Wenhuibao>> are party publications, so the salaries of their staff were relatively stable, being better than average.  The <<Xinmin Wanbao>> and <<Xinmin Zhaobao>> have a strong corporation behind them, so they offer good pay.  An editor at <<Xinmin Zhaobao>> makes 3,000 yuan and a beat reporter makes as much as 5,000 yuan.  A <<Xinmin Wanbao>> reporter can make more than 10,000 yuan and quite a few of them reaches that level.  The income of a reporter is a function of their specialty which affects the number as well as the importance of the articles for which they are paid.

Among the newly arrived media, <<Eastern Morning News>> pays reporters as much as 7,000 to 8,000 and the <<Riverfront Illustrated>> pays 5,000 to 6,000.  Other than the major media, the second-liners such as <<News At Noon>>, <<Shanghai Qiaobao>>, <<Shanghai Economic News>>, <<Shanghai Commercial News>> pay less at around 2,000 to 5,000.

One characteristic about Shanghai media is that they tend to have more lifestyle/leisure media.  <<Xinjiang Service Report>>, <<Shanghai Weekly>> and <<Shanghai Wednesday>> pay their reporters and editors between 3,000 to 5,000, with <<Xinjiang Service Report>> a bit better than the others.  There are other lifestyle publications such has <<Shanghai Decoration>> and <<Popular Television>>.


Among the major media in Xian, the overall level and the distribution of salaries is fairly good.  According to the understanding of this reporter, the media are ranked as <<Chinese Commercial Press>>, <<Xian Evening News>>, <<Sanchun Metropolitan News>>.  Of these, a reporter at <<Chinese Commercial Press>> can make more than 3,000, and an exception reporter can make more than 5,000.  Compared to this, <<Xian Evening News>> pays a bit less, but not that much different.  A section editor at <<Xian Evening News>> told this reporter that his salary is less than that of a reporter, who make between 1,800 to 2,500.  As for <<Sanchun Metropolitan News>>, the average is about the same as others, but the internal differences are sharper as an excellent reporter gets more than 3,000 while the lowest salary is only around 1,000.

The aforementioned private enterprises lead the field.  As for the others such as <<This Morning's News>>, <<Xian Commerical Press>>, <<New Economic News>> and <<Meibao>> and other popular newspapers, their salaries all range between 800 to 3,000.  As for the administrators and managers, they get a little bit more.  Among the party publications, <<Shaanxi Daily>> and <<Xian Daily>> reporters get at least 1,000.  

Apart from newspapers, Xian also has quite a few magazine publications.  They are not as popular as the newspapers, and the salaries of magazine workers range between 1,000 to 2,000 yuan, with the more experienced people getting more than 3,000.  Among the magazines, <<Girlfriend>> which was started in 1999 is the tops of the field, and their reporters and editors receive the highest pay among the periodicals in Xian.


The salary situation among media news workers in Chongqing is a mixed lot with vast differences.  The most powerful news organization in Chongqing is the <<Chongqing Daily>> group.  In the past, the reporters received fixed salary with benefits and they received about 5,000 per month.  Following the reform, the various benefits were no longer offered for free and this has resulted in both a drop in overall salary as well as increasing differences among the workers.  Some workers could get more than 7,000 while others make less than 2,000.  This refers only to <<Chongqing Daily>>, <<Chongqing Evening News>> and <<Chongqing Morning News>>, and the workers at other newspapers in the group make less.

At the other powerful news organization in Chongqing -- the <<Computer News>> media group -- the editors and reporters are relatively well off in the local media industry.  Within the dozen or so entities in this media group, there are sizeable differences too.

The overall picture is nowhere as bad as the one depicted in Mexico City (see previous post).  The equivalent situation might have been one in which 

  1. Reporters are paid 100 yuan per month and told to fend for themselves;
  2. Commercial businesses are paying the newspapers to insert favorable 'news stories';
  3. Editors are blackmailing people about potential news scandals.  

Instead, the situation is one in which 

  1. Reporters are paid an adequate salary -- subject to their observance of the rules and regulations. But if you break the rules, you can be banished forever and even imprisoned.
  2. The Central Propaganda Bureau issues a slew of instructions about what to publish and what not publish.
  3. Editors spend their time between meetings with the propaganda bureaus and making sure nothing untoward appears in their newspapers.  The tricky part is that one can still get into trouble for reporting on something that is not on the proscribed list, as the Central Propaganda Bureau operates on the principle of "We can't define what bad things are, but we know it when we see it."  So just play it safe and stick to what seems to be safe (until they become unsafe).