NSNC Membership Survey

Survey Results

News Release: Membership Survey

National Society of Newspaper Columnists

Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2010

For immediate release
For more information, contact Ben Pollock


The state of column writing, as measured in a survey, can be summed up as hanging in there. The National Society of Newspaper Columnists polled its members online in late January, the NSNC’s own State of the Union.

Only about 20 percent of the society’s membership now are newspaper employees; the rest are free-lance, syndicated or other. The survey comprised just 13 questions, plus room for comments, to encourage high response over getting lots of specifics.

Fewer than 19 percent listed themselves as former columnists. Of those 3.8 percent cited having retired and 3.7 percent saw their jobs or just their columns cut. Explanations given for the remaining, “other” category include health setbacks and turning to other forms of writing, from blogs to books. While a few respondents mentioned moving into teaching and consulting, zero mentioned going to work in public relations or advertising.

The survey got about a 64 percent response. Twenty percent answering would’ve been fine so the result is incredible, said Ben Pollock, NSNC vice president and survey author. He noted that it was not a scientific questionnaire like those of Gallup or Harris. “Without random sampling, it’s still a straw poll, but with two-thirds answering, the NSNC board finds all worth taking very seriously,” he said.

The membership mostly writes humor, then feature/general interest, then politics and family/home. They by and large are published weekly, 43 percent. Nearly two-thirds (63 percent) are published in both print and online, rather than either one or the other.

The society’s print columnists by 69 percent write for newspapers, as opposed to magazines or newsletters. Online publication is on newspaper Web sites, 62 percent, with the remainder on personal Web sites or blogs, or other commercial sites.

While the society updates its news frequently via a Yahoo group, Facebook page, Twitter tag and YouTube channel, only 20 percent of its members check those “from time to time.” One member writes, “Too much social media, too little time.” Members instead rely on the NSNC’s own site, columnists.com, and the monthly e-mailed newsletter.

Two recurring comments noted appreciation of member-only discounts on the annual column contest, whose deadline is March 15, and on the conference. This year’s session will be July 8-11 at the University of Indiana in Bloomington.

Comments drew the usual columnist quips. To the question, “What is your Internet vehicle?” answers included “Ford Pinto.” One respondent said the best way to make money writing was to “win Megabucks,” referring to the multistate lottery.

Another wrote, “Half of the papers that carried my column have gone under within the last two years. My money is tied up in groceries. … Not that the [annual membership] fee is unreasonable — it’s just that $50 means more to me than it did not so long ago. Man, I miss lighting my cigar with a C-note.”

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