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Researching Compensation Data

When AIR first overhauled our rate guides in 2019, we wrote up a post for Source with a whole round up of sources on compensation data. Since then, a few more great resources have surfaced and we thought it would be helpful to capture those, too. 

There’s no substitute for community when you’re finding your way in a new corner of the industry, so we always recommend posting a query to the AIR forums or our Slack. (If you’d rather ask anonymously, reach out to any AIR staffer and we’ll post your query for you.) 

If you’re trying to assess how far a rate will go in a new region, or translate someone else’s salary into your own local dollars, CNN Money’s Cost of Living Calculator is a solid starting point. 

AIR’s salary guide🔒 is a fantastic resource, though you do need to be an AIR member to access it. We gather data from a ton of sources, some of which are listed here. One of the best sources is our own survey, which we use to collect data on salaries and freelance rates by the project or by the hour. We’d love your input!

Are there other rate guides and data sources that you rely on, to complement AIR’s guides? Here are some that are on our radar:

Public Records

  • Look at 990s for Non-Profit Data. Nonprofit Explorer is great and there’s an excellent list of newsroom 990s that was compiled anonymously and is worth reviewing.  
  • Most states and many cities have public records laws that require public employee salaries to be publicly reported. We keep a solid list of salary sources that you’re more than welcome to help us expand on.  
  • Publicly Held Radio and TV Stations is a remarkably thorough spreadsheet documenting the public agency (often a university) that owns public radio and television licenses. Once you know the name of the agency, it is a lot easier to search public employee salary databases for salary comps. 

Visa Applications

Note! This whole section was cribbed from a resource that is maintained anonymously. We’re endlessly grateful to the maintainer for this research.

US companies that hire foreign nationals on H1B visas or sponsor green card applications are required to include quite a bit of compensation data in the application. Data on Green Card and H1B applications is available straight from the DOL but there are third-parties data sources that  have done a better job of making that data accessible. Permanent Resident applicants have to be vouched for by employers, who must provide certain information about the applicant, including: 

  1. the employer they will be working for
  2. the minimum salary 
  3. where they will be working
  4. the country of citizenship for permanent-resident applicant-employee
  5. past educational institution(s) attended

Example, hired a  'Global Editor-In-Chief' at a salary of $152,000 a year. The records in Visa Door Green Cards Database and H1B Grader capture a ton of detail about the candidate from their green card application.

Example, Dow Jones applied for a H1-B visa for a real estate reporter to work at its New York offices. That reporter was set to start in 2019 and earn $85,000. Both H1B Data dot Info and Visa Door have details about H1B applications.

    Collective Bargaining Agreements

    Collective Bargaining Agreements can be voluntarily provided to the Department of Labor, where they’re made available at An absolute angel among us prepared a pretty great spreadsheet of newsroom collective bargaining agreements that you can also review.

    Research in Adjacent Fields

    Voiceover Rates

    Journalism (Beyond Audio)

    • The Editorial Freelancers Association publishes a rate guide that covers what they describe as “common rates” for copywriting, proofreading and fact checking —they don’t attach any methodology or documentation, and we didn’t ask them to provide any, so before you rely too actively on their figures, consider finding out more about how they were derived.
    • Amanda’s Source post includes a ton of salary and rate sharing projects at newsrooms and magazines.

    If there are other sources we should know about, please do let us know! Reach out to [email protected]