Well-funded journalism leaders stop making disparate pay
$569,392. $522,129. $427,692.
Over the last few years, these numbers have represented top-level executive compensation at NPR, American Public Media Group,and ProPublica.
All people — including journalists — should be able to have access to clean water, healthy food, and stable housing. In the U.S., at this current juncture, any semblance of that would require a living wage.
So considering all of this: If a living wage does not currently exist at your news organization, yet your executive leadership is making 3 to 10 times more than the lowest-paid salary or contract worker, then how are journalists supposed to report for their communities without being exhausted and demoralized? Why are fellows, who are often doing the work of full-time staff, so underpaid in so many newsrooms? Why are low-paid interns being treated as if someone is doing them a favor?
Much of the recent public conversation around salary has focused on salary bands, salary transparency, and empowering workers to unionize. But in 2023, we need to shift the conversation forward: We need to publicly discuss how inappropriate these salary disparities are — both in for-profit and nonprofit newsrooms — when so many news organizations are struggling and laying off workers. We need to, through collective action and our unions, demand better. And newsroom leadership, in good times and bad, needs to model behavior that doesn’t put their salaries first and share their rationale publicly.
We need to make salary disparity unacceptable.
I am not ignorant of the power dynamics at play in suggesting this: Considering the risk to their careers and economic security, student and entry-level journalists cannot do this alone. It’s critical that we as mid-career and late-career journalists use our privilege to call attention to these disparities. It is especially critical to do this as a full-time worker, when you have colleagues (including fellows and interns) on contract without healthcare or benefits.
Even considering some of the cuts executives were willing to make to their salary and bonuses these past few years, how you can feel comfortable as a journalist earning substantially above a living wage while your coworkers feel the economic pain of inflation and the pandemic — along with the tangible harm both bring to their lives — is beyond me.
Next year, realistically, journalism leaders will not stop making disparate pay. But in 2023, we should make it unacceptable for their workers — our coworkers and colleagues — to not be paid fairly while newsroom leadership continues to earn substantial six-figure salaries.
Gabe Schneider is the co-founder of The Objective.
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