The Front Page: The Undefeated

It’s Friday, May 7th.

This time on The Front Page: A new executive editor at the LA Times, Gannett bashes its own data reporters, and NPR recognizes the union for the company’s digital workers. 

Five months following Norman Pearlstine’s departure, the Los Angeles Times has selected a new executive editor.

Kevin Merida, most recently editor-in-chief at The Undefeated, will start in June and become the third person of color to lead the paper in its 139-year history.

Earlier this year, Merida was in the running, but not “courted,” for Marty Baron’s position at the Washington Post, having worked as a managing editor at the paper for part of his 22-year tenure before his time at ESPN.

His hiring comes after the Times’ self-described “reckoning on race,” characterized by racism, sexual harassment, and general toxicity caused and/or dismissed by management. In September 2020, owner Patrick Soon-Shiong promised to “[acknowledge] those biases of the past and [take] positive action to affirm a commitment that [the] newsroom will not tolerate prejudice.”

Endorsements from Merida’s former colleagues and Times staffers indicate a glimmer of hope that Soon-Shiong’s pledges could become reality under Merida’s leadership.

Gannett is on a journey to underpay reporters #facts

A pay equity study of fourteen Gannett newsrooms, published by the NewsGuild-Communications Workers of America late last month, found that Gannett newsrooms were overwhelmingly white and that pay inequity among women and non-white journalists was stark. The Arizona Republic—which had a mass exodus of reporters from underrepresented groups over the past year—was highlighted by the study as having the highest gender and racial pay gaps. 

Naturally, Gannett issued a response, challenging the work of their own data reporters.

In a statement, Gannett’s labor relations attorney argued that the report was filled with “sweeping generalities,” that its authors were spreading “misinformation,” and that unionizing actually increased gender and racial pay gaps. It cited the company’s 2020 Inclusion Report as evidence of the company’s dedication to achieving “a more inclusive, equitable, and diverse workforce.” 

Gannett journalists responded with their own experiences of being underpaid at their newsrooms, promptly ratio-ing the original Gannett tweet to correct the record. 

The Native American Journalists Association released a statement in solidarity with reporters who had been underpaid, citing the situation at the Arizona Republic in which Indigenous reporters in Indian Country made $30,000 less than white reporters in the newsroom. The Austin News Guild similarly said it stood in solidarity with Gannett reporters.

The company’s journey does not, so far, seem to include releasing pay data on its 250+ newsrooms or responding to reporters’ criticisms of its statement. 

A more perfect union

Just in time for May Day, National Public Radio voluntarily recognized Digital Media United, the union for the company’s digital workers. 

The National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians-Communications Workers of American, Digital Media Union’s bargaining representative, said 63 employees will join the union. Current reports more than 90% of employees signed cards in favor of the union.

In other good news, the New York Daily News Union won its National Labor Relations Board election by an overwhelming majority. The union joins the News Guild of New York, which will represent the group as it moves into bargaining.

Finally, the New Yorker Union continued to fight for a contract this week after a May Day solidarity rally. You can contribute by signing the New Yorker Union Supporter Pledge.  

Related: We unionized the digital team at The Seattle Times. You can do it too.

What’s happening

*$$$ denotes a paid event. What events should we feature next week? You tell us. Send us an email at [email protected]

  • 3 days until … Career Connection: Defining your digital footprint. The National Press Club Journalism Institute hosts this week of free workshops, including sessions about Twitter, LinkedIn, and resumes.

  • 6 days until … Coffee chats with the News Product Alliance. The newly formed media association is hosting a casual series of virtual coffee chats for news product thinkers around the world. 

  • 7 days until … Transforming Journalism Beyond “Diversity.” Applications for the workshop series are due today, May 7. The free series for journalists in North Carolina and New Jersey is organized by Press On and Freedom Lifted.

  • 13 days until … Transformative Transparency from the News Leaders Association. This month’s installment focuses on how news leaders can recognize racial blind spots and better support Asian American and Pacific Islander journalists.

  • 15 days until … Racism in the News: A Year After the Media Reckoning of 2020, Where Are We Now? This conversation hosted by the National Association for Hispanic Journalists Los Angeles Chapter is open to all journalists.

A bit more media

The case for solidarity reporting
For The Objective, Anita Varma writes that news organizations can better serve the public by implementing solidarity reporting, a type of coverage that “[centers] the perspectives of people whose dignity is at stake.” In practice, she argues, this reporting can improve public safety for Asian and Asian American people.

Rethinking “authority”
The murder of George Floyd reminded many news organizations that journalists should be skeptical of statements from law enforcement officials, just as they should be with anyone weilding power. Omission and lies are not new trends in policing, reports Julia Craven, nor do they appear to be going away, only emphasizing the need for greater scrutiny. 

What isn’t political?
A Washington Post memo states employees are not allowed to participate in parades or festivals that are political, such as marches for DC Statehood. “It would be fine to participate in a celebration at BLM plaza but not a protest there,” managing editors say, “or attend a Pride gathering but not a demonstration at the Supreme Court.” Jamal Jordan sums up the ridiculous memo nicely in a Tweet: “You can wear a hat with a rainbow on it, but you can’t hold a sign that says, ‘I hope no one takes my marriage rights away.’”

Newsletter and fellowship for justice stories
Just Media, a “network of writers and cultural organizers who represent communities at the center of justice politics,” launched their newsletter last week. Since starting the program last year, leaders have also mentored a fellowship cohort and organized community conversations around justice reform.

Systems thinking in investigative journalism
El Tímpano and Journalism + Design are investigating overcrowded housing and health in Oakland’s Latino and Mayan immigrant communities through systems thinking. The patterns at play are complicated, so the team focused on mapping those intersections before beginning to report, hoping that the initial groundwork will improve the final product. 

Colorado Sun acquires 24 newspapers
The National Trust for Local News and the Sun have partnered to purchase two dozen newspapers in the Denver area. John Rodriguez, who previously asked the Colorado News Project to support his local newsmagazine, says the Trust could be doing more to support local publications serving minority populations. He asks, “Why not save news [where] it’s needed the most?”

An end to op-eds (but not really)
The New York Times has announced that, after more than 50 years, it will no longer use the term “Op-Ed.” Instead, articles by external authors will be called “Guest Essays” in an effort to “invite and convene a wide range of voices and views.” The Times did not say whether or not guest essays would include misinformation. Related:A bad op-ed is more than just a bad take

Vox Media Writers Workshop
For no cost, Vox Media will be pairing 30 people “historically underrepresented in media” with 15 of the company’s writers and editors in its first Writers Workshop. Selected individuals will be required to attend three virtual workshops over the summer, and each participant will have one reported article placed on the workshop website. Applications are due Sunday, May 16.

And finally, a few resources

Looking for a job? Here are a few places to look: INN | ONA | | 10 Jobs and a Dog | NABJ | AAJA | NAHJ | NLGJA | @WritersofColor | MEO Jobs | Freelance Journalist Rates | StudyHall XYZ | Opportunities of the Week ($)   

How about a style guide? Trans Journalist Association | Diversity Style Guide | Tribal Nations Media Guide | NABJ Style Guide | Disability Language Style Guide | AAJA Guide to Covering Asian America | NAHJ Cultural Competence Handbook

If you’re a new reader, you can subscribe here. As always, if you like what you’re reading, forward this to a friend (or your boss). This issue is by Holly Piepenburg and Janelle Salanga with editing by Gabe Schneider.

Our stories are funded by readers like you. 

The Objective is a nonprofit newsroom holding journalism accountable for past and current systemic biases in reporting and newsroom practices. We are written by and for those underrepresented in journalism.

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