The Front Page: White newspaper, Black city

It’s Friday, April 22nd.

The Washington Post has never proportionally reflected Washington D.C., the first majority-Black major city in the U.S. 

While that analysis is pointedly true, it doesn’t come from The Objective. It comes from Black employees at the Washington Post — specifically Black employees at the Post’s union: the Post Guild. 

This month, the Post’s union published a new pay study focusing on diversity and retention at the paper. The report shows that while the Post has made strides in hiring more people of color and closing the pay gap, the newsroom is struggling to retain those employees and ensure women and people of color are paid the same as their white male counterparts. It also provides a substantial number of testimonials to demonstrate exactly what this has looked like. 

One female journalist in the video department confirmed she was being underpaid in 2020, but said even after being reassured by managers that the pay gap would be closed. It wasn’t. 

“I like my job,” she said in the study. “I like my team. I want to keep working at the Post. But not at this rate. It just doesn’t make any sense for my career.”

While the report focuses on the entire newsroom, it also comes with a sub-report put together by the Washington Post Guild’s Black Caucus. For many Black employees working in majority non-Black legacy newsrooms, the analysis the Black Caucus provides may not be unfamiliar, but still remains an uneasy read: 

“Black employees felt that their credentials were constantly questioned and that the legitimacy of their work was challenged more often than their non-Black peers. They also pointed to the glaring dearth of Black leaders across the company.”

The report also cited a 2020 letter to publisher Fred Ryan from employees in the commercial department that mentioned the department was informally known among Black staffers as “The Plantation.” 

“Highly educated Black employees continue to be stuck in roles on ‘The Plantation’ for years with no hope of climbing up the ladder, while White employees are promoted into unadvertised positions unrelated to their current jobs.”

The study clearly outlines recommendations for the future, not just doing management’s work when it comes to exploring problems, but proposing solutions for them as well. 

The primary driver of progress at the Post is evidently not management under former editor Marty Baron or publisher Fred Ryan (which outwardly seemed to tiptoe uncarefully forward over Legos, quietly cursing the situation) — but the Post’s union itself, and therefore its staff, who feel confident enough in their union protections to challenge their newsroom publicly in an effort to make the paper better (see their pay study from 2019).

From CJR: The Washington Post keeps losing Black journalists, Guild study says 

After years of sluggish progress, there’s something to be said about how journalists are growing more willing to publicly air the dirty laundry of their own publications in the name of making them better. While new journalism organizations are radically redefining what it means to reflect the communities they serve, it’s unclear if older institutions can truly reckon with their failures. (Notably, the company denied the Post Guild’s request for raw demographic data of employees simply because it wasn’t in their contract.) 

Despite the painful reckoning public reports and criticism may cause, it’s clear that many of the anecdotes presented in the report were already internal open secrets. In a career that heavily emphasizes transparency, it remains strange that many journalism organizations are averse to embodying transparency from within. 

Considering the lip service promises that followed 2020’s summer protests, it’s clear there should be a more serious discussion about the role public analysis and criticism play in the industry, and the protections that help media workers feel comfortable making these criticisms. 

I don’t believe there’s another way forward.

— Gabe Schneider 

This issue is by Holly Rosewood and Gabe Schneider with editing by Curtis Yee.


A Bit More Media

Q&A: Nadine Hoffman How can newsrooms address online violence before it happens? Nadine Hoffman, Deputy Director of the International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF), has some ideas. Last week she spoke with Objective newsletter editor Curtis Yee about the IWMF’s Coalition Against Online Violence and the resources it offers to both reporters and newsrooms.

SDPB loses only trans journalist — Stel Kline, a former Morning Edition host at South Dakota Public Broadcasting, says their position was terminated following a pattern of anti-trans actions. Kline was reportedly told that they were fired due to a lack of objectivity, a criticism that was levied against them by SDPB higher ups after they had previously posted about being trans on Twitter.

The Counter is shutting down — Journalists at The Counter, which announced it would cease publication on May 20, are fighting to make sure they receive fair severance. With a total of six weeks to find new jobs, staffers share that the board broke the news without budget clarity and that some colleagues will be especially vulnerable without this pay. 

Uproot Project announces 2022 fellows — After its official launch in 2021, the Uproot Project has introduced the seven journalists who make up its inaugural Environmental Justice Fellowship program. Over the next year, fellows will investigate “how the climate crisis and key environmental issues of our time are inextricably linked with other forms of inequity.”

Behind Bitch Media — Last week, Bitch Media announced that it will shut down in June. Former employees and contributors have since shared experiences that reveal “a culture of overwork and burnout” as well as policies that excluded workers outside the U.S., both of which call into question the viability of publication commited to feminism within a capitalist society.

The Times needs to update its style guide — A recently leaked portion of the New York Times’ style guide  instructs journalists to take “special care” when writing about people who use “nontraditional” titles and/or pronouns. Rather than explain trans sources’ pronouns, as the Times suggests, the Trans Journalists Association recommends the opposite.


Stay Up To Date 

0 days until … Registration closes for “A Journalist’s Guide to Covering Jails,” a two-day, in-person workshop led by the Poynter Institute in June. Other versions of the workshop will be held in Memphis and Minneapolis later this year.

7 days until … Centering Equity: Journalism, Ethics and a Just Future. Journalists, students, and the general public are invited to the free, hybrid conference hosted by the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Center for Journalism Ethics.

11 days until … Equitably covering and engaging with the trans community. ($$$) This workshop hosted by Tuck Woodstock of Sylveon Consulting is free for members of Investigative Reporters and Editors.

What else should we feature? You tell us. Send an email to [email protected].


A few more resources

Something new: A toolkit for newsrooms to better serve the disability community by Hannah Wise

For your portfolio website: If you identify as a journalist with a background historically underrepresented in journalism, Authory will provide you with a free one-year account to back up your articles (a $96 value). 

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 | Source Jobs | 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 Pacific America | NAHJ Cultural Competence Handbook | SPJ Race & Gender Hotline | AMEJA Media Resource Guide

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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