Guild at LA Times learns harsh reality of the pay gap

lat-salaries-graphic.gifWhen I was a reporter then an editor at the LA Times, among the most upsetting periods in the newsroom were the occasional leaks of salary data. It always showed wide gaps in pay even among veterans and lower salaries across the board for women and people of color. The newsroom guild at the Los Angeles Times last night began sharing with the staff its new study of the salaries that the LAT has been paying, and there is fresh anguish throughout the ranks. (See some of the tweets at the bottom.)

The bottom line, says the guild, is that "Tronc has underpaid women and journalists of color by thousands of dollars a year at the Los Angeles Times." The average salary for a fulltime reporter in February was $95,232 a year, a number I'm guessing has gone down over the decade in which many senior reporters took buyouts or left the LAT for less internally tumultuous media outlets. Lowering salaries, after all, was a main intent of the many buyout waves, which often saw young reporters willing to accept less being hired to replace the higher paid veterans.

The guild found that the average salary was $96,245 for the relatively few photographers who remain, $153,087 for columnists and critics and $113,833 for editorial writers. Designers and digital job categories are broken out separately in the guild data, which looks at about 320 full-time staffers but not line editors or managers. The data analyzed was provided by Tronc as required by the process of starting up a guild bargaining unit. Tronc is in the process of being sold to Patrick Soon-Shiong, and these numbers are really describing the results of hiring and salary decisions made under Tribune ownership, before Tronc came along.

Those hires of young staffers to replace departed Times veterans, and to bring in new skills, changed the demographics of the newsroom — the staff became younger, more female and made up of more people of color. But the guild says, even adjusting for age and experience, women and people of color are paid less than white men.

● Tronc has underpaid women and journalists of color by thousands of dollars a year at the Los Angeles Times, suggesting systemic salary gaps by race and gender, according to an analysis of salary data by the L.A. Times Guild.

● Some of these gaps can be explained by The Times’ lopsided demographics. The more senior journalists in our bargaining unit, who make the most money, are more likely to be white and male. The younger journalists in our bargaining unit, who make the least money, are more likely to be women and people of color.

● However, there are significant and persistent gaps even when comparing women and people of color to their male and white peers in the same jobs, with similar experience. A detailed analysis conducted by the L.A. Times Guild found scores of individual women and journalists of color with pay disparities. On average, they make thousands of dollars less than co-workers of similar ages and job categories. The Guild will seek feedback from our members about how best to handle this information while also protecting worker privacy.

The guild has posted a detailed summary on its website. Of course, the data has been anonymized so no one's individual salary can be easily calculated. Among the other key findings:

● In the bargaining unit, which again excludes most editors, 42.8 percent are women. The average salary for female reporters is $87,564; the average for men $101,898. The average for reporters of color is $85,622; the average for white reporters is $100,398.

● There is a missing middle class age-wise: "The Times has a generational divide in the middle of its newsroom. We have many older journalists, and many younger journalists, and then a dearth of journalists in their late 30s and 40s. Over the past decade, the company has struggled to retain rising talent as newsroom wages have stagnated, with skilled journalists leaving for more lucrative offers from competitors."

● 60 percent of the studied staff are white, 15.8 percent are Asian, 14.6 percent are Latino and 5.6 percent are black. "Of our unionized staff, 39% are people of color, compared to 73% of L.A. County residents....Much of this diversity comes from our younger ranks: the majority of staffers in their 20s and 30s are people of color."

The guild christened new offices this week and is off and running, but this data release could be just the first of several convulsive moments to follow as newsroom staffers discover more realities and face hard decisions about salary scales, job classifications and other details.

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