The upset within the Los Angeles Times newsroom about a guild study finding lower pay across the board for women and people of color has prompted a memo to the staff today from editor in chief Jim Kirk. He doesn't say anything you wouldn't expect. But the fact of his response at least shows that the issue has reached a level of real concern at the Times.
Last week, the LAT Guild raised the possibility of a class-action lawsuit against the newspaper by its own employees over the pay disparities.
The LA Times Guild, using data provided by corporate owner Tronc, concluded that women and journalists of color were underpaid by thousands of dollars a year compared to their white male colleagues. The guild said the findings accounted for differences in experience. The average salary for a full-time reporter was $95,232 a year, for photographers $96,245, for editorial writers $113,833 and for critics and columnists $153,087. (The Times, incidentally, is actively recruiting for open positions and for positions the editors hope will become fill-able after the sale to Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong closes.)
Here's my post on the original pay disclosures earlier this month, and below is Kirk's email to the staff this afternoon.
From: Kirk, Jim
Sent: Wednesday, April 25, 2018 3:25 PM
Subject: Pay Study
We’ve heard from many employees about the Guild’s recent pay study, which the Guild compiled using salary and demographic information that the Los Angeles Times provided the union in response to its information requests. The Times takes diversity and inclusion, as well as compensation, in its newsroom seriously. We continually strive to make our newsroom reflective of the southern California region that we serve and to pay our employees fairly and competitively in the context of our challenged media business.
We’ve made significant strides in growing a diverse and inclusive staff. The Los Angeles Times has taken important steps to open pathways for more diverse candidates to gain experience in our newsroom, through our successful MetPro program. As a general matter, our newer employees tend to be more diverse than our longer-service employees who have worked many years, even decades, in journalism careers – a dynamic that is not unique to the Times but is industrywide. In fact, based on 2017 ASNE data, the Los Angeles Times is comparatively more diverse than either of its largest daily competitors, The New York Times and The Washington Post. And we’ve made comparatively more progress over the past five years with our ongoing efforts to increase diversity in the Los Angeles Times’ newsroom:
[Chart showing LA Times newsroom diversity is higher than at the New York Times or Washington Post.]
We are committed to continued progress in this area.
We are also committed to ensuring that our talented colleagues are compensated fairly and appropriately at the LA Times. Many legitimate factors weigh into the salaries for professional journalists. Most of our journalists perform highly individualized roles – even if they share a reporter or other common job title in our newsroom. They have varying years of experience here at the Times, and they come to the Times with various levels of prior experience – some after many years with other major news organizations. And they each bring individual talents, performance and contributions to their roles.
We have asked the Guild for detailed information about the methodologies and factors that it considered and applied in its pay study, so that we can better understand the Study and evaluate the Guild’s assessment of generalized and individualized pay differences. That information is especially important as we prepare for the start of negotiations for a first labor contract that will address, among other things, wages for unit employees. In the meantime, we will continue our efforts to produce outstanding journalism for the national audiences and California communities we serve – through the increasingly diverse voices and talents in our newsroom.
Editor In Chief
Los Angeles Times
That brought an immediate response from reporter and guild leader Sarah Parvini.
We received an ~interesting~ email responding to the @latguild pay study that showed widespread pay inequity at the paper. I can’t speak for the guild, but as a journalist of color I feel the need to point out a few things. Bear with me. pic.twitter.com/LS2Bta3g0A— Sarah Parvini 🦅 (سارا) (@sarahparvini) April 26, 2018
By the way, nothing new yet on the deal to transfer the paper into the hands buyer-in-progress Soon-Shiong, or the long-term status of Kirk under new ownership. Kirk was hired by the Tronc executive team — twice.
Here's the guild memo to members earlier.