I'm in a private Slack with some other media/journalist people, and someone brought up the idea of pay transparency. After all: if you don't know what your colleagues are being paid, it's hard to negotiate for a fair rate. We're all conditioned to believe that our financials should be private, but as far as salaries are concerned, that secrecy only ever tends to work in favor of your employer.
So this particular someone made a Google Form and a corresponding spreadsheet where journalists and other media professionals could anonymously add their salary information. And in barely 24 hours, it's spread to CJR and Bloomberg and even inspired Mike Cernovich to go off on some completely unsubstantiated rant to set off his army of loyal trolls because apparently all journalists are scum and also trustfund babies even though there isn't any proof of that (and I can personally assure you that my personal information is on that list and that my public school teacher mom and print salesman dad are not rolling in the dough).
As of this writing, more than 200 people have responded. On one hand, it is admittedly difficult to verify the claims contained within the data. On the other hand, there's still lots of eye-opening information to glean. Unsurprisingly, there are pay disparities across race and gender; but the same thing happens across geographic location, and work experience. Perhaps the most shocking revelation so far is just the absurd range of income of people working in news media. There are people making $33K in Iowa, who are jealous of those living off of $52K in New York City, plus some surprising outlets that pay remarkably well. And of course, there are a few wild outliers, like the podcast producer making $400K at Vox Media (I don't know who that is, but I have my suspicions).
Granted, there are better ways we could have compiled this list—for maximum accuracy, and to make it easier to verify. But the more data that goes into these things, the easier it is to identify—and thus, target—the individual journalists who have submitted their information. So it's a catch-22. Overall, it's still surprisingly enlightening, and can hopefully inspire some greater conversations about pay parity in the future. If nothing else, it'll help people understand that working in news media really isn't all that glamorous.
Image via cogito ergo imago/Flickr