When journalists want to talk among themselves about something difficult, the anonymous Google Doc seems to have become the mechanism. First there was the “Shitty Media Men” document, whichwas circulated in 2017, and eventually grew into a long list of alleged sexual harassers, working at some of the leading media outlets in the country. Today there is a document circulating in which journalists are being encouraged toshare the detailsof their salaries (Note: CJR hasn’t verified any of the information independently).
You might think talking about salaries would be a lot less contentious than naming sexual abusers, but what people get paid has always been a touchy subject in the media business. That is in part because it dredges up all sorts of awkward and uncomfortable issues like lower pay for women and people of color (something a recentWashington Postsalary survey) confirmed is still a problem), and because it reinforces just how low salaries are across the industry, for almost everyone.
A web producer forWirecutter, the consumer review site now owned by theNew York Times, makes just $ 45, 000,according to the list. An editor at the same site with three years of experience has a salary of only $ 62, 000. For a job based in New York City, that seems barely livable. A deputy editor with theTimeswith 15 years experience reported makes $ 145, 000, but those kinds of figures are the exception rather than the rule. A senior video producer atUSA Todaymakes just $ 50, 000.
Journalists doing anonymous journalism about journalism, in the shape of Google docs, is a new development in form. And examples like the SMM list definitely bring upethical implicationsthat should be considered. But in the long run, we would probably all be better off if the salary list sparked a healthy conversation about who is paying whom how much, and for what.
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Mathew Ingram is CJR’s chief digital writer. Previously, he was a senior writer withFortunemagazine. He has written about the intersection between media and technology since the earliest days of the commercial internet. His writing has been published in theWashington Postand theFinancial Timesas well as by Reuters and Bloomberg.