April 27, 2021

Indiana Newspaper Unions Pressure Owners To Address Race and Gender Wage Gaps

Original story from   IPBS-RJC

Article origination IPBS-RJC
The front cover of the Indianapolis Star, one of the Indiana newspapers owned by Gannett.  - Samantha Horton/IPB News

The front cover of the Indianapolis Star, one of the Indiana newspapers owned by Gannett.

Samantha Horton/IPB News

Journalists at the Indianapolis Star and the South Bend Tribune are criticizing corporate owner Gannett for race and gender pay gaps. They say the disparities were uncovered when 14 unionized papers analyzed combined wage data to publish a nationwide study

The Newsguild-Communications Workers of America union says nationally, Gannett paid long-time female employees a median salary of about $27,000 less than their male counterparts. Meanwhile, journalists of color reported median earnings 10 percent less than white journalists.

At the Indianapolis Star alone, women journalists made 80 percent of men's median salary – a difference of about $12,000 – while workers of color made 97 percent of their white peers' pay. The South Bend Tribune union found its male journalists made more than $6,000 more than female writers. Both newspapers had staff that were more white than the communities they cover.

Tyler James, sports writer at the South Bend Tribune and chair of the South Bend NewsGuild, says those pay disparities make it harder to attract and keep journalists at newspapers like the South Bend Tribune.

“The whole point of diversity on a newspaper staff is to reflect the community,” James said. “That’s how you tell the stories that matter and that’s how you find people who need to be held accountable in the community. This is an example of us trying to hold our own company accountable.”

Gannett did not reply to a request for comment, but told one outlet the study was “misleading” and they “strongly disagreed” with the findings. 

Natalia Contreras, reporter for the IndyStar and the Indianapolis Newspaper Guild president, said she finds the response ironic because the analysis was done by notable data journalists in the company. 

“When we as journalists hold people in positions of power accountable, this happens,” she said. “So it’s just another day in a journalist’s world when we hear something like that.”

Contreras said they did the study because the company never conducted a company-wide pay study internally, despite multiple requests. That's one of the actions union members are calling on the company to take in order to erase the pay gaps and help attract and retain journalists from underrepresented groups in the future.

Gannett owns over a dozen local and regional newspapers in Indiana. Only two were represented in the study because they had access to employee wages as part of collective bargaining negotiations. 

Contact reporter Justin at jhicks@wvpe.org or follow him on Twitter at @Hicks_JustinM.

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