Study shows pay disparities for women and journalists of color as high as $27,000 at Gannett

A first-of-its-kind pay equity study of 14 Gannett newsrooms reveals stark pay disparities for women and journalists of color and a workforce whiter than the communities they cover.

The study of nearly 450 employees, conducted by NewsGuild-CWA members, also shows that unions make a difference. Unionized newsrooms with pay scales in their contracts had significantly smaller gender and racial pay gaps than newly organized units with no contracts yet in place, the report shows. With more than 250 publications, Gannett is the largest newspaper chain in the country.

Key findings:

  • Women who worked at least 30 years at newspapers currently owned by Gannett earned $27,026 less, or 63% the annual median salary of male peers.
  • Women of color earned $15,726 less, or 73% of white men’s median salary.
  • Women earned $9,845 less, or 83% of men’s median salary.
  • Women 50-60 years old earned $6,642 less, or 90% the median salary of men in the same age range. The gap grew to $10,677 when including part-timers.
  • Journalists of color earned $5,246 less, or 90% of the white median salary.
  • Experienced female journalists and journalists of color were rare. Men outnumbered women age 30 and above, or with at least 10 years at the company, by about 2 to 1. White journalists outnumbered journalists of color age 40 and above, or with at least 10 years of service, by more than 4 to 1.
  • Thirteen of 14 newsrooms were whiter than the communities they covered. Only the Knoxville News Sentinel was more diverse than its county.
  • The Arizona Republic was the most diverse newsroom but had the largest gender and racial pay gaps. Women made nearly $30,000 less in median wages than men. People of color earned about $25,000 less in median wages than white employees.
  • Unionizing improves pay equity. Newsrooms with union contracts had a gender pay gap that was $6,846 smaller and a racial pay gap that was $5,443 smaller than newsrooms currently negotiating first contracts.

The study included searing testimonials.

“I remember the punched-in-the-gut feeling I had the moment I learned that a young male reporter with just a few years of experience had nearly the exact same salary that I had, despite my two decades as a working journalist.”

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel journalist

“There is always an excuse when I ask to be paid equally to those with my same experience level. Don’t use my skin for your diversity. My skin made me work twice as hard to be here so I deserve to earn twice as much as you can afford. I could at least get even.”

Arizona Republic journalist

NewsGuild members have conducted pay equity studies at a variety of publications for years, but believe this is the first time a study has been released for multiple units across a newspaper chain. “By combining data, small newsrooms that would not have been able to conduct pay studies on their own were able to participate,” the report says.

The Guilds Gannett Caucus is asking supporters to sign a letter to management urging them to “fix the pay disparities that exist now and create policies to eliminate future disparities in order to improve diverse hiring and retention of people from underrepresented groups.” The letter will be sent to top leadership at Gannett, top editors of the newsrooms represented in the study, as well as leaders of employee resource groups at the company.

“I want to see more people of color and more experienced women of color in leadership roles at Gannett. More needs to be done to retain us and promote us. We need to pay fair wages and mentor journalists of color with purpose to retain them and inspire young journalists. This report shows Gannett has a lot of work to do.”

Natalia Contreras, Indianapolis Star reporter and president of the Indianapolis NewsGuild Local 34070

“We participated in this study because open conversations about pay help everyone. This report shows that the company cannot write off the concerns that women and journalists of color have about pay inequity. If Gannett truly wants to support diverse newsrooms, there is no other place to start than making sure people are fairly compensated.”

Devi Shastri, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporter and president of the Milwaukee Newspaper Guild Local 51

“Data journalists from across Gannett collaborated on this 9-month project. We gave the pay equity report as much care and consideration as we do our deepest, award-winning journalism to ensure its accuracy and impact.”

Justin Price, data reporter for The Arizona Republic and member of the Arizona Republic Guild Local 39213

Gannett pledges diversity, but doesn’t back it up with pay

A company report found that in 2020 Gannett’s executive team was 84% white and 73% male, while its newsrooms were 58% male and 79% white. (Similarly, the NewsGuild study of 14 newsrooms found 59% of employees were male and 78% were white.)

Gannett pledged to hire and promote more women and employees of color to reflect national and local demographics in the workforce, and wrote that “inclusion, diversity and equity are core to our business,” and all employees should have “equal opportunities to thrive.” CEO Mike Reed said he wanted the company wanted to become “a leader not just in what we do, but who we are as a company.”

However, the report didn’t promise to ensure fair pay or correct pay gaps. And though the company touted its commitment to transparency, Gannett has never publicly released a pay equity study.

The NewsGuild’s study says, “We believe our 14 newsrooms are not outliers but examples of the problems with, and potential solutions to, pay equity across Gannett.

Key recommendations

Guild members are calling on Gannett to:

  • Release anonymized pay data for the entire company, broken down by location, department, job title, years at the company, age, gender and race. Additional data, such as sexual orientation, military service, educational attainment or religion, is welcome.
  • Take swift action to eliminate pay disparities, including back pay.
  • Raise the starting salary to a living wage and implement pay scales based on experience companywide.
  • Create policies and ongoing reviews to improve hiring and retention of people from underrepresented groups, as well as to eliminate future pay disparities.
  • Voluntarily recognize and bargain in good faith with employees that unionize.

Read the press release.