Veteran journalists of color reflect on their experience fighting pay gaps in their newsrooms

Rebecca Aguilar, president of SPJ, speaks with Taylor Cobb, right, at the NABJ-NAHJ Convention and Career Fair in Las Vegas, Nev., on Friday, August 05, 2022.

LAS VEGAS — Despite years of internal advocacy, journalists of color are still facing pay disparities in their newsrooms. 

At the 2022 National Association of Black Journalists and National Association of Hispanic Journalists convention in Las Vegas this week, reporters reflect on their experience and say they will continue fighting for better pay.  

Over 4,300 are attending this year’s conference — some of them have been in the industry for more than 30 years. 

Rebecca Aguilar is the President of the Society of Professional Journalists and is forty-one years strong in the industry. 

“My first TV station in Toledo, Ohio, I was making nothing money,” Aguilar said. “I think I made like $14,000, part-time.”

Not a lot has changed since then.

In 2021, a survey conducted to reporters by The NewsGuild-Communication Workers of America found “women and journalists of color make $15,000 less than most white men.”

Aguilar said she realized she was being taken advantage of, but took it as paying her dues and gaining experience. 

“But the more experience you have, the more confidence you build, the more you’re going to be more demanding,” Aguilar said.

Negotiation is key, she added.

But Aguilar said there’s a deeper issue in newsrooms across the country.

“The problem is you have a lot of white bosses who have not looked at us as equals,” Aguilar said. “And so the value — or valuing us — is less.”

In the beginning of his career, Jarrad Henderson had to work multiple jobs to make ends meet. Henderson is the Academic Representative of the National Association of Black Journalists. 

“I felt like I wanted to grow, I wanted to develop, but the dollars just weren’t there,” he said.

And for many journalists this is still the case, Henderson said.

But he said NABJ and NAHJ continue to advocate for the equity and equality that journalists deserve.

“NABJ and NAHJ will continue to be the forethought and leaders in this space because of how we value journalists,” Henderson said.

Alexandra Mora Medina graduated from Arizona State University this year and will pursue a master’s degree in bilingual journalism next fall. She’s written about sustainability and voting issues. She’s interested in working as an audio and podcasting reporter. Reach her at mora [dot] alexandra [dot] 17 [at] gmail [dot] com and on Twitter @AlexMoraMedina.

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