Washington Gadfly

Wemple Discusses WaPo Pay Disparities Like Corporate Flack

Evan Gahr Investigative Journalist
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Last week, a non-newsroom WaPo employee denounced “systemic” racism at the paper, including white managers shrieking at her and other black subordinates with impunity.

She contended that media blogger Erik Wemple, who just rushed to cover a new race discrimination lawsuit against the New York Times, was loathe to criticize his own employer’s mistreatment of blacks, because he “does not want to poop where he eats.”

Well, perhaps stung by the criticism, Wemple on Monday, in fact, drop a small deuce where he eats.

Wemple reported on the new Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild study on race and gender pay disparaties at his paper.  Wow. After ignoring non-newsroom layoffs, a major race discrimination lawsuit against WaPo for nearly three years, a separate sexual harassment lawsuit, plus the settlement of a lawsuit that claimed management cooked circulation figures in the course of shafting independent contractors who distribute the paper to retailers, Wemple finally wrote something embarrassing about his own paper?

He is no longer a corporate toady?

Alas, Wemple’s headline sounded like something from the official WaPo PR blog. “Post management disputes guild’s methodology on pay-gap analysis.”

Usually, pro-forma corporate denials or spin in response to well-documented charges are placed at the bottom or middle of news stories.

His item started off with damaging information.

“One of the findings in a just-released salary analysis by the Washington-Baltimore NewsGuild could lift an eyebrow or two in journalistic circles: White male reporters at The Post out-earn all other reporters by an average of 20 percent:


“That chart outlines one of what the union terms “glaring examples of pay disparity” in the ranks of The Post, as reflected in numbers stemming from the 2014-2015 collective bargaining process. During those negotiations, the guild — whose bargaining unit includes approximately 850 employees in the newsroom and commercial sides of the paper — received salary data for every employee covered under its contract. It broke down the data by positions and drew comparisons on gender and race terms. Overall, the analysis discovered that men earn on average $89,932, to $76,804 for women. So women make about 86 percent of what men make, according to the guild’s numbers.”

Once he got all the bad stuff out there,  like crisis management experts advise clients,  Wemple started spinning for his employer.

Based on a Wall Street Journal analysis of gender pay gaps across many industries, that 86 percent number makes The Post look very average. Women working as “news analysts, correspondents and reporters,” found a Journal study, earn 86 percent of what their male counterparts earn in this industry. Percentages aside, men make a median income of $56,430 and women $48,597, according to the Journal. Census Bureau figures show that women working full time in the United States make 79 percent of what men make — a gap that results from an array of factors.”

Then he unquestioningly quoted the official Post party line.

“WaPo Post Deputy Managing Editor Tracy Grant cautions against placing too much credence in the numbers. ‘I think it’s unwise to look at the simple average or even the median because it doesn’t take into account such factors as experience, which any rigorous analysis of the data would include and which is information which The Post provides to the Guild. ‘Furthermore the broad median figures don’t account for the nature of the positions. Without examining experience and role, it’s hard to draw any conclusions from these numbers.'”

Basically, she made the standard argument, favored by conservatives, that race and gender pay gaps are due primarily to non-discriminatory factors.

Usually, WaPo opinion writers and reporters are not especially sympathetic to that kind of contention. But for some strange reason Wemple did not ask any follow-up questions.