March 29, 2017
The Wall Street Journal newsroom staff demands diversity
by Ryan Harrington
The time for increased diversity in publishing is long overdue. And many corners of the industry have devoted this particular moment to addressing the problem, with literary agents, book publishers, festivals, and authors rising to the occasion.
Members of the news media took their own giant leap on Tuesday, when a group of reporters and editors at the Wall Street Journal signed and delivered a letter to the company’s management concerning the lack of diversity in its newsroom.
According to Nathan McAlone at Business Insider (which got its hands on a copy of the document), the letter states, “Diversity in the newsroom is good for business and good for our coverage… We would like to see The Journal undertake a more comprehensive, intentional and transparent approach to improving it.” After detailing the conspicuous lack of women on the paper’s masthead, the letter concludes, “Nearly all the people at high levels at the paper deciding what we cover and how are white men.”
The progress-minded staffers—up to 160 of them, though that number is unconfirmed as of this writing—included a clear vision for how to reach their goals for both the demographic makeup of the newsroom and its editorial practices. Their suggestions:
- “A Rooney rule ensuring that women and minorities are considered in the slate of candidates for all leadership positions.”
- “A significant effort made to hire a woman in a masthead-level position overseeing news gathering and involved in setting the coverage agenda. Many of the women in leadership positions have the word ‘deputy’ in their title, including the deputy US News and Money & Investing editors.”
- “Manager training to address and dispel assumptions about what individuals want their career paths to look like. For example, parents of young children may be eager to do a stint abroad or a breaking-news beat. And we have typically had few women on beats such as economics and sports, despite interest among women in covering those beats.”
- “Greater flexibility for parents that still offers them the opportunity to move up the newsroom ladder.”
- “A review of how well we do in quoting women as expert sources, rather than just men, especially in economics and markets stories, along with a concerted effort by managers and reporters to diversify our source pools.”
- “A detailed report of salaries among reporters, editors and other newsroom roles, broken down by section or group (US News, our global regions, M&I, Life & Arts, etc.), by gender and by race/ethnicity, shared with staff.”
This is just the latest in a series of internal critiques at the Journal, which have accused the brass of being soft on Trump and perpetuating pay disparities among the staff.
Ryan Harrington is a senior editor at Melville House.