ESSAY: California media employs too many white guys (like me)

“I’m a reporter and you’re not.”

Odds are whatever third-party current event you’re consuming—whether it’s in a newspaper, on the radio or (shudder) television—was produced, packaged and broadcast by a college-educated white dude between the ages of 25 and 44.

Basically, someone like me.

That’s one of the high lowlights from a short report released this month by the California Research Bureau, which found that women are underrepresented and underpaid in the state’s media industry. (Please hold your gasps until the end.) The report doesn’t examine whether people of color are also underpaid, but they are underrepresented as well.

So, before I go any further, let me apologize for contributing to the lack of overall diversity by belonging to all those white-bread demos. If it makes you feel any better, I have a funny name that often gets me mistaken for a black Muslim.

Anyway, back to the report, which scatters interesting tidbits across all of two pages. It turns out California’s media landscape is slightly more weighted toward white (72 percent) men (64 percent) ages 25 to 44 (53 percent) with bachelor’s degrees (47 percent) than the state’s overall labor force. The media positions most rarely occupied by a woman include camera operators, engineers and announcers (all less than 20 percent female), as well as actors.

(Sacramento News & Review’s boutique-size editorial and design staff buck these figures by being 60 percent female and 33 percent employees of color, according to my math.)

Why are any of these figures important? Because the people who produce the news filter information through their own experiences, even when they don’t think they are. Without a diversity of voices in the media profession, the sound our industry makes is more akin to a sea of French horns honking loudly rather than a fully formed symphony.

The report hints at why this might all be. The positions with the flimsiest representation of women are also the ones with the biggest income gaps. A female camera operator or editor, for instance, averages $21,200 less a year than her male counterpart. Looking at my position, the average female writer makes $38,500, compared to the $54,000 raked in by her male equal. Now, considering my paycheck is closer to the former than it is to the latter, all I can say is, “Solidarity, sister!”

The occupation where virtually no income gap exists—technical writer—actually counts more women in the field than men.

Most enlightening to me is the report’s revelation that us media professionals make $14,000 more in median income than other working Californians. Holy crap. We actually get paid? Talk about burying the lead.

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