Restoring faith in the media should begin with addressing the industry’s gender pay gap.
On one hand, we lament the mistrust that the public have in our profession. We stamp our feet and bemoan the ‘fake news’ pandemic and talk earnestly about bringing more integrity and balance to news. As trainees we learn that those qualities of integrity and balance are the very hallmark of good journalism. Together with a deep-seated fear that we’ll never work, we carry these sacred values with us throughout our careers. Here is where we come unstuck. Though we are taught to apply integrity and balance to our writing, there is a distinct lack of both in our wider industry particularly in the issue of equal pay.
There is something inherently unbalanced about an industry where 50 per cent of females earn less than £2400 per month while just 36 per cent of males fall into that same pay bracket. These figures come from a survey carried out by City University in 2016. The same survey revealed that 22 per cent of female journalists earn more than £4,000 per month as opposed to 36 per cent of males earning the same amount. It appears that though we strive for a righteousness in our published work, this fails translate to pay. Not much in life is black and white but integrity is. It is not selective - you either have integrity in all areas of journalism or you don’t have it all.
The annual Edelman Trust Barometer revealed that just 24 per cent of people trusted the media, down from 36 per cent in the previous year. The causes are many and may seem apparent. ‘Fake news’ is one explanation as is the broader societal mistrust of institutions. As an industry we have been presented with a unique opportunity to take a very difficult look at our shortcomings. We should use this as a time to examine all of those areas where integrity is lacking in our profession, no matter how difficult and uncomfortable it might be.