Comebacks for the pay transparency naysayers

Scripts to move the conversation forward on pay equity in journalism

By on August 9, 2022

The pressure is on for newsrooms to become more transparent with employees about pay. Pay transparency can help build trust, close the gender gap and increase retention. Getting there can look different for each organization. But whatever the approach, there are enough feasible pathways and in 2022, it’s time to toss out the same old uninventive excuses that get in the way of progress.

In a SRCCON 2022 session hosted by the Vision25 collaboration, participants completed a series of exercises to compile comebacks for people making excuses for not implementing pay transparency. Vikkie Walker, Freelance Travel Reporter and Special Correspondent to the U.S. South for Afar Media, and Diana López, Program Coordinator at the Online News Association, co-facilitated the session — the first of a three-part series on pay equity that Vision25 is hosting this year.

If you’ve ever tried to talk about salaries in your newsroom and it didn’t go the way you hoped, take a look at how other journalists have responded to some of the most common excuses:

Salary is private information

  • “Not for me.”
  • “A lack of transparency limits our ability to root out bias within ourselves and the institution.”
  • “Who decided that policy? Have we asked everyone else who works here if they want their salaries kept private?”

It’s complicated

Having good references at hand can go a long way towards making the case that it’s not that complicated and we need to do it.

We start all managers at this salary level

  • “Just because it’s the way it’s always been done, doesn’t mean we have to keep doing it.”
  • “We need to adapt to our current needs.”
  • “​​I don’t believe anyone thinks that everyone should be paid the same regardless of their level of responsibility and experience. But we want access to basic information about salary ranges and how they are determined.”

It will distract from discussions about the news if we’re worrying about what everyone makes

  • “It is more distracting having to worry about how you’re going to pay rent.”
  • “Organizing a union is also going to distract us, so salary transparency is perhaps an easier path.”

We don’t have the budget

  • “How about we do an experiment with a small team first posting salaries and making adjustments to budgets?”
  • “How about we cut down on some of the extra events and off-site activities?”


  • In public media, go to the board to ask for higher salaries
  • Make the equity argument, especially if your organization has posted a DEI statement.

What kind of organizing and reporting could journalists accomplish if all were given fair wages and resources? In the second installment of this pay equity series — coming this Thursday, Aug. 11, 3 p.m. EDT — we look beyond excuses to dive into newsroom strategies. The conversation will feature Media2070, an organization that has exposed the daily fight for fair wages through their documentary on Black journalist Elizabeth Montgomery’s struggle to pay rent or buy groceries on the salary she received working for a major U.S. newsroom.

Register now for Pay Equity Series: Part Two with Media 2070



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Diana López

Diana López

Diana is responsible for coordinating programs, resources, volunteers and community initiatives at the Online News Association.