View all newsletters
Sign up for our free email newsletters

Fighting for quality news media in the digital age.

  1. Comment
February 14, 2023

Why pay transparency could help with journalism’s class and nepotism problem

'Nepo babies' are the latest journalism hot topic - but class is even more important.

By Charlotte Tobitt

Nepotism isn’t the biggest problem facing UK journalists – it’s class. 

Press Gazette reported last year that working class representation in journalism had reached a record low, with 80% coming from professional and upper class backgrounds – double the proportion in the general workforce (42%). 

The continuing use of early-career unpaid internships, low pay and low freelance rates that can take months to be paid mean the media is an easier place to join if you have family money behind you. This is especially crucial now due to the pressures of the cost of living crisis. 

Nepotism is indeed a specific issue for the journalism industry though, and one that Press Gazette has been writing about decades. 

“There is a long tradition of children following their parents into journalism,” the late Carol Sarler wrote in 2005. “Nothing beats networking, except perhaps nepotism,” we quoted media trainer Chris Wheal as saying in 2008. And in 2010 we wrote: “News of the World executives were guilty…of nepotism at least it seems.” 

Select and enter your email address Weekly insight into the big strategic issues affecting the future of the news industry. Essential reading for media leaders every Thursday. Your morning brew of news about the world of news from Press Gazette and elsewhere in the media. Sent at around 10am UK time. Our weekly does of strategic insight about the future of news media aimed at US readers. A fortnightly update from the front-line of news and advertising. Aimed at marketers and those involved in the advertising industry.
  • Business owner/co-owner
  • CEO
  • COO
  • CFO
  • CTO
  • Chairperson
  • Non-Exec Director
  • Other C-Suite
  • Managing Director
  • President/Partner
  • Senior Executive/SVP or Corporate VP or equivalent
  • Director or equivalent
  • Group or Senior Manager
  • Head of Department/Function
  • Manager
  • Non-manager
  • Retired
  • Other
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how Progressive Media Investments may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
Thank you

Thanks for subscribing.

The topic has now had a rebrand – calling out those who may have been helped into the industry by family or family friends as “nepo babies”, as coined on social media and given a wide platform by New York Magazine’s Vulture piece in December on the same phenomenon in Hollywood. 

Content from our partners
Slow online ads cost UK publishers £50m a year: Here's how to fix them
Mather Economics and InsurAds combine to help publishers boost revenue
Press Gazette publishes ultimate guide to reader conversion and monetisation

Media commentator Mic Wright has since created a map containing about 50 partial family trees of well-known British journalists ranging from obvious and genuine connections – Times columnist Giles Coren for example, whose father Alan was a well-known Times columnist – to somewhat unfair conclusions – The Guardian’s Amelia Gentleman and Radio 1’s Greg James hardly got their careers because of their spouses’ families. 

The map features the Queen Consort’s son, food critic Tom Parker-Bowles, but the issue of journalism being the preserve of a privileged elite is much more widespread than just the royalty (of the real and media kind) shown here.

The news industry needs to focus on how to keep the best people regardless of their backgrounds, if it is going to continue to serve a diverse audience. One way it can do this is pay transparency. 

Insider has shared the minimum salaries of all editorial roles in its UK newsroom with staff (and now, via Press Gazette, with the wider public). No one there is earning less than £35,000 while senior editors earn at least £60,000. 

Meanwhile a new law in New York City and California requires all employers to publish a salary range in job adverts.

[Read more: $185k for a media editor? New York and California journalist salaries charted]

Transparency like this is important because it opens the industry up. It tells people what they can expect and when. It lets people plan within their means. This could be one step towards helping working class journalists into the industry, meaning we can better tell stories from certain sectors of society and build trust with a wider demographic. 

It also ensures a feeling of fairness. Much goodwill was lost, for example, within the BBC during its equal pay row a few years ago. 

Pay transparency can be a useful factor in improving levels of attracting and retaining strong candidates of all backgrounds to the team, according to the Harvard Business Review.

News UK’s head of early talent Mark Hudson made the case to the NCTJ’s equality, diversity and inclusion conference in November that retention is a “massive challenge” and publishers are “haemorrhaging some of the brightest brains in this industry”. 

This indicates the urgency of pursuing anything that can provide a level playing field and ensure we work in a meritocracy in which people feel both satisfied and appreciated. Pay transparency is one way to do this. 

Topics in this article : ,

Email pged@pressgazette.co.uk to point out mistakes, provide story tips or send in a letter for publication on our "Letters Page" blog

Select and enter your email address Weekly insight into the big strategic issues affecting the future of the news industry. Essential reading for media leaders every Thursday. Your morning brew of news about the world of news from Press Gazette and elsewhere in the media. Sent at around 10am UK time. Our weekly does of strategic insight about the future of news media aimed at US readers. A fortnightly update from the front-line of news and advertising. Aimed at marketers and those involved in the advertising industry.
  • Business owner/co-owner
  • CEO
  • COO
  • CFO
  • CTO
  • Chairperson
  • Non-Exec Director
  • Other C-Suite
  • Managing Director
  • President/Partner
  • Senior Executive/SVP or Corporate VP or equivalent
  • Director or equivalent
  • Group or Senior Manager
  • Head of Department/Function
  • Manager
  • Non-manager
  • Retired
  • Other
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how Progressive Media Investments may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
Thank you

Thanks for subscribing.

Websites in our network