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Seven Black Journalists Sue the Chicago Tribune, Alleging "Pay Discrimination"

By: MMM Editorial Team

A group of seven Black journalists from the Chicago Tribune has filed a lawsuit against the newspaper's owner, Alden Global Capital, and Tribune Publishing Co., alleging systemic pay discrimination. The suit, which seeks class-action status, highlights significant pay disparities affecting women and Black employees compared to their white and male counterparts.

The plaintiffs—Madeline Buckley, Stacey Wescott, Terrence James, Colleen Kujawa, Deanese Williams, Darcel Rockett, and Christy Gutowski—are prominent figures within the Tribune, collectively representing over 50 individuals who claim they've been underpaid by thousands of dollars annually.

The complaint states that the Tribune's practice of determining salaries based on past pay perpetuates existing inequalities, as women and Black journalists often come from lower-paying jobs at smaller papers​.

Additionally, the lawsuit criticizes the Tribune's reliance on diversity recruitment programs as a source of "cheap labor," where minority journalists are hired into temporary positions at lower wages. In contrast, white male employees are frequently recruited from major news organizations and offered higher salaries​ (Insurance Journal)​​ (Pew Research Center)​.

The plaintiffs are seeking back pay, damages, and an injunction to ensure fair compensation practices moving forward.

"I am absolutely not surprised that something like this could happen," said Venneikia Williams, Media 2070 Campaign Manager. "Back in 2022, Media 2070 release a film called Black in the Newsroom and we told the story of Liz Montgomery and the things she faced in her newsroom in Arizona as a reporter. We had an outpouring of stories of people saying that’s not uncommon. When we zoom out and look at the pay and inequity that forces Black journalists out of the newsroom, it's not surprising and, in our essay, we chronicle the history of media harm and the legacy of media resistance and Black resistance."

Attorney Michael Morrison, representing the journalists, emphasized that the case is about fundamental fairness and ensuring journalism is an attractive profession for diverse voices.

This lawsuit sheds light on broader issues of inequality within media organizations, underlining the importance of addressing pay disparities to retain talented journalists from diverse backgrounds

"The whole concept of media reparations is not that we're owed something but instead that something was taken and it should be given back," said Williams ."We should have Black narrative power thats rightfully ours. And we stand with the reporters at the Tribune because this is a scary thing to do but it's a necessary step in holding the Tribune, and many other similar papers, accountable."

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