Dylan Byers and Maggie Haberman reported earlier today that, according to unnamed sources, Chelsea Clinton made $600,000 a year in her position as a special correspondent at NBC News. Twitter lit up with outraged reactions from journalists, a majority of them men. That's not coincidental.
I really want to see a Meet the Press roundtable with Luke Russert, Chelsea Clinton, Jenna Bush and Megan McCain #NBCAmericanMeritocracy— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) June 13, 2014
Inspiring story of how one young woman rose from humble origins as Bill Clinton's daughter to make $600,000 at MSNBC http://t.co/mPzykH0Lcg— Tom Gara (@tomgara) June 13, 2014
This is outrageous. How much real journalism could be done on $600K a year? http://t.co/jZxxexPAwL— Wesley Lowery (@WesleyLowery) June 13, 2014
Yes, $600,000 could pay for a lot more journalism than Clinton has produced at NBC, but how much real journalism could be done by all the female journalists who aren’t being hired? The mockery in these tweets sounds like sour grapes—journalists are notoriously bitter on the subject of income—and the suggestion that Chelsea’s paycheck was undeserved is a rather tone-deaf joke in the wake of Jill Abramson’s firing and subsequent reports of pay inequity at the New York Times.
Journalism is plagued by a serious gender problem: Just over a third of bylines and on-camera appearances go to women, and virtually all major American newspapers and wire services feature a majority of articles by men. Even female journalists who have made it to the top of the field know it's not a level playing field. As Susan Glasser, editor of Politico Magazine, wrote recently, "There are shockingly few women at the top anywhere in America, and it's a deficit that's especially pronounced in journalism, where women leaders remain outliers, category-defying outliers who almost invariably still face a comeuppance." In the United States as a whole, gender-based pay inequity remains unacceptably high.
Let's not pretend to be shocked that the daughter of two of America’s most prominent citizens is profiting from an increasingly celebrity-driven media market. Blame NBC, which apparently felt Clinton was worth that much; blame journalism at large, a struggling industry that's desperately trying to keep the public's attention; or blame our culture's obsession with fame and dynasty. But don't blame Chelsea Clinton. Her impressive paycheck, deserved or not, is a step toward balancing the scale.