Therein lies the root of the evil that Perez is trying to exorcize. It’s not that the literary world arbitrarily decided to cede all its power to white Brooklyn ladies. It’s that white Brooklyn ladies are the only ones who can afford to be in the literary world. Perez is right that the obsession with elevating marginalized voices only extends to voices who are reciting the expected talking points. He’s also right that the literature of quiet masculine despair is out of style right now (though I predict it will come back around). But he’s off when he says the publishing houses don’t want to hire black female editors and other actual “marginalized” people. On the contrary, the houses would love to hire any such person, almost regardless of their competence level.
But people from marginalized backgrounds don’t go into publishing. They can’t afford to. Working in publishing requires being paid a salary that is not at all commensurate with your education level and cost of living. Being a senior-level editor requires wearing nice clothes and living in or near one of the most expensive cities in the country while, in many cases, earning less money than a postal carrier in Cleveland. It often requires breaking into the business by doing an unpaid internship and then taking an entry-level job that requires supplemental income from your parents. There are exceptions, of course (there are always exceptions). But by and large, if you are the first generation in your family to go to college, you are not going to become a book editor or a literary agent. You are not going to get an MFA or run an indie literary journal like Hobart, much less be a (probably unpaid) editor at one so that you can quit in protest and then tweet about it. You’re going to get an engineering degree or go to law school.
— Meghan Daum, “Who Killed Creative Writing?”
If journalists once fought the powerful on behalf of the powerless, in twenty-first century America, they are the powerful. While the average pay for a journalism job is quite low at around $40,000 a year, that’s because entry-level jobs pay so little; at the higher levels, journalists now make quite a bit more than the average American. More importantly, journalists now have social and cultural power, and they are overwhelmingly the children of economic elites. After all, to even be able to make it on $30,000 a year while living in the most expensive cities in America (the only ones left with a functioning journalism industry, thanks to the rise of the Internet and the collapse of local newspapers), you have to come from a family with enormous economic privilege who can help you out. Once a blue-collar trade, journalism has become something akin to an impenetrable caste. And what journalists have done with that power, perhaps inadvertently, is to wage a cultural battle that enhances their own economic interests against a less-educated and struggling American working class.
— Batya Ungar-Sargon, Bad News: How Woke Media is Undermining Democracy