Jemele Hill’s incredible journey in the world of media hasn’t always been easy.
During her recent interview on Revolt TV’s Assets Over Liabilities, the journalist revealed that she cut her teeth at local news outlets for little to no money before she became famous.
Hill landed her first news job with the Detroit Free Press answering phones for the sports department, and from there, things slowly took off.
“I’ve always had a job writing. I’m just very fortunate,” she told the show’s hosts Rashad Bilal and Troy Millings.
While exciting, Hill knew it was going to take a lot of work to make a living off of her career.
“Journalism is very much a ‘working class’ profession, especially on a local level,” she said. “I thought I would be winning the game if I made $50,000. ‘If I made 50 grand, I’m out here ballin!’” she laughed.
With hard work and determination, the podcast host joined ESPN in 2006 as a columnist and climbed up the ranks, eventually landing appearances on shows like Outside the Lines, First Take and SportsCenter, where she ultimately became a co-anchor alongside Michael Smith in February 2017.
“It wasn’t until I got to ESPN that I really got serious about the business side of journalism because I got to see what people made. I was like, ‘Oh, that’s possible?!’ ESPN forced me to really grow up because it’s a different game being played at that level than it is at the previous places I had been,” she explained. “This is the first time I had an agent and the first time I really had to learn how to manage my money.”
Hill says she was severely underpaid during her tenure with ESPN
However, Hill quickly learned the inequality that can come with being a woman in a male-dominated industry like sports journalism. The “Stick to Sports” host said during her first year, she made “$200,000 less” than her co-host Smith, despite “doing the same job.”
“It’s not so much about what you’re worth, it’s about what you will negotiate,” she continued. “I started at ESPN at such a low salary to begin with. One of those, ‘We’ll see how it works kind of contracts. A 2-and-2 contract: two-year deal with a two-year option, one of the worst contracts I ever signed.”
According to the star, during her first year, she made $120,000, but a chunk of her salary went towards paying taxes and her health insurance because she was an independent contractor with the company.
“The lesson that I learned, you can’t sell out for a name,” she said.
During her tenure with the network, Hill was often criticized for speaking openly about her political and social opinions. In 2017, the star was placed on a two-week suspension after she took to Twitter criticizing Dallas Cowboy’s owner Jerry Jones for mistreating NFL players and their right to protest against the flag.
“Jerry Jones also has created a problem for his players, specifically the black ones. If they don’t kneel, some will see them as sellouts,” the since-deleted tweet read, according to CNN.
A year, later Hill left her role at SportsCenter, but things turned out to be good for the star.
She received a nice severance package on her way out and eventually landed her dream job with The Atlantic where she would go on to build her real “empire.”
“I linked up with Spotify to build a podcast network for Black women and that is Black woman-run. I can hit the speaking engagement circuit in a real way. So, essentially I traded in one job for seven different jobs,” Hill laughed, before adding:
“In a way, it opened me up to more streams of income … every job that I have now is a job that I want and not a job that I need.”
Jemele Hill’s story serve’s as a great reminder… never settle for less!
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