That Thing You Do

Every now and then, I like to bore people with one of my rants about media literacy.

The Times Union recently published a story about the rise in six-figure salaries for New York school employees. Then they went ultralocal and published a blog post listing the 44 Bethlehem school employees earning more than $100-thousand per year.

It’s a small town. One of the top earners lives down the street and I’ve met several of the others.

The question: why do they print things like that?

Sure, it’s public information, and yes, we have a right to know, but the TU’s motive in publishing it is far from being a public service. They do it because everybody wants to read the names, regardless of their opinion about the salaries. Some people will be outraged that school employees they get paid so much and others will think they deserve every cent, but everyone wants to know what other people earn. It’s always interesting.

Look, printing things that people want to read is a newspaper’s job, but don’t mistake it for serving the good of the community. That’s a childish and naive notion — and one that you often hear from newspaper people.

Why can’t they be more like plumbers? You don’t hear plumbers saying that they do their work to contribute to the betterment of public sanitation, allowing us to live as clean and healthy people. No, there are no lofty pronouncements; they proudly do it because it’s a business. To say anything else, as my father the plumber would put it, is bullshit.

Like plumbers, the people at the newspaper get paid for their work. That’s why they do it. Well, except for the bloggers, but that’s a different post.

2 responses to “That Thing You Do

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *