H/T Blue Cheddar for bring this story to my attention:
In an era where politicians like Ron Johnson and Paul Ryan refuse to talk to anyone but the extreme right, and politicians like Rebecca Kleefisch and Paul Ryan refuse to debate their opponent, the era of transparency is eroding., This is a time when we need our media the most. Unfortunately, Gannetts media latest series attacking public workers under the ruse of more information to the public, is a wolf in sheep's clothing! I asked to speak to reporter Eric Litke about this series and, after he reviewed this blog, was turned down by editor Dan Flannery.
I was told that any and all questions were covered in the online chat. Before we get to that though, let's take a look at their justification Here is Flannery explaining the project:
Unfortunately Flannery starts out on a false basis, so lets help him correct it via an expansive Watchdog reporting effort from CogDis WI:
1. First they say they are getting salary information from all public workers because "we the taxpayers" are their employers!(Litke even used the term Boss: " We obviously aren't going to print addresses and phone numbers, but basic info like identities and salaries should be available to us like it would any boss.").
CD: That premise on its own is INCORRECT. Do we really think that we are the employers of the local math teacher? The law school professor at UW-Madison? the snowplow driver? Custodian at the Capitol? Am I in Madison the "Boss" of the person who works buildings and ground at UW- Stout? Of course not and this false premise is what has caused much division in this state.
I would not think that I needed to explain this to someone who has had 27 years experience in the newspaper industry but apparently I do. There is either a chain of command or there is chaos. " We the taxpayers" are the "boss" of the local elected representatives(say school board). The School Board is then in turn, the "boss" of the local administration, who is then the "boss" of the teaching staff.
The term Boss means in this context: a. An employer or a supervisor or b. One who makes decisions or exercises authority. Does Gannett really think that taxpayers do that with public employees or should? In our Constitutionally Limited democratic republic, we have a system of checks and balances in the government that is supposed to be in charge of making these decisions in a line flow basis. It is truly unfortunate that what passes as media did not understand that.
2. They say they have included all public employees: The result is a collection of more than 250,000 names, covering every Wisconsin public employee earning more than $25,000 in the most recent available fiscal year. The listing includes state, federal and U.S. Postal Service employees, as well as those who work in Wisconsin’s 72 counties; 91 cities, towns or villages with a population of 10,000 or more; 26 University of Wisconsin campuses; 16 technical and 424 public school districts.
CD: See who is noticeably missing? Elected officials and their staff of course, No sense in letting people know exactly how much money and how many staffers their elected officials have. These are the people who the taxpayers are, in theory, the Boss of! It might blow some of the arguments that the right has been using the last two years....now back to focusing on the kindergarten teachers...
3. Every Wisconsin public employee earning more than $25,000 in the most recent available fiscal year.
That is purely and simply because public workers making less than $25.000/yr do not fit the "public workers are overpaid" meme. When the general public wokers, who you know are doing an honorable job serving the public on a daily basis, then you find out they are not even making $25,000/yr, it really blows holes in the public workers are paid to much meme.
4. "We do point out pay differences between one area of the public sector Vs. another comparable area. That is our responsibility."
Again what is missing is education, years of education, extra credits, job descriptions, class sizes, classes taught, personnel reviews etc...(all of which are available via public records the same way the limited information they obtained and shared). They also fail to explain where they came up with their numbers for benefits costs.
5. How much do the reporters publishing public workers salaries make?
Eric Litke:Paul: I figured this question would come. :-) The simple answer is that I'm not a public employee, and the general public has no more right to know what I make than they do any other private worker. Public employees work for the taxpayers, so there is a direct taxpayer interest in what they are paid, since it's our money.
The answer of course is mind your own business, because the fact that advertising rates, subscription rates, the prices we have to pay at establishments that advertise their products in the paper, classified advertising rates, taxes they pay, deductions they take, etc... all are related to what Gannett pays their employees.
6. Since public workers have been demonized over the last two year, you know that people will use these numbers to harass and attack. Do you feel a little bad about that at all?
preese: We're here to educate and inform. If people use this data to make unfair, inflammatory statements, it doesn't seem fair to hold us accountable for that, does it?
Gannett is washing their hands of all responsibility for any consequences that come up from this online database. Which I am assuming includes if someone is trying to hide from a past abusive partner or spouse. We should also keep in mind that when "Verify the recall" put up a database of people who signed the petition to recall Scott Walker, it was Gannett themselves that used the information to harass their own employees!
FYI to all of the righties out there who love this, Gannett is also the company that released the names of all gun owners in NY!
Need some perspective? There was one small story written off of press releases when our Republican Congressional Delegation voted against Hurricane Sandy Relief!
Let's hope, for all of our sake, that our public workers are doing better at their job, than the people at Gannett . Let us also hope that our teachers are not as sloppy when working with our kids as the Gannett crew has been with working with the public workers information.
If you want to contact Mr. Flannery and ask him for accuracy in journalism:
920-993-1000, ext. 237.
If you are a subscriber, I would also highly recommend, calling up Customer Service and let them know that you would like to cancel your subscription:
For customer service call: 1-877-424-5639 (toll free).
Hours are Monday through Friday 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
The public have an insatiable curiosity to know everything. Except what is worth knowing. Journalism, conscious of this, and having tradesman-like habits, supplies their demands. ~Oscar Wilde