Friday, August 19, 2011

High Salaries for Celebrity Journalists

Apropos of my recent blog posts, I came across an article about the amazingly high salaries of the celebrity journalists who bring us the “news” in the major media outlets. The article is available at the link below.

On the very same day, I saw an article about desperate mothers in Kenya physically fighting other desperate mothers to get food for their starving children. As a mom myself, I couldn’t begin to imagine the horror of watching my own children starve before my eyes. That article is available at the link below.

I was talking recently with a colleague who mentioned that he could imagine I would be a real “Mama Grizzly” if anyone ever threatened my kids. When I read this article about the moms in Kenya, I thought about that “Mama Grizzly” comment. To the best of my recollection and with the possible exception of some minor naughtiness as a young child, I’ve never physically assaulted anyone. I cannot conceive of harming another human being like that. But if my children’s survival were at stake, I can imagine that might begin to be an option. It is horrifying to consider, but the love for one’s children is strong. It would kill me to see my children’s lives in danger and I would probably do just about anything to protect them. It would fly in the face of every value I embrace and I would hate myself. But the anguish of watching your child waste away is unthinkable.

The irony of the two stories appearing at the same time struck me. I don’t begrudge anyone good fortune and a windfall. There will always be people who earn outrageous salaries while others live in deprivation. These rich “journalists” are not alone in receiving such compensation.

But the services provided by these celebrity “journalists” is relatively cushy. They are in temperature regulated studios in places like Manhattan and Northwest D.C. They wear expensive suits and are well-coifed. They bathe regularly and have people who fuss over getting their make-up just right.

By comparison, the investigative journalists who bust their butts and often risk their lives to bring us the news from places of instability and violence are often unsung heroes. Tom Odula is the person who wrote the article above about mothers dealing with horrific drought in Kenya. Frankly, I’ve never heard of him before. I googled him and was not able to learn much. I could be wrong, but I’m assuming that he is making considerably less than Matt Lauer this year. However, to me, Mr. Odula is performing a much more important public service than Mr. Lauer’s hosting of the Today show.

I suppose the same sort of inequality exists in other professions. I began my professional life as a grade school teacher in an underfunded church school in a neglected part of town. The salary I earned that first year probably would have put me below the federal poverty level. The teachers at the best public schools on the other side of town made several times more than I did. Teachers at prestigious private schools in other more affluent communities also would have made many times more than I was making that first year.

When I was in practice as a lawyer, I was very fortunate and made more money than I could have ever imagined. Partners at big firms made a lot more, but I couldn’t complain. I made much more than the lawyers in my community who defended indigent clients to avoid deportation or incarceration. I also had a much nicer office in which to work.

Similarly, the plastic surgeons who play on the insecurities of various people perform tummy tucks and breast augmentations, for which they earn lucrative income. By contrast, the doctors who live in rural communities serving underserved populations often with substandard facilities live a much less opulent lifestyle.

I think it is interesting to note the way that market forces sometimes overcompensate services of lesser social value and undercompensate services of greater social value.

Galatians 5:13

You were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only don’t let this freedom be an opportunity to indulge your selfish impulses, but serve each other through love.

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