From the Fort comes word my alma mater just instituted a six percent pay cut, as well as a sharp reduction in 401K matches. I don’t know any more than that — this information was gleaned through instant message — but if true, they got off easy. Alan quipped, “So, they give back three years of raises,” a comment on the miserly wages paid there, but we’ve been gone five years, and I’d place a fair-size bet that meets-standards raises haven’t even seen two percent over the last few years. Coupled with the usual sharp increases in health-care cost sharing, it’s perfectly reasonable to assume that a person who hasn’t been promoted in the last few years has been going backward for some time now. This is just an acceleration. Well, as we always told the job applicants: The cost of living is so low! And many of the groceries will triple your coupons!
What’s more interesting to me is the 401K match. We know we’re responsible for our own retirement, that we must save throughout our careers to avoid eating Cat Food Surprise in our golden years. Fortunately, tax policy favored the 401K, and our employers sweetened the deal by tossing in a modest match. I’ve heard tell of media companies that matched 100 percent of your 401K contribution, but I never worked for one. The best I ever got was 50 percent if you saved six percent, and nothing after that — three percent, basically.
At a small paper in the Knight Ridder chain, people moved through pretty quickly, and it was interesting to hear how the policies varied from paper to paper. I was amazed to hear that at some places, the 401K match was made in company stock, no exceptions. Given that you can’t spend your 401K before retirement without paying a stiff penalty, and given that the company’s stock is now worthless, I wonder how the people who were stuck with that deal are faring, particularly considering the rest of the package is worth a lot less, too.
Considering how much crap you take doing the work of journalism — I’ve been called everything from a bleeding cunt to a fucking jackal — you’d hope the compensation package would at least ease some of the pain, the way it does in, oh, the legal profession. You would be wrong. Any half-bright bartender or waitress can out-earn a college-educated reporter in many media markets.
So, anyway, my sympathies to my former colleagues. Here’s hoping the cuts are at least across-the-board, but it wouldn’t surprise me if they weren’t. You have to pay for the talent at the top, after all.
So. The Detroit newspapers got another data dump from the Kwame Kilpatrick text-message archives, and it’s the same old story, underlined: Heedless, immature, power-drunk young politician sees world as his oyster, acts accordingly. He is enabled by everyone he comes in contact with, including his mother, who helpfully reminds him YOU ARE CHOSEN, all-caps, and I don’t think she was using “chosen” as a synonym for “elected.” His wife was no shrinking violet, either:
Part of that alleged sense of entitlement was revealed when first lady Carlita Kilpatrick complained she wasn’t getting a city-leased Lincoln Navigator fast enough. “Any word on my Navigator?” she asked in a June 12, 2002, text message. The city’s leasing of a Lincoln Navigator for Kilpatrick’s wife became a major controversy. By Sept. 18, 2002, the mayor’s wife still hadn’t gotten the Navigator, and asked “Can I get my truck before the 2004s (models) are out?”
Well, I guess they all learned their lesson. Screw up, cost the city millions, do a little jail time (which serves as a weight-loss program) and then graduate to a fine, six-figure job with a staunch local supporter (in a Sun Belt city, so you can get that fresh-start thing working). I have a new ambition in life: To screw up like Kwame. Maybe I’d enjoy a warmer climate.
Rhinoviruses continue to lay me low. It’s concentrated between my chin and clavicle, so I spend my days rasping, croaking and, of course, complaining. However, I still have work to do, so any bloggage today will have to come from you.