THURSDAY, JULY 20, 2017
Why can't we have frog-marches here: How weird is the New York Times? Consider this morning's news report concerning what the BBC pays its big famous stars.
Yesterday, the BBC published its "pay data" for the first time. In the New York Times report, Sewell Chan reports the salaries of some major news stars—but he reports the salaries in British pounds, making no real attempt to translate the salaries into dollars, which is what we use Over Here.
Would anyone but the New York Times be that arch, that clueless, that daft?
Briefly, let's be fair. Presumably, the Times adopted this approach because of their "take" on the data dump. Predictably, the Times was interested in possible "gender pay gap" implications of the BBC salaries, not in anything else.
Chan's reporting on that matter was rather unhelpful too. That said, we dream of the day when our big news orgs Over Here are forced to report the salaries they stuff in the pants of their own TV stars.
We dream of the day when annual salaries appear, by law, in flashing chyrons below the faces of our big cable stars. Once a month, we could even have "Frog-march Fridays."
The big stars would be paraded around, hands drawn back, big long signs recording their salaries draped around their necks. The way the BBC does!
Why would this be a good idea? As we've explained many times in the past, you can't have a middle-class democracy with a multimillionaire press corps. In part, here's why:
When journalists are paid $10 million per year, there's little chance that they will do sound journalistic work. When salaries go anywhere near that high, recipients know they're being paid in large part for their obedience.
They're paid to stick to the company line. Mugging and clowning and nightly dissembling take the place of real reporting and analysis. They work to please the target audience, not to perform real journalism.
Long ago, some scribes may have known what we needed; today's stars basically know what we want. "Frog-march Fridays" might help us rubes understand the shape of this transaction.