Sunday, June 28, 2009

Union Tribune Spin Job

Here we go again!!! Remember my rant; "Institutional Knowledge" and the dangers of not having any? This applies to people attempting to write "NEWS" articles on issues they have little or no knowledge about. The San Diego Union Tribune makes a glaring case in support of my ranting with an article by; Eleanor Yang Su and Craig Gustafson, Staff Writers, and Agustin Armendariz, Staff Data Specialist, Titled; "Watchdog Report / Digging into San Diego's Finances / City's payroll surged in '08."

There is no stopping the ignorant, twisting, inflammatory, spin the Union Tribune will employ in their quest to carry out their hell bent agenda; hand in hand with the Republican Money in San Diego; to destroy Unions and their employees. At a recent City Manager's training seminar, the topic of discussion was how to "spin" employee costs to garner taxpayer support for reductions in wages and benefits. The discussion centered on "taking the union/employee arguments away" by "spinning the costs and ability to pay" for benefits granted over the years. Three days of plotting, planning and training on how to accomplish this goal. Is it any wonder we are in this fight? (A majority of City Managers in this country are Republican) The Union Tribune has had this agenda for the better part of 10 years now.

The latest article takes out of context the salary of employees and those who "gained" from the prior year. The article conveniently leaves out major parts of the equation when reporting on this purported "increase" of salary for selected employees. They fail to mention how those employees they lambast for increases, came to receive these increases. They do not mention the fact many of these employees were promoted into supervisor or management positions; were probationary employees who became permanent employees and received step increases; had increased hours of overtime due to the lack of employees necessary to provide the services taxpayers demand; or the fact employees have taken on additional responsibilities requiring overtime where once two employees performed these duties. The article singled out by name; Officer Jeff Chione as someone who had a significant increase of salary from the prior year. Jeff had surgery on his neck and was off work and received disability from the state at a much reduced rate of pay; he returned to work and began receiving his normal salary. The Union Tribune reports his "increase" as 115% over his salary from the prior year. They include in this equation Jeff selling leave time which increased his "salary" which clearly does not tell the truth of Jeff's specific case as sited as a glaring example to make their point. The Union Tribune's use of Jeff to bolster their inflammatory, ignorant attempt to paint a picture of city employees receiving exorbitant increases in salary is a clear example of sensational journalism; NOT news.

The Union Tribune did not stop there. If you read this article on SignonSanDiego via the internet (I refuse to pay for this rag; I don't have a bird) you will see they listed a link to allow anyone to type in a city employee name and view the salary of that employee for the past six (6) years. Karin Winner, Editor of the Union Tribune makes her case for their providing this link. Winner writes; "We at The San Diego Union-Tribune thought long and hard about whether to publish all employees' names and salaries in a searchable form. A major part of our responsibility is to weigh the public's right to information against individual privacy concerns. Employee compensation is a significant cost to the city of San Diego, and plays prominently in the city's strategy for cutting the budget. In our three-day series, the Union-Tribune offers its readers the context for the city's payroll information. Here we can provide you with the valuable details. In the end, the decision to post this data was driven by our belief that you deserve to know how your tax dollars are being spent." So tell us all again Karen how long and hard you thought about the decision to post this link? I know; I know; you have a responsibility to weigh the public's right to know against individual privacy. Don't you also have a responsibility to "ACCURATELY" report ALL RELEVANT information about whatever it is you are reporting on? Trying to keep to my pledge of keeping my rants free of offensive and profane language, I will stop right here; you get my point. Want more on why and how they came up with the information in the initial article just read; "Behind the Stories." It boggles the mind how pathetic the repeated attacks have become and to what lengths the Union Tribune will go to justify a story.

Did you all also see where five (5) of the City Council members have yet to furnish the necessary paperwork to reduce by 6% their salary and the salary of their employees? The excuses and pathetic games these people are employing in an attempt to stave off this reduction is another example of the lack of ethics and honor of elected officials in San Diego. The first excuse is they gave up the $9,600 car allowance (that will end July 1, 2009 anyway) as a reduction to their "compensation" already. Hey bone-heads; take home vehicles and car allowances have been eliminated or reduced for ALL city employees and departments; what makes you special? They say they hired new employees who were hired at lower salaries than those before them. So tell me; what about those new police officers who are new hires who have less pay and benefits than those before them; can they forgo the 6% reduction also? The "Do as I say; not as I do" mentality of elected officials is pathetic. If this angers you as much as it angers me; here are the e-mail addresses of the City Council members;

SHERRI LIGHTNER sherrilightner@sandiego.gov ;

KEVIN FAULCONER kevinfaulconer@sandiego.gov ;

TODD GLORIA toddgloria@sandiego.gov ;

TONY YOUNG anthonyyoung@sandiego.gov ;

CARL DEMAIO carldemaio@sandiego.gov ;

DONNA FRYE donnafrye@sandiego.gov ;

MARTI EMERALD martiemerald@sandiego.gov ;

BEN HUESO benhueso@sandiego.gov

Send them your thoughts and demand they take the SAME cuts SDPOA members are taking. Accept NOTHING less from them and do not accept their excuses or justification for refusal to accept the same cuts to wages and benefits we have all been forced to accept. This is your opportunity to share your frustration and anger at the lack of honor shown by them. Send a CC to the Union Tribune and see if they print any of them.

I can't wait for the next two parts of the Union Tribune's article on city finances, wages and benefits of employees in the coming days. I am sure more spin, lies and inflammatory examples taken out of context will grace the column inches needed to further push an agenda of destruction, directed at the San Diego City Employee. Until then; enjoy your Sunday and be safe.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

Besides the omissions, fabrications, distortions and out right lies, the article isn't even an original idea.

Over the last several weeks other public employee groups have had their compensation data published where the public can search it online.

I wonder how much lower these folks are willing to go?

Fighter not Lover said...

Time and time again the UT writes articles that better fit a National Enquirer type news paper. This is another reason in a list a couple miles long to cancel any subscription one may have for this paper. There NO REASON to give them one red cent. CANCEL YOUR UNION TRIBUNE SUBSCRIPTIONS?!!

Bummed and Tired said...

Is it a coincident this article comes out in the UT and the City and POA are meeting to discuss the contract? What is the point of meeting? A screw job is a screw job. What color paint do they want to use this time to cover up the blood? How many coats of paint can they use before the stain of blood shines thru?

Keep fighting the lies Steve. Many of us appreciate it. Thanks

Ricky Young said...

Steve, you've posted on our blog, so I'll post on yours.

Many of the omissions you accuse the U-T of are simply not true. We did, in fact, mention every factor you discuss.

We mentioned that some of the raises were due to promotions. In fact, the word "promotion" appears six times in the story, and one "promotee" is quoted (Pam Hightower). We also talk about people taking on more responsibility, including quoting one employee talking about the gray hair it has given him (David Monroe).

We also mention the OT as a factor. "Overtime" is mentioned six times in the story, including the fact that it contributed to $6.5 million of the increase in 2008.

In terms of Officer Chione, you act as if we concealed his disability leave and asserted that he simply got a 115 percent raise. Untrue. We mentioned his disability as an example of limitations in the data, which we felt we needed to note.

You also mention the council members who have not put in for their "share the pain" reductions, without crediting our other story. You go on to list the council member e-mail addresses, which our story did as well. And you invite people to copy the U-T on the e-mails -- an invitation we extended, as well. We look forward to, and appreciate, feedback on both stories.

Working Cop said...

Is "Ricky" serious? Who the @$%* does he think we are? Your perception of how this article was written Steve is SPOT ON!!! I had friends and neighbors asking me at a neighborhood gathering yesterday about the article and said they thought we were losing money. I cancelled my UT subscription and would urge EVERYONE to do the same. It is this type of BS that has created the hatred toward us that is uncalled for. I hope you are going to respond to this idiot Steve. WTF?????????

Anonymous said...

Hey Steve you've touched a nerve here. Seems like some at the UT are a little thin skinned to accept some constructive criticism.
Too bad the UT doesn't publish the pay and benefits of their employees so we might compare the salary structures.
Keep up the fine work.

Anonymous said...

Hey ricky....how many times did the story report when an employee made fewer dollars ...And, please, don't try and tell us it didn't happen.

Anonymous said...

WOW Ricky! Did you get your panties in a wad or what? You are absoulutely right in noting how many times the words "promotion" and "overtime" were used, but you do not explain the context in which those words were used. The U-T article was very clear that it was "attacking" employee pay and were in lock-step supporting the mayor and his minions with the consistent mantra to make us the "bad guys!"

However, no where in your article do you point out to the public how the site is full of misleading information. Let's take something simple, for the math's sake. The site makes the public think SDPD has 39 Captains and guess what? We only have 12 Captains! How about that for great inaccuracies? And no where on the site or in your article does it tell the public that the employees are not taking that kind of money home. With all the money being sucked out of their paychecks (retirement, health, dental, eye care, etc.) we have officers that actually qualify for public assistance. We have officers who had to decide to not purchase health insurance (that's right folks SDPD is the ONLY agency in the San Diego area that does not pay for dependent health) for their children this year so they could continue to keep a roof over their heads! What kind of recruiting and retention power does that have?

Instead of keeping that "hate the employees" steaming in your veins why don't you get out there and have some ethical fortitude and do some real investigative reporting? Oh yeah, that's right, you probably are willing to forgo real ethics and the truth for your job!

You should be finding out "why" and "how" people like Scott Chadwick, the Labor Relations Manager, are qualified to go from making $34,000 in 2004 to making $131,000 in 2008! I have a feeling it is NOT just "taking on more responsibility!"

Anonymous said...

I fired the UT today. Making our pay searchable for everyone on the Internet to see without the benefit of explanations on how we earn our money was the last straw. They made it personal for every City employee.

Anonymous said...

I know of nine people who "fired" the UT today! I also personally handled the cancellation for my parents and my uncle.

I will never again support the UT or people who advertise with that paper.

If this is the crap they produce after a four month investigation, I have no faith in their abilities.

I see the Mayor's Office fired off a letter today, basically calling the article a piece of journalistic garbage.

I encourage others to cancel their subscription.

Anonymous said...

I hate to be the one to say it but Sanders' press guy, Darren Pudgil, did do a good job debunking the UT hit piece on City Employee salaries.

It's too bad it will not get the same sensational attention...

But we know one thing for sure, the UT has sunk below the level of a supermarket tabloid with respect to the integrity of its reporting. I suspect it will be out of business within 24 months.

sparky.sandiego said...

Darin Pudgil did a good job pointing out what a pathetic attempt the Union Tribune made at spinning pay and benefit increases for City employees. His writing was on point and addressed the lies, misstatements, facts left out and twisting of reality. Now keep in mind he is simply defending the mayor's number two agenda of cutting wages. His is accurate in his corrections of the idiocy written in the article.

Try as you may Ricky Young; your comments here do not change the FACTS that your writers twisted, spun and flat out lied in their article. I will soon print the information they were provided by the SDPOA that clearly shows how you chose to spin this article to meet your predetermined goal of painting a picture of out of control wages and benefits of City employees.

Nothing could be further from the truth.