Thursday, December 1, 2011

Richmond Times Dispatch - 2011 state employee salary database - AGAIN!

I received this email from the RTD:
The Times-Dispatch and will publish our annual report on state employee salaries this Sunday, Dec. 4. This year's searchable database includes salaries for all 104,554 state employees, including names and positions for all employees who earn above the state's average of $52,547.
They did the same thing last year.  Here is how I felt last year when I was a state employee caught up in this database:

On you refer to your company as “the leading provider of high-quality news…in central Virginia.”  I think at best that claim is suspect, and at worst, you are providing false panoply of episodic capabilities to the public, to hide the depth of your desperation to remain a viable news source.  The Richmond Times-Dispatch has a few redeeming qualities, but taken in aggregate you offer very little to your customers that they could not more freely obtain from a multitude of other online outlets.  There are times when publishing FOIA information is warranted; however, this is not one of them, at least not in its current form.  It is especially unwarranted when the purpose is to fuel a negative agenda.  In economically challenging times, Federal and State employees are easy targets for efficiency and effectiveness ratings.  However, I submit that there are many employees that work very hard and that would and could make more money should they move to the private sector and leave public service behind.  Your irresponsible action in publishing the salaries of state employees, SEARCHABLE BY NAME, smacks of arrogance and sensationalism and is bereft of any dignity or integrity that your newspaper claims to still retain.  As far as I am concerned, my name in the context of my agency and position is “Personally Identifiable Information” and as such should not be used. 

The damage of your actions far outweighs the value delivered to your readers and the general public.  There is absolutely no constructive reasoning that justifies listing employees names in your database.  From your actions it is clear that you completely disregarded the negative impact that such a database would have on state employees.  These same state employees are also your customers.  With this contemptible action, your organization is morally and ethically bankrupt, and you owe your readers an apology for wasting their time with such twaddle.

I would be very interested to know the salaries of each of your employees making over $50K, as well as their job titles. And of course, I would need the names of said employees to more easily target my public disdain for your obviously poor value proposition and the gross mismanagement of your financial resources.  If that makes no sense to you, then you now realize the situation in which thousands of state employees find themselves, without redress.  I am sure that your employees would not mind; after all, your customers are paying you for your information services.  Do they not have the right to get the best value for their money?  Are not the salaries of your employees just more information about which someone, somewhere would want to read?  Is that not how you choose to publish these days?  Of course you need not answer these rhetorical questions; your actions speak volumes about your motivations.
Just because you can, should not be a license to pursue a course of action that has no real probative or news value and genuinely provides a divisive tool for someone’s personal agenda.  Your misguided exploit is completely irresponsible and in my opinion an abuse of said state employees, your customers, and the spirit of the Freedom of Information Act.  It is also an abuse of your power and a misuse of your first amendment rights.  Furthermore, your actions underpin my long held belief that nothing useful comes from your disgraceful and at times, Yellow-Journalistic tabloid.  You may have temporarily boosted your circulation or at best your web site traffic, but you have undoubtedly isolated yet another large customer segment and undermined the public’s trust.  Moreover, if more of your readers were affected by this debauched deed you would undoubtedly apologize or even redact said folly.  Indeed, you misunderstand, in entirety, the meaning of cultivating long-term customer value and loyalty.  This entire episode has been a tactless and colossal waste of our time and attention.  You may be the press, but you are also a business.  I think you should cease acting as the self-anointed herald of worthless hokum and actually cover creditable news that makes our lives better and provides at least a modicum of value to your customers.  However, if you are disinclined to act appropriately, one can only hope that your readers recognize how shallow, foul, and jaded you have become and move on to better outlets of information.  For myself, I am almost giddy with the thought that I do not have a subscription to your worthless paper.  I now find it less than suitable to line the bottom of my dog’s crate!

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