Gold Digger

I’m enjoying reading the Steve vs. Jen vs. commenters mudfight going on over at the News Blog.

And the reactions to this over at the crack den as well.

I say enjoy not because I like watching people smack one another around but because this is the stuff we don’t talk about often enough, how much we make and how much we think others make, expectations and class assumptions and how that affects our perceptions of our so-called “service economy.” And it plays into all kinds of political discussions we’ve had: remember Jonah Goldberg cluelessly asking why people didn’t just pack up and leave NOLA, just unable to understand that some people don’t have $300 and a car available?

Addressing these things backwards, I think the Romenesko letter-writer Atrios smacks around for calling journalism pay scales a “sobering statistic” is mainly responding to perceptions that journalists make a lot of money. That perception comes from the fact that people think Bill O’Reilly and Katie Couric somehow equal a night cops reporter in Milwaukee. It also comes from the idea, beloved of lots of dumb journalists, that they’re professionals and not tradesmen. Which is bullshit, by the way. Journalism isn’t an art and it sure as hell isn’t a profession. It’s a craft and the best of its practitioners view it as such, they work hard and hone skills and don’t worry so much about the Society of Professional Journalists because if they’re good at what they do, they don’t need a Society to tell them what they are. And by the by, they call themselves reporters (as I did) or writers or editors or sportos or photogs or hacks. “Journalist” is a term, as a former editor used to tell me, for somebody who worries about his clothes too much.

Now, the NYC transit strike is something I know less than nothing about but I was highly amused yesterday when one of Steve’s commenters posted about how his college degree and his good job for a nice boss gave him security and so he didn’t need a union or a pension or any kind of employment protection, and these TWU pussies should just shut up. I say amused because Mr. A, who has a college degree and had a nice job for a good boss, recently spent six months embroiled in a grueling job search that was like your worst nightmare of dating: he’d go out on interviews, people would love him, then they wouldn’t call. A good friend of ours had a great job for 13 years, job he adored. Out of work for a year after the firm imploded, and he had a college degree. I don’t know where anybody ever got the idea that a college degree was some kind of job security. Maybe it’s just that I spent years writing about the screwed in our society, but it gave me a deep and abiding sense of terror about the unpredictability of life and a hoarding complex that impresses my grandma, and she grew up in the Depression, okay? I don’t know where people get the idea that oh, well, I’m such hot shit that it’ll all just work out. I couldn’t live with that kind of fear; I have to have multiple contingency plans.

I don’t know, what do you guys think?

A.