opinion

All the President's Men photo / metroland.net

CareerCast.com ranked more than 1,000 American jobs, and determined that the worst job isn’t garbage collector, animal cage cleaner or Lindsey Lohan’s sobriety tester  – but journalist.

Yes!  Score!  Booyah!

They based their rankings on four criteria:

  • the workplace environment,
  • the industry’s future,
  • the job’s average income,
  • and stress.

Okay, it’s true: newsrooms aren’t pretty places.  The future looks bleak for newspapers.  You can make more money doing a lot of other things.  And, yes, the stress is very real.  The hours are bad and many of our customers think they can do it better – and often take the time to tell us that.

But journalists themselves have reacted to this ranking with all the cool, collected calm of Geraldo Rivera, or Nancy Grace.

But here’s why: newsrooms aren’t for everybody, but we like them – the hustle and bustle and energy and urgency.  We like the stress, too – no matter how much we complain about it – because it comes with doing work we think actually matters.

This week, the University of Michigan celebrated the 40th anniversary of Title IX, with a host of speakers and panels discussing the historic legislation and its impact on girls, women and the United States itself. 

Before Title IX, only one in 30 girls played high school sports. 

Today, more than half do. 

After a single paragraph, and an unforgettable tennis match, that changed our nation forever.

It all started pretty quietly. 

Just a sentence buried in the back of the Education Amendments Act of 1972. 

“No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any educational program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.”

Michigan Municipal League / Flickr

A new poll shows Governor Rick Snyder's popularity is falling among Michigan voters. The poll, released by ERIC-MRA, shows 44 percent of likely Michigan voters had a favorable view of the governor. Twenty-seven percent had an unfavorable opinion. As the Associated Press notes:

Shortly after the Republican took office, an EPIC-MRA poll of 600 likely voters found 59 percent viewing Snyder favorably and 8 percent unfavorably.

Fifty-three-percent of those in the new poll say they oppose Snyder's plan to tax pensions, while 41 percent support it.

In a article about the new poll titled, "Looks like honeymoon's over for for Gov. Rick Snyder," the Detroit Free Press reports:

Voters also did a U-turn on Snyder's job performance -- 38% positive and 15% negative in January to 32% positive and 36% negative in February -- and on the overall direction of the state.

In the late January survey, Michiganders seemed to have emerged from a decade-long funk: 43% said they thought the state was headed in the right direction.

That number slumped to 36% in the latest EPIC/MRA poll, with 42% saying Michigan is on the wrong track.

Meanwhile, Governor Snyder will continue to talk about his plan to reinvent the state at the Pancakes and Politics breakfast in Detroit today.

Super Bowl Hoopla

Feb 11, 2011
user daveynin / Flickr

Forty five years ago, the Super Bowl wasn’t even the Super Bowl.

They called it the NFL-AFL Championship game, until one of the founders renamed it after watching his grandson play with a “High Bouncing Ball” – a super ball.

Tickets were only fifteen bucks for that first game, and they barely sold half of those, leaving some 40,000 empty seats in the Los Angeles Coliseum.   

A 30-second ad cost only $42,000, and they weren’t any different than the ads they showed the previous weekend.

The half-time show featured three college marching bands, including one you might have seen from the University of Michigan.

Over the next couple decades, of course, the event became a veritable national holiday.  Tickets now sell for thousands of dollars, and ads for millions.  The game attracts more than 100 million viewers in the U.S. alone.

Photo courtesy of www.governorelectricksnyder.com

Fifty-nine percent of Michigan voters surveyed in a new poll say they have a favorable opinion of Governor Rick Snyder. The new poll by Lansing-based EPIC-MRA shows 8 percent of Michigan voters surveyed had an unfavorable opinion. Thirty-three percent were undecided.

Photo courtesy of www.governorelectricksnyder.com

A new poll shows 59 percent of likely Michigan voters hold a favorable opinion of Governor Rick Snyder. The poll was released on the eve of Snyder's first State of the State address.

Nine percent of likely voters say they have an unfavorable opinion of the new governor. 

When asked, 41 percent of respondents said they think Michigan is not headed in the right direction, 39 percent said it is.

The results of the poll have a margin of sampling area of four percentage points.

Rule of Law

Jan 11, 2011

It’s sometimes easy to be cynical about what we used to call “the system” back in the days when bell-bottom jeans were common.

Too often, it appears that society at all levels still functions under the golden rule, as in, he who has the gold, makes the rules.

Ideally, things are supposed to work according to the words engraved on the U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington: Equal Justice Under Law.” But in practice, it too often seems that things  are more like the famous New Yorker cartoon in which a judge peers down at a defendant, and asks:

“So, how much justice can you afford?“

Every culture and civilization has a set of myths which are sometimes partly true, but which are exaggerated out of proportion.

For example, they say any child in America can grow up to be president. That was made more believable when Barack Obama won. But for too many children today, a decent education, let alone the White House, is an impossible dream.

We take other things on faith too. These days, something most people seem to believe is that we have too many public sector employees, that they are paid too much, and that the cost of their pensions and benefits are killing us.

As a result, it is widely expected that Governor Snyder will seek deep cuts in public sector benefits to help close a nearly two billion dollar hole in next year’s state budget.

Every time I turned on any radio station yesterday -- other than this one -- almost all I heard was discussion and speculation as to whether University of Michigan football coach Rich Rodriguez had been fired, should be fired or deserved to be fired.

Michigan television stations were just as bad. They seem to have descended on Ann Arbor en masse, leaving me to wonder what real stories they were missing across the rest of our state.

However, I tend to wonder about that every day as it is. Lacking any real information, reporters opted for the famous man-or-woman-on the street interview approach. To their credit, those I saw being interviewed said mostly well-informed and nuanced things.

A former student sent me an e-mail a couple days ago that made me both happy for her and concerned about our state. She had been a “ninety-niner,” Beth confided, and her prospects looked bleak.

She worried about having to move back in with mom and dad. But then, on Christmas Eve, she got a job. “Not a glamorous job, but a necessary one,” she said.

That made me happy for Beth, but also reminded me that there are at least 162,000 other ninety-niners in this state who aren’t as lucky. Ninety-niners, by the way, are people who have exhausted their unemployment benefits.

Michigan begins the first work week of 2011 with a new governor in charge. He’s a man whose name most of us didn’t know a year ago, but whom we elected by a landslide in November.

We still don’t know exactly how Richard D. Snyder plans to make this state competitive again. But we do know this:

Everyone in Michigan - liberals and conservatives, Republicans and Democrats and independents -- needs to hope his administration is an amazing success.

I don’t know Jim Stamas personally. He is a state representative from Midland who will be the majority floor leader when the new legislature takes office next month.

He’s a fairly conservative Republican, and I’d guess that on some policy issues we might disagree. But he did something this week I thought totally appropriate. He is bringing back a dress code for the legislature. He thinks members ought to wear business attire when they are doing the people’s business.

Well, we finally have the official census figures, and for the first time in history, Michigan lost people in the course of a decade. Worse, we’ll have fewer members of Congress.

Over the last thirty years, we’ve lost five seats in the House of Representatives. That’s equivalent to losing the voting power of the entire state of Connecticut. Put another way, we’re now back to having only one more representative than a century ago.

One thing is for sure. If Michigan is going to get out of the hole it is in and lay the foundation for future prosperity, lots of us are going to have to move out of our economic and political comfort zones.

Unions are going to have to realize that employers and governments can’t afford the same kind of health care and defined-benefit pension plans as when we had full employment at high wages and the Big Three dominated the global automotive economy.

Chambers of Commerce are going to have to realize that there is more to attracting new jobs and business than low taxes.

And everybody is going to have to realize that without a modern, well-functioning infrastructure, we haven’t got a chance.

We‘re in the middle of the holiday season, and in many ways, these aren’t terribly festive or inspiring times. We haven’t shaken off the effects of the Great Recession. Most of us know people who are out of work, in a time when there are too few jobs to be had.

We haven’t seen a lot of cooperation or willingness to work together from either our state or national governments. However, I was inspired by something this week. The American Civil Liberties Union of  Michigan ran a high school essay contest.

- By Jack Lessenberry, Michigan Radio's Political Analyst

George Seldes, the great journalist who lived to be almost a hundred and five, said that if you live to be 90, the public forgives all your sins. In some cases, that certainly has been true.

Ronald Reagan’s policies fiercely divided Americans while he was in office, but by the time he died six years ago, he had become  a national icon. But that certainly isn’t always the case.

And sometimes, people’s legacies might have been better if they had lived shorter lives. Take Jack Kevorkian, the apostle of assisted suicide. Had he died fourteen years ago, history would see him differently.  He was regarded as a hero by many people in 1996. Juries had refused to convict him in five separate trials in which there was no doubt whatsoever that he had helped suffering patients commit suicide. Prosecutors in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb Counties said they would no longer press charges against him, making what he did de facto legal.

 

- By Jack Lessenberry

Tim Walberg, who lost his seat in Congress two years ago, is going back to Washington next month. Once he gets there, he will be paid an annual salary of $174,000 dollars a year.

That sounds pretty good, though it is a little less sweet once you realize that he has to live in two places, including one of the highest-priced real estate markets in the country.

Terry Johnson / Flickr

Last night I presided over a fascinating meeting in Grand Rapids, the second in Michigan Radio’s “Issues and Ale” series designed to stimulate public discussion.

The main event was a look at this year’s campaign advertising by two members of the “Michigan Truth Squad,” John Bebow, director of the non-partisan Center for Michigan, and Susan Demas, perhaps the best columnist in Lansing.

Newspapers aren’t doing well these days, though the companies that own them are still making money. Michigan Radio’s Jack Lessenberry says the result is being played out in Detroit.

_______

Thirty years ago, I worked for the publisher and owner of a family-owned newspaper in Ohio, a somewhat crotchety gentleman  in his early seventies who I came to know pretty well.