Thursday, July 03, 2008

N&O double standard: Obama’s & the Guv’s wives’ promotions, pay raises

Yesterday I posted Obama and the audacity of political influence. It included excerpts from a Washington Post story which began:

Shortly after joining the U.S. Senate and while enjoying a surge in income, Barack Obama bought a $1.65 million restored Georgian mansion in an upscale Chicago neighborhood. To finance the purchase, he secured a $1.32 million loan from Northern Trust in Illinois. …
WaPo reported the Obamas obtained the loan at a below-market rate and with costly fees such as loan origination and points waived. The story also reported:
When the Obamas secured the loan, their income had risen dramatically. Obama assumed his Senate seat in January 2005, with an annual salary of $162,100. That same month, Random House agreed to reissue an Obama memoir, for which it originally paid $40,000, as part of a $2.27 million deal that included two future nonfiction books and a children's book.

Around the same time, the University of Chicago Hospitals promoted Michelle Obama to a vice president and more than doubled her pay, to $317,000. ...
Today the liberal/leftist Raleigh News & Observer’s front page headlines above the fold:
Mary Easley's NCSU pay soars
The first lady, an executive-in-residence at the school, gets an 88 percent raise to $170,000 a year
The WaPo story’s here; the N&O’s here.

I’ve just sent N&O public editor Ted Vaden the following email with a copy to executive editor for news John Drescher.

Dear Ted:

Regarding today’s lengthy, front page story concerning Mrs. Mary Easley’s hefty pay raise awarded by N. C. State University, I’ve no problem. Easley’s pay raise, which the university says is justified based on new duties, involves public money. And Mary Easley's the governor’s wife.

It’s important for citizens to know about the situation; and it’s appropriate for the N&O to ask questions and report prominently what it learns.

But I’m concerned there’s a double standard evident in the N&O’s treatment of Mary Easley’s situation and a strikingly similar one involving Mrs. Michelle Obama which, as far as I know, the N&O has not reported in any detail.

I’m referring to Michelle Obama’s promotion by the University of Chicago’s Hospitals about the time her husband was elected a U. S. Senator. WaPo reported yesterday that with the promotion “her pay was more than doubled to $317,000.”

Like N. C. State, the University of Chicago Hospitals receive many millions in state and federal funds.

Why would the N&O not report on Michelle Obama’s promotion and pay raise with the same prominence and detail you’ve devoted to Mary Easley’s promotion and pay raise?

I thought about the possibility it might be because Michelle Obama is not a local or state figure.

But it’s hard to accept that explanation when you recall all the prominent and positive coverage you gave to her and her campaign appearances here during the primary.

Shouldn't readers expect the N&O to cover Michelle Obama’s promotion and pay raise with at least the same attention detail and prominence you’ve devoted to Mary Easley’s?

Michelle Obama may very possibly be America’s next first lady.

I’ll publish your response in full.

This links to the WaPo story.

Have a nice Fourth of July.


John in Carolina

Cc: John Drescher


Anonymous said...

L.A. Times to cut 250 jobs
Reuters ^
The cuts are the latest in a series for the Times, which will have whittled its newsroom from [1,200 reporters to just over 700.]
Where are all the J-School graduates going to find jobs? Friends of mine are critical of colleges expanding their journalism departments for a diminishing profession.

Professional journalists writing ads for glossy brochures doesn’t fit well with the expense of their $150,000 education. Telling students 70% will find a J-job, without telling them, it may not be the job they seek, is bandit-like behavior, IMO.

Also, professional journalists are complaining that semi-professional bloggers are taking their jobs!

Maybe some of these semi-J’s are more fact based, and that is why they are well received.

The liberal press just doesn’t get it. They refer to themselves as ‘journos’- and say things like, “We at least get our punctuation right.”

They are going down the tubes, period, exclamation point, and any other punctuation that might apply.

Anonymous said...

Arch - Any j-school student that cannot see the writing on the wall probably could also not see truth/fact if it sat in their lap and called them mama. I would not be pursuing a career in RV sales right now either.

Anonymous said...


You refer to the promotions of Mrs. Obama and Mrs. Easley as "strikingly similar" and a indicative of a "double standard," but I don't follow at all.

The University of Chicago is a private university and although it receives federal and state research money (usually tied to specific projects and almost certainly not supporting a position like Vice President for Community and External Affairs, which is Obama's title) you seem to offer no evidence that it used any public money to support Michelle Obama's pay raise.

NCSU, on the other hand, *is* a public university, and we can safely assume that her windfall will be shouldered at least in part by North Carolina taxpayers.

Surely that important difference can't be lost on you, and yet I notice the distinction appears nowhere in your post...

Anonymous said...



Anonymous said...

I believe John is making the case two politically connected spouses have received large pay raises,but the N and o is only highlighting one.actually,I'm certain that is his point.You are arguing a private school may give large raises to such a spouse and it is no one's business.many of us wonder if this is not an especially crude form of influence peddling.Of course I am aware of the"post hoc ergo propter hoc " quote,but could you tell me if you've ever received such a raise(or anyone you know)?And what new duties were entailed for such?A little data please.

Anonymous said...


Allow me to clarify: I'm arguing that John is neglecting a key difference between the Obama and Easley cases. That difference -- the public/private distinction -- makes the Easley story much more newsworthy.

For one thing, the Easley story is localized in North Carolina; it's logical that the N&O would cover that more aggressively than something happening in Chicago.

Much more importantly, the point of this public/private distinction is that this Easley scandal is a betrayal of taxpayers' trust.

The Obama situation really isn't, and I also think you could argue that as a public figure Michelle Obama is worth a lot more to the university now than she was even a year ago.

It's hardly possible to make a similar argument about Mary Easley, the wife of a lame duck governor with modest regional visibility.

You don't need data or my personal experience to see that John's not making a valid comparison here.

JWM said...

Archer 05,

I picked up as you've seen.

Thank you.

Anon @ 4:51,

Well put. A nice mixture of the serious and humor.

Anon @12:44 (or should I just say, "Troll?)

I've responded on the main page.

Anon @ 8:37,

Laughter's good for all of us.


You’re absolutely right.

I was glad to see your comment.

I've been asking myself, "I wonder what's happened to Corwin."

I continue to appreciate your solidarity gesture when The Chronicle editor outed me.

Anon @ 11:01 (or Troll),

See comment above.

A good night to you all.


Anonymous said...

John, It looks like this story has grown legs.
UNC chief says Mary Easley's raise under review

Gage wouldn't comment on the amount of pay the governor's wife received, [but said there were "much more significant salaries than hers."]