Monday, March 23, 2009

The other side of the story.

Husband and I both work in fields where it's not uncommon (though usually unwelcome) to find issues relating directly to our work on the front page of the newspapers. (In fact, on Saturday when we buy the paper to read with breakfast, one of us will inevitably ask, "Who's on the front page today? You or me?")

What's particularly frustrating is that you often know background information or facts that significantly mitigate or respond to the critical picture of your department painted in the article, but protocol and privacy laws (if the article concerns a disgruntled client) mean that information will never be shared in a follow-up story; your Minister or an official may make a brief explanatory statement, but the picture painted in the initial article is the one the public is left with. The narrative has been created.

So I found this article in the Washington Post about life inside AIG particularly interesting. It was published on March 19, back when the bonuses were still being referred to in media as "performance bonuses"; this was the first article I'd read that explained that they were retention bonuses, and that lower-level employees get them too. That genuinely surprised me.

The article still doesn't excuse AIG's greed, bad management, or stupidity in thinking it could just carry on with business as usual; but it is an extremely rare chance in a climate where the narrative has been writ large to at least hear the other guy's side of the story.



Blogger Sherwood Harrington said...

You're right: the ballyhoo, warranted or not, has been as one-sided as a mob's chants. Another thing that bothers me about this whole sorry episode is Congress's rush to pass a punitive tax on those bonuses, which comes perilously close to being a writ of attainder, something explicitly forbidden by the U.S. Constitution. I didn't much like it when those other people ignored the Constitution, and I'm not cheering when "my" people do it, either.

Just another example of how poorly-drafted the original bailout legislation was, I think.

12:29 a.m.  
Blogger Sherwood Harrington said...

... oh, FYI: mail to you at is bouncing back with a "mailbox quota exceeded" message.

... and my crooked-word verification this time is a great one: "imphing," which I take to be much like morphing, but more playful.

12:40 a.m.  
Blogger Mike said...

Try being in newspapers about now and knowing a little about how the business end works. Then you get to read what your colleagues in the other end of the business are writing about newspapers.

It's hard not to conclude that, if you're in the end with the brains, then they must be ...

7:10 a.m.  
Blogger Dann said...

Great post, Ronnie. Great point, Sherwood.

This is precisely the sort of thing that I've been complaining about WRT reporting on military issues for decades.


3:21 p.m.  
Blogger ronnie said...

Thanks for the heads-up, Sherwood. This should not be happening as I keep almost no mail at that address, so I've submitted a support ticket.

9:03 p.m.  

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