NPR had a segment in its series on current small business problems titled Wage Rules Twist Steel Company’s Growth Plans . It was upsetting to listen to because it was clear NPR had missed the boat on the larger issues involved. Here is the comment I sent to NPR:
This was one more very disappointing story in your small business series due to narrow minded reporting and poor writing. Our country is in a very difficult situation. World culture is entering a new phase never seen before. We are confronting, not a new continent with “wide open spaces” and “endless opportunity”, but a world now constrained by overpopulation and depleted resources. In this situation, the media needs to take the responsibility for leadership. They need to recognize that all issues today are complex and must balance many issues. What have these stories presented? Narrowly focused sob stories designed primarily to stir up bleeding heart emotions. This is not what people expect from NPR. Let me be specific about this one story.
The story opens by tagging government “regulation” as a culprit holding back business and job growth. It immediately changes focus and starts painting a human interest hard-times saga. We hear about the owner’s long history and what a great guy he and his team are. But then, in relation to his hopes to grow, we hear the statement, ” …finding workers like him is difficult. For months, the company has been advertising several job openings without much success.” What? Weren’t we told in the beginning of the story that the problem was government regulation? Isn’t there a glut of people out of work across the country that would gladly move for a job? But the story then provides a very different explanation, “there’s not much interest in gritty, physically demanding work.”
The story then jumps back to the government problem, Washington’s “prevailing wage” law. This is where NPR needs to capture the broader picture. There is a long history related to prevailing wage laws. The philosophy applies state to state as well as country to country. By jumping into the prevailing wage issue with the narrow focus of this one company, you’ve just re-stirred up the general confusion in our country about that issue, rather than providing needed perspective to understand it. Sure, Idaho and Utah can pay workers less. But what would happen if Washington withdrew their law? Wouldn’t the pay of ALL the workers at that steel company get cut? NO? Would they create a situation of unequal pay for equal work? And, if workers can’t be found at the currently higher wages, how are they going to find them at much lower wages – $10 per hour less stated in the article.
The NPR writer and editor for this story didn’t do their homework. Don’t they remember that the Alaskan pipeline was built with Japanese steel because it cost much less than U.S. steel? Don’t they remember the entire steel industry in Pittsburg collapsed due to international competition based on lower wages?
Let me summarize my point. The current recession is NOT a repeat of earlier cyclic economics. We are entering a new world defined by: overpopulation, constrained resources, rapid and destructive climate change, drastic changes in communication, the clash of cultures, AND, the ignorance and denial of scared world populations facing severe hardship trying to find stability by grabbing on to narrow old ideas. NPR is also fighting for survival. PLEASE! Don’t follow the crowd. Stop and think this through. You need to search for and take guidance from voices who see and understand the overall picture. There aren’t many of these. Most people you interview and on your contact lists still don’t get it. You need to educate the entire NPR staff so they can understand the drastic adjustment that is happening. Only then will they be able to see the larger picture in everyday stories and provide the leadership that the new world desperately needs.