Over tea a couple of weeks ago, a friend and I were discussing our mutual addiction to the New York Times online. "It's kind of embarrassing," my friend murmured, "how far short the Chronicle falls in comparison." We both sighed, and took another sip of tea.
I remembered our conversation this morning, when I clicked over to the Chronicle and saw not one but two intriguing headlines: "A Midwage Free Zone" and "Water Coolers for Freelancers." The first article claims that midrange jobs in the Silicon Valley (defined as a yearly wage between $30,000-80,000) went up in smoke - "vanished!"- over a four-year period. The second article talks about the hordes of independent professionals who haunt Starbucks and are now looking for co-work spaces.
What do these two topics have in common? Anyone?
One thing I love about the New York Times is that their writers often cross-reference each other's pieces, acknowledging and discussing the findings of their peers in their own work. This is smart for so many reasons: the site gets more page views because their writers are linking to each other, and the experience for readers is much richer and more rewarding.
It would have been so nice for someone at the Chronicle to take a moment to connect the dots between these two pieces, or at least for the writers of the pieces to reference each other. I don't believe that the middle class has "disappeared" in Silicon Valley, though the suggestion did provoke a number of hostile and prejudiced statements in the comment section that follows the article. I do know that the number of creative, independent professionals in the Bay Area is continuing to grow rapidly, as it has for years. This isn't news, but it directly affects the credibility of the first article.
Who, after all, is paying for the electricians and plumbers that the article lauds? The shrinking middle class is an intriguing topic - but in this case, I think the writer missed an opportunity to take a closer look at some additional dynamics that might be causing the "job" number to shrink.
If there is one thing that many bloggers know that some newspaper writers don't, it's this: cross-linking to thought-provoking ideas is a great habit to learn. It only takes a minute, but it makes your work so much more effective.
Perhaps the best part of the "Midwage..." article was the closing quote, offered by economist Doug Henton: "In a world where the company no longer takes care of you, you have to take care of yourself." Many of us already are, Doug - and you can read all about it in the "Water Cooler..." piece!