Spirit of Robert L. Stevenson, please come down to us
A 19th Century writer put it this way:
“The sum of the contemporary knowledge of ignorance of good and evil is, in large measure, the handwork of those who write…”
The author of the clarifying line was none other than Robert Louis Stevenson, the celebrated author of classics like “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” and the “Treasure Island”, translated to more languages of the world than he would’ve desired.
The line is very relevant to our condition as news information-emaciated cities, where less and less is covered by dwindling newsrooms, and those left remain underpaid, overworked and, among the older, with an urgent desire to retire as soon as possible, while the young can barely survive on entry-level salaries news organizations, including this one, are willing to pay.
I asked a group of journalists recently gathered by AL DIA News Media in the Pyramid Club why it was that the profession in charge of keeping our democracy vital, and our republic strong, paid nickels and dimes, while, for example, lawyers, here in the same city commanded six figures salaries from the get-go, when they are recruited by the big law firms fresh out of college.
Why a lawyer can charge up to $600 an hour, while an equally competent reporter with same years of experience must take $32 only, according to contract negotiated by the writers’ guilds or unions.
If those who “write”, versus those who, in the opinion of a friend of mine, “only take notes”, are paid salaries that barely can sustain a household, how we can ask them to hold the moral ground for the rest of us, as Stevenson charged them for?
Raising the salaries, however, is not the only solution, as Stevenson may agree.