First of all, I have great respect for the LBPost they have consistently done a great job of reporting city news and have garnered a great reader base in just a few short years. They have also allowed for many important topics relative to our beloved community to be discussed in an open and public forum.
No one, however can bat 1,000 all of the time. Today the Post has shared a new tool with the world. This tool, according to the online publication, is meant "simply to provide LBPOST.com readers with information, in the interest of increasing transparency." Does this tool however actually go too far? CityPay is the name they have given a searchable database for every city employee's annual salary. Now, at first read, this sounds like a great tool for understanding the economics of our city. Did I mention that this searchable database, allows you to search for salaries by first and/or last name? You can also just select the all option, and that's right you guessed it, CityPay will display the First Name, Last Name, Job Title, Department, and Annual Salary of each and every single city employee... Nope, not just Department, Job Title, and Salary, but names too.
Why is this of great concern? Well, besides the obvious - peoples right to privacy? Let's just say that you are a minor working for the parks and recreation department, yes your information is now public. Let's say, as a city employee, you just started dating a new fling, yes, said fling can check your income level in just a few clicks. This is of course the information age, and truly the City of Long Beach is to blame for deciding to make this data public in the first place. The question is however, is it responsible for the Post to then aggregate the info? I think one of the Post's own writers explains it well in the comments of the "CityPay" announcement:
"My mind is brought back to a televised 'Town Hall Meeting' of media professionals who, immediately after the Rodney King riots, came together to discuss the coverage, what was problematic about it, and how it could have been improved. One thing that emerged is that good news reporting isn't simply plugging a live feed into a broadcast tower. Good news reporting requires analysis. Many that night argued that the live coverage fueled the riots, causing more people to take to the streets, partake in looting, and engage in or become victims of violence. Here, now, we're faced with a similar thing. There's lots of data, but our jobs as journalists is to create meaning and context. Sure, it takes more time, effort, and energy, but that's what our role is, or should be. With the many freedoms granted to the Press come just a few responsibilities. I think we may have lost sight of them in this instance."
You see, that's the thing. If there is truly valuable information to be gleaned from the data, then research it, and report it... It's a job, journalism - it takes work.
So, did they go too far in exposing Long Beach city worker's annual salaries, or are the privacy concerns negated by the case for government transparency? How would you feel if someone was able to type in your name and find out how much money you made in a year?