To the Editor:
Columnist John Grogan has written many columns on the recently passed governmental pay raise. Much in those columns has been inaccurate, misleading and downright demagogic. However, if Mr. Grogan wants to dedicate the rest of his journalistic career to complaining about other people’s periodic pay raises (not his own, which he apparently doesn’t mind as much) then that is his business. However, his recently column entitled “We Need to Keep these Legislators” crossed the line in my view, and I felt compelled to respond.
The point of the column was that those, like Supreme Court Chief Justice Ralph Cappy, who say that we need to make the salary of public officials reasonable to attract good people are wrong because our public servants are in fact not good people. In order to prove his point Mr.Grogan then attacks what he sarcastically calls “all those truly dedicated sterling public servants who…give of themselves every day.” He then goes on, not to honestly and fairly discuss what most legislators actually do in their jobs, but instead to select the worst examples of legislative malfeasance he can think of and ask the reader to extrapolate that all legislators are corrupt, incompetent or worse.
Three examples cited by Mr. Grogan are current legislators. I have not personally investigated the allegations Mr. Grogan makes against Speaker Perzel, Representative Reiger and Senator Fumo. I have no personal knowledge as to whether his accusations are true or not. I never even met the legislators from the past he refers to. But it does not matter. Even if everything Mr. Grogan said was true, to say that a tiny handful of legislators are representative of what the rest of us are like is grossly unfair. It is hack journalism at its worst.
What I do have personal knowledge of is this: Regardless of ideology or party affiliation, the overwhelming majority of public servants I have met in my three years in Harrisburg have been extremely hard working and conscientious. They often work 80 hours per week or more at their job and spend many evenings and even days at a time away from their families. Many have left far more lucrative careers in the private sector because they love public service. This was their choice. No one forced them to do it. But to then imply that they are somehow lazy or criminal is just beyond the pale.
Mr. Grogan asks us to judge an entire profession by the alleged misdeeds of a few. I wonder if Mr. Grogan applies that standard to journalists as well. Should we judge Mr. Grogan by the actions of Jayson Blair, Stephen Glass or Janet Cooke, all journalists who either plagiarized or fabricated their stories? Should we assume that Mr. Grogan is not worth what he is being paid because Wall Street Journal Columnist R. Foster Winans was convicted of using information he learned as a reporter to participate in insider trading?
A journalist can be against a pay raise, or even obsessed with one as Mr. Grogan is, without being fundamentally unfair to hundreds of decent, law-abiding, hard-working public officials. It is this sort of column that has debased and trivialized the public discourse in this country.
Representative Daylin Leach