On Arthur Hoehn (5×8 – 3/14/11)

The first announcer, the unsung heroes of journalism, the tsunami video, Minnesota lawmakers want to roll back stateworker bennies, and the editing of the anti-NPR video.


Here’s this week’s Monday Morning Rouser

1) THE FIRST ANNOUNCER

It was rather fitting that Arthur Hoehn died on a Saturday, when few people are paying attention to the news. He wasn’t much for making a fuss about himself. Chris Roberts takes care of that, however, with a fine obituary of the long-time Minnesota Public Radio announcer. As I’ve noted before, I worry that the institutional history of MPR is being lost. As far as I know, nobody’s ever written it down, especially the behind-the-scenes work that went into creating it. There are so many inside stories of how the place came to be.

Arthur was out front, though. He was the first professional announcer hired by MPR, about a year after he worked with the famed Wolfman Jack. Arthur is likely the last connection between Wolfman Jack and Minnesota Public Radio Last fall, he was inducted into the Museum of Broadcasting Hall of Fame.

Gary Eichten, another Hall of Famer, talked to him last October. I didn’t notice it then, but listening to it now, it sounded like he had just been informed of his cancer.

Arthur Hoehn, Eichten wanted everyone to know, once pitched a no-hitter for MPR’s slow-pitch softball team.

2) THE UNSUNG HEROES OF JOURNALISM

This is a very difficult video to watch, but it proves — again — that the unsung heroes of journalism are photographers and videographers, who put themselves in harm’s way so that you can know the story they’re covering.

The images come from protests in Bahrain. In Libya, an Al Jazeera cameraman was killed in what the news organizsation said was an ambush. The Committee to Protect Journalists said there have been 40 attacks on journalists since the protests began there; six are missing.

3) TSUNAMI VIDEO

Is it possible to be even more awestruck by the video still coming from Japan? Try this:

A six-minute version of that video can be found on Facebook.

Several Minnesotans, stranded in Japan since the earthquake, should be arriving in the Twin Cities this morning.

4) MINNESOTA’S TURN

Minnesota lawmakers will consider lowering the percentage of contributions to pensions of state workers, MPR News is reporting this morning. Another Wisconsin? Not exactly. MPR’s Tim Nelson reports that benefits are determined via the legislative process. In Wisconsin, the issue was different: The lawmakers took away a right to bargain on the issue. But in Minnesota, state workers already contributed a significant share to their retirement plans, unlike Wisconsin.

Should state workers contribute more to their pensions and health care?online surveys

If you’re a state worker, please share what this means to you in dollars and cents. Share your paycheck — anonymously, of course — below.

5) NPR REDUX

I’ll be live blogging in the studio during the first hour of Midmorning today. We’ll be talking about the style of journalism that ensnared two executives of NPR last week. Over the weekend, it was revealed just how heavily edited the video was.

Stop back here around 9 this morning and submit your questions and, more important, your analysis.

TODAY’S QUESTION

Minnesota spends more than $65 million a year to house about 600 sex offenders who have been indefinitely committed. About 50 offenders are added to the system every year. How should society deal with sex offenders who have served their prison sentences?

WHAT WE’RE DOING

Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) – First hour: Blogger James O’Keefe’s takedown of NPR is the latest incident in what appears to be a growing battle between conservative news outlets and the mainstream media, and raises questions about the future of news in America. Is partisan news what Americans want, and is it good for our democracy?

Second hour: At 24, Tea Obreht has gained notoriety as one of the best American fiction writers under 40. Born in Yugoslavia, raised in Cyprus and Egypt, Tea’s first novel “The Tiger’s Wife” follows a woman searching for answers through her grandfather’s stories.

Midday (11 a.m. – 1 p.m.) – First hour: NPR Ombudsman Alicia Shepard takes questions about journalism at the network in the wake of recent problems there.

Second hour: Back of the Bus: Mass Transit, Race and Inequality, a new documentary from American RadioWorks

Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) – First hour: TBD

Second hour: TBD

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) - Immigration authorities have identified another large janitorial company in violation of immigration laws. MPR’s Sasha Aslanian says 250 janitors at Harvard Maintenance are losing their jobs. It’s the second large-scale audit of a janitorial company in Minnesota.

MPR’s Tom Robertson will report on people who are being forced to move to Medical Assistance from the General Assistance Medical Care program.

For almost 22 years Ojibwe writer Jim Northrup has entertained and chastened readers of his syndicated Fond Du Lacs Follies newspaper column. He’s covered everything from the rise of casinos and treaty rights, to his love of tapping trees for syrup, and harvesting wild rice. Now the Minnesota Historical Society Press is publishing a collection of Northup’s columns. MPR’s Euan Kerr will have a look.

  • Anonymous State Employee

    I am a state employee, and $91.86 is paid twice per month to a retirement fund, presumably on my behalf.

    However, I’m under 30, feeling realistic, and have my own retirement savings account because I know there’s no way any cent of my pension will still be around when I hit retirement age.

    Don’t get me wrong–I’m not very gung ho about these cuts, but I feel pretty strongly that (if the Legislature is going to cut pension contributions no matter what) it should explore a sliding scale of cuts, which affect the youngest of us the most, and retain full promised benefits for workers near retirement. Older workers are really depending on that pension, especially our overworked and under-appreciated support staff.

    I’ve got plenty of time to make up for the misplaced priorities of our budget-slashing representatives–older workers don’t.

    (I’d also like the Legislature to consider the message it’s sending to younger state employees about our worth and our own hard work.

    Between the state workers retiring in the next few years–many taking early retirement due to reduced budgets–and the younger workers leaving state employment because we’re paid crap and demonized to boot, who will be left to administer the state’s essential activities like water treatment, immunizations, and more? Not the older folks, with years of accumulated expertise, and not the younger folks, with new ideas and enthusiasm. Who’s left?)

  • MrStateITWorker

    I’m an IT worker for a State entity and here’s the breakdown of our pension retirement.

    Each employee puts in 4%, which is matched by the State. We also have a 1% health savings plan that is mandated. We have some other retirement benefits available that we can put money in to, but I don’t believe there is much if any match on those.

    So in my case, I earn around $3800 gross every two weeks (which is 20% below industry for my position FYI). The retirement and health care savings comes out to around $186 every two weeks which is matched by the State.

    Overall the return on the investment is pretty “safe”, so I probably could earn a lot more going with my own investment plans, but it’s not terrible.

  • MR

    I am a state employee with 5 years of experience as a Java developer. My salary is just under $51,000, plus about $6000 in insurance, $3900 FICA, $2500 retirement. Total compensation then at about $63,400 (unless my math is wrong). Data is from the Executive Branch Total Compensation report of January 14, 2011. So if I contribute 3% more to retirement, total compensation will stay the same, but my salary will go down to about $49500.

    According to Salary.com, median salary for a Java Developer with 2-5 years of experience in Saint Paul is about $87,000, not including benefits.

  • David Wilford

    Something that should be mentioned here is that the state of Wisconsin years ago decided to pick up 5% of their public employees retirement contribution in lieu of getting pay raises, which also benefited the state since a raise in pay would have been subject to federal payroll taxes that the state would have had to contribute to.

  • Jim

    I was a public school teacher. I retired in 2008 after teaching 34 years.

    Wages

    Last Contract: 70,938.96

    Retirement contributions

    TRA contribution: 4,335.44

    (This was 6.11% of my contract wage.)

    Soc Security: 4,774.22

    403B ( 401K ): 2,805.50

    Total Retirement contributions 11,915.16

    So, I contributed 16.8 % of my income to the retirement funds I will depend upon in the future.

    I fulfilled my part of the bargain. Will the state rewrite the rules to make current teachers pay even more?

  • Jamie

    Thanks to all the state employees writing today. It’s really helpful to have some specific examples. And thanks for the service you provide us and the quality of life you contribute to in our state.

    MPR’s reporting on this earlier today sounded like it came from either the Republicans’ news release or from their talking points. The news reader said something like ‘they’re proposing a plan that would get state employees’ pensions more in line with the private sector.’ That’s so totally what Republicans would say! You can’t make a blanket statement like that. The truth is that many private employers offer even better pension plans than the state does (I worked for two employers who contributed more — MUCH more in one case — to my pensions than 4 or 5 percent — one contributed 12% of my annual salary, and the other contributed 6%).

    And of course, as someone else mentioned about Wisconsin, somewhat generous pensions and other benefits for MN state employees often make up for salaries that are lower than the private sector.

  • Pam

    Four years ago I spent my life savings to earn a more marketable teaching degree. Due to so many layoffs and being newly retrained, I cannot compete laid off teachers with more seniority for a teaching position if one were to occur. I work as a substitute for $18,000. a year. Because I first substituted in 1987, I am eligible for a small pension. In 1988 any pension savings was discontinued for substitute teachers. I contribute 3% and the state contributes 3% of my wage toward my retirement. As a substitute I receive no other benefits. At age 57 if I were to retire today I would receive $150.00 a month. In 10 years I may receive enough from the pension to rent a room.

  • Stateworker

    I would agree with most of the statements above. I actually currently contribute 5% and my employer contributes the same. Being a rare case where my wife works in the public sector and has a pension plan, I will say that her employer contributes 100% of the pension plan for her and it is not taken out of the paycheck.

    Taking a note from one of my fellow friends who are milking the system (couldn’t resist the WI milking joke, sorry), I looked up my job on salary.com and I am currently in the bottom 25% for my education. I also currently contribute more to my health care then those that are not represented by a union.