Real journalism is going the way of the dinosaur. Technology and the Internet have made news instantaneous, and the value of real, thorough reporting has been shunted to make way for entertainment that now passes as information.
Fact checking, ethics, in-depth reporting and the accurate dissemination of information that is pertinent to the public have been eschewed for the salacious, entertaining, partisan and often false narratives that permeate current events.
But once in a while, real journalism rears its fierce head to expose issues that are actually germane to the public and need public scrutiny. San Jose Inside’s recent reports on the county Superintendent of Schools fall into this category. Schools chief Jon Gundry pushed through a contract that allows the consultant, Mark Skvarna, to avoid CalPERS restrictions—it's a clear example of a public official facilitating double-dipping.
Some in the body politic have simply dismissed the story because they are upset at the media outlet that uncovered the activity. Metro, the weekly newspaper that owns this blog, has a history of edgy journalism, which includes the salacious, entertaining and partisan views of its leadership. They make no apologies for their brash style—but the substance of this story is important for the public.
There is no question that public servants try to max out their retirement and augment their income. Using the rules that exist, many go into consulting; many simply never take an “official” vacation so they can max out the benefit; and some use their sick days to augment their income. All of this is legal, but it doesn’t make it right.
Certainly, no one should argue that public employees are not entitled to vacation, sick pay and retirement. But when the system is abused, it invites the kind of solutions that divided the city of San Jose. Public employee morale has been devastated and taxpayers began to mistrust their public servants.
That’s why it is important to ferret out abuse, correct it and ensure it doesn’t happen in the future. The vast majority of public employees doesn’t abuse the system; most don’t even have the option. But those in upper management need to recognize that the public will not put up with anyone gaming the system.
That’s why public officials need to act on issues like the revelations made by San Jose Inside and Metro. No matter who calls it to their attention.