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One of the highest paid bank CEOs says newspaper pay is 'outrageous'

Jamie Dimon, who made nearly $21 million in 2010 dispels myth of underpaid journalists

March 07, 2012

I would like to thank JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon for attacking an urban legend that’s bothered me severely over the course of my 30-year career: The myth of the underpaid journalist.

I know that it’s easy to look at a newspaper reporter, see the standard-issue khakis, meatball-stained necktie and Kirkland-brand blue oxford button-down with the frayed collar and assume that his annual clothing budget wouldn’t pay for a full tank of gas in a moped.

But this is just what we want you to think. What you don’t see is that our T-shirts are encrusted with emeralds, and out underpants have been woven by Rumplestiltskin. We only wear the shoddy outer crust so that you will underestimate us until the bear traps of our minds snap around your spindly ankles of fallacy and illogic.

As far as I can tell, Mr. Dimon is the only person who has figured this out.

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At his company’s annual investor day, he stated that newspaper pay is “damned outrageous” and that the media “don’t even make any money.”

I don’t think there’s a journalist in America today who isn’t walking a little lighter on her feet this week, her conscience having been unburdened by the ball and chain that comes with knowing she is making a truly obscene amount of money.

Today, I just feel blessed that we have someone such as Dimon, who made $23 million in 2011, to lead a crusade against clueless and hideously overpaid employees. Someone needed to. And who better than a member of the industry that drove America into such a desperate financial crisis that it has taken five years to crawl our way out of it?

A newspaper reporter would not have been able to do that. While it is true that, just like JPMorgan Chase et al., a journalist might not be able to figure out that a $600,000 home is, in fact, beyond the reach of a part-time cab driver, we never would have been clever enough to have reams of complicated foreclosure documents signed by a Florida hairdresser named Beatrice.

That takes skillz, the type of acumen Dimon suggests when he says JPMorgan Chase needs to pay its employees an average of $341,552, as it did last year, because, “We need top talent; you cannot run this business on second-rate talent.”

Amen. As Capt. John Smith said, failure of the White Star Lines to pay for adequate talent will put ocean liners at risk.

I mean, forget for the moment that the E-Trade baby wouldn’t have been stupid enough to fall for the whole credit-default-swap scheme that brought Wall Street to it’s knees. That is irrelevant. The point is that we count on these Highly Talented bankers to make wise loans and investments and grease the machinery of America’s economy.

And if, for example. Lehman Brothers loses its investment bank at the track and needs to liquidate its assets at a fire sale, it is only the talent of its employees that keeps the coffee-room cream from spoiling by putting it back into the fridge as the moving men stack power-point projectors into the van.

Or if AIG is duped into insuring worthless assets, it is only employee talent that keeps it from playing with matches at the same time.

Oh I know, as a journalist, I am sometimes tempted to step in and help these noble, but embattled banks. But unfortunately, I could not afford to take the pay cut.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 6997, or by email at timr@herald-mail.com.

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