Nit-Picking the Coverage? I Don’t Think So
Something jumps out about this isolated parenthetical “correction” in today’s story about the state of the state address in the Providence Journal, by Katherine Gregg, Steve Peoples, and Cynthia Needham:
With respect to state workers, he said: “The average state employee earns $61,000 per year in salary with fringe benefits valued at another $34,000 (a total of $95,000) and a 35-hour work week. Bringing the health-care, pension benefits and work week into line with the private sector could save the state tens of millions per year. This will be the focal point of our contract negotiation with labor leadership.”
(A Journal analysis found that the median state employee salary was $46,600 as of last June.)
As I’m sure the professional journalists are aware, there’s a difference between the average of a set of numbers and their median., and there are different circumstances during which each is more appropriate. I have a hard time believing, frankly, that the writers of both the speech and of the news article weren’t very careful about which word they used.
If it is indeed the case that the average is 31% greater than the median, the implication would be that more than half of state workers make well above the that number. I’d have to do more research than I care to expend on this particular item to say for sure, but I’d wager that there are additional considerations (e.g., which jobs are counted) that make it inappropriate for the Projo to offer such a note unless it’s willing to spend the column inches on a thorough explanation.