Blogs » Crowdsourcing » Should newspapers publish public salaries online?


Ever wonder how much Joe Blow, who works on the county's road crew, makes in yearly salary? How about that hot-shot professor at the college?

You missed a heckuva debate today at the Victoria Advocate.

For 90 minutes, we debated whether to publish the salaries of Victoria County employees who work for the government or other tax-paid institutions, such as the University of Houston-Victoria.

Talks centered on whether to publish those employees’ names alongside their salaries in an online, searchable database – a growing trend among many of the nation’s most established newspapers.

Do you think salaries of local public workers – from the county judge and university president, to the police officer, janitor and part-time secretary – should be made available for your online browsing?

Some say taxpayers deserve to know where there tax dollars are going, and newspapers should put this information in easy reach of readers.

Others say publishing such information is an unnecessary intrusion.

(Keep in mind that is a very watered-down version of the debate, which contained many layers and ethical questions)

This we all agreed upon: Just because information is public doesn’t necessarily reflect a public need to publish it. And herein lies the debate.

We're publishing a story about this general debate likely this weekend.

What are your thoughts?

To help you decide, following are just four links to searchable public salary databases posted on the Web sites of established newspapers:

* Houston Chronicle's Data Explorer

* Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Data on Demand

* Sacramento Bee's Investigation Center

This link takes you to a bevy of such searchable newspaper salary databases

Should we publish online, searchable salary databases that include names – as has many of the country's newspapers -- or not?

Before any decision is made, members of the newspaper's Ethics Board -- who have final say -- want your input.

Thanks for your help,

Gabe Semenza, Advocate public service editor