What People Earn


This story is based upon a recent issue of Parade Magazine, which features an annual story on what “Americans make” in terms of salary. The story opens with the statement “Pay is a personal issue, yet one we all wonder about – ‘How much does my neighbor make?’ is a question most people ask themselves.” Is this first sentence based on any verifiable data or study? Is there any source that is cited to support such a statement within this channel 13 story? If not, why say it? The reporter goes on to say “We, like most of America, enjoy reading Parade magazine inside our Sunday paper.” Again, if this true for most of America? What does the story mean by “most of America?” It is true that Parade Magazine appears in many Sunday newspaper editions (350 Sunday editions), but the story doesn’t say that it is also in the Grand Rapids Press and that the same company that owns the Grand Rapids Press owns Parade Magazine.

The story then shifts to the various levels of income between “the baker and the billionaire,” and even provides viewers with the web address on Parade Magazines website so you can compare your salary with other Americans. The story does not tell viewers that Salary.com is a corporate resource that “builds on-demand software around a deep domain knowledge in the area of compensation to help customers win the war for talent by simplifying the connections between people, pay and performance.” The story then goes on to source a local “compensation expert” who is the director of the Employer’s Association, which is another corporate entity that helps employers find people to work for them. The story then provides viewers with a few examples from local CEO salaries, a lawyer, an athlete, a clerk at Meijer, a fast food restaurant supervisor, and several others with smaller salaries. The layer is sourced in the story and the Employer’s Association director once again.

The story ends with the question “What is the most common, or median income around Grand Rapids?” The question is answered by providing data from the U.S. Department of Labor, but viewers should ask themselves what was the purpose of this story? Why didn’t the story get an non-business perspective on wages and salaries in the United States such as the perspective provided by the organization United for a Fair Economy, which provides a number of resources on income disparity and CEO pay versus worker pay.


Grand Rapids – Pay is a personal issue, yet one we all wonder about – ‘How much does my neighbor make?’ is a question most people ask themselves.

Our story idea is not original. We, like most of America, enjoy reading Parade magazine inside our Sunday paper. Every year, right about when taxes are due, Parade “parades” photos and pay levels of people from across the country. From the baker to the internet billionaire, it’s fascinating reading. You can learn more about What People Earn from Parade Magazine’s website.

It includes a salary wizard from http://www.salary.com. You can plug in your own data and see how your pay stacks up.

However, a compensation expert from Grand Rapids, cautions that salary dot com’s data tends to be inflated by 10 to 20%. David Smith, executive director of The Employer’s Association also says Grand Rapids pay levels, in general, “pays a bit less than the rest of the world.”

Some salaries are easy to find – if you work for a public company, or the government, they’re easily available. The highest salary in our report belongs to the C.E.O. of Steelcase, Inc. Jim Hackett. In the company’s last fiscal year, his salary was $840,000. Runnerup, sort of, was pro athlete Jimmy Howard. We says sort of since Howard’s income depends on the jersey he’s wearing. When he’s with the Detroit Red Wings, his pay rate is $733,000. When he’s in goal for the Griffins, it’s closer to $85,000.

Some people told us they don’t like to be judged on their pay level. One of them was the chief appellate attorney for the Kent County Prosecutor’s office, Tim McMurrow. He says “A lot of people will define you in terms of what your income is, and I think that’s really unfair.” McMurrow declined to tell us what his income his, but a Freedom of Information Act request revealed he’s paid $96,969 a year.

Dave Smith, of The Employer’s Association, said for most people pay “defines who they are in the perception of others.” For some of the people we encountered on the streets of Grand Rapids, it was no big deal to volunteer their pay.

Geoff Gentel, a sales clerk at Meijer, said his annual full-time income was about $10,000. Shannon Veenstra, a fast food restaurant supervisor, will bring home about $17,888 this year. Benson Garza, a laborer with a concrete company will earn $50,000.

Others making about $50,000 were mailman Dennis Kimberlin ($49,000), car salesman Dale Schaub ($45,000), and machinist Tom Slenker ($50,000).

What is the most common, or median income around Grand Rapids? According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the figure is $31,242. The average income in 2006 was $38,060. Both of those figures showed increases from the year before.


Author: mediamouse

Grand Rapids independent media // mediamouse.org