For-Profit Company Paying CEO $4.5 Million Seeks Donations

Was I the only one who had to pinch himself and squeal to know it was for real when reading that the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle was seeking donations to support its local reporting (Dec. 13)? 

Hey, I’m sympathetic. Digitalization has been a tough transition for traditional newspapers. They are losing revenue. Reporters are losing their jobs. And especially in this era when lies masquerade as truth at the highest levels of government, we need good reporting—like this story about our mayor in today’s paper. 

If the D&C needs new ways to generate revenue, well, the donation model has worked for the Public Broadcasting System and National Public Radio. But it’s a tough transition for the commercial, for-profit media to make. For one thing, PBS and NPR already own that lane. Is it wide enough to support others? More to the point, who will give to a for-profit company that’s based out of town (in this case, the McLean, Va.-based Gannett Co., Inc.), has a reputation for taking sometimes ruthless leadership cues from the finance team, and last year reportedly presented its CEO with a $4.5 million annual compensation package?

Prospective donors might wonder, have they asked their CEO to give? Subscribers might ask why they now face the double jeopardy of also making donations. Readers might ask whether or not they can trust the D&C to actually turnaround its decades long trend of cutting back on local reporting, donations or no donations. 

What it comes down to is that the D&C needs more than what it gets from subscriptions, advertising, obituary listing fees—and donations from its CEO. That costs are rising has been evident for years as I watched my subscription price grow from $174.20 in 1999 to a proposed $500-plus in 2018. That proposal spurred me to discover that the annual subscription price quoted on the D&C web site was less than what they asked of me, a loyal subscriber of many years. 

It was as if they viewed me as a sucker. 

I still value the D&C, but there are a lot of good reasons to not donate to them. I’d be more inclined to donate to local reporters who are managed locally with limited overhead and a knack for matching the budget with local reporting needs. 

But with Trump still soliciting (and getting!) campaign donations more than a month after the election ended, perhaps the timing is right for dubious donation pleas. So if you’d like to help out a for-profit company that pays its CEO $4.5 million a year, here’s the donation link: https://bit.ly/37e6iG9.

On the other hand, if you really want to do something good for the local community, you could give that money instead to Foodlink, which applies 96 cents of every dollar donated directly to food-related programs supporting the area’s hungry. Or if you are itching to support local reporters who are managed locally, you could give to WXXI, our local PBS and NPR affiliate. (Full disclosure: I have relatives who work there.) 

Really, if you’ve got money to donate, there are a lot of good alternatives.

The photo at the top of the page is by FOTO:FORTEPAN / Magyar Hírek folyóirat, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=51007835

How Hank Aaron Became My Favorite Baseball Player

I picked Hank Aaron as my favorite baseball player in 1959 when I was five years old. I’m pretty sure about the year because I’m pretty sure the data I used to guide me was on his 1959 Topps baseball card. At the time baseball was at the center of my life with the neighborhood kids. Most were older than me, and they all had favorite players, like Mickey Mantle. Spittle would spatter from Bobby Gilmore’s mouth when he spoke Mantle’s name. It meant that much. 

I wanted a favorite player, too, but I didn’t know how you get one. I was aware of only one guiding principal: your favorite player is on your favorite team. So mine was on the Milwaukee Braves, an unusual choice in the Yankee country I grew up in. I now assume they were my favorite team because my parents were from Boston, where the Braves originated. I don’t recall my Dad ever pushing me towards the Braves or even mentioning them. I surmised later in life that as a kid he was more a Braves fan than Red Sox fan, and even that I never heard him say directly. 

The Braves excellent uniform shirt of my youth shows well in the 1961 Hank Aaron card.

Regardless, the Braves were an easy team to like in 1959. They beat the Yankees in the ‘57 World Series, lost to them in the ‘58 Series, and they were in the thick of the pennant race again in ‘59. Plus they had the best uniforms, with the embroidered tomahawk across the chest, the laughing Brave on the sleeve, the hat with blue top and red brim, and the extensive piping that even traced the players’ belt loops. 

So my quest for a favorite player was narrowed down to a single 25-man roster—actually to a handful of the team’s better players. 

How to pick one? In those days of one televised game a week, we had little to go on. I remember asking one of the older guys for advice. His response: you can judge how good a player is by the number at the bottom of the third column from the right on the back of his baseball card. (That’s his home run total.)

The circled number on the back of this 1959 Hank Aaron baseball card was the basis for my decision to make him my favorite player.

I didn’t fully trust this advice. Home runs aren’t even a stat for pitchers, so they were all ruled out. And what about all those other numbers? They must mean something, too. But the older guys knew more than I did, and I had nothing else to go by. So I checked the home run totals on my cards. 

Using that criteria, you’d think Hank Aaron would have been a lock, given that he eventually broke Babe Ruth’s record for career home runs. But at that time, Aaron was in only his sixth year, and his 140 home runs put him third on the team behind third baseman Eddie Mathews with 253 and first baseman Joe Adcock at 156. 

So why did I pick Aaron? I have 1959 baseball cards of Mathews and Adcock, so I would have seen that their home run totals were greater than Aaron’s. Maybe I hadn’t gotten those cards yet when I made the decision? Maybe I didn’t trust that home runs alone could determine the best player and there was some intangible that made me go for Aaron? I don’t remember. But I do remember getting confirmation from an older guy that Aaron’s totals made him a “good” player. That was the stamp of approval that finalized my decision.  

In retrospect, I’m fascinated that my pseudo scientific approach landed me on the guy who broke one of baseball’s most cherished records. And that despite starting with a rather mild commitment, I quickly came to obsess over him, the way you’re supposed to obsess over your favorite player. He had a great career, and his playing days lasted into my early 20s, about the time my baseball passions began to wane (they returned later in life), so our baseball peaks aligned pretty well. And I got to see him play twice, in the 1961 All Star Game at Fenway Park, Boston, and in the 1963 Hall of Fame Game against the Boston Red Sox in Cooperstown, N.Y., where he homered with a line drive that just cleared the left field fence while playing in a lineup that included his younger brother, Tommie.

I’m also fascinated that in the very year (1959) when Pumpsie Green joined the Red Sox to finally integrate every major league baseball team, when racial segregation was still the rule for many public accommodations in the South, I chose a Black man as my favorite player. Apparently in Hank Aaron’s baseball card picture I saw nothing but a great player. I had no preconceptions based on race, no awareness of racial stereotypes.

Yes, growing up in an all-white suburb as I did, I would learn the stereotypes soon enough. But the memory of choosing to align with Hank Aaron preceded all that. And he delivered in a much bigger way than I or anyone else expected. I still keep this in my mind. Like a touchstone. 

Image at the top of the page is a 1959 Topps baseball card showing Hank Aaron, hitting a home run in the fourth game of the 1957 World Series. The other player pictured is Yankee catcher Yogi Berra, who was my older brother, Scott’s, favorite player at the time, making this a pretty special card in our family. Image at the bottom of the page is from my neighborhood.