Editor’s note: A prior version of this article mistakenly said “top managerial positions” instead of “top 10th percentile.” It has been updated to reflect the change. Also, we wrote that NCTD had not updated its payroll data with the State Controller’s Office. NCTD says it has. The Controller’s website won’t reflect the new salary data until 2014.
I’m the reporter on this story and I wanted to address your valid concerns about posting the graphic. In fact, I’m glad you brought this up so that we have a forum to provide our reasoning behind the decision, which we discussed in a series of thoughtful and methodical conversations prior to publication.
To do that, please allow me to first explain our methodology in general:
Generally, the published material you see is the direct result of synthesizing a gigantic amount of research, interviews and documents which never make it to the front page of inewsource. This material in our projects is accumulated over time from sources on and off the record.
For document-based stories, such as my friend Joe Yerardi’s Follow the Money series (shameless plug), it’s all black and white. Numbers don’t lie if presented honestly, and we practice a well-rehearsed “cleaning” and “bulletproofing” methodology for our data-based stories.
BUT, for stories like this — and for other NCTD-related stories — we rely not only on primary documents like budgets, check registers and audits, but also on sources, who do not want to be quoted by name for a variety of reasons, which we try to describe. Like the data, these sources have also been “bulletproofed.” We check their credentials, talk to their colleagues, research their history and spend hours with them on the phone or in person until they meet our threshold for credibility.
In the end, we have to conclude that they are credible and that it is in the public’s interest to use information they have provided in an inewsource story without revealing their identity. We don’t do this often. The threshold here is high.
In this case, we felt use of material from anonymous sources was justified and important for the public to know. Almost all former NCTD employees who were in a position of management and authority when they left were constrained from talking openly by severance agreements. Current employees would risk losing their jobs.
Now, on to the photos. The decision to create the gallery was made among my editor, KPBS editors and myself.
For the first graphic:
Three women in this graphic have come forward publicly with their accusations. We had additional background information, which we verified, that led us to believe publishing the photos was fair to the women pictured.
For the second graphic:
Since age and appearance were such a major issue in this story, we felt these photos added a layer of understanding and context that were unavailable through simple text. We actually spent more time than one would think necessary to make sure that the headline did not insinuate, but stated the facts of the story.
Choosing the photos was not haphazard. We made sure we had a defined universe of women: those in the top 10th percentile.
We took care to establish that both graphics contained photos of women in similar categories or positions. We did the best we felt we could in making parallel comparisons, despite the fact that NCTD has not updated its payroll roster on the state controller’s website. That data is supposed to be current to make sure municipal governments are transparent about employee salaries.
We did not intend to offend any of the women in the graphics. In fact, several of them told us they did not take offense.
Hopefully that helps shine some light on our process and our decisions.
Thank you for your feedback. It really is appreciated.
Brad Racino | inewsource
We'll let you know when big things happen.