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Sometimes it’s about the money, sometimes it is about the work

From the Editor's Notebook

May 11, 2009
by Chuck Hunt, Register Editor
Sometimes I hear that we are hung up on money.

By ‘we,’ I mean newspaper reporters as a whole, and reporters at the Register are included.

Newspapers report on costs of new buildings, amounts of budget reductions, salaries for public officials – especially administrators.

I guess it’s true. We report on lots of dollar amounts each week in the Register, as do most newspapers.

The reason is – our readers want to know. It also gives extreme relevancy to a story – and makes things clear.

Saying an athlete was paid a large amount of money to come play for a Minnesota professional sports team is not as effective as naming the exact number of millions he is going to be paid.

Telling you, our readers, that Diane Jorgenson of Ledyard won a ‘substantial’ sum on ‘Deal or No Deal’ doesn’t cut it. Everyone wants to know how much.

And $186,000 might be substantial to a lot of people, but maybe not to everyone. (Like the professional athlete mentioned above, for instance.)

People want to know that dollar amount. Telling you budgets are going up – or being cut – by three percent doesn’t mean as much as telling you how many thousands of dollars that is or how much it is going to hit your wallet.

Reporting that Hayley Sass got a $1,000 prize as part of her national honor might not raise many eyebrows on local adults, but it got a huge reaction from a bunch of BEA middle schoolers when it was announced at an assembly last week.

A thousand bucks is a fortune to a sixth grader. It can be a monthly mortgage payment to a grownup.

But money isn’t everything. Sometimes it is the motivator, but sometimes it isn’t.

Take last Thursday when a mass of BEA middle schoolers descended on five towns in Faribault County (and some rural areas as well) and spent the day cleaning up. And I don’t mean cleaning up financially.

They spent the whole day cleaning, planting, raking, painting and doing anything else they could find to do.

They were in Winnebago, Blue Earth, Frost, Delavan and Elmore. They were at Prairie River Camp, Pihls Park, cemeteries and senior centers.

They were everywhere.

They washed fire trucks, planted flowers, raked and picked up trash, and even oiled a statue.

All without a thought to getting paid for all this work.

Organizers say it is their way to teach the students to give something back to the communities they live in, and not expect to be paid for every piece of work they do.

A noble thought and an excellent life lesson to learn.

Sometimes it’s the money. Sometimes it’s not.

Meanwhile, we will continue to bring you stories about how much the city and county are spending – or not spending – on different items. We will tell you how much local projects cost – and why. And we will report on the salaries of public administrators and elected officials.

But, we will also tell you about the stories of people who don’t get paid, don’t hit the jackpot, and haven’t got a lot.

They are the ones helping make our community a better, nicer place to live, and not expecting anything in return.

They believe that it isn’t always about the money.

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