‘Sac Bee’ Gets More Grief — As It Upgrades State Worker Salary Database

By: Mark Fitzgerald

The Sacramento Bee launched an upgraded version of its controversial California state worker salary database Tuesday — and sparked more reader fury.

“I told my wife this was the biggest online story the Bee has had that was not fueled by some disaster and that they would continue to fan the flames,” said one comment posted within minutes of the announcement of the changes to the database. “I said they will continue to make up a sideline story or adjustment to keep it on the front page online and then to find an ‘editorial’ way to send people that receive delivery to SACBEE.com to be voyeurs searching for their neighbors and family members salaries.”

When the Bee first put the database online, it heard from “dozens and dozens” of state workers outraged that their salary and workplace were available by name, Editor Melanie Sill wrote last week.

The new version of the database allows users to search by state agency, job title, or pay range. It also includes links to 17 other California state worker databases published by newspapers, and private and public organizations.

“The Bee did not set out to embarrass anyone or to invade anyone’s privacy — government pay is public record, not private information,” Sill wrote. “The salary database is part of a larger effort by The Bee to put public information in easy reach of readers. We have been expanding our public database offerings … We have provided searchable databases on crime incidents, home sales, foreclosures and other information and plan to continue expanding these data offerings.”

The initial comments about the new version of the database were generally negative. “I do not agree with this and would not appreciate neighbors, clergy, friends, family knowing exactly how much money I earn,” a typical posting said. “Most people would not themselves. So instead of letting the frustration die down a little, the Bee chooses to ignite the fire again. Poor taste.”

But traffic to the database has been heavy, the Bee said — so much so that it has had difficulty getting all the comments up on a timely basis.

“Go back and look at the majority of the ‘complaints’ on this issue and you will see a lot of people asking for exactly this !,” one comment said. “They said, ‘why not other agencies as well?’ and, How about being able to compare this and that?…. I am very impressed with the way the Bee handled all those complaints.”

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