Paula Abdul, American Idol and Pay Equity for Women

*** I admit, I have never been a fan of American Karaoke Idol.  But when I heard about Paula Abdul leaving the show, I thought to myself, “Straight Up?”  I mean, that is a lot of money to turn down in light of what she, Simon, Randy and that other lady does.  Which is much of nothing in the whole scheme of things.  I said to myself, “Paula must really be rich and set for life to walk away from a ‘job’ where you get paid millions to basically, let’s face it, show up and do much of nothing.  But after hearing Michel Martin’s comments, I can definitely see the other side of it.  I still don’t care about American Karaoke, but I do believe the subject matter to be very relevant! 

 Michel Martin, Host of NPR’s “Tell Me More

Michel Martin

Finally, and I can’t believe I’m talking about this either. But I have to weigh on Paula Abdul’s decision to leave “American Idol.” I know, I know. Sonia Sotomayor she is not.

Ms. PAULA ABDUL (Entertainer): …that, I, you know, there’s something, first of all one thing that I was kind of – I was kind of surprise you picked that song. But when, well first of all, you’re like this bright light in this competition. You, you’re…

MARTIN: Now published reports suggest she is leaving because she wanted a raise from the approximately $3.5 million in salary and benefits she receives now to somewhere in the range of $10 million and the producers said no.

Now 3.5 million sounds like a lot of money and it is. I wouldn’t sneeze at it until you consider that host Ryan Seacrest just signed a deal worth something like $45 million for the next three years. Simon Cowell is said to be making some $30 million a year. And Randy Jackson is said to be making close to that, for doing what exactly? The same thing she does.

Of course, reporting about entertainment salaries is notoriously unreliable. The people who get paid to put out these stories have all kinds of incentives to lie in either direction. But let’s just assume that the reports are within range of accurate. What exactly does any of these three men do that merits their receiving three to 10 times the pay for doing the same work as Abdul does? Anybody? Anybody?

Could I just tell you ladies and gentlemen, this is what pay equity is about. It’s about women getting paid the same as men for doing the same work. A gap that’s been so well documented that it hardly bears arguing anymore. A December 2008 study by the Center for American Progress, a liberal think-tank, estimated that women in all occupations in all parts of the country and in all education levels experience this gap and it amounts to hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost wages over the course of a 40-year career.

Paula Abdul

I would submit it’s so taken for granted that it actually generates headlines and no small amount of unflattering commentary when women like Barbara Walters or Katie Couric or Julia Roberts actually do manage to get the same pay. The attitude seems to me, why do they deserve that? I don’t know. Why does anybody?

I understand that pay is often not about what you deserve but about what you can negotiate. And I get that it’s hard to feel sorry for anybody who makes that much money for doing something that doesn’t look all that hard, coming up with new trite things to say about bad singing and worse clothing. And I get that pay can often hinge on intangibles, star power, chemistry. But in that score, it’s hard to argue that there should be any difference at all.

As Paula said in her statement on Twitter announcing her departure, she has clearly been integral to the success of this iteration of “American Idol.” Her loopy Earth mother routine, her mesmerizing incoherence, it’s hard to argue she is somehow less compelling than the three other regulars on the show.

Even her off screen antics, ethically questionable as they may be, generate buzz for the program. And while I think the allegation that she had a dalliance with a contestant is serious if true. If it is true she should’ve been fired and she wasn’t.

I have a minister friend, a community activist who will sometimes mention to me some person who’s getting jammed up and assessing its overall importance he’ll tell me, that’s too bad but ain’t marching for him.

Now I can see why you might say, I ain’t marching for her. But maybe somebody should be. Maybe all those teen and ‘tween girls who are so busy texting and calling in and generating millions of dollars in profits to that show should ask themselves, if Paul Abdul can’t get paid the same money for doing the same work as Randy, and Simon, and Ryan, can I?

Entertainment, School Newspapers and the Death of Journalism

Back in the day my first preference in life was to play professional baseball.  I was really good at it and had a legit shot at it till life happened.  My second choice was to write, specifically to do journalistic work.  This birth began with my father who read the newspaper religiously.  I remember when I used to carry a briefcase to school everyday where I carried my books and my own personal copy of the daily news.  Then I became assistant editor of my high school newspaper “The Lincoln Echo.” 

My first article was on amateur boxer Arthur Johnson who was a classmate of mine.  Arthur went on to be a three time Amateur AAU flyweight champion, represented the United States in the 1988 Olympics, and enjoyed a lot of success in the professional ranks.  Most of all, Arthur is a great guy whom I still have the pleasure of running into every now and then.

I loved the entire production of creating the newspaper.  And as an adult I continued to read various morning wraps and there was nothing like reading the Sunday paper over a large breakfast.  That was the life!  Whenever I would go out of town the first thing I would do is grab the local paper, just to see how others reported.  If someone close to me went out of town, I didn’t ask for a shot glass.  I wanted the local paper. 

Well sadly the newspaper has long suffered a steady demise.  There are many reasons for it, but I think along with corporate strongholds taking over the news media, the saddest thing about the news now is that it’s too laden with entertainment and things that just don’t matter.  I can hardly stomach the news now because too much of it caters to the most simple of the population.  The basic news cast is around 22 minutes plus commercials.  Throw in weather and sports and there is not that much time.  And yet with all of the things going on in the world and in local communities, we are constantly bombarded with dumb stuff.

Let’s set aside for the moment the old theme of, “If it bleeds it leads.”  I can understand trying to turn a scoop on some hot and provocative story.  Let’s talk about ‘news’ that isn’t even news.  There are some things I see on my news cast and I say to myself, “Why is this crap on the news?”  I offer a few examples:


Somebody please tell me why this heifer is on my newscast everyday? Who cares that she’s nutty and had all these kids and is a porno candidate?  She is clearly a nutcase.  And sure maybe the day she blows out those eight kids it’s a news story.  But seriously… do we have have to have an eye out for her daily comings and goings?  What?  Jessica Simpson didn’t want any of that?  Is this news?  Hell naw!

Levi Johnston, aka Bristol Palin’s Baby’s-Daddy

It ain’t like Palin’s the president.  She ain’t the VP, Secretary of State or any of that.  She is the Alaska governor who was a disaster as a VP candidate.  Her daughter is just another single mother who decided to screw someone for his looks and because he showed all the rebellious aspects of a so-called bad boy.  Typical!  What else is new?  How many teenage girls DON”T go for that?  Now that they have gone their separate ways, for some strange reason what he or Bristol says about their relationship makes the “news.”  But is this news?  Hell naw!

American Idol

I know it’s the top rated TV show.  I get it! But is it necessary for every local Fox affiliate to show both daily and nightly updates as to which karaoke singer did what as well as who Randy “dogged” and what Paula and Simon said?  Again we’re talking about around 22 minutes right?

I could go on as there are many more un-news worthy stories circulating all the time.  This is part of the reason why so many Americans are shallow and unsophisticated.  Entertainment and gossip have killed the purity of reporting and journalism.  This is why I am glad I did not choose to get into that field.  No way I would be able to stand working in such an environment of utter simplicity.

Tomorrow, I will discuss where I believe this all began.

American “Whackness” on Fox Television

As a lover of great music and an advocate of following your dreams, this is exactly why I cannot take American Karaoke errrrrr Idol seriously!  Last night on this rare occasion I watched the show, and this is what I get. 

This photo released by Fox shows Nicholas Mitchell performing ...

 … And will someone please help Randy expand his vocabulary.  Surely there are more words than ” the bomb, and Yo Yo dog!”  He says the same sh*# he said from season one!

And poor Paula.   I don’t know what medication that girl is on.  But she be lookin HIGH. Straight Up!