ABC Hypes 'Extreme Jobs' Taking Heavy Toll on Workers with 70-Hour Weeks
American laborers are âgoing to extremesâ working in jobs âwhere 60 hours a week can be considered part-time, and overtime is an understatement.â
Thatâs how ABC anchor Charles Gibson teased a story in the opening credits of the November 27 âWorld News.â Yet for all the hype, fewer than one percent of Americans hold these type of âextremeâ jobs, and most are well-compensated.
The âso-called extreme jobs,â Gibson told viewers, involve âhigh-pressure work that often comes with a very high salary and a very heavy personal toll.â Yet itâs only about â2 million Americansâ that âfall into this fast-growing category,â Gibson conceded as he introduced a report by Betsy Stark.
In a nation of roughly 300 million people, thatâs only 0.67 percent of the countryâs population, although Starkâs report made âextremeâ work sound like a pandemic.
Whatâs more, Gibson got his 2 million number by rounding up from the 1.7 million Americans in âextremeâ jobs as determined by the New York-based Center for Work-Life Policy (CWLP). Stark featured CWLP senior fellow Catherine Orenstein in her story but did not mention the organizationâs name or its ideological leanings.
A review of CWLPâs Web site shows the group often focuses on traditional liberal workplace concerns such as the number of women and minorities in executive leadership in American business. Liberal activist and Princeton religion professor Cornel West serves as CWLP vice president. In 2001, West resigned his post at Harvard University after then-president Larry Summers criticized West for focusing on political activities at the expense of his academic obligations.
Stark chose a Florida lawyer as a textbook case of the âextremeâ worker. The correspondent profiled 35-year old David Shontz, a âman who rarely vacations,â who is âa trial lawyer hoping to make partner at his firmâ where âpunishing hours are the price of admission.â
âThe kind of success I want, I donât see any other way to do it,â Shontz, a father of three, shrugged.
Rather than question whether Shontzâs sacrifice of family time for work commitments was worth it, Stark presented Shontz as a victim of modernity and/or an impersonal deterministic obsession with the âextreme.â
âTechnology, globalization, and leaner workforces are intensifying demands,â Stark complained before airing a clip of CWLPâs Catherine Orenstein insisting that the 40-hour work week has been replaced by a 60-hour work week âwhich is practically part-time.â
âIf you look at the culture, weâre really a culture that embraces extreme today,â Orenstein lamented. Yet rather than noting how professionals like Shontz account for only a tiny minority of Americans, or emphasizing the personal choices that so-called âextremeâ workers make to gain that descriptor, Stark concurred with Orenstein.
âFrom extreme sport to extreme makeovers, even extreme Elmo, extreme jobs are just another part of the picture,â Stark insisted, tossing in a shameless plug for one of her networkâs popular reality programs: âExtreme Makeover: Home Edition.â