American laborers are “going to extremes” working in jobs “where 60 hours a week can be considered part-time, and overtime is an understatement.”
That’s how ABC anchor Charles Gibson teased a story in the opening credits of the November 27 “World News.” Yet for all the hype, fewer than one percent of Americans hold these type of “extreme” jobs, and most are well-compensated.
The “so-called extreme jobs,” Gibson told viewers, involve “high-pressure work that often comes with a very high salary and a very heavy personal toll.” Yet it’s only about “2 million Americans” that “fall into this fast-growing category,” Gibson conceded as he introduced a report by Betsy Stark.
In a nation of roughly 300 million people, that’s only 0.67 percent of the country’s population, although Stark’s report made “extreme” work sound like a pandemic.
What’s more, Gibson got his 2 million number by rounding up from the 1.7 million Americans in “extreme” 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 organization’s name or its ideological leanings.
A review of CWLP’s 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 “extreme” worker. The correspondent profiled 35-year old David Shontz, a “man who rarely vacations,” who is “a trial lawyer hoping to make partner at his firm” where “punishing hours are the price of admission.”
“The kind of success I want, I don’t see any other way to do it,” Shontz, a father of three, shrugged.
Rather than question whether Shontz’s 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 “extreme.”
“Technology, globalization, and leaner workforces are intensifying demands,” Stark complained before airing a clip of CWLP’s Catherine Orenstein insisting that the 40-hour work week has been replaced by a 60-hour work week “which is practically part-time.”
“If you look at the culture, we’re really a culture that embraces extreme today,” 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 “extreme” workers make to gain that descriptor, Stark concurred with Orenstein.
“From extreme sport to extreme makeovers, even extreme Elmo, extreme jobs are just another part of the picture,” Stark insisted, tossing in a shameless plug for one of her network’s popular reality programs: “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.”