USA Today Leaves out Minimum Wage Earner's Liberal Activism
Thatâ€™s not how USA Today reporter Stephanie Armourâ€™s September 5 story on â€śliving with the minimum wageâ€ť appeared in the paper. The full-page story and photo essay told how hard it is to live on a paycheck close to Floridaâ€™s minimum wage of $6.40 an hour. It left out that the star of the piece â€“ depicted simply as a â€ślow wageâ€ť worker who makes $6.55 an hour â€“ was an activist for a group that advocates a wage increase.
Armour began her day-after-Labor Day Money section story by admitting that most minimum wage-earners â€śtend to be young,â€ť often with only a high school diploma, and, according to the Labor Department, at 1.9 million workers only â€śmake up 2.5% of all hourly paid workersâ€ť in the United States â€“ an 82-percent improvement since 1979â€™s 13.9 rate.
Yet Armourâ€™s article and five accompanying photos focused on â€śAlice Laguerre, 53, of Orlando,â€ť a high school drop-out. â€śWhen Iâ€™m by myself, I cry. People never know when Iâ€™m down and out. Times are very hard,â€ť she complained to Armour about life working low wages at an auto auction company.
Nothing more than a sad story of one person left behind in a strong economy, right?
Not exactly. Internet and Nexis searches indicated, and an official with the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) confirmed, that Laguerre is a community organizer for the liberal advocacy group, a fact unmentioned by Armour.
Among other liberal policy objectives, â€śACORN is fighting to raise the national minimum wage, and working to win fair wages in many cities and states,â€ť according to its office Web site. The group was involved in the recent move by the Chicago City Council to increase wages there.
ACORNâ€™s Web site showed that Laguerre is the chairwoman of the Orange Blossom Trail (OBT) chapter of the groupâ€™s Orlando office. A May 31, 2005, news release from the ACORN Web site revealed that Laguerre was a speaker at a May 27, 2005 rally held in Orlando to rally for â€ścomprehensive immigration reformâ€ť as laid out in the Secure America and Orderly Immigration Act sponsored by Sen. Kennedy (D-Mass.) and McCain (R-Ariz.).
Justin DeLeon, who identified himself as the â€śtax site coordinatorâ€ť for Orlando ACORN, confirmed to the Business & Media Institute that the Alice Laguerre featured in the September 5 USA Today article is the OBT chapter chairwoman.
Armour is not alone when it comes to leaving out Laguerreâ€™s activism. A search in Nexis for the past two years generated seven items featuring Laguerre, one of which was a signed letter to the editor of the Orlando Sentinel from Laguerre. Of the other six, two Associated Press (AP) items left out Laguerreâ€™s ties to the liberal group.
AP reporter Bill Kaczor filed a March 1 story from Tallahassee that mentioned ACORNâ€™s campaign to raise Floridaâ€™s minimum wage, and separately mentioned Laguerre but did not associate the two. The second item was an abbreviated wire report based on Kaczorâ€™s March 1 article.
Asked for comment, USA Today Assistant Reader Editor Jennifer Bryan forwarded BMIâ€™s inquiry to Standards Editor Adell Crowe and Money section Managing Editor Jim Henderson. Neither Crowe nor Henderson replied to BMI by deadline.