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Bloomberg reporter tells compelling story of U.S. income disparity

There’s been a lot of talk about pay disparities, but Leslie Patton of Bloomberg does a great job of illustrating the issue by comparing the lives of McDonald’s CEO with a minimum wage earner.

“I wanted to use a company everyone knew and understood what it was,” Leslie says.

Chicago minimum wage workers

Employees at McDonald's Corp. restaurants in Chicago ,and an employee at a Chicago Protein Bar restaurant talk about difficulty making ends meet. Source: Bloomberg News video

The story is part of Bloomberg’s series about the uneven economic recovery. It is filled with data from the Bloomberg terminals as well as the Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Leslie searched their websites then called the agencies for more specific information, she says.

“It can be difficult to get the level of detail you want,” Leslie says. “There’s some good stuff out there if you’re willing to dig.”

Leslie wove that data into the story of Tyree Johnson. He works part time at two McDonald’s restaurants in Chicago so he can afford his $320-a-month rent at a hotel. She takes readers along his route from one job to the next. She juxtaposes his life with that of the company’s CEO. For example, in her kicker she writes that current CEO Don Thompson “spent about $3.3 million in September to buy two condos near the top” of the Trump International Hotel and Tower.

Finding Mr. Johnson wasn’t easy. Most workers didn’t want to share details as freely as he did, she says. She met him at a union rally of workers pushing for an increase in the minimum wage. The fact that he and Thompson grew up in the same neighborhood of Chicago was a coincidence, she says.

Leslie’s advice to reporters wanting to focus on local companies: Make sure the company knows you’re working on the story.

About the Author

Rosland Gammon is a former business journalist turned college instructor. Her newsroom experience includes reporting for The Philadelphia Inquirer, and reporting and editing at Bloomberg News. Gammon currently teaches communications at Alverno College in Milwaukee. Follow her daily posts. | E-mail: Rosland Gammon

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