Report on MU professors’ salaries show new possibilities of reporting

Friday, December 14, 2007 | 10:48 a.m. CST; updated 8:02 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008
Tom Warhover is the Columbia Missourian's executive editor for innovation.

I hope you got a chance to read earlier this week about the salaries of MU professors.

This is a company town, and the company is MU. What happens there can affect just about every business in Columbia. I’m sure recent salary reports have left many merchants depressed. MU is a perennial bottom dweller, thanks in part to a General Assembly that doesn’t see increasing higher education spending as a sound investment. Jayhawk professors make more on average. So do Cornhuskers.

Yan Wang’s analysis of thousands of data points indicates the university administration’s goal to increase salaries has had some positive impact at certain schools around MU. Overall, she reported, salaries for full-time professors grew by 4.61 percent this year.

Yan used old-fashioned shoe leather reporting by contacting every dean on campus, sometimes several times. She used computer programs to crunch the numbers. A pretty complicated business, this computer-assisted reporting. Figuring out how to redact some categories such as promotions and calculate others doesn’t happen in a day.

The result was a comprehensive report that you can use in multiple ways. In the print edition, you saw a narrative story with a summary of every school within the university. Online, you got a whole lot more: every salary of every professor at every school, ranked top to bottom; the raw data used, so if you don’t believe the Missourian’s analysis, you can look for yourself; and a list of all employees for the 2007 and 2008 fiscal years. So the news story goes into the archive, while you can create your own stories with the comprehensive data. You can delve more deeply into any college or school, or check out an individual’s salary (including mine).

The online graphics created by Keith Claxton, Kevin Quealy and Yan are interactive and easy to use. They represent the future of data sets, in that they make raw data accessible and within context for readers who have neither the time nor expertise to do their own analysis. As Missourian editors provide more, my hope is that they will create a more complete picture of our community.

Meanwhile, a piece of Columbia’s past was trucked away.

Workers hauled away the old Missourian presses this week. It’s been a year and a week since your newspaper has been printed on those workhorse King units. You can tell easily; just look for the day when color pages began running throughout the sections. That’s when the printing contract with the Jefferson City News-Tribune began.

The tractor-trailer loaded with pieces of press created a moment of nostalgia. But only a moment.

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