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I’m sure you read the San Francisco Chronicle daily. There’s no better way to read about Hollywood starlets’ FOVIP (frequency of vomiting in public) or the DOASFYMTA (Divorces of Aging Stars for Younger Model-Type Actors) or the daily murder wrap from Oakland or a few blocks of San Francisco.

But last week the Chronicle ran freelancer Rob Baedeker’s entertaining Money Tale, How much money do you make? It was a fun read, and in it, Baedeker teased the reader along by dangling the sweet secret of how much money such a talented freelance writer makes in a city like San Francisco. He discloses his salary only after making the point that there are tons of people out there who not only consider frank talk about income to be private, but will nevertheless share that information with anyone at all, as long as they ask.

The truth is, I read the piece when it was first published and I’m too lazy to go back and re-read it. I could therefore be mistaken when I report now that I don’t believe it was based on, or even referred to any published research on sharing personal income information. Rather, as I recall, it was based on Baedeker’s personal research walking around in the streets of San Francisco, asking people he did not know to tell him basically two things (is salary information private? would you tell me anyway?). And again, his finding was that for the most part, people fall into the sweet spot of the contradiction between these two questions. It’s an implicit comment on generational change, so I don’t think I would have been too surprised to see the NYT carry the same article or another just exactly like it.

But instead, they published Alex Williams’s Not So Personal Finance. It does some of the same tricks, hovering over the “do people consider this to be private information?” question but turning to a 2007 study in Money magazine by Jeanne Fleming and Leonard Schwarz, as well as good quotes from Bill Coleman, the chief compensation officer of But it doesn’t tell us what the writer earns at the New York Times, and it doesn’t take a very human angle on the admittedly awkward silences that fall when friends with wide chasms between their various incomes come to the precipice in otherwise-pleasant conversations.

Chalk one (exactly one) up for the Chronicle.




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