Cleaning & Maintenance Management Online

Real vs. fake JanSan stories

September 19, 2010
A movie opened in late March with a janitor in a leading role, portrayed by a double-Academy Award winner. Should be a good thing for the industry, right?

Well, maybe not.

“Flawless” stars Demi Moore and Michael Caine (Hobbs the janitor) in a “heist” movie – the two of them conspire and commit a super-burglary of diamonds worth millions of dollars.

Caine plays a sympathetic character, the night janitor at a major London diamond house where Moore’s character is an executive.

Caine’s performance got some good reviews, though the movie did not. It may be out on DVD by the time you read this.

At the same time that Google Alerts searches for “janitor” were linking to reviews of “Flawless,” there were plenty of real stories about people on the front lines of the JanSan industry.

Some involved criminals like the fictional Hobbs, but on a much smaller scale; most involved positive things that cleaners had done; few of either type of story made CM/e-News Daily™.

Here’s why.

Custodians are often the first line of defense for dangerous situations that might arise in schools.

But when, on a daily basis, custodians discover notional bomb threats scrawled on restroom stalls or suspicious white powders or boxes that turn out to be harmless, it’s news in the local paper, but it’s not e-News.

This time of year, there are also daily stories about longtime custodians retiring.

They are all evidently wonderful people and beloved members of their schools’ communities, but again their sheer number means that any one retirement is not industry news on a national level.

But stories that are unusual, like custodians changing to a kind of team cleaning to help save on a school district’s electric bill (see screenshot), are e-News-worthy because they are not showing up on Google Alerts every day, and because they may help cleaning professionals provide similar savings in their buildings.

On the negative side, there are also plenty of stories about small-time criminals who see their work as janitors, custodians and housekeepers as opportunities for petty theft.

These petty thefts are not news for us, though larger ones sometimes are, mostly to reinforce the basic management principle that hiring and screening JanSan workers should be done carefully.

As in any job classification, from lawyers and doctors to bankers and Catholic priests, the vast majority of custodians, janitors and housekeepers are honest and hard-working, and only a small percentage of them are criminals of one kind or another.

It’s shame when a major Hollywood movie reinforces the stereotype of the thieving janitor.

But movies, and the media in general, trade in stereotypes as part of their business.

Here at CM/e-News Daily, we’re working to undo some of that, at least as it relates to negative stereotypes of people who clean for a living.

Keeping the links working
When putting together CM/e-News Daily every day, we always include links to original sources – a newspaper, TV, website or magazine story or press release.

Over time, some of those links will go dead, since some news sites limit free reading to a week or two.

That’s OK; most people are reading the e-News within a day or two of receiving it, and would understand if they looked for something in the archives and it had dead links.

But something rare (first time in two years) happened last month, right as we were getting ready to send the e-News out – the link to the No. 1 story went dead.

And it stayed dead until we had to publish.

It was a good story that deserved the top spot, so we decided to copy the story (saved on a browser tab) into our archives, and link to it there.

We continued to check back to see if the link revived, since a major part of the “fair use” of copyrighted newspaper stories (in this case) on the Internet is to give credit, and send along traffic, where it’s due.

About an hour after we published, the link came alive, so we switched the link on our site back to the newspaper.

Publishing an online news digest is more than finding the stories, writing the digests and headlines, setting up the links, and proofreading the words.

It also involves making sure the links work, so readers who want to can be connected to the rest of the story and/or to a JanSan company’s website.