“It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of a thing he was never reasoned into”

Jonathan Swift
"The Democrats have moved to the right, and the right has moved into a mental hospital." - Bill Maher
"The city is crowded my friends are away and I'm on my own
It's too hot to handle so I gotta get up and go

It's a cruel ... cruel summer"

Friday, March 20, 2009

And more hm

I hardly know where to start with this, either.

One place would be to take note of a story on newschannel10's Web site (http://www.newschannel10.com/global/story.asp?s=10045430) that starts, "From the Rocky Mountain News and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer shutting down, to these most recent cuts at the Amarillo Globe-News, many people are saying the newspaper industry is in trouble.... Just nobody within the industry is saying that."

Where in the world do these people get this idea that nobody within the newspaper industry is talking about the death of the Rocky, the Seattle P-I’s total migration to the Internet and the Chapter 11 bankruptcy of several other newspapers? It is just mind-boggling to me that anybody in the news media would open a news story about problems in the industry with a line that says nobody is talking about it.

Then, newschannel10 goes on to quote Les Simpson, "The Amarillo-Globe-News has been in business for nearly 100 years and we will be here for many years to come. We are not going out of business. Nothing could be further from the truth. We are a strong business and will survive the current recession."

I guess all the talk in the industry, from Les' point of view, is laughable.

But seriously folks, Morris Communications is in deep trouble. The firm has gotten another extension for a $9.7 million interest payment. The extension really doesn't do much for Morris. Moody's Investors Services has introduced a new feature, "The Bottom Rung,” according to "Media Daily News" and its Web site. And on the bottom rung are companies with a credit rating of B3 or lower, which it considers most likely to default on their debt in the next year.

In the collapsing world of newspapers, Moody's identified MediaNews Group as a high-risk candidate for default, along with three smaller newspaper publishers: Freedom Communications, GateHouse Media, and Morris Publishing. Again, these potential deadbeats are in good company … ,” media daily news states, adding that the company includes Tribune and other well-known companies. (http://www.mediapost.com/publications/?fa=Articles.showArticle&art_aid=102003)

And I read somewhere on the Web today that hits on newspaper Web sites have flattened during February and only a few of the larger newspaper Web sites had seen upticks in hits. It specifically cited the Boston Globe's Web site Boston.com as one example.

Which leads to the transition to the Web.

First, please take note of Mr. Simpson's blog entry of March 10. What he is really doing is feeling around about an electronic delivery system that goes beyond the Web. There are options being marketed in which Kindle and Kindle-type devices can actually be sold for a very low price as part of a package. Imagine, if you will, how much less expensive it would be to give subscribers a Kindle and then feed the newspaper that way. It would be a drop in the bucket compared to the costs of maintaining a pressroom and circulation department.

Of course, this kind of speculation is laughable.

I also wonder about the data I mentioned about Web site hits. I regret I can't dredge up the citation at this point, but I am wondering if there is some blog and Internet fatigue building. Hardly anyone responds to Mr. Simpson's blog posts, although I can't rule out nobody gives a damn about what he says.

Spacedark addresses the quality of the content in reference to the Globe-News' Pulitzer. I seem to recall Executive Editor Dawn Dressler talking touchingly about how she is reminded of the newspaper's great history every time she comes up the elevator that leads to the hallway near the newsroom. And, how she would like to lead the newspaper to another Pulitzer.

Yeah, right. I have no idea what she must be smoking, drinking or chewing to think the Globe-News is as capable of a Pulitzer now.

Of course, concentrating on content and devoting resources to real news is laughable.

It's also laughable to think that Ms. Dressler can lead to newsroom to a Pulitzer under any circumstances. Her recent blog about Amtrak could have been much less embarrassing had she read the Indy's Attitude (http://www.amarilloindy.com/2009/031209/IndependentAttitude0312.html) on March 12. A few phone calls, and she would have learned that the infrastructure makes a straight Oklahoma City-Amarillo-Albuquerque shot impossible. Part of the rail route that would have made it possible is now a wonderful bike path.

I repeat what I have said many times since leaving the Globe-News: There are many good people in the trenches who are being asked to do too much work into little time. It's easy to make mistakes under those circumstances. Which, lets me cut them a little bit of slack on the error at the bottom of their story. After all, I did the same thing on my comment about dumping newspapers on Mr. Simpson's lawn. And, given the lateness of the hour and the length of my day, I would plead a request for tolerance on typos in this posting.

But, the management needs to be held responsible for the direction it has taken the paper in the last five or six years, at least from a journalistic point of view. And I have made no secret of my disdain in that regard. Mr. Simpson, in one of his blogs, refers to the superintendent of schools as "his friend" and has borrowed a Kindle from the head of Toot-N-Totum. And, I have voiced my strong objection to his participation in some of the downtown development activities.

Maybe it's just me, but I think newspapers and newspaper publishers should be a little bit more distant if they are going to be ethical journalists and provide the community with good journalism.

But, of course, that's probably a view that's laughable.