The Best Treatment for a Dying Newspaper -- Euthanize It. Been There, Done That.

Categories: Schutze

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Sad Philadelphia story in the morning papers: The company that publishes The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Philadelphia Daily News and Philly.com is negotiating to sell all three entities to a cabal of rich, powerful politicians. In a heart-rending op-ed piece in The New York Times, veteran Philadelphia reporter Buzz Bissinger says of the two venerable newspapers:
"They are a shell of what they once were. But the papers, in spite of endless staff cuts over the past two decades, still report. They still investigate. They still provide immeasurable value."
I think not. I remember the days of Barlett and Steele at the Inquirer, the investigative duo whose career still makes Woodward and Bernstein look like Dr. Seuss. That was immeasurable value. This situation? Maybe not so much.

Bissinger might wonder who the hell I am to open my mouth down here in Texas, but I have been through this in a major American city. This one. Dallas. I have a different view.

The best thing an American city can do with a weak and dying daily newspaper is take it out back on the parking lot and put a bullet in its head. There's nothing more dangerous, pernicious, corrupt or corrupting than a newspaper on its ass.

It's like any business on its ass. It will sell whatever it's got left long enough to keep the wolves away. And the last thing it has to sell is its ass. Its integrity. Five bucks a pop.

TimesHeraldPhotos4.JPG
Many of the things in this photo of this painting no longer exist.
The plan unfolding in Philadelphia is the perfect case study. Gregory J. Osberg, chief executive most excellent blah-blah of the company -- the money -- wants to peddle both papers and the web thing to a gang of wired-up politicos headed by former Philadelphia Mayor Edward G. Rendell.

These guys hate newspapers. Bissinger recounts how angry and thin-skinned they are every time they get tapped by a negative story. He says, "These men want the papers because they crave power and will always crave power. They like to win and they have always liked to win. They can erect the biggest firewall they want between themselves and the papers. It won't matter. As the owners of The Inquirer and The Daily News and the Web site Philly.com, they will have successfully toppled the last enemy."

After The Dallas Times Herald died in 1991, there was a lot of crying going on about how sad it was for Dallas to have only one daily newspaper. I kept my mouth shut. But I had been too close to it. My own thought was, "Now we have only one daily newspaper, but we have one less whore."

I was on the editorial board. The paper was down to a handful of major advertisers, any one of which had the power to put plywood in our windows the next day by cutting us off. They sniffed that power immediately.

One of the biggest of our scant remaining national advertisers demanded to meet regularly with the editorial board on issues of importance to that company. But we didn't get the picture good enough. So they met with the money, and it was decided they would begin faxing us memos suggesting positions we might want to take on their issues.

But even when we took the positions they told us to, we didn't get the tone and the phrasing just right. So they started faxing us our editorials on those issues, already written up just as they were to appear in the paper. Sweet.

One day I came in, and my colleague was sitting with his head in his hands. "The assholes are pissed off at us again," he said. "We didn't use the same type face for the headline that they had on the fax."

Look, people don't give you money. They hand you money to buy something. It's the same deal with these so-called nonprofit publishing ventures online like The Texas Tribune, bankrolled by some kind of angels.

They're not angels. Maybe they are today. But they got their money in the first place by being assholes. One day the rubber meets the road, and they turn into assholes again.

The only way for the Philadelphia papers to get out of their situation is to bring in more of their own money over the transom. Get the readers, sell the ads, do what they have to do to get back into black ink. Freedom of the press happens in one place and one place alone. The bottom line.

What's different with our own assholes, when newspapers are profitable and competitive? Well, for one thing, they're our own assholes. They get the business. They know the only way to make money in the long run is by telling people the truth every little chance you get.

But even our own assholes need the hot breath of competition on their necks to keep them honest. In the very last ditch, the highest journalistic ethic is the one that says, "I have to tell the damned readers the son of a bitching truth, because if I don't those unscrupulous dirty bastards across the street will tell them truth just to get ahead of me." When that goes, watch out.

So in Philadelphia you have two weak-ass newspapers published by the same money with no competition, openly trying to sell their own ass to their own worst enemies. Let me ask you a sincere question. How much good do you think can come of that situation?

Believe me. I know exactly how heartbreaking it is. It's like looking out the front window at home and thinking, "Oh, my God! Is that Mom out there, selling herself for crack?"

In Mom's case, you can't shoot her. You wouldn't. She's Mom. And shooting her would be a violation of state and federal regulations.

Not newspapers. When you see one of them out on there the curb hiking her skirt to passing cars, or, in the masculine image, lowering his trousers, do the old whore and everybody else a favor. Shoot to kill.

Listen, Bissinger: It's not the end of the world. They're just companies. Do you know how much money some guys make with those lawn-care trailers with all the string trimmers and the illegal immigrants? Life goes on. It can even get better.

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54 comments
larrypage00001
larrypage00001

We are all aware that the newspaper industry is dying right now. Its really been tough to be in this business today. There are many obstacles like the quality of printers and

ink and toner cartridges they are using. The emergence of the e-book and many more.

Grumpy Demo
Grumpy Demo

Sure wish (not) Serious Questions would go back to using all caps like he did in the old days, made it easier to i.d. him and ignore him.

Former DTHer
Former DTHer

AMEN AMEN AMEN.   If the daily newspapers would focus on covering that which we can't get anywhere else other than community activist blogs- the things that happen in all of our backyards, our local politics, local issues, local schools, local needs - all reported as news.  Cover what I can't get in a million, zillion other places.  Cover the City Council meetings in all of our towns that as residents we can't get to nor stay informed enough about because we're working 15 hours a day to try and get it all done.  Quit wasting money trying to re-invent wheels, or technology that doesn't matter.  If you'll give me the content that matters to me, in so consistent and complete a way that I can't do without it, I'll subscribe wherever and however you deliver it.

free the press
free the press

Jim,this brings to mind the $250 million investment of Carlos Slim in the New York Times. He also owns part of Tracfone. During the time of this purchase the were several articles written concerning the purchase because off the speculation that Slim and/or his right hand associate were involved in the drug trade. The worry at the time was that they would use the New York Times to promote an agenda to legalize drugs. It appears that such positions are becoming widespread anyway due to all of the deaths related to the war on drugs in Mexico and elsewhere, but it's interesting how newspaper advertisers, rescuers, etc., may shape that opinion...

Jon Daniel
Jon Daniel

Shit Jim, The DMN has been a post-Golden Age newspaper since the Times Herald folded. Everything Bissinger is worried about we already have had here for 20 years. Belo is the Dallas Citizen's council's Pravda....except the sports guys.  Much love to all of them

claytonauger
claytonauger

Let me suggest to you the perfect example of what you describe here is the current Ft. Worth Star-Telegram. It's laid off so many reporters that it no longer has basic beats covered. Each staffer is doing at least double duty. It sold the building that Amon Carter built for it to take a lease down the street. It's being run not out of offices on West 7th, but out of Chesapeake Energy's headquarters. There's no question that the central issue for the city of Ft. Worth over the last 10 years has been the invasion of gas drilling into every nook and cranny of city life. Here, the S-T let the city down terribly and is now doing much more damage than good. Forget hard-hitting exposes uncovering financial shell games or environmental crimes. They won't even run the wire stories talking about such things elsewhere because they know where most of their advertising money is now coming from. You have to read the NYT or Forbes to get any real information. Very sad.  And you're absolutely right, they should just take it out back and shoot the poor thing.

Bmarvel
Bmarvel

In the old days, newspapers and the networks pretty much covered the same stuff in the same way. It was dull but it did produce a rough kind of evolving consensus. We learned over time that racism led to terrible injustices and violence. We learned that Communism was a menace, that WWII was a "good" war, inasmuch as any war can be called "good," and (eventually, after a long, harsh national debate) that the Vietnam war was not such a good idea.There were dissenting voices along the way, and the dissenters sometimes ended up shaping the consensus.Now the newspapers are vanishing one by one, the networks have no teeth. The "media" is no longer one thing, so that any damn fool is as free to shoot his mouth off as the the person with some information and wisdom. And all enjoy equal prestige because, after all, truth is only what someone saya it is, right?,and it changes from blog. And I'm always free to ignore the blogs I disagree with. I need never encounter them,m in fact, so hermetikc has the system become.It's all very democratic. Except I never have to encounter a truth that makes me uncomfortable, I never have to poke my nose outside my own narrow little alley, where Truth Resides.Yes, yes, newspapers often (but by no means always) sold out to advertisers, and held hands with local and often corrupt politicos. Yet somehow the news managed to get reported. We had a pretty good idea in the days of mass media who were the villains. Now where do we turn for (mostly) accurate information, informed and wise commentary, a rough consensus of what's what? The Limbaughs? The Becks? The Daily Kos? Politico? Each other? Jim Schutze?God forbid. Jim's vision turned bleak and Manichaean after his Times-Herald experience. That's understandable. I was there.But are we better off now that any birther, Tea Pot, radical ranter, moon-landing denier, Mao apologist nut-case can can stand an equal chance of being heard and heeded? I doubt it, on the evidence of some of the blog-comments below. But I'm open to argument.     .         

Cujo
Cujo

Having grown up in Philly I can relate how this went down. Originally there were 3 papers, the Morning Inquirer, the Evening Bulletin and the Daily News. The DN was more of a quick, tabloid like read and was printed the same size. It was primarily a blue collar paper and the size was claimed to make it easier  to read on crowded public transportation. The Bulletin was more of a conservative paper than the other two. In the 80's a 4th paper came out called the Philly Journal. It was like the DN in appearance and went a little further to appeal to the working classes. Both the DN and the PJ had heavy emphasis on sports. The PJ had extended stats which were a new thing and a cheesecake photo on page 7 but the PJ and Bulletin folded about the same time.

The DN and Inquirer started losing readers in the 90's as the veterans were phased out of everywhere but the sports pages. To be honest, I haven't held a copy of their papers in my hands in 15 years until recently but the website is almost as crappy as the Dallas Mismanaged News. Both Philly papers are much diminished that from the 90's.

The difference is that the DMN has been crappy since the first day I saw it in 1997 and the worst parts of the current Philly papers are still far better than anything I've seen for the DMN.

The Philly papers have been in crisis mode for years and admit it. It's a damned shame but the changing population base and younger readers just aren't that into newspapers.

My take is that it's not just the news that makes a paper a real newspaper. The Philly papers phased out the truly interesting columnists a few years back. I don't recall the DMN ever having any I cared about.

So I don't have a moral to the story but Jim might be right to say that the only thing keeping the DMN running is to cater to the people who want their opinions heard by paying money. It doesn't matter as I won't read it. But I will check back now and then on the Philly papers because they haven't quite gotten to that point. Once they do, goodbye.

Bmarvel
Bmarvel

So, what I glean from all this is that the DMN is insufficiently racist. In order to  stanch the flow of canceled subscriptions it needs to return to good old-fashioned minority-trashing. And -- imagine! -- some say that blogs do not bring out the best in folks.

Russp
Russp

Now that you can get all the news you want for free on the internet with as much or as little in depth detail as you want; it's going to get harder and harder to charge for an actual news paper that is 3/4 paid advertising.

Glenn
Glenn

"... they got their money in the first place by being assholes."

Jim's attitude toward wealth creation, in a nutshell.

Serious Questions
Serious Questions

Maybe if the politically-correct white-guilt libtard "progressive advocacy journalist" wimps at the DMN crime section (and Philly dot com etc) would quit covering up the race of violent uncaptured criminals (who almost always end up being blacks), subscribers wouldn't be abandoning these "newspapers" in droves, and the "newspapers" wouldn't be bleeding money.

Why pay for lies, cover-ups, and PC wimp white-guilt libtard "advocacy journalist" euphemisms?

Serious Questions
Serious Questions

Suppressing or failing to report facts that are available in the original police reports in order to assuage the hurt feewings of uncaptured over-sensitive violent black criminals is racist. Reporting all the available facts is good reporting. Libtard.

jfpo
jfpo

Yes, he forgot the ones that are born into it and the ones who just got lucky.

Grumpy Demo
Grumpy Demo

Always appreciate  the thoughts of inbred trailer trash.

Love the KERA documentary about your granddaddy.  http://www.slaverybyanothernam...

Not like the good old days right?

Yep knowledge and understanding of history and justice is "white-guilt libtard".

Someone's late for the Ron Paul for President meeting.

Scruffygeist
Scruffygeist

People stopped bothering with the DMN because it became nothing but AP reprints, press releases, and 20 reporters covering a Cowboys game, not some ridiculous political theory.

boris the cat
boris the cat

Yep, the Morning News has lost probably most of its circulation because it doesn't identify the race of the accused!Serious questions? Sounds more like seriously stupid to me.And anyone who uses the word "libtard" has to be a Teabagging moron until proven otherwise...

Imagepimp
Imagepimp

Endangering myself to being called a "Libtard" here, but I'd like to know exactly what in your mind is this grand importance in reporting "race" anyway? The only time it's really necessary is if a perpetrator gets away and a BOLA is put out for the cops and the neighborhood/immediate area. If a crime is averted and the suspect is picked up, who gives a damn what population he'd be assigned to?

Bmarvel
Bmarvel

But when it comes to reporting those other, more polite forms of criminal activity --  mortgage scams, pyramid schemes, various high-roller bank and business frauds, genteel middle-class drug and prostitution patronage, and the like -- no racial facts are"relevant" because these are victimless crimes and they don't cause as much havoc and suffering as the random hold-up and, besides, we all know who commits those, don't we?  

Montemalone
Montemalone

 The ones born into are born assholes, with a side of douchebag.

Albert
Albert

I hate wealthy people.

They're all white and they can go to hell.

Ryan Bauer
Ryan Bauer

Actually, as a former newspaper journalist, I saw firsthand how people stopped reading newspapers in general because they now prefer to get their news from other sources. No readers = no advertising dollars = kerput. It looks like the S-T will be the next to go in our area.

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin

so anyone using the the word "teabagging" has to be a libtard moron until prove otherwise.  Geez you people are so simple

Serious Questions
Serious Questions

Actually, it is the exact reason that many people have given as the reason they cancelled their DMN subscriptions. Many people have written letters and left comments on the DMN's opinion blog stating exactly that very reason for cancelling.

You are ignorant of that fact because you are a stereotypical reality-ignoring, fact-hating, politically-correct, white-guilt "progressive" LIBTARD.

RTGolden
RTGolden

Actually, thanks to a generation of Nintendo (and it's offspring), internet access, and de facto child rearing by television, the 'younger generation' is more likely to be fatter than the older.

Serious Questions
Serious Questions

Nice try but no cigar, libtard. I'm one of the younger generation that has had all the white guilt beat out of us. You are almost assuredly fatter, older, and balder than me. Funny description of the Norh Dallas stereotype though, kudos.

Imagepimp
Imagepimp

Hey Serious: I went back and reread your prior posts. I think I got the gist of it the second time around. Sorry, but I went to a DISD high school, and even back in the day, reading comprehension took a back burner to science and math. Is this the kind of reporting that you are looking for? "...observers stated that the disturbed man appeared to be visually agitated, shaking his finger angrily in a Southward direction while screaming 'Libtards' in a loud manner. The suspect was last seen somewhere north of LBJ. He is described as being a 'middle-aged white male, balding, somewhat overweight, and bitterly angry at both the changing demographics in his country and his inability to do anything about it.' Individuals that observe this man are advised to use extreme caution before interaction."

Serious Questions
Serious Questions

Imagepimp, if you didn't have poor reading comprehension skills, you could read and understand that I was referring to at-large, uncaptured, unapprehended violent criminals. Sorry for the redundancy, but it seems that is what it takes to get your mind to comprehend what you are reading.

Bmarvel
Bmarvel

Dear Question,What is a "libtard" and how do I get to become one?I notice you toss the word around a lot, so you must have a clear idea of its meaning, if it has any. I gather it has something to do with being "liberal." So perhaps you can explain to me which of the ideas you imagine I entertain might be described as "liberal."Would it be the idea that losing my house and income to a fly-by-night mortgage mill or getting cancer from gas-well effluvia is worse than and more likely than getting conked on the head for my wallet -- something, I confess, has never happened to me, but it must happen to you daily.And what is this "Tribe" you keep referring to? The Sioux? The Mandinka?Anyway, I guess we all know who writes racist blog comments and hides behind a pseudonym, don't we?    

Lolotehe
Lolotehe

 "The tribe that shall not be named"?  This is becoming a joke.

Serious Questions
Serious Questions

Wow your chickenfucker post totally negated all the facts of reality that you can't face up to!

Oh wait, no it didn't.

White-guilt libtard.

Serious Questions
Serious Questions

Bill Marvel, you naive white-guilt libtard so-called "journalist", you and/or your loved ones are much more likely to be violently attacked by non-white thugs than you are likely to be financially ripped-off by white white-collar (mostly from the Tribe that shall not be named in polite company) financial scammers.

Personally I'd rather be scammed by white collar criminals (of any race) than to be violently attacked by thugs of any race. But hey that's just me, you might prefer to be violently attacked.

"we all know who commits those, don't we?" ... Yep we sure do.

observist
observist

No disagreements, really.  I just think there's a difference between "born asshole" and "assholery learned at a young age".

Grumpy Demo
Grumpy Demo

But you can choose to:

-know that you had nothing to do with the creation of you wealth

-reject thinking and acting that your money entitles you to adoration, lower tax rates and moral superiority.

-realize that net worth has nothing to do with a person's ethical superiority or is indicative of God's preference.

observist
observist

No one can choose how rich their parents are.

shawnpwilliams
shawnpwilliams

If I were to assume you were Anglo, which is an assumption I know, could you cite for me an instance where anyone from the New Black Panther Party killed anyone first off, or NBP or NOI killed someone non black? Excuses, excuses.

Lolotehe
Lolotehe

 Oh, he's probably one of those "monarchists" or something equally outlandish. I'd just ignore it.

JimS
JimS

Sick sick dude. I tell myself this kind of forum gves him a chance to work it out of his system, so we won't have to run into him in some City Hall bathroom. Biggest thing going on inside this kind of guy is fear.  

jfpo
jfpo

I believe the term is "troll." I would say he's not a good one at that, but he did elicit responses, which I assume was his goal.

Imagepimp
Imagepimp

Absurd indeed, and not particularly funny even as a joke.

MattL1
MattL1

Is this guy as racist as he seems, or is this a joke?  I can't quite parse it.  It's right on the "absurd" line.

Serious Questions
Serious Questions

I suppose I should post my name so your New Black Panther & Nation of Islam buddies can come kill me.

shawnpwilliams
shawnpwilliams

It's so easy to throw out these grand proclamations without attaching your name to that which you assert.  I saw the same thing on a message board yesterday about how the drug dealers at TCU would have names like Tyrone and Tyriq.  The one I remember is Tanner and there aren't a lot of Tyrone's or Tyriq's in Sigma Chi.  

Imagepimp
Imagepimp

Much like never inviting a vampire into your house, you should never answer a Serious Question with a Serious Question, Serious Questions. It renders you powerless.

Engmofo
Engmofo

You say that like it's a bad thing

boris the cat
boris the cat

Sure, hundreds of thousands of readers left the Morning News for the wacky reason which you've stated.Now put your tinfoil hat back on and stop trying to sit at the grownups' table.

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