Monday, August 04, 2008

Cicero's Second Death

Great orator that he was, Cicero still spent most of his life playing it safe. But something happened after Caesar's assassination. Suddenly, he grew brave, delivering fourteen Philippics, speeches against tyranny and for the restoration of the Republic.

He paid for this courage with his life. When they came for him, he defiantly exposed his neck to his murderers, in the manner of defeated gladiators.

Killing him was not enough.

Both hands were cut off, perhaps from fear he might still write something. Pins were stuck in his tongue, perhaps from fear he might deliver a fifteenth Phillipic.

And so it is today. Our new tyrant, the corporate state, is slowly cutting off the hands and tongues of our news gatherers. They don't look at news gathering as a public trust. To them, it's all about what sells best.
Corporations are not in the business of news. They hate news, real news. Real news is not convenient to their rape of the nation. Real news makes people ask questions. They prefer to close the prying eyes of reporters. They prefer to transform news into another form of mindless amusement and entertainment.

In ominous news for Morning Call employees, corporate master Sam Zell has already warned that newsroom casualties will be "significantly greater" by year's end.

And so the grave dancing begins.

22 comments:

Anonymous said...

Bernie,

What may be bad news for the valley's newspaper readers may be good news for beleaguered Allentown residents. The "Call's" diminished ability to control the news in this town is welcomed by many. No news may be better than what we have gotten from the paper in the past.

Scott Armstrong

Bernie O'Hare said...

Actually, no news is bad news.

Anonymous said...

i don't see any corporate evil at work here. what i am seeing is that the local newspaper is no longer a viable platform from which citizens get ALL their news.

perhaps they might want to cover just local news and let people get their national/international info. from other sources.

what we are seeing here is a painful and hopefully not too long a process by which we arrive at a new forumula for delivering local news.

i have long since stopped reading section A of the local papers because i get this information from cable news and from the NYT and Wash Post.

and i don't read section D because i get this information from Bloomberg, the Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times of London.

there is a place for local news and obituaries; we just have to find the best and most ecnomical format. i don't see anything sinister in coporations not supporting news vehicles that are obsolete.

Bernie O'Hare said...

consigliere,

The rise of the corporate state is so pervasive it's not even noticed. In ther news arena, it's bnecome more of a news-entertainment industry. hence, we have Time Warner or Viacom controlling nearly everything we see or read.

This corporate takeover is not some deep dark conspiracy to supress the masses, but it is a matter of fact. Hard-hitting journalism has been replaced by chatty anchors and stories about Lindsey Lohan. It's just evolved that way.

In the case of the Tribune, Sam Zell is a self-proclaimed grave dancer who has no interest in producing news. His sole motive is money, and basically it's money for him.

The Internet will NOT replace what serves now as news. But are news vehicles really obsolete?

Anonymous said...

If readership and ad revenue is declining and costs are increasing, what happens when the money is all gone? Should the government subsidize the newspaper?

Bernie O'Hare said...

Then you would no longer have a free and independent press. No, I'd like to know why readership is declining - is it bc people don't care or is it bc the stories that need to be told are not being told? I suggest it is the latter.

I'll give you an example. At election time, my sitemeter goes nutz. People are very hungry, but that's when the press goes into hibernation. People really want to know what is going on, but the paper no longer tells them.

The solution should be more, not less, news.

Anonymous said...

maybe because . . . lindsay lohan is a hell of a lot more interesting than charlie dent.
(sam bennett....well, that's another matter).

Anonymous said...

newspapers might not be obsolete; but maybe a weekly newspaper just for local news stories?

Anonymous said...

Anon 11:18, it exists already - the "Presses" - The East Penn Press, Parkland Press, Whitehall-Coplay Press, Northwestern Press, Northampton Press, Salisbury Press and Catasauqua Press.

What is glaringly absent are the Allentown, Bethlehem and Easton Presses.

But if you live in any of these communities, these papers do a fantastic job covering local issues.

The Banker

Anonymous said...

Bernie, I still don't buy that the Internet (or some technological solution) won't replace, or at least supplant, what serves now as news.

I read the article you linked to the other day on this topic, does that outline your view or do you have a different twist to it?

The Banker

Anonymous said...

wink, wink!
Controlled news just as mad as no news!


Bernie O'Hare said...

Actually, no news is bad news.

8:28 AM

Bernie O'Hare said...

Banker,

I really enjoyed the Hedges article, but don't agree w/ it completely. I don't think the Internet can replace the newspaper, so in that sense I agree. But I also think that a local newspaper that really emphasizes the local news and that provides a quality product, will succeed.

Anonymous said...

Retired ASD teacher here.

There has got to be a huge "over-40" audience within the Call's region, a M.S.A. in excess of 800,000. Surely, there is still a market for the Call to tap, and that market will be around for another 20-25 years!

The age of the market I describe WANTS a daily paper.

BUT . . .

they'll only pay for something at their door that doesn't come easily to them on TV69. Internet usage for this demographic should not be a big concern. If they do use the internet, their station in life also allows them to continue paying for a printed product/habit they grew up with.

The Call needs to provide HEAVY local news coverage, useful features about local people and establishments, one-of-a-kind pieces.

Unfortunately, one-of-a kind local pieces require local reporters, something the Call's management has chosen to eliminate to save their own jobs!

Forget competing with the internet and TV! You've lost that battle. You can't deliver as rapidly, nor with as many bells and whistles.

Make solid, local, UNIQUE, and daily reading material available and much of the population will still be interested.

And for me, lose the bias and hidden agenda. Seasoned readers resent paying for that.

Anonymous said...

Bernie and ASD,

I agree with both of you that there will always be a need for that heavy local focus (so we agree on content). Also, I believe we agree that the content needs to be news reporting, not slanted or biased in any way. That will be the toughest accomplishment of all, and it's just as tough in print media as it is on the Internet.

I do disagree though on the technology piece and what role it can play in the delivery of local content, and how quickly it will play it.

I still remember in 1986 my office got its first fax machine, and my manager said it'll never catch on, documents are too long to fax, it used to come out in one long sheet of thermal paper, images on the thermal paper faded, etc.

He was wrong, as are most (not all, but most) bets against technology.

The question is, what delivery mechanism will it be?

I love going to the diner for breakfast w/ a paper, and I think there will always be newspapers of some sort, but for a local paper to survive will be a tremendous challenge.

The Banker

Anonymous said...

Retired ASD teacher here.

Banker, I meant to acknowledge your earlier post with its emphasis upon local, but didn't. My apologies.

A tangible product in hand will ALWAYS have value. People still buy hardcover and paperback materials. Those materials allow a unique and special opportunity to exercise senses the digital "bells and whistles" can't provide.

HOWEVER, unless the Call's physical product is an item OF ITS OWN, well-done, trusted, and appealing to a specific market, it is doomed to be lost in the shuffle of any amazing array of alternatives.

Problem is, the Call is no longer managed by an entity whose endeavor is to provide service to the public.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
Retired ASD teacher here.

There has got to be a huge "over-40" audience within the Call's region, a M.S.A. in excess of 800,000. Surely, there is still a market for the Call to tap, and that market will be around for another 20-25 years!

The age of the market I describe WANTS a daily paper.

--Sadly, while there are certainly some that do, more do not. TMC's audience, like most papers, has been slowly shrinking for years. Through natural attrition, they lose the generation of traditional, "local native" newspaper consumers. They are forced to market to a younger, less enthusiastic constituency.

These folks live a different life today. They are busier, commuting, are newcomers who have less interest in what is going on locally, and were raised during a time when education focused more on touchy-feely nonsense rather than reading, history, current events, etc. The cities are populated by people of limited income who won't/can't spend money for a newspaper (advertisers really don't want circulation in that demographic anyhow. They want Parkland, Saucon Valley and Forks Township, not Chew or Northampton Streets). And they have choices - many of which come free or are included in fees they pay for other services - that make doing without a daily paper less than a hardship.

Yes - there will still be a market for TMC in the near future. The problem is that the market will continue to shrink, and will soon not be large enough to support their infrastructure. Their three largest expenses are labor, newsprint and Energy, the latter two totally out of there control and continually rising well ahead of any new revenue they can create. The product, villified in so many of these posts, will not even be a shadow of its current self when TMC gets down to 90,000 subscribers (where they will be shortly). While that number may still seem like a lot to people outside the business, a decline of that magnitude at a paper that was built to serve 150,000 will put them near the brink of collapse.

In my opinion, there is one hope for them. The Zell deal must fail. Then the property could be purchased by a good newspaper company (one with little debt and that is positioned to weather the current economic downturn) at a fire sale price. If they could live with a 5-8% margin, they could bring in new management and rebuild.

Anonymous said...

ASD, no apologies necessary, but thanks. And I totally agree w/ your comments on the Call.

I agree to a point on tangible products in hand, but technology is gaining. As an example, check out the Amazon Kindle Wireless Reading Device. Books, newspapers, blogs (yes, blogs), etc. all available right there on a handheld device w/ a screen big enough to work. Lots of features that make it easier to use as well.

Word is they've already sold over 240,000 of them - a drop in the bucket yes, but a bucket fills one drop at a time. And that bucket will fill quickly as the price drops, a sure thing when talking technology.

We live in interesting times!

The Banker

Anonymous said...

i got one of the Kindle readers when they first came out. digital content is where it's at! the notion of a "paper" which has to be "delivered" to your door at an ungodly hour of the morning is a complete anachronism.

ideally, some of the money saved on paper, printing and hand delivery could go to augment salaries of reporters to produce hard news.

and for those of you "politically correct" types, presumably it would help save the environment as well.

Anonymous said...

Bernie,

I used today's front page story as a case where misinformation is worse than no information. Residents of Allentown are now being led to believe that Mayor Ed Pawlowski has a real plan to police Allentown. No mention is made in the article of the fact that this is at least the third different plan that Ed has had in three years and that he campaigned for mayor saying he knew exactly how to solve Allentown's crime problems. Clearly, that was false. I add as well that when in the 1990's Lowell moved from traditional policing to community policing, so did Allentown under former Mayor Bill Heydt. It was Ed Pawlowski's mentor Roy Afflerbach who disbanded what was a very successful community policing effort in Allentown. Once again, are misinformed people any more informed of the truth than people with no information?

Scott Armstrong

Bernie O'Hare said...

Scott,

I saw and was disgusted by today's puff piece, published 2 days in advance of the presentation to be made to city council. It is disingenuous and I believe the report was little more than propaganda. It's obvious on its face, at least to me.

Anonymous said...

Sic semper tyrannis! To Hell with them!


Scott Armstrong

Blah Society said...

Scott,

You're not gonna shoot anyone, are you?