Friday, May 11, 2007

More "All the News"...
Just a quick thought on this subject; how is a newspaper supposed to make money when it gives the news away for free on the Internet?

It should be the first question asked when it's an almost-daily occurrance where a major, print news organization in this country announces a new round of lay-offs, or decides to outsource it's 'local' reporting to a foreign country.

Now, I've blogged a bit about something along these lines in the past, and so has John Derbyshire of the National Review Online. I don't put myself in the same class as Derb, but we had a similar problem;

When I lived in Charlotte, NC, I used to receive the Charlotte Observer, which wasn't much of a newspaper unless you loved NASCAR, seventeen pages of inane church tattle, interspersed with Wal-Mart advertizing. Anyways, I found myself receiving the Observer, even though I never ordered it. Never asked them to deliever it, they never called to ask me if I wanted a subscription --- it just showed up on my doorstep. At first, infrequently, and then with more regularity. No one ever came to my door to ask me to pay for it, and the notes I left to the carrier who was mistakenly delivering it went unheeded.

Wouldn't you know it? At about the same time I was having this issue, so was Derb. New York Newsday (I believe) was showing up on his doorstep under much the same circumstances. Derb, being a much more dynamic and driven individual, actually took the trouble to find out why. Turns out that in many instances, newspapers will print far more newspapers than they can sell, knowingly, and then just distribute them, to boost circulation numbers in order to set advertizing rates. In this regard, it doesn't matter whether the Charlotte Observer actually sells 300,000 copies a day, so long as it can be said to distrubute that many.

That the practice is, one the one hand, wasteful, and on the other, dishonest, apparently doesn't enter into the equation. In the end, it's counter-productive. But then again, counter-productivity is management's job.

So, in a day and age when newspapers are being produced in order to be given away (for free), when news is given away online (for free), why should we be surprised when the same idiots decide that getting Indian reporters to cover City Hall in Pasadena, California, via the Internet, from the comfort of Calcutta, is such a bad idea?

I'll say this much for the idea; those Indian City Desk writers probably have a better command of English than their American counterparts.

One other thing about the stupidity and hypocricy of the American press; whenever I attempt to read an article that originated in the New York or Los Angeles Times, I am asked to sign on to their site with my e-mail address, presumably so the Times can monitor my reading habits and e-mail me about similar articles which might be of interest (the idea being that if the Times can increase internet hits by bringing back people who can read, and who wish to be semi-informed, their advertizing dollars increase). I can honestly say this; neither the New York Times, nor the Los Angeles Times have ever e-mailed me with a notification of a particular article I might find interesting, nor have they ever made an attempt to contact me to as much as to just say "hello".

My mailbox, both the one online and on the front stoop, however, are full of spam and junk mail. If I had to guess, the sign-in registry for Times articles has nothing to do with news and everything to do with selling my name and address to a bulk-rate spam operation.

I wonder how the Press in this country would react to a little of thier own medicine, and had a little 'investigative journalism' performed against them. The main thrusts of this investigation should be:

- What makes anyone think artificially inflating circulation numbers in order to fleece advertizers is legal or ethical?
- Why is it bad for the government to know my online habits, but the New York Times fairly demands it before I'm allowed to see it's product in a format which is free? The Times has spent years railing about the government using people's online habits as a means by which to invade privacy, but the Times should be allowed to invade my privacy so that they can make money?

To see John Derbyshire's July, 2004 Diary where he mentions the Newsday brouhaha, click here:

It doesn't take much to see why print media is dying in this country.
Time to Choose?
Appropos of nothing at all, the theme of John Edward's presidential campaign (the Two Americas, redux) entered, quite unbidden, into the darkest recesses of my deviant mind.

The premise as put forward by Mr. Edwards: there is a great divide between rich and poor in this country. The divide is growing on a daily basis, and it is causing much of the social unrest and dislocation that we witness in American life. If only the dividends of the rich could be somehow redistributed (through force, naturally) more equally, then perhaps we'd live in a more peaceful, prosperous society. It's for certain that the American middle class has been sold out, betrayed by it's politicians, it's business leaders and it's own sense of comfort (achieved at the cost of eternal personal debt).

This is standard socialist boilerplate, to be certain, with a dash of southern populism added for spice.

Now, as to what I've been thinking about it;

To begin with, perhaps John Edwards is not the best messenger. After all, the man is a multi-millionaire who made his fortune (allegedly) defrauding the medical and insurance industries, so when John Edwards speaks about universal health care and such, perhaps he's not the best person to ask how it's to be done. His expertise in the health care field is limited to figuring out how to fleece the system for personal gain, not in re-inventing it to provide service for others.

Then there's the matter of Mr. Edward's home. A man who lives in a mansion (and this is not an exaggeration; it is a palatial estate, by any definition of the word, and I haven't seen a political figure with such luxurious digs since Saddam Hussein). Now, the republican right-winger-free-market-capitalist in me says, "Well, Matt, he earned the money to pay for it, we can assume legally, and therefore, why shouldn't he be required to enjoy the fruits of his labor?" Well, true. But then Edwards starts running his mouth about 'the rich" this, and 'the wealthy" that, and it never occurs to anyone that he IS rich. That he IS wealthy. And then it begins to sound hypocritical, because you know that when it comes to redistributing wealth to pay for whatever he wants to give to the lower classes, his wealth will be the first to be protected.

Don't even begin to think otherwise.

And then we come to the second part of my thought process:

Given my personal experiences of the last four years, there is a certain appeal in what he has to say. You do have to make an effort to apply logic to it in order to avoid falling into the trap of believing that a) he actually means it and, b) that the American taxpayer can afford what he speaks of without inciting a second Revolution. Which brings me to the point of this screed.

There is no way to avoid it, but, at some point, the people in this country are going to have to make a choice about their long-term financial security. This choice will be based upon a very simple proposition; at current rates of growth, the Federal tax base will not be able to support both Social Security and some form of extended health care system (Medicare) without tax hikes that will ultimately destroy the tax base, and leave the federal government incapable of doing anything else but providing free Viagra and cutting social security checks for the two wealthiest generations in American history (the remnants of the "Greatest Generation" who have milked the system for far more than they ever paid in, and the selfish "Baby Boomers" who believe the world owes them a living because they went to Woodstock).

Now, it's bad enough that our "economic geniuses" on Wall Street and in the hallowed refuges of the Executive Washroom are shipping our jobs overseas, making those who can find employment work longer hours for less pay and fewer benefits, and bribing our government to allow unfettered illegal immigration in order to re-establish what true liberal policies once eliminated; slavery within the borders of the United States. Eventually, there will be no jobs, for anyone, no paychecks being collected, no taxes generated and all of our wealth shipped to China, Bangladesh and Singapore. And then what will we do? No money for defense, no money for bribing the unproductive, no cash to keep Grandma in Claritin, ultimately, no money for the rest of us. For anything.

So, it's time to make a choice; if you're one of those who believes, like John Edwards, that the government should provide health care to the masses, then you must be prepared to give something up. Like Social Security, perhaps. If you're one of those who believes Social Security has outlasted it's usefulness to American society and should have a stake driven through it's black heart, then you should also realize that it will soon be impossible for any American (except the shrinking ownership class) to afford to have an eye exam or get a cavity filled, and that it is now inevitable that some form of national health care is in the offing. And that it should be paid for...somehow.

In lieu of the Sturm und Drang of the Iraq imbroglio, I have yet to hear anyone bring this topic up. Probably because it isn't 'sexy' and because both sides would rather have the issues left ambiguous in order to gin up grievances for electoral purposes.

but eventually, that sort of choice is going to have to be made. America, start thinking about it; you can be mollycoddled in your old age, or you can be kept healthy enough (perhaps) to reach old age, but not both.

As for John Edwards, brazenly hypocritical doesn't even begin to describe him. But even a broken clock is right twice a day.
All the News That's, Yada, Yada, Yada...

Check out this blurb from,2933,271577,00.html

Then ask yourself this; at what point does it become impossible NOT to laugh at today's corporate manager?

Outsourcing your LOCAL reporting to Bombay? I shake my head in disgust at both the need to maximize profits, at all costs (including that of credibility), and at the fact that the people who made this decision are also the people who decide what we read in their paper.

It's a sad commentary on the state of the media, at the very least.