Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Where did the summer go? (unedited)

I don't regret that I didn't blog this summer. I regret that I didn't do other things, but the missed blog opportunities during our too-short Minnesota summer is far from my biggest regret.

I could blog about a bunch of stuff tonight, such as the meathead at the L.A. Guns concert not so far back, the Bert Farve jersey phenomena, how the White Sox failed to win the lousiest division, by a landslide, in the American League or the near-death experience of Swamp's 4-year-old son. That story still amazes me.

No, none of that tonight. Instead I will remind myself, again, that life is short, and toiling at a morally bankrupt newspaper conglomerate, one that filed financial bankruptcy this spring, is sucking the life out of me.

In our new world order, (post bankruptcy,) we have even fewer people than we had following the late February layoffs. We're producing crappy videos for our website, devoting less than 1 FTE to papers covering cities with populations exceeding 50,000 and pretending we'll find a way to make money selling our product and remain a viable business in five years. (I highly doubt it.)

I get it, newspapers are suffering everywhere, and it's a lousy economy on top of the fact the Internet has raped us of our profitability, which is the reason they exist. Oh sure, it sounds nice, we're in the business of serving our communities with news and information. But that's not why we exist. We're nothing more than another vehicle for generating income. The problem is that the industry has lost advertising revenue to the Internet, and it's classic toothpaste out of the tube, we're never getting that revenue back. We're not.

We're not the only industry that's going to be rendered irrelevant by the Internet? The old folks may look forward to that big, cumbersome telephone directory, but I can't tell you the last time I used one to look up anything. That's ridiculous.

The need for news, like the need for phone numbers, won't go away. The commodity will move from dead trees to pixels on a computer screen, or mobile phone. But the vehicles that have delivered them are rapidly becoming outdated, just like the Ford Pinto.

With all the new wealth created by the Internet, all the new businesses and jobs that nobody could have imagined 15 year ago, something has to fall by the wayside. And there, ladies and gentleman, is your newspaper industry. Some people got fat and happy off the profits of the printed page. Those holding the bag today are likely to end up another casualty of progress. It's the American way.

Will papers cease to exist? I doubt it, but perhaps it's time for a new funding formula. Perhaps one day our newspapers will be nonprofit entities, commodities supported by the users, with no stockholders to be beholden to. That sounds like a lot of work by a lot of people with nobody getting fat off the backs of those toiling at meager salaries to deliver the product.

And after the past several years of hell I've endured at my newspaper conglomerate, I welcome such a day.

It's too bad I won't be around to see it.

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