February 19, 2009
Saving Your Local Newspaper - III
A couple of more quick thoughts on the evident, imminent demise of the Rocky, and Mike Littwin's comments on an earlier post.
First, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer may be looking at an online-only existence. So at least someone's taking the idea seriously.
Second, as to that claim about risk-taking. The PI employees may be examining a buyout. Still:
The Pacific Northwest Newspaper Guild is "trying to figure out if enough P-I employees are interested in a buyout that it would be worthwhile for us to bring out a consultant and to seek state money for a feasibility study," Guild Administrative Officer Liz Brown said. (emphasis mine.
State money? How about starting an "I Want My PI" site and asking for online contributions to that cause? (For that matter, how about using "I Want My Rocky" to ask for money to study alternatives?) How about seeking money from a local venture capitalist? I understand there are a few of those around the Seattle/Redmond area. How about the union ponying up the cash for its own study? It's commendable that they're considering buying out the paper, especially if they remain open to the online-only concept. But asking the taxpayers to fund a feasibility study?
Finally, Mike claims that a paid online version of the Rocky couldn't compete with a free version of the Post. Talk about assuming facts not in evidence. I said I thought it could, if it were better, and relentless pointed out its superiority to its customers. But there's another, more basic reason why this might work.
To claim that paid-for superior coverage can't compete with free schlock is saying that people won't pay for local and state news. At all. It's saying that what you do has no economic value And you don't believe that, or else you wouldn't continue writing, and couldn't continue drawing a paycheck for contributing nothing to anyone's well-being. And I don't believe that, or I wouldn't be willing to pay for an online Rocky, even one that included your columns. (We kid because we care.)
Which means that if the Rocky were able to charge - even a little - for its online product, the Post, which is laying off staff of its own, would immediately recognize another revenue stream and start charging for its own product.
Price competition isn't the issue here. The Rocky tried essentially giving away its product several years ago, and found it didn't help at all. It made, or was saddled with, some other handicaps as well. When I moved here 12 years ago, I made the mistake of assuming the Post was to be taken more seriously because 1) I knew the name, and 2) it was a broadsheet, and tabloid were, well, tabloid-ey. (They also kept Holger Jensen around in the same way the Mariners are bringing back Ken Griffey, Jr., but that's another story.)
It made these mistakes in a market that had been contracting for decades. This isn't about fighting that fact. It's about changing habits of mind that are saddling an important product with horrible, unsustainable costs.
February 18, 2009
Saving Your Local Newspaper - II
In a comment response to "Saving Your Local Newspaper," Mike Littwin makes some interesting points that deserve a reply.
Some reporters put themselves personally at physical risk all the time, of course. But that's very different from experimenting with things that have never been done before. In fact, they often seem more threatened than excited by innovation. From Dan Rather's reaction to being mercilessly fact-checked, hurricanes are easier than criticism. His and CBS's reactions were all too typical, and hardly courageous.
Editors and columnists and reporters love controversy under the old rules. It meant they were selling papers. They could print a few letters to the editor about how that so-and-so Littwin was a jerk, and satisfy their readers that they were having a real discussion. But that sort of controversy isn't risk, it's reward. For the New York Times, having its inability to get basic facts right mocked relentlessly, that's risk. And for some reason, they don't seem to embrace it.
As for paid competing with free, it works when your product is better or when you have a niche. I could read BusinessWeek or Forbes for free. Sometimes, I even do. But I pay to read the Wall Street Journal.
- Ditch the print edition. Or sell it only in limited quantities at stores. Your product is news, not paper. Everything about that print edition costs you money. The Post has pretty serious financial problems, too, and you'll have divested yourselves of the biggest industry design flaw.
- Produce two products. A 700-word article that people are used to reading and have time for, and longer pieces. Point out - repeatedly - what questions the Post's reporting raises but leaves unanswered, and then answer them. Do this every day. Newspapers don't sell themselves, you know. This won't make you or anyone else at the Rocky liked over at the Post.
- Limit online advertising. It'll make your product more attractive. Part of Isaacson's idea is to have both advertising and subscription revenue streams. We all agree pop-up online ads are annoying. I might not subscribe to the WSJ if every article were preceded by an in-my-face pitch for a $2,000,000 foreclosure in the Hamptons.
- Charge reasonably for the archives, and make sure everything, back to 1859, is in there. (College students will work for remarkably low wages.) I will almost never pay $2.95 for a three year old story. But if I'm already paying $50 a year, another nickel or dime doesn't seem like so much. Certainly cheaper than driving down to DU to use Lexis-Nexis on the library computer.
I don't want to see the paper die at the end of the month. I like the Rocky. One of the reasons the Post hasn't spun off into Star-Tribune levels of irresponsibility is the existence of the Rocky. I don't blame the Rocky for others' hare-brained ideas of government subsidies. It's all too easy to beat up on other people for not wanting to compete.
But whatever newspapers are doing isn't working, and this refusal even to try is an much symptomatic as it is causational.
February 1, 2009
AP Warns GOP Against "Risky" Opposition to Debt
Opposition to excessive debt as "analyzed" by the AP:
Analysis: GOP gambles in opposing Obama stimulus
By CHARLES BABINGTON and LIZ SIDOTI
AP White House Correspondent Jennifer Loven contributed to this report.
At least two of these folks come with a history. Charles Babington, when at the Washington Post, and Jennifer Loven, in her current position as Democratic flack for the AP, each have a history of writing briefs for the current Democratic position disguised as news reporting or analysis, with Loven having trouble interpreting polls correctly.
WASHINGTON (AP) Eight days after Barack Obama took office as a "change" president, House Republicans have made a huge political gamble that could set the tone for the next election cycle.
In unanimously opposing the massive spending bill that Obama says is crucial to reviving the economy, they signaled they are not cowed by his November win or his calls for a new era of bipartisanship. Obama's popularity will slacken, they say, and even if it doesn't voters will reward a party that makes principled stands for restrained spending and bigger tax cuts.
As usual, "bipartisanship" for Democrats means, "do it our way." The cuts to the package were trivial, the remainder a wish-list of payoffs, new permanent spending, and disguised protectionism.
Democratic officials think Republicans are misreading Americans' hunger for action. And if they are right, the GOP could face a third round of election setbacks next year.
Ah, "Democratic officials" believe there's a Republican gamble, therefore there is one. No possibility that the gamble is on the Democrats' side instead.
The rest of the article is essentially a Democratic press release, repeating claims that the Republicans are rooting for a weaker economy, and that tax cuts for people who don't pay income taxes are actually offset against payroll taxes. Remarkable that when the Democratic party spent 2006-2007 talking about, "the worst economy since the Great Depression," and actively undercutting the war effort in Iraq, the AP never found time to accuse them of rooting against their country's economy or military.
The House vote makes it easier for Democrats to portray the entire Republican Party as a do-nothing, head-in-the-sand group, though GOP officials call that unfair.
It certainly will make it easier for the AP to portray the GOP that way, as only GOP officials will call it unfair.
Both parties point to polls that they say show support for their respective viewpoints. White House chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel told House Republican moderates this week that surveys find about 80 percent support for the stimulus legislation.
House GOP leaders, meanwhile, cited a poll Thursday in which most respondents said the stimulus bill is too expensive. It also found, they said, that 71 percent think it's unfair to give refund checks to people who do not pay federal income taxes.
I don't believe published polls supporting Emanuel's position exist, and the AP doesn't cite any; Gallup has a slim 53% majority supporting the bill, while Rasmussen has the bill supported by 42-39. And while the Gallup poll has independents supporting it 46-40, Rasmussen has them opposing it 50-27. The AP reports no numbers for the Republican claims, and instead focuses on the unfairness of tax cuts.
In reality, the political decision here is easy to make. As Powerline pointed out, if the package is seen to be successful, the Democrats will get credit regardless of how the Republicans vote. If the package is seen not to have helped, then Republicans who vote for it will once again have forfeited a chance to distinguish themselves from Democrats.
In the world of the AP, only Republicans always take political risks by acting on principle.
December 29, 2008
Stirred, Not Shaken
That's what we ought to be after a molotov cocktail attack on a Chicago synagogue. The AP is reporting that the police are investigating it as a hate crime, but, "Officials say they don't know if there's a link between the incident and increased violence in the Middle East."
No, of course not. Probably no connection whatsoever. Obviously, it could just as easily have been a white supremacist as an Arab, but I'm guessing this wasn't just someone who thought it would be cool to light up a shul on the last night of Channukah.
December 16, 2008
I Want My Rocky
Some of the writers over at the Rocky
have started a site, I Want My Rocky
, dedicated to saving their newspaper.
Good luck with that. I doubt that those participating believe that they're doing anything other than sharing memories, more or less resigned to the demise of their beloved paper. A letter-writing campaign may have given us one more miserable half-season of Star Trek
, but owners are more savvy now.
What struck me was the old-time, MSM-based orientation of the site. The stories linked to
are almost all print or tv news sites. The important links are all legislators and Scripps, as though elected officials had been able to save the NY Sun
. In the meantime, there's an appeal to something called the Newspaper Preservation Act
, and a friendly reminder
from the union.
There is, it appears no Facebook group, no twitter hash tag, There's a plea for links to stories about the site, implying no access to Google Alerts. There's no discussion of alternate business models, of the kids taking over the barn and saving the paper themselves, no talk of making an online model work.
demise isn't something to celebrate, it's something to mourn. I've gotten to know some of the reporters and columnists personally. I've no desire to see them unemployed.
But this site underscores the somewhat blinkered thinking that has let newspapers get overrun by new media, and doesn't give much hope for change,
December 8, 2008
Rocky for Sale
As by now everyone know, the Rocky Mountain News has been put on the block. This at a time when the Tribune Company has filed for Chapter 11, when over 30 papers are for sale nationwide, and there don't seem to be any buyers for large-market papers. The business reasons for this have been chewed over ad infinitum, but the chief culprit is declining ad revenue, which only looks to get worse. (I'd also suggest brand equity; the Rocky used to win the lion's share of the journalism awards, but the Post had a better brand, in part because broadsheets seem to carry greater credibility.)
Editorially, this is an opportunity. It's an opportunity for center-right bloggers, who will now be able to go after the Post as it inevitably spins off to the left, becoming our version of the Strib. It's an opportunity for us to do more original reporting, since it's possible the Rocky won't be there to do it.
It may be a big opportunity for the Examiner, which may try to pick up some of the loose talent soon to be running around Denver looking for work. The online paper is based here in town, and could rapidly turn its local edition into the flagship for the country.
It's also an opportunity for the talent at the Rocky, who could try the same thing on their own. Shed the national reporting, bring in some entrepreneurial-minded management, ditch the printing presses and expensive delivery system, and turn the paper into an online, state- and local-oriented newspaper. Charge a nominal fee for a subscription, and go back to a no-holds-barred style, that takes on the Post directly.
December 2, 2008
Junior Strikes Out
I've been a fan of John Feinstein's sports writing for years. Not so much of his political writing. Today's Washington Post carries a sterling example of the latter, masquerading as the former.
As some of you may have heard, New York Giants wide receiver Plaxico Burress carried an unlicensed handgun into a New York nightclub (is there any other kind of handgun for a private citizen in New York?), and put himself on the disabled list by shooting himself in the leg.
This is the latest in a series of gun-related, ah, fumbles by NFL players in recent months, and Feinstein uses it as an excuse to call for repeal of the 2nd Amendment, and to launch a broadside at those who might disagree:
Now, let's not start screaming about the Second Amendment. To begin with, the amendment should be abolished -- a sensible interpretation of the amendment is that it was written to allow the people to raise a militia for protection and to hunt for food. Clearly no one needs to raise a militia these days, and those who hunt for a living can be licensed to do so.
It would be nice if President-elect Obama had the time to focus his energies on repeal of the Second Amendment, but he first has to deal with a broken economy and the incredibly wrong-headed war started by his predecessor. What's more, the issue of gun rights causes almost as much screaming from the right as abortion rights, the irony being that those yelling the loudest about the right to life are usually those yelling almost as loud about their right to carry weapons that kill.
Barring that, he says, the NFL should make it a condition of employment that no player can own a handgun. This, because protection even in their own homes is something that NFL players apparently can't be trusted with. To get there, he has to revisit the death of Sean Taylor, who had gotten himself on the straight and narrow just in time to be killed in his own house by what I would presume to be former...associates.
It's not worth arguing the 2nd Amendment with someone who lives near DC but who evidently hasn't bothered to read or understand the Heller case. But the juvenalia on display in the second paragraph could have appeared, word for word, in the Cavalier Daily 25 years ago when I was in school. And probably did.
Imagine a conservative sportswriter writing a column about the evils of McCain-Feingold, the abuses of Title IX (coming to a physics department near you), or the joys of limited government, and in the bargain, questioning man-made climate change and accusing Obama of socialist tendencies. I'm sure it happens every once in a long while, and when politics creeps into sports talk radio, it does tend to be from both sides. But for some reason, the print guys tend to think their columns are a license to shill for the Left.
December 1, 2008
Disarming the Front Lines
Completely missing from media reports of the Mumbai attacks are India's strict gun control laws, which virtually disarmed the people at the point of attack, turning them almost inevitably - and almost immediately - into victims. (Hat Tip: Instapundit)
I'm mentioned before that should you - God forbid - find yourself in such a situation, you must act as though your life is already forfeit, since the jihadis will treat your life that way. Difficult though it is, acting to thwart or complicate the attack is the best way to save your life and those of others.
Apparently, it hasn't occurred to the media that the best way of making sure that doesn't happen is to make the targets helpless.
November 28, 2008
Newspaper Finance - II
The Balance Sheet
Put simply, American newspaper companies have too much debt, and have been fooling themsevles about how much equity they have. When they went through that period of consolidation a few years back, the surviving (so far) companies vastly overpaid for the properties they bought, thinking that either they could turn them around or that the names would translate into sales. Then they borrowed agains these "assets," and have thus robbed themselves of whatever flexibility they had.
Here are the assets of the seven companies we've been looking at so far:
The bars represent the total assets. The blue represents something called, "Goodwill," the red, everything else. Goodwill is, roughly speaking, the vigorish that you pay for a company. Essentially, according to accounting rules, you're not allowed to pay more for something than it's worth. What you pay for it is what it's worth. So if you pay $4 million for a company whose net assets are valued at $3 million, after the buyout you put down the extra $1 million as an asset called, "Goodwill." It can generously be interpreted as extra cash you think the property should generate over time.
But it's a guess, an estimation, and can also serve as a slush line item to hide the fact that you just overpaid by 50% for a name that isn't generating any ad revenue any more, but that People Trust. It used to be that Goodwill was amortized over a period of time. Now, it has to be re-examined as often as necessary, and written down as appropriate.
Let's take a look at what's going to happen, as accountants realize that if the New York Times can't sell ad space, neither will the Podunk Press they sunk $2.5 extra large into five years ago, and that all the Goodwill in the world isn't going to change the fact that Iowans are getting their news from here and their local advertising from here.
The other rule here, so basic it's been known since the Italian Renaissance as the Accounting Rule is that Assets = Liabilities + Equity. If I write down an asset, I also need to subtract a like amount from either liabilities or equity. Since Goodwill isn't exactly a loan, likely it'll come out of equity. Here are the Owners' Equity lines from these companies, before and after Goodwill is subtracted:
That's right, boys and girls. Four of these Titans of Type go from having positive equity to negative equity, meaning they owe more than their companies are worth. And this is a completely defensible assessment. Given the current market, and the likelihood of how these will develop, you can't sell that Goodwill on the open market, because people apparently have resorted to paying what things are worth.
Now all of these companies have some long-term debt, although the Washington Post company seems to have made an effort to pay its down to minimal levels. Typically, I don't want debt-to-equity to be more than about 1. I know, there was a time not so very long ago when investors liked leverage. Because after all, we'd always be able to refinance that, wouldn't we? But I was never comfortable with huge debt-equity ratios.
Naturally, the D-E are calculating including Goodwill. Here's what happens when you subtract the Goodwill from the equity, and recalculate:
Not much fun. Of course, four of them go from positive to negative, including USA Today, which looked safe. The Journal newspapers only edge up to 1.30, and the NY Times - whoa, there, Pinch! - run up from a safe-looking 0.75 to almost 3.2. Only the Washington Post manages to stay sober.
These companies have been fooling themselves about the state of their balance sheets, believing that they had better balance than they did, because they were counting on revenues that will never materialize.
Now, I know what you're thinking. Debt's ok if you can pay it. Well, as we'll see next time, that's a problem, too.
March 29, 2008
At the end of Across the Pacific, Humphrey Bogart, having helped to thwart a Japanese plan to attack the Panama Canal, offers up the US Army Air Force to assist any home-islanders wanting to commit hara-kiri over their failure.
Make that picture today, and not only would the plan succeed (although the enemy would either be nameless, or a fascist member of the fast-disappeaing class called, "white Europeans"), some heroic American would probably try to off the President, not for failing to stop it, but for trying to stop it.
Glenn Reynolds is proposing an X-Prize for Iraq War films, where the 1) Americans are the good guys, 2) the jihadis are the bad guys, and 3) we win, for the benefit of innocent civilians more interested in living their lives. A lot of people might contribute to such a prize, but it would seem that such a prize is unncessary - just buy a ticket.
C'mon, Glenn, whatever happened to the whole Army of Davids idea?
UPDATE: This is what happened. Outside the Wire is trying to sell 2900 DVDs to beat Redacted's box office. Heh. Still, it's a documentary. While decent on-the-spot reporting is in short supply, documentaries like this aren't going to make box-office history.
We need stories.
March 6, 2007
Economics By Doctors
Last week, the local propagator of economic illiteracy, the Denver Post, ran an op-ed by a professor over at the University of Colorado Health Sciences center, who specializes in bioethics and the humanitites. It included the usual bromides about obscene profit margins and too much marketing vs. too little R&D. It concluded with a call for the citizenry to demand more R&D spending by drug companies. Or presumably, we'll be taking away those profits to make sure there's no more R&D. (Ironically, a week earlier I had had this debate with a friend of mine who's a doctor there, so maybe it's something in the water. Or a virus.)
In the meantime, Russ Roberts has an extensive podcast with Mr. Law-and-Economics himself, RIchard Epstein, an actual economist, of the Hoover Institution and the University of Chicago. Epstein makes the following points.
- That studies show that drug companies keep somewhere between 15% and 25% of the economic profit from their discoveries. Which means that you and I get to keep about 80% of the benefit from someone else's work.
- That the excessively long FDA approval time robs the compnies from many of the benefits of the patent system
- That taxing away the profits is only going to force the drug companies to focus on the higher-margin projects, which will then lead the same whiners to complain about the even more obscene profit margins
- That there will always be competition, since it's the molecule not the health benefit that gets patented; this means that your slightly different drug with a slightly different mechanism can compete even while the original is under patent protection
I'd add one other point. Mark Yarborough complains about the ratio of marketing budgets to R&D budgets. But this is always true. I just finished visiting a company, Brush Engineered Materials, which refuses to get pantents on much of its research out of the belief that they'd rather not have their competition reverse engineer their processes. Their competitive advantage and their real asset is their institutional know-how and craftsmanship in the art of making metal alloys. This is a company that knows it needs to be ahead of the curve, always developing new alloys and new uses for those alloys.
They spend less than 1% of gross revenues on R&D.
I never would have know about Epstein's book if not for a series of blog links.
Thus do institutional biases restrict the debate. At least on their pages.
November 22, 2006
The Return of Holger Jensen?
Longtime Denver newspaper readers - of whom there seem to be fewer and fewer every year - will remember someone called, "Holger Jensen" who used to edit the Rocky's foreign coverage. Jensen had a thing about Israel. He didn't much like it. Eventually, his bias got the better of him when he allowed it to overwhelm his journalistic ethics and he printed an easily-fact-checkable-and-yet-un-fact-checked slander against Ariel Sharon. The Rocky had no choice but to can him, and he was last seen writing fishing articles.
This morning, the Rocky has printed what is easily one of the most dishonest pieces of Islamist propaganda ever to disgrace its pages. Then again, "dishonest" and "Islamist propaganda" are quite reundant.
Rima Barakat accuses Israel of deliberately murdering a random, innocent, Palestinian family for the crime of practicing for the 4th of July. She then calls on the world to hold the Jewish community here in the US accountable for this. Really.
Barakat begins with a bill of particulars against the IDF. Here's how it starts:
The latest massacre in Gaza of 18 members of the Athamna family, including eight children, who were sleeping in their beds, is another example of the level of contempt with which the Israel government views Palestinian lives. The regular use of disproportionate firepower against a trapped population not only violates international law but also contradicts the basic civilized conduct of any responsible government.
One might well think that the "basic civilized condust of any responsible government" would include preventing its citizens from launching armed missiles into schools, homes, cars, ice cream stands, and whatever other "soft targets" are in their way. One might be forgiven for thinking they include not launching cross-border raids to capture and murder soldiers. But such strictures apparently don't apply to the Hamas government of the Palestinian territories.
Of course, I suppose it's possible that the IDF troops, seeing a group of small children picking strawberries, just decided to pick up and machine-gun them all, although if they wanted the strawberries, they probably could have just taken them after the kids were finished.
No, this tragedy, like so many others, is a result of deliberate cynical Palestinian strategy - the placement of Qassam rocket launchers in civilian areas, in order to maximize the deaths of their own people for propaganda purposes. People like Ms. Barakat are mouthpieces for this sort of calculating blood libel, making hay on the deaths of the very people they purport to support. People like Ms. Barakat ought to be ashamed of themselves, yet apparently are beyond shame.
In fact, the Palestinians in question make use of the very humanity of the Israeli soldiers - which they then seek to deny. The Jerusalem Post reported the other day that masses of people flocked to the home of a targeted Hamas murderer, in order to prevent him from being killed or arrested by Israeli troops. I know Gaza has turned into a large school for martyrs, but my guess is that most of those people were there knowing they were safe from the depradations of the IDF.
Israel justifies these attacks as military responses to a simple homemade device called the Qassam "firecracker" rocket. But Israeli politicians do not believe that the Qassam creates a threat to Israeli security. In fact, Shimon Peres, has commented that "This hysteria over the Qassams must end."
Well, when you're quoting Shimon Peres, you know you've run out of options. I'm surprised she just didn't go all the way and quote Jimmy Carter. Let's make a deal - when the Qassams stop killing people in Sderot, and turning that and other border settlements into ghost towns, Israel will stop trying to uproot them. Until then, it's not really up to a government whose charter foresees the complete destruction of Israel in every paragraph to decide what constitutes a security threat.
Brutality has never brought peace to any country or people. Slavery, apartheid and Nazi concentration camps have eventually brought ruin and disgrace upon the perpetrators. All acts of mass slaughter of innocent civilians must be condemned by people of all faiths.
A special responsibility sits with people belonging to the Jewish tradition. After all, these atrocities continue to be committed in their names. It is time that they stand up and defend the Jewish faith from being associated with acts of heartlessness. We have yet to hear even a whisper of disapproval coming out of the American Jewish leadership. This silence from the Jewish community about Israeli atrocities is unconscionable.
One might well conclude that yes, in fact, Palestinian brutality, from Arafat to Abbas to Hamas, hasn't really gotten the Palestinians very much, and that they might want to take a different tack.
As for the call for American Jews to stop defending Israel, Barakat knows perfectly well that's not going to happen. Certainly not as long as Israel remains under existential threat from its Muslim neighbors. In fact, given Barakat's recent hosting of the Mufti of Jerusalem and representatives of the Muslim Brotherhood, such a call could be construed as a thinly veiled threat to bring that existential threat Stateside.
Ms. Barakat is apparently beyond shame. But the Rocky ought to know better.
November 20, 2006
More Media Post-Election Honesty
The Denver Post this morning admits that some Mexican move here illegally for the benefits, like decent health care. Funny that we didn't hear more about this before the election.
October 24, 2006
Reporters Without Borders Redux
Apparently, for the Reporters Sans Frontiers who decided that France has a freer press than the US, the definition of a "free press" includes the right to slander entire countries, and then to haul into court anyone who bothers to question that right. Richard Landes reports on the Paris trial of Philippe Karsenty, who questioned France 2's coverage of the Mohammad al-Durah Pallywood Production. Karsenty has been found guilty of libeling France 2.
After all, the definition of honor-shame culture is one in which you are allowed, expected, even required to shed the blood of another for the sake of your own (alpha-male) honor. And the definition of a civil society is one that systematically substitutes a discourse of fairness for violence in dispute settlement. When a civil society uses the very courts that were created to make that transition from violence to discourse, in order to unfairly protect the honor of dishonest people who pump poisons into its information stream, it corrupts the very life-blood of its republic.
There Are Whistleblowers We Like...
...and those we don't. In the < I>Denver Post's case, they don't llike whistleblowers who leak to Republican campaigns. Of course, they're more than happy to report on the reaction of the Perlmutter campaign to a story planted by that campaign in the Post itself.
The Post ridicules Beauprez's claim that his source is courageous, even as it campaigns for federal shield laws for journalists. It states that Beauprez's source leaked for partisan political purposes, even as it defends the New York Times for publishing information that's likely to get Americans killed, in pursuit of its own political agenda.
Someone needs to remind the Post that "freedom of the press" is a right reserved to all the people, for all political speech, not just to newspapers.
In the meantime, I'm sure the paper will make much of this report by Reporters Without Borders, with the absurd claim that press freedom is eroding in the US:
"Relations between the media and the Bush administration sharply deteriorated after the president used the pretext of 'national security' to regard as suspicious any journalist who questioned his 'war on terrorism,' " the group said.
"The zeal of federal courts which, unlike those in 33 U.S. states, refuse to recognize the media's right not to reveal its sources, even threatens journalists whose investigations have no connection at all with terrorism," the group said.
The fact that relations between an administration and a partisanly hostile MSM have deteriorated is no evidence at all of actual curtailment of press freedom. At this point, the only journalists to serve time in a terrorism-related case did so because of an investigation initiated at the behest of the newspaper that published them. If RWB really believes that the administration has conducted some sort of war against hostile journalists, they've been toting more than laptops back from Columbia. (I would note the scare quotes around War on Terrorism, except that RWB might accuse me of censorship.)
August 7, 2006
Driving through northern Colorado and Utah yesterday, we had the radio - and thus the hourly news - on the whole time. Not a single word about the Reuters photoshopping scandal. Not on ABC, CNN, or CBS.
In spite of Rathergate, Jason Blair, and countless other fiskings of the MSM by the blogosphere, the MSM continue to believe that if they don't report it, it isn't news. And that whatever they do, whatever they do isn't news.
July 28, 2006
All Hugs and Kisses
Why is it that the normally-sensible Rocky goes all weak-kneed and gooey-eyed when the subject is Israel and its neighbors right now?
A few dozen Israeli Jewish, Israeli Arab, and Palestinian schoolgirls are coming to Denver to meet each other and you know, like, have a dialogue.
Seeking Common Ground requested that the teens' last names not be published for safety reasons.
No comment necessary.
"I'm so completely confused," said Lily, 18, of Guerneville, Calif....
"There's no right on either side," said Lily...
QED! I promise, any lack of context here is entirely the fault of the reporter.
"Any time you get Palestinians and Israelis in the same room together, it's a success," she said.
Unless it's a deli, schoolbus, shopping mall, pizzeria, bar, or ice cream stand. Then it's only a partial success.
When the Israeli girls talk about understanding someone else and discovering similarities, and the Arab girls "have their opinions" and are "ready to talk about differences," it says a lot about the relative confidence of their cultures.
These kinds of things have been going on for as long as I can remember, along with mushy NPR-speak about "building bridges" and "breaking down barriers." That's all well and good as long as the enemy isn't using them for resupply and cover.
July 10, 2006
Howard Kurtz, in a story so stunning in its implications that the Washington Post promoted it up all the way to page C7, that Dan Rather is set to make his reportorial comeback on Mark Cuban's dish-only HDNet:
"We are excited about it," Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks
basketball team, said yesterday. He described the show as "an
opportunity to do news in what I like to call 'fearless mode,' what Dan
calls 'with guts.' Go out there and find the stories we think will have
Well, hurricane season is almost upon us again.
He added: "Traditional broadcast and cable news is all about numbers.
Get a pretty face, pay for it in the upfront," the annual conference
for advertisers. " 'How does MSNBC beat Fox?' The lead story is never
the reporting or news itself."
Funny. I thought the reason for Rather's being exiled in the first place was that the reporting became the story.
June 29, 2006
The Washington Post Goes Litigator
My friend Peter Baker is following the President around on the campaign trail. This morning's report from a Missouri fundraiser for Senator Jim Talent contains this technically accurate but deeply dishonest paragraph:
Sharpening his rhetoric as the midterm congressional campaign season accelerates, Bush offered a robust defense of his decision to invade Iraq even though, ultimately, no weapons of mass destruction were found, and drew standing ovations for his attacks on those who question his leadership of the war or the fight against terrorists.
The only merit in this sentence is that it so neatly encapsulates the MSM's storyline on Iraq and the politics surrounding it. And the only thing that allows the Post to publish something like this without abject shame is their years-long ostrich-like refusal to publish anything that doesn't fit.
Saying that, "Bush offered a robust defense of his decision to invade Iraq even though, ultimately, no weapons of mass destruction were found," is like saying that, in 1778, Washington defended the Revolution even though there was trade with Mexico, meaning that George III hadn't quite, "cut off trade with all parts of the world."
Never mind that they have been found. Never mind that the WMDs were merely one reason for going to war in the first place. Never mind Iraq's running a pre-war bed-and-breakfast for Islamist terrorists. Never mind the Duelfer Report's findings that Saddam was planning to restart his WMD production after his hos on the Security Council got sanctions lifted. The war was all about WMDs, and the fact that we haven't found Castle Anthrax makes it a failure.
The second half of the sentence is no better. The President takes hits all the time for his "leadership of the war." What he's objecting to here is something very specific - the attempt by politicians to run the war by PERT chart, or at least to score points by appearing to try to do so.
The Post is trying to narrow the focus of the war to a point it can pretend it's won, while broadening the President's presumed response into Ray Bolger.
And no Post political story about the President would be complete without the obligatory Bush-as-Rove's-sock-puppet reference:
In his appearance in this St. Louis suburb, he said directly that some Democrats want to surrender, adopting the more cutting approach of his senior political adviser, Karl Rove.
The fact that this is exactly the take that Congressional Republicans, in one of their few recent moments of lucidity, used exactly the same language is of no moment whatsoever. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.
This is how the MSM and the Post will make use of the narrative they've established.
June 27, 2006
The Denver Post and the Death Tax
Warren Buffett, in addition to his admirable philanthropic endeavors, has also been trying to make sure that the Federal Government continues to be the recipient of your largess from beyond the grave:
The world's second-richest man, Warren Buffett, has asked Sen. Ken Salazar to vote against repealing the estate tax.
Buffett sent a letter to Salazar, D-Colo., the senator's spokesman, Drew Nannis, said. The multibillionaire Monday called on Congress not to repeal the tax.
Repealing the entire estate tax now would cost the government an estimated $550 billion to $700 billion through 2010. (emphasis added - ed.)
The Post gives no citation for this number, nor does it consider the additional wealth that will be created by businesses that can, well, stay in business after their owners die. If the estate tax comes back, it will be on estates over $1 million. Most estates over that number aren't just cash sitting around under mattresses. They're in businesses that employ people.
Larger businesses tend to be separate corporations, but the smaller businesses hit here are often partnerships or sole proprietorships that tend to struggle for cash. They would have to sell all or some of their assets just to pay the IRS. In all likelihood, they'll sell to larger companies. Even assuming that everyone stays employed - a bold assumption at best - these transfers concentrate wealth, they don't diffuse it.
The Post also fails to notice that Mr. Buffett hasn't been such a big fan of paying unnecessary taxes himself:
Mr. Buffett’s decision to give away to charity Berkshire Hathaway stock valued at about $37 billion, much of it to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, is the sort of bold move that has made so many Americans admirers of Mr.Buffett. As an avowed supporter of the estate tax, Mr. Buffett could have let the government take its share of his estate after he dies. But just as Mr. Buffett has accumulated his vast wealth without paying much personal income tax, he has found a way to avoid the tax man in this maneuver as well, even writing in his letter to Bill and Melinda Gates that a condition of the gift is that the foundation “must continue to satisfy legal requirements qualifying my gifts as charitable and not subject to gift or other taxes.”
(Hat tip: Best of the Web)
June 23, 2006
Whither the ISM?
The Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News continue to ignore the good economic news in the ISM's Regional Reports on Business. The Institute for Supply Management's monthly national survey is one of the most respected and widely-followed economy surveys, covering as it does the expected purchasing and hiring trends, as well as the trailing indicators of price and supplier performance.
In addition to the national survey, the ISM also publishes monthly regional surveys, one of which is based in Denver.
For the last two months, the manufacturing survey has been extremely strong. This month, the more violatile non-manufacturing index moved from slightly negative (49.4) to solidly positive at 53.2.
The Rocky gave plenty of space to the unreliable Index of Leading Economic Indicators and the one-week increase in the volatile Jobless Claims, ignoring the decline in the more reliable 4-week moving average.
Personally, I believe we're cresting the economic cycle, but economic news is always mixed. Eliminating the positive while accentuating the negative doesn't help anyone make informed decisions.
Former Spook Calls It
In From the Cold had this to say about the MSM's treatment of the chemical and biological shells found in Iraq:
The MSM--if it ever gets around to this story--will likely claim that Santorum and Hoekstra are playing politics with intelligence.
From this morning's Washington Post (buried on Page A10):
The intelligence officials also suggested that they were pressured by Hoekstra into declassifying the study in recent weeks. Hoekstra first sought its release June 15 and June 19 and made the request again giving John D. Negroponte, the director of national intelligence, 48 hours to declassify it, according to a senior intelligence official.
In From the Cold does what the Post declines to - describes the way intelligence now operates that makes such pressure necessary:
As a young intelligence officer, I was drilled that important information should make its way up the chain of command as soon as possible. Apparently, things have changed since I left the business. Information that contradicts prevailing judgements can be ignored, or simply buried on an intelligence website--let the customer find out on his own. If members of Congress want information, simply delay your response as long as possible, and provide data only when someone with enough horsepower (in this case, the HPSCI chairman) demands answers. Then, provide only a fraction of what they ask for.
May 24, 2006
Local Economy Booming: Women, Minorities Hardest Hit
In addition to its monthly national survey, the Institute for Supply Management publishes a series of local and regional reports as well. Denver's manufacturing sector is lucky enough to be included in the list, and April's report explains why state tax revenues are going through the roof, and would have solved the budget problem on their own, without a need for Ref C. (It's a terrible thing when a governor loses faith in his own state.)
Now, it's worth remembering that the local reports often cover either only manufacturing or services, which narrows the base even further. As a result, these reports tend to be more volatile than the national survey. And yet.
Looks, it's not all three-martini lunches and Tyco Analyst Days parties. The cycle is starting to hit some self-limiting factors, such as price increases in a time when nobody seems to have pricing power, a labor shortage, increasing lead times, and suppliers who can't seem to get copper or components onto the trains fast enough. But those are good problems to have. They're somewhat manageable, and are problems of prosperity.
In fact, even the Raw Materials story isn't all glooomy. Raw Materials inventories are rising, even as prices and lead times rise, and supplier performance deteriorates. if managers are complaining they can't find tungsten, maybe it's because they're hoarding the stuff.
The time to worry is when these guys are blowing dust off their inventory and their LIFO reserve starts to rival their equity.
These surveys were only published today. Let's see if the local papers bother to pick this up. After all, you'd think that business sections that have space for the Annual Tucler Hart Adams We're All Going to be in Hoovervilles This Time Next Year While The Bank Directors Use Our Those Vacant Unsold Homes For Their Dogs, might be available to cover a survey with national juice.
May 13, 2006
The silly season is upon us, and we'll be interviewing candidates and analysts aplenty on the upcoming elections. Both Republican gubernatorial campaigns will have representatives, Bob Beauprez and Lola Spradley will join us. Tne Man Who Would Be Secretary of State will explain what he'll do about potential vote fraud, and why he thinks the Constitution is a bad idea. Or, at least parts of it. We'll also take another look at the race to succeed Joel Hefley down in the Springs.
And Hugh Hewitt, he of Painting the Map Red, will join us to explain why we can't can't can't let Colorado go Blue this fall. Governor Owens's efforts notwithstanding.
May 12, 2006
Qwest For a Defense
The Denver Post reports that among Joe Nacchio's other problems, he was the first Qwest CEO to refuse to help the NSA analyze phone records in the pursuit & deconstruction of terrorist networks. Even as,
"This is a case where (Qwest) showed some independence and courage," said Phil Weiser, a University of Colorado law professor who specializes in telecommunications issues.
In 2002 he chaired the National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee, a group of industry executives who advised President Bush. He also chaired the Network Reliability and Interoperability Council, an advisory panel on emergency communications networks and homeland security to the Federal Communications Commission.
Powerline has already noted that Qwest's independence and courage ended where its business relationships began:
As a general rule, Qwest does not release customer account information to unaffiliated third parties without your permission unless we have a business relationship with those companies where the disclosure is appropriate."
At the same time, the Post, assuming incorrectly that the rest of the country is as outraged as its newsroom is at these shocking, five-month-old revelations, claims that:
The news report casts Nacchio in a more positive light than he has received since departing the company amid an accounting scandal and falling stock price in mid-2002.
His fight with the NSA could improve Nacchio's image in Denver, where his own lawyers concede he is "reviled." They are seeking a change of venue for his trial.
Note the assumption that this relevation is "positive." Also note that apparent the DenPo didn't get a chance to read the WaPo before going to press:
The new survey found that 63 percent of Americans said they found the NSA program to be an acceptable way to investigate terrorism, including 44 percent who strongly endorsed the effort. Another 35 percent said the program was unacceptable, which included 24 percent who strongly objected to it.
A slightly larger majority--66 percent--said they would not be bothered if NSA collected records of personal calls they had made, the poll found.
Also, I can't find this disclaimer at the bottom of any other overnight polls the WaPo has done:
The practical difficulties of doing a survey in a single night represents another potential source of error.
Qwest: We Put The "W" in Qwality
April 30, 2006
In Other Economic News
UPDATE: Welcome Instapundit Readers, and feel free to take a look around the site.
Among the news items that the MSM ignored last week in favor of $2.82 gas (source: Barron's):
- Retail store sales were up 4.1% year-over-year
- Same-store sales were up 5.1% year-over-year
- Consumer Confidence rose to 109.6, well above the consensus estimate range
- The housing bust continues to track the elusive Afghan Winter, as existing home sales rose slightly, when they were expected to decline
- This was offset somewhat by a decline in mortgage applications
- Durable goods orders were up 6.1%
- New home sales soared 13.8% in March, even as prices moderated and supply dropped
- Jobless claims sat pretty much where they have been for the last 2 years
- Employment cost index was up 2.8% y/y, but we'll need to evaluate that in terms of the productivity index, due out this week
- The GDP boomed, conusmer sentiment (a different survey from consumer confidence) held, and the Purchasing Managers' index showed continued strong growth.
Despite the strong housing market, MSNBC still found time to quote USA Today as saying that the "strong housing market is slipping."
UPDATE: It also occurs to me that long-term interest rates have been inching up lately. This is both good news and bad news, but it's always spun as bad news. When the yield curve briefly and narrowly inverted, there was a great deal of talk about recession. Now that long-term yields have edged back up over short-term rates, the talk is of the effect on mortgages, even as the recession indicator has receded.
MSM Still Passing Gas
MSNBC's First Read continued its obsession with gas prices to the exclusion of, well, all other economic news this past week. A rough word-count of economic reporting on First Read's blog shows that of 3500 words devoted to economics, 3250 were about gas prices. This does not include a Monday posting ostensibly about the Dahab bombing that spent the second paragraph talking about oil prices.
Ironically, First Read is aware of the problem, even if they don't know that they know. On Friday:
Asked in the April 21-24 NBC/Wall Street Journal poll who is most responsible for high gas prices, 37% of those polled say the oil companies are most responsible. Oil-producing nations rank second at 22%, while only 15% lay the most blame at President Bush's feet and 4% say Congress bears the most responsibility.
While on both Tuesday and Wesnesday:
...unstable relations with Iran and political instability in Nigeria seem to be the primary drivers of the price of oil.
Gee. I wonder where people are getting this idea that ExxonMobil is wearing the oil-soaked black hat here?
MSBNC "First Read" Issues Correction
Last week, we noted how MSNBC's First Read blog had reprinted the New York Daily News's misquote of a CNN poll about how oil prices were affecting families. In the poll, 23% said that gas prices were having a "severe effect," 46% said they were having a "moderate effect." The Daily News and First Read both reported 69% under the "severe effect" label.
On Friday, in response to my email, First Read issued the following correction:
On Tuesday, we quoted a New York Daily News article, which cited a CNN poll showing that 69% indicate gas prices are causing them severe hardship. However, the actual poll finds that 69% say these prices are causing them "hardship", not "severe hardship."
To their credit, the correction was given about the same prominence as the original report - at the end of their long, daily commiseration about gas prices.
It's not a perfect correction; they probably should have noted the difference between "severe" and "moderate," for instance. But Ms. Wilner replied promptly and without attempting to make excuses.
April 25, 2006
What Is It With NBC's First Read and Polls?
For a few days, it looked as though maybe MSNBC's First Read - written in part by NBC's political director Elizabeth Wilner - was being more careful with their poll numbers. Then, from today:
The New York Daily News says the same CNN poll showing Bush's approval at 32% also notes that 69% "said gas prices were causing them severe financial hardship."
Well, they quoted the Daily News accurately enough:
Sixty-nine percent of Americans in the CNN poll said gas prices were causing them severe financial hardship.
Take a look, though, at the actual poll. Forty-Six percent say gas prices have caused "moderate hardship," while only 23% say "severe hardship."
In effect, both the Daily News and Ms. Wilner triple the number of people reporting "severe hardship". At least it wasn't their own poll they got wrong this time.
Meanwhile, First Read, now posting throughout the day, fails to mention today's buoyant consumer confidence numbers, which would tend to contradict the claim the gas prices are forcing people to take second jobs.
So why the discrepancy? Probably because gas prices are the one price that everyone knows, because it's posted on every street corner in America. As you drive by the sign, you're literally coming closer to having to pay that price. Gas prices are a lower percentage of total household expense than ever, but gas consumption is something that usually takes some major change to affect. So any change in price gouges into that always-thin margin between the red and the black.
I realize that First Read is primarily political, not economics, but they're clearly letting their political biases get in the way of their economic fact-checking.
April 18, 2006
It appears as though the occasional co-hosting gig on Backbone Radio has grown into some more-than-occasional, semi-regular at least. In any event, I'll be back on this Sunday with John. As soon as I have the guest list, I'll pass it along.
April 16, 2006
I'll be riding shotgun, along with fellow LPR classmate Krista Kafer, this evening on John Andrews's Backbone radio, on AM 710 for those of you near Denver, and at 710knus.com for those of you elsewhere. We'll be talking about Passover, Easter, and Immigration. And we'll also be talking about taxes and other forms of government extortion.
As a teaser, while we won't be talking to Jeff Cornwall, he's a got a roundup of post-Kelo efforts on eminent domain at the state level.
April 12, 2006
NBC's Political Director Fabricates Own Poll Results
This morning's NBC "First Read," ostensibly an analysis by NBC News's Political Director Elizabeth Wilner (and others), lies about the contents of an NBC/WSJ Poll:
The NBC/Wall Street Journal poll and other surveys continue to show that Americans have little appetite for extending the tax cuts in the face of more pressing domestic concerns -- including energy prices.
The poll contains exactly two questions about taxes. By a 49-29 margin, respondents said they were more likely to vote for a candidate favoring "making the tax cuts of the past few years permanent." And by a 56-39 margin, respondents support the tax cuts (Question 18). Gas prices do not show up on the list of questions. The only support for Wilner's comment is that by a 49-19 margin, people asked are more likely to vote for someone who "emphasizes domestic issues over military and foreign policy issues," leaving those issues completely unspecified.
By the way, "favors tighter controls on illegal immigration" wins 71-11, the largest more-likely/less-likely result of any split. Somehow, that little nugget didn't make it into their analysis of the political dyanmics of the immigration debate.
March 29, 2006
CJR's High Journalistic Standards (Update)
Columbia Journalism Review's Daily takes note of my comments on Hugh's interview yesterday with Michael Ware. In doing so, they exhibit the kind of straw-man argumentation that's made the MSM a kind of Jefferson Society with keyboards.
But the View isn't done. "[Ware] could do a lot more reporting under the protection of the US military than he either knows or acknowledges." (Ware doesn't know the embed option exists?) "If he's really concerned about either his safety or that of his staff, there does seem to be an answer."
This was the part of the interview I was referring to, and going back and reading it, it appears I misheard:
But I mean, what I'm saying to you is that if you think anyone would have the right to complain or to take umbrage at what I do, it would be the troops here on the ground. It would be U.S. military intelligence. It would be the U.S. military. You'd think that they wouldn't give me embeds, wouldn't you? You'd think that they wouldn't grant me backgrounders, or wouldn't take me out on special events. You'd think that they wouldn't give me access to the generals, or to military intelligence. You know, in this war alone, I've been in combat with virtually every kind of U.S. fighting force there is, from the SEAL's, to the Green Berets, to Delta, to Infantry, Airborne, Armored, Mechanized. I mean, I've been there, done that in combat. I've been in every major battle of this war, except from Najaf and the first battle of Fallujah. That includes the battle of Tal-Afar, the Battle of Samara, and the Battle of Fallujah, with front line units. I witnessed an event that the Pentagon subsequently asked me to write about as a witness, which is now a matter for the Congressional Medal of Honor nomination. And I am mentioned in that citation. So if anyone would have a problem with what I do in exploring the issues of this war, you'd think it'd be the military. Yet strangely, they don't.
When I heard this on the air, it sounded to me as though Ware was complaining that he might be denied access based on how he reported. Going back and reading it, he's clearly not saying that. But he does say this about other reporters:
And something happens, something that may not exactly play well back home. And yet, it's something that you know, well, people outside of this experience would never understand that. I mean, how do you relay that without betraying the trust and the confidence of the troops? And for some journalists, they have to bear in mind well, if I write a negative story about the military on this embed, will they give me another embed? So there's always these pressures from all the players. (emphasis added. -ed)
And yet, there's plenty of evidence that most reporters don't get out much beyond Baghdad, and those that do limit themselves to military press events. Bill Roggio reported that while he saw reporters on the ground outside of those events. Ware appears to have been all over the place, and does seem to have availed himself of the military's openness in a way that is unusual for western journalists.
Incredibly, the CJR responds to my complaint as though I had the right interpretation, and proceeds to defend the press on that basis.
UPDATE: In reading even further, I found another quote which supports my initial interpretation, that Ware seems to believe that the military picks and chooses its embeds based on their coverage. Ware's ostensibly referring to what other reporters believe, but then goes on to describe a case where he claims the Iraqi government came after him for a story he wrote. So he's also clearly tying this to his own experience. Whether his later comment is a clumsy recovery aimed at buttering up his, er, bread-and-butter is unclear, but it's certainly at odds with the second quote, from earlier in the interview.
March 28, 2006
Reporting From the Other Side
One section of Hugh Hewitt's interview with Michael Ware struck me in particular. Hugh analogized to WWII, and what would happen if a reporter had the chance to report from the other side in that war.
Actually, William Shirer & other journalists did report from Germany during the war. But they did it 1) when the US wasn't a belligerent, and 2) while reporting that they were under Germany censorship. Neither of those conditions obtains with Michael Ware.
Like it or not, when the war broke out, the Germans didn't make it a habit to kill foreign correspondents; they deported them. Once the war started, any newspaperman wandering across the front lines to hang out with the Germans on maneuvers would have been shot as a spy. And for good reason. The mere fact this is at least a matter of dispute amongst the councils of our current enemy should tell you something about the service that Mr. Ware is performing.
Remember, too that normal military censorship has relatively well-known rules. Talk about morale if you like, but the troop train schedule is off-limits. Ware's admitted to being "careful," but without careful questioning after each story, it's impossible for a reader to figure out what kind of restraints he's putting on himself. Not only can't you read between the lines, you're not even sure what directlon the lines run, or if there are any lines.
The fact is, there are plenty of embeds who reports what they see, good or bad. Michael Yon comes to mind. The military is confident in the rightness of its behavior to the point that as long as Yon doesn't pick up a weapon again, or as long as Bill Roggio doesn't have flashbacks to his service days, they can keep going and reporting as long as they like. While it does seem that Ware has gotten out of the bar at the Palestine Hotel, he could do a lot more reporting under the protection of the US military than he either knows or acknowledges. If he's really concerned about either his safety or that of his staff, there does seem to be an answer.
This is worse than the deal cut with Saddam, first, because it comes after Eason Jordan's nasty little revelation, and second, because you can't make normal assumptions about what's fair game and what's not.
This guy's sold his soul for a few bylines.
UPDATE: Upon further reflection, this post has been revised and extended from its initial form..
March 26, 2006
AP: Criminalizing Illegality
Apparently, the AP doesn't think that illegal immigrants are breaking the law:
More than 50,000 people gathered downtown Saturday as part of a national protest against a crackdown in immigration laws, including federal legislation aimed at criminalizing illegal immigrants and building more walls along the U.S.-Mexico border. (emphasis added -ed.)
In fact, the proposed legislation would make being here in the country a felony. It's already a crime, of course.
This is at least a two-part issue. We can have an open immigration policy, or a closed policy, or something in-between. But we can't have any policy at all without control of our borders. The fact is, and it is a fact, one can be for strong border control and support a large flow of immigrants, or even a guest-worker program. This kind of obfuscation lumps all immigrants together, makes it easier to accuse border-control advocates of racism, and is part of a larger set of talking points designed to politicize the issue along partisan lines. The ultimate goal, of course, is to preserve the Hispanic vote for Democrats:
Speakers during the rally ridiculed the Republican party telling participants that "they're not on our side and they're pitting Americans against us."
Right. That's why the Democratic governors of Arizona and New Mexico - and Bill Richardson himself is Hispanic - have declared states of emergency along their borders with Mexico. If the rally itself was this politicized, the AP made no attempt to discern the political leanings of its organizing groups.
"This is the standing point of a new beginning," said protester Eli Chairez-Clendenin, 36, of Denver, who immigrated to Colorado in 1974. "We're not going to be intimidated or afraid to speak our mind. We're going to be who we are."
Mr. Chairez-Clendenin thus came here when he was, what, four years old? So he came here with his family. It's not as though he made this decision himself, as an adult, responsible for his decisions. To all intents and purposes, the man's a native, and his opinions on recent illegals need to be weighed with that in mind.
This was the wire service. It'll be interesting to see what the Denver Post does with it tomorrow.
March 24, 2006
The WaPo Wanders Off The Reservation
Apparently, certain readers aren't taking too well to Redstate.org's Ben Domenech's hiring by the Washington Post. Howard Kurtz's column has a slightly whiny tone to it: "Liberal bloggers, some of whom have been criticizing The Post since its editorial page backed the war in Iraq, have expressed varying degrees of outrage over Domenech's hiring." And while calling Ted Rall a "steaming bag of pus" may make Ted Rall upset, calling Dan Froomikin an "embarassment" could just as well be a professional assessment.
Still, the complaints smack of perceived betrayal of the faithful. Conservatives are upset over the monolithically liberal WaPo blogroll, while leftists are upset over the presence of a single righty. The fact that the leftys are screaming like a woman scorned suggests the degree to which they count on the Post's megaphone, and the risk that the Post has been running of ghettoizing itself.
On the other hand, maybe it's jealousy. If the lefty bloggers were as important as they think they are, they wouldn't need the Post anyway.
And finally, what business is this of Pete Stark's? When the White House folded like a cheap suit and attacked Bill Bennett for some offhand comments about the crime rate, conservatives were wondering why the White House felt compelled to comment. Don't expect liberals to be asking when Pete Stark got into the newspaper business.
March 23, 2006
Instapundit vs. WSJ on Newspapers
Yesterday, Glenn Reynolds suggested some things that newspapers could do to become more relevant and to stay alive:
- First, I think I'd skip the "paper" part.
- Second, I'd put some of the money I saved ... into hiring reporters and writers
- Third, I'd stop insulting readers.
- Fourth, I'd get readers involved.
On the same day, the WSJ (subscription required) discussed things newspapers are trying to do to make themselves more profitable:
- New, smaller-circulation papers targeted at
people who don't read Generation Y
- New, smaller-circulation papers targeted at communities
- Free (or low-cost) classifieds
- Having search engines return advertising
Notice a difference? Reynolds is concerned with product; the WSJ is concerned with revenue model.
The WSJ also included this little bit of incoherence:
Newspapers remain a profitable business, despite the high fixed costs of printing plants, news-gathering staffs and home-delivery operations. As the primary advertising option in their local markets, most newspapers have enjoyed significant leverage with advertisers. They use that power to raise prices.
In 2005, publicly traded U.S. newspaper publishers reported that newspaper operations produced operating-profit margins of 19.2%, down from 21% in 2004, according to figures compiled by independent newspaper-industry analyst John Morton. He says that figure is still more than double the average operating-profit margin of the Fortune 500 companies.
Without seeing Morton's numbers, it's hard to know how he got there. It's also hard to see how this squares with the fact that newspapers have only maintained any profitability by cannibalizing each other at a rate that would make Idi Amin squirm. And self-cannibalizing, as well, which is the point of Reynold's item ). And raising prices in a declining market has a certain air of Detroit about it.
The fact is, both approaches are necessary. All of Reynold's product improvements won't make any difference if they can't figure out how to make the thing pay. Some newspapers are experimenting with the Net. The WaPo has turned the blogosphere into its comments section (although some blogs seem to ping generously in order to attract traffic). The Rocky has tried to get bloggers to cross-post in YourHub.
I got an email a couple of weeks ago from a local section editor asking for advice on what stories to cover. But if he had been reading the blogs, he wouldn't have needed to ask. (I answered anyway.) Mike Littwin insists that newspaper guys read the blogs obsessively, but the blogosphere itself (through Newsbusters, Powerline, a dozen other media-watch blogs) provides evidence on a daily basis that it's not doing much good.
To some extent, this is a matter of self-selection. After all, the Journal is a newspaper, and a business newspaper, so it's likely to focus on things like operating margins and revenue streams. Yet, in the past, it's covered other industries with far more attention to product, so I'm inclined to think that this isn't the business bias of the paper. To the extent that the Journal accurately reflects what newspaper magnates are thinking, they're decidedly not looking at their product.
And Detroit can tell them all about that.
Power, Faith, and Fantasy
Six Days of War
An Army of Davids
Learning to Read Midrash
Deals From Hell
A War Like No Other
A Civil War
The (Mis)Behavior of Markets
The Wisdom of Crowds
When Genius Failed
Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking
Back in Action : An American Soldier's Story of Courage, Faith and Fortitude
How Would You Move Mt. Fuji?
Good to Great
Built to Last
Financial Fine Print
The Day the Universe Changed
The Multiple Identities of the Middle-East
The Case for Democracy
A Better War: The Unexamined Victories and Final Tragedy of America's Last Years in Vietnam
Zakhor: Jewish History and Jewish Memory
Beyond the Verse: Talmudic Readings and Lectures
Reading Levinas/Reading Talmud