Tuesday, June 24, 2008

No, I meant tell me something I DON'T know

Here's a remark from a reader who must have an RSS feed or something on The Naked City, because the comment came only minutes after I posted it late last night.

The real news is that the Charlotte Observer and Charlotte.com are continuing their slide into total irrelevancy. Hope you didn't come back here expecting your job to be around for a long time. 6/24/2008 12:38:00 AM

Well, now, thanks for reading, but I'm pretty well up to speed on conditions at the Observer. (If it's so irrelevant why read this?) I'm fully aware the Observer isn't perfect. And the layoffs have hurt everyone, even those of us who keep our jobs, because of the emotional trauma and damage to the newsroom's staffing levels.

But is there any other source of news about Charlotte and environs that is substantially better, in terms of breadth, depth and scope?

The financial problems the Observer and other newspapers face are caused essentially by a huge dropoff in classified advertising. Welcome to Craigslist world. If you count daily circulation and online, readership is up for the Observer and many other papers.

I just read an academic paper on the topic of newspapers, that provides some facts that run counter to the prevailing word-of-mouth stuff I've been reading. If I can dig up the link, I'll post it here. Later. Got to unpack and run errands.


Anonymous said...

But is there any other source of news about Charlotte and environs that is substantially better, in terms of breadth, depth and scope?

Where should we start?

The Rhino Times covers local stories about government inefficiency and malfeasance about 1000% better than the Charlotte Observer does. And it's free.

Creative Loafing covers local entertainment and stories of local interest about 1000% better than the Charlotte Observer does. And it is also free.

There are any number of local blogs, like Crimeincharlotte.com and Meckdeck.com, which go into much more detail than the Charlotte Observer ever does concerning our local crime problems. And they cover all aspects of the problems, not just one side of them. And they, too, are free.

The only area in which the Charlotte Observer excels at this point is in serving as a mouthpiece for the local power elite. There is literally no reason at all why any person with an Internet connection should buy the paper anymore. The only thing that might save the Charlotte Observer at this point is if the paper would regularly take an adversarial viewpoint to the press releases that emanate from the Big Banks, the mayor's office and other government offices, and Center City Partners.

Until that happens, though, you can rank the Charlotte Observer up there with Pravda and Granma in terms of actual amount of truth per column inch. The Observer doesn't observe anymore; it parrots what it is told to say.

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Anonymous said...

Welcome back, Mary.
Don't you think it's interesting that we have 2 posts so far, one calm & rational (agree or not) and one full of venom, anger & insults. Some folks just don't play well with others, do they?

Anonymous said...

You really haven't missed anything. It is still the same old overgrown country town. Same old conservative rednecks moaning and complaining about growth and progress.

tarhoosier said...

Conspiracy Rag (Rhino) is written half by readers. CL has some interesting columnists, but really, navigating their advertising is a visual assault. Welcome back Mary

Anonymous said...

Anon @ 2:28 PM: Amen to that. I think it's hilarious to see someone make valid criticisms of the paper and get slammed as being "white trash", "dittohead lemming", "redneck fools" for their trouble. Debate team champions, these name-callers are not.

While it's true that SOME of the Observer's woes can be blamed on Craigslist, do you really expect us to believe that the entire paper's revenue stream relies on classified ads? Overall readership may be up, but I would wager that a giant chunk of that is people taking advantage of free services such as Charlotte.com and the weekly Eye publication. If the Observer would allow an independent audit of their newspaper circulation, I think you'd find that their revenues from selling newspapers has dropped considerably over the past few years. It's certainly true that the entire McClatchy chain as a whole is circling the drain.

People who stick their fingers in their ears and go "la la la" are in for a rude shock when McClatchy finds that it can't cut newsroom staffs any further and the company goes belly up.

Anonymous said...

It's not the fact that newspapers are losing circulation that is of concern. It is some of the reactionaires that post here and practically root for people's job losses and the loss of a business that is disturbing. This type of behavior wreaks of a Ferenheit 451 scenario, and it should be accosted accordingly.

Anonymous said...

If the business doesn't produce a product that people are interested enough in to purchase, then what logic is there in that business continuing to exist? This is Econ 101 stuff here, folks: Adapt to changing market conditions, or die.

Right now the tried-and-true formula of "you'll buy the paper because it's your only source of news" is no longer working, partly due to the Internet, partly due to the fact that the paper is no longer an objective coverer of the news. If McClatchy can't, or won't, wrap its collective head around the fact that a lot of people are tired of being spoon-fed pablum, then they don't deserve to stay in business. My advice to the rank-and-file at the Observer: Keep your resumes current and if you see a good job opening somewhere else, take it.

PS: It's "reeks" and "Fahrenheit". And people like me are not against literacy: We want people to think for themselves and read multiple sources of news in order to get a truly balanced plate of information.

Anonymous said...

Here is a hint for you in terms of how McClatchy (and the Charlotte Observer) perform in comparison to other newspaper companies.

McClatchy (MNI) is the worst performing news stock in the past two years. Nobody else is even close. McClatchy's revenue is declining faster than it's peers and the stock price reflects it. Down over 80% in the past two years.

Financially the newspapers of McClatchy are a basket case. They delayed making the changes that others were making a year ago. They only now are cutting large bloated staffs. Other newspapers began the process of downsizing much earlier.

As a result, McClatchy will likely face bankruptcy within two years.

This is not the fault of the newspapers. This is really a trap from which there is no solution. The internet, craigslist, and the recession are all combining to destroy the old newspaper model. Online newspapers like Charlotte.com will never be able to support the staffing levels of their print versions.

The cash will run out and the debt will overwhelm McClatchy in the near term.

I am predicting the next round of layoffs within 6 to 12 months. Another 10% to 20% of staff will be terminated, likely without buyouts. McClatchy cannot afford them.

Anonymous said...

Ed Williams was the smart one. He accepted the buyout while the buyouts were being offered. Don't expect any cash with the next round of layoffs.

Also, if you were expecting a good pension, don't. Those typically get cancelled in bankruptcy and the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) only covers up to a certain maxmimum, which is typically less than you would otherwise have gotten.

The McClatchy (MNI) stock in your 401K is also worthless.

The smart people at the Charlotte Observer are bailing out and getting other jobs whenever possible. The only ones left are those that don't have other career options or those that are blind to the truck that is about to run right over them.

The best investment right now is shorting McClatchy stock. Shorting it at $7.50 per share would be a 100% return on your investment when the stock is wiped out in bankruptcy.

Anonymous said...

Is anyone really surprised that Mary had to ask around for what is going on in Charlotte? I'm not.

It is obvious that people can't get the news from the Charlotte Observer. Even Mary appears to recognize that.

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Anonymous said...

There's quite a difference between rooting for the company's demise and acknowledging that it is in serious trouble from which it likely will not recover.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Welcome back Mary!

In other news the meckdeck has been fading over the past few months. They have not been able to find a single issue to build protest around since the repel debacle. Judging by the number of comments and the irrelevance of may of their posts of late things are on the decline.

On the other hand, it seems to be the only place in Charlotte where you can read the opioion of the Lizardking (this week he said he is buying more guns to prepare for the post oil society)

Anonymous said...

It's awful that anyone would EVER root for another person to lose her livelihood. I can't imagine a more utterly insensitive, immature, uncivil thing to say in a public forum. What in the world is wrong with you people?

Anonymous said...

funny you should mention the decline of the Meckdeck blog. I have noticed the same thing. They are down to six or seven regular contributors. Jeff's unwillingness to acknowledge the silliness of his roadbuilding at all costs focus gets more amusing eveytime the price of gas goes up. While they did ocasionally bring up valid concerns they really damaged their credibility with all the transist vote misinformation.

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Anonymous said...

Grow up.

If Obama gets elected, the worst thing you'll see from the right is an unending chorus of "I told you so" as the rest of you finally come to the realization that he's going to pull a Carter and absolutely wreck what's left of the US economy. Ironically, Obama getting elected might ultimately turn out to be a good thing as it'll finally wake some of you up that liberalism is not a good thing.

Back to the main topic, though: The comments about McClatchy's impending failure as a company should not be construed as wishing for people to lose their jobs. That's merely a side effect, and if it occurs it's McClatchy's fault. Only a moron attacks the messenger for telling them the truth, which in this case is that the newspaper industry is in a giant heap of trouble and they don't seem willing to do anything meaningful about it.

I'm surprised we don't yet have newspaper advocates clamoring for some sort of Equalization of Opportunity measure requiring people to buy and read the paper because, you know, it's unfair to them if we don't. This will perhaps come later, though.

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Anonymous said...

...I get all my news from TV Guide.

Mary Newsom said...

I welcome your reading, but from now on I'm cracking down on name-calling and mean-spirited comments.

I heard from plenty of people last year that they enjoyed reading my blog but would never consider commenting because they didn't want to get attacked.

So keep it civil. We all have different opinions, and that's OK. And my thanks to those who continue to be well-behaved here.

Anonymous said...

Mary, if you're going to censor people, I hope you censor people who drop the 'socialist' bomb when someone disagrees with their conservative views as well. That word is just as much a copout for name calling and killing dialogue as anything else. Also remember, not everyone here is as prim and proper as your pals in Cambridge, or heck,even 'old south' Charlotte. Heck, even in Boston, try Southie and Charlestown, people can be just as venomous. Don't let the PC movement water down lively passionate discussion. Otherwise, they win.

Anonymous said...

Oh, come on. If someone espouses socialist values, then they are a socialist. Like "liberal", it's only a dirty name if you think it is. It's funny how conservatives don't mind being called conservatives, but liberals shriek like the pod people in "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" if you call them the L word. They're like vampires who can't stand looking in mirrors because they can't stand being reminded of what they are. If you don't want to be called a liberal, stop acting like one and stop espousing liberal values.

I applaud Mary's decision to clamp down on those who can do nothing more than retort with words like "redneck" and "white trash". If you can't argue your side of the argument without resorting to name-calling, then you have already lost.

The truly sad thing is that for so many of her most ardent supporters, this is their modus operandi. Mary says something; the "other side" challenges something she said; and then the "other side" get labeled as rednecks or hicks or some other derogatory word. It's pretty sad when that's the best they can offer.

Anonymous said...

Liberal is not a dirty word and most liberals wear the stripe proudly. The thing is, if redneck, hick, or any other similar word are off limits, so should socialist and communist. Those are just as weak labels to give someone who doesn't support the right wing's status quo. Again, if Mary's going to censor, I hope she censor's consistantly. That includes her abatement of calling people 'idiotic' which she has done in the past.

Anonymous said...

The thing is, if redneck, hick, or any other similar word are off limits, so should socialist and communist.

Sorry, I disagree. Socialism and communism and liberalism, like conservatism and libertarianism and objectivism, are the names of recognized political philosophies. Redneck, hick, and other similar words are purely insults. You are trying to equate insults with valid descriptions of philosophies and that doesn't fly. If someone believes that money should be extracted from those who are above average and given to those who are below average, via whatever means, so that everyone has the same amount of stuff no matter how hard they work, then that's communism and that person should be properly described as a communist. The same applies to people who espouse socialist beliefs being described as socialists, those who espouse libertarian beliefs being described as libertarians, etc.

You can't have it both ways. Either all political descriptors are acceptable, or all of them are not. How PC are you?

Anonymous said...

And again, my point remains valid: Why is it that left-leaners take offense when described as "liberals", "socialists", or "communists", when (1) that is what they often are and (2) conservatives do not take offense at being described as "conservatives", "right-wingers", etc.?

Anonymous said...

Well, I know some people who wear the 'redneck' name with pride as well.

The thing that's annoying is that in this particular forum, along with Doug Smith's, etc. should stick to the subjects of development, zoning, architecture, urban planning, etc. Unfortunately, someone has to barge in and reduce the conversation to some knee jerk conspiricy of the government trying to take all your money and control your every day life.

It seems to especially come alive when a walkable community or highrise condo gets built. The fact is, government went out of their way to make those types of living choices unavailable from the 50's-80's, thus amplifying the car culture we have today. Only recently are they allowing more diverse types of communities to move forward. It seems to me that government is loosening regulations in this field these days instead of that the right wing would like us to believe.

Face it, light rail, and all public transportation, is subsidized, just as roads are. Many people choose to live in big houses out in the exurbs, but many others would prefer more compact condos or older neighborhoods closer to town. Some will scoff at a Hooters opening near Trade and Tryon, while many uptown workers probably can't wait. Newspapers are going to exist in some form, no matter who the owner may be. We will all continue to run around in circles in all these arguments.

The fact is, idealogies should be reserved for other forums while this one should stick to the subject at hand. When somebody starts going off topic trying to pull the 'red scare' argument or rooting for Mary's job loss, their comment should be removed from the blog if Mary 'clamps down' as she wishes. I will call out a right winger as much as I will call out Mary when I think she's wrong. Just don't call me a socialist just because I think you're opinion is absurd. If you still insist, the socialist ideal is probably the better one anyway.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps the problem is that "liberal" is a label that can mean nearly anything, and is almost always used as a means of turning a civil discussion into My Team Vs. Your Team.

For example, it's perfectly reasonable that someone should support "smart zoning" in order to avoid the problems that plague weakly-zoned cities (transit problems, crime, extreme fluctuations in property values, overextension of city services, etc.). Even if you disagree with smart zoning, you must admit that it's a reasonable and coherent concept that is one option in the toolbox for city planning.

But what invariably happens in discussions about smart zoning is that, just as intelligent discourse starts to arise, someone comes along and says that smart zoning is something that only "liberals" believe in. Automatically this "liberal" idea gets lumped in with all sorts of unrelated concepts such as tax increases, redistribution of income, affirmative action, etc. Racial and social tension is automatically injected into the argument. And anyone who argues in its favor is assumed to be a flag-burning, baby-killing, granola-munching Communist with grand designs on revoking basic freedoms and transferring all power to Big Brother.

And at that point the conversation just stops being worthwhile. This happens on talk radio and news TV all the time, and now it's starting to creep into other corners of our political dialogue. So it's no surprise that "liberal" is taken almost as a slur these days... after all, that's the way it's typically used.

Anonymous said...

no offense, but isn't the intent of your blog to anger people? So why throw stones, then censor people who throw back.

It's hard to believe some of the crazy stuff you write.

Truthfully, I'm not trying to be funny, but your viewpoints are so contrary to what most people think they're laughable. It's the same as your newspaper.

I read the Observer every day because it's the only option. But it's so skewed and truly does not represent the people within its circulation area.
That's why you don't sell ads. And that's why you're laying off workers.

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