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Mike Schilling

You don't believe that Murdoch would maintain the current separation between the Journal's first-rate reportage and hydrophobic editorial policies? Lance, you're such a cynic.

sfmike

Frankly, I hope Murdoch does get his hands on the WSJ and destroys it, as the paper is about as close to a fascist publication as exists in this country, and gussying it up with a few decent pieces of journalism is like putting lipstick on a pig.

Your analysis of the present American business class is spot-on, but Warren Buffett is not exactly a benign figure in all of that either. I've watched up close as he sucked the profits out of a corporation and made everyone on the bottom work more for less, with those on the top being outrageously rewarded for their attention to the "metrics" rather than the people who are working for them.

Ken Muldrew

I hear ya Lance. There is a problem of "ownership" here. Rather than wondering how we can make land ownership similar to non-land property ownership (things like cars, trucks, and businesses), we should be thinking more along the lines of imposing collective super-ownership upon corporations (so that just as you can have your land expropriated for a new highway, you can have your corporation (or some portion of its assets) expropriated for the good of society. A company's employees really need to become part of the governance and ownership structure of the company.

A fundamental problem arises out of the failure to understand how deeply employees are involved in the success of the organization they work for. The company is owned by shareholders who delegate a board of directors to oversee the operation of the company. Because the facile picture of employees as economic agents with no loyalty is so common, the employees are not given a role to play in the governance of the company. Yet they have an enormous stake in the success of the company; not so much to create dividends for the stockholders, but to make their lives worthwhile by participating in a venture that impacts society. The very ties that build employee loyalty toward the organization, the social structure that they fit into, are also the keys to recognizing that the interests of the employees are aligned with the interests of the stockholders. For the success of the organization is what guarantees continuing returns on the investment made by the stockholders. In addition, the employees are intimately knowledgeable about the workings of the company in a way that remote stockholders can never be. If they were given a significant role in the governance of the company, we would see much less of the current trend whereby the senior management of a large corporation raids it for their own personal gain, under the trusteeship of an unresponsive corporate board. As useful as the free market analysis has been toward our understanding of economics, it is long past time to recognize that humans are much more complex than mere selfish agents of rational expectation. We are social beings by nature, and with the vast interdependence of modern society, we are also social beings by necessity. We need to understand ourselves better so that we can make our institutions work better.

BTW, does anyone know how the MBA faction chased the operations research people out of the business school?

Jennifer

"and gussying it up with a few decent pieces of journalism is like putting lipstick on a pig."

Hey, don't insult pigs!

nothstine

Lance wrote:

And because the scientific management types who run newspapers are exactly the same scientific management types who ran the auto industry into the ground here, they're also thinking, ROBOTS! They're thinking outsourcing. They're thinking, there's got to be a way to move the whole darn shooting match overseas!

Of course this is insane and they know they're not insane so they can't be thinking this way. But they are. And they are insane. That's what greed and a thorough education in how to divorce reality from wish-fulfillment fantasy will do to you. We all know that you can't outsource the coverage of the local news. We know that there isn't a robot yet that can cover the county fair. They don't. In their heart of hearts they believe that it should be possible to gather and publish news without having to pay anybody to do it or pay them very much.

The barbarians are already at the gates, and both gates are marked WAY OUT. The following story, alas, is not from The Onion:

PASADENA NEWS SITE OUTSOURCES LOCAL GOVERNMENT COVERAGE TO INDIA By Justin Pritchard ASSOCIATED PRESS 2:08 p.m. May 10, 2007

PASADENA – The job posting was a head-scratcher: "We seek a newspaper journalist based in India to report on the city government and political scene of Pasadena, California, USA."

A reporter half a world away covering local street-light contracts and sewer repairs? A reporter who has never gotten closer to Pasadena than the telecast of the Rose Bowl parade?

Outsourcing first claimed manufacturing jobs, then hit services such as technical support, airline reservations and tax preparation. Now comes the next frontier: local journalism.

James Macpherson, editor and publisher of the two-year-old Web site pasadenanow.com, acknowledged it sounds strange to have journalists in India cover news in this affluent city just north of downtown Los Angeles.

But he said it can be done from afar now that weekly Pasadena City Council meetings can be watched over the Internet. And he said the idea makes business sense because of India's lower labor costs.

"I think it could be a significant way to increase the quality of journalism on the local level without the expense that is a major problem for local publications," said the 51-year-old Pasadena native. "Whether you're at a desk in Pasadena or a desk in Mumbai, you're still just a phone call or e-mail away from the interview."

http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/state/20070510-1408-outsourcingthenews.html


A person who is incapable of distinguishing between a news article and a flange adapter is manifestly unfit to oversee the production of either. In any sane society we'd chase him up a tree and set fire to it, and that would be that.

One of those quotes I keep pinned up over my desk:

"The factory of the future will have only two employees, a man and a dog. The man will be there to feed the dog. The dog will be there to keep the man from touching the equipment." -Warren Bennis

bn

Lemastre

Great idea, having local news covered by Indians on the telephone! Anyone who's been on the phone with overseas service personnel regarding Internet problems knows how well they handle American English, especially slang and colloquialisms.

OutOfContext

Greed killed Vaudeville?
Greed killed the Radio Star?
Greed killed the passenger train?
Greed killed the typewriter?
Greed killed the vinyl record?
Greed killed the newspaper?

I agree with many of your corporate criticisms and the devaluation of the workforce in America, but newspapers have a bigger problem than corporate owners.

Lance

OutofContext,

Well, greed did have a lot to do with killing the passenger train in the United States, but I take your point.

But if you mean that newspapers are becoming obsolete like those other things, what's going to replace them? The purposes of typewriters, vinyl records, radio, and vaudeville didn't disappear. Those were just delivery systems that were replaced by better delivery systems. I think the most important purpose of newspapers is the delivery of local news and I don't see anything on the horizon that will be a more efficient delivery system for local news.

By the way, local TV news programs are losing audiences too.

NonyNony

By the way, local TV news programs are losing audiences too.

Local TV news programs are losing audiences for the exact same reason that newspapers are losing subscribers - they don't want to report the news. They don't want to spend money on reporters who dig up stories, so instead they just hire good-looking chumps to read the local police blotter aloud (with some camera shots of the areas where the events in the police blotter occurred), to read the information from the national weather service (with some camera shots of local parks and/or streets depending on what the weather is like), and to read some pre-packaged press releases from local big businesses (Wendy's has a new chicken sandwich on the menu - let's cut to our on-the-spot reporter to find out all about it!). If you're very lucky, your local news team will contain an honest-to-god sports reporter who will do some in-depth reporting on your local major league sports teams -- but that usually only happens if you're lucky AND you have a major league sports team.

There's no "there" there -- there's no reason to watch the local news anymore except to find out if your kid's school is closed due to a snow emergency. No one does any investigations about important things. Take our local stations in Columbus, Ohio as an example. We have been living under a massive scandal regarding the previous governor and a major GWB donor involving rare coins and state money. Columbus is the capital city, yet it took a week AFTER the Toledo Blade broke the story, a paper hundreds of miles away, before the local TV stations started doing anything real with it. And that was only because Channel 10 is owned by the same folks who own the local Columbus newspaper (The Dispatch) and so they read the local headlines from the paper and call it "journalism".

I swear, I don't know why they bother anymore. Is it still Federal regulation that the local stations have to provide a certain percentage of local coverage? Is that why they still put up a charade of doing "local news"?

KEn

I guess I'm the age where I should be sitting down at night to read the paper like my dad and grandfather used to do (30). But several things get in the way of my doing this, things that may be generally true of people in my generation.

1) I'm moving to my third state in 4 years later this summer. I haven't had "roots" in all that time, so haven't really been all that interested in the local happenings. People move around more than ever these days so there is less of a community for a community paper to sell to.

2) The only daycare provider my wife and I could find is 30 minutes away from home and an additional 15 minutes from work. People listen to the radio for news during their commute and simply don't have time to read the paper over coffee in the morning.

3) As mentioned upthread, papers obviously aren't trying to sell to me. How do I know? When I do read a paper, there is very little in the ad content directed at my generation and income level.

4) I'm on the internet anyway, doing email or working. If I have a break I can go directly to a webpage that interests me, whether it's sports, local, commentary from a fine "columnist" like Lance, etc. If I have a question on something I read, I can click to other pages and get background. Sometimes, jumping into a new (to you) paper can be hard. You have to be following the story oftentimes, and also it increasingly helps to know something about the editorial slant of the paper and unfortunately the reporters. Newspapers can't put themselves into context, and because of things like #1 above I can't do it either.

So that's my $0.02 on why I don't see myself subscribing anytime soon. Maybe I'll be able to stay at my next job for more than a few years. Maybe my income level will rise. I know I'll have a shorter commute. But unfortunately, most papers are too far gone to get new readers.

OutOfContext

But if you mean that newspapers are becoming obsolete like those other things, what's going to replace them?
Blogs, podcasts, community-produced newspapers. I realize this cuts out professionals in all but the larger communities, but I think that's where most concerned people will go. Then again, how many people really are concerned?
Like NonyNony, I live in Ohio and I had to learn about Bob Ney, Governer Taft (now at the University of Dayton) and the coin scandal on Talking Points Memo or the Al Franken Show. I do read my hometown paper online, for the most part, and I do find the print and online versions pretty good about local affairs and I will miss it when it goes.

Charles Utwater

Um, well, I dunno, Lance.

I always thought that "news" papers were supposed to published "news." That is, notices of novel events.

Murdoch publishes a combination of *lies*, i.e., notices of novel things that never occurred, *gossip*, i.e., notices of novel things that might have occurred or possibly not, and soft core *pornography*, i.e., notices of world's oldest evidence of mammals.

So, it's not clear to me that Murdoch is in the "news" business. I guess that in a world where David Broder is considered the epitome of incisive, it's difficult to tell the difference between drab and dull, both of which would seem to describe what Murdoch produces.

Good for Royko, for walking out.

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