URLs du Jour

2018-05-14

[Amazon Link]

  • Proverbs 13:21 looks like yet another fortune cookie based on the "bad things happen to bad people, good things to good people" template:

    21 Trouble pursues the sinner,
        but the righteous are rewarded with good things.

    But if you know your Bible, you probably know, via Romans 3:23, that we're all sinners. So…

    (Also see today's Amazon Product du Jour.)


  • Jack Shafer writes at Politico: This Is How a Newspaper Dies. The newspaper being…

    For a preview of the newspaper industry’s coming death, turn your gaze to Colorado, where the withering and emaciated Denver Post finds itself rolling in profits.

    The Post’s controlling owner, “vulture capitalist” Randall Smith, has become journalism’s No. 1 villain for having cheapened and starved not just its Denver paper but many of the titles—including the St. Paul Pioneer Press, the San Jose Mercury News and the Orange County Register—that his firm, Alden Global Capital, operates through the Digital First Media chain. At the Post, Smith’s firm cut the newsroom from 184 journalists to 99 between 2012 and 2017, Bloomberg News’ Joe Nocera writes. Over the same time, Smith’s Pottstown Mercury fell from 73 journos to 10 while its Norristown Times-Herald went 45 to 12. And the cuts just keep on coming. For newspaper lovers, the cuts have been a disaster.

    And yet, the papers in question continue to be profitable! What's going on?

    Allow yourself to sympathize with Smith for a moment. He’s deeply invested in a stagnant industry whose primary audience is approaching its own expiration date. Think of the Denver Post and most other newspapers as your grandfather who is on dialysis, has a pacemaker and totes an oxygen tank behind him. He looks alive, but he’s overdue. Your grandfather is a pretty good stand-in for the average newspaper subscriber, too. Habituated to his morning newspaper, he’ll resist cancelling his subscription no matter how raggedy the paper gets or how high the owners jack up the price. (Alden is among the most aggressive in boosting subscription prices, Doctor tells the Daily Beast.)

    The business-school label for tactics like Alden’s, in which you get fewer customers to pay more for less, as Philip Meyer wrote in his book The Vanishing Newspaper, is “harvesting market position.” By raising prices and lowering quality, a stagnant business can rely on its most loyal customers to continue to buy the product, allowing it to squeeze and squeeze and squeeze its customers as they croak. This slow liquidation of an asset’s value, destroying even its reputation in the process, kills the product. Wherever newspapers can be found reducing page size, cutting news pages, narrowing coverage area, reducing staff, shrinking circulation area, postponing the purchase of new equipment and raising subscription prices, they are harvesting market position. Faced with two business options, earn small sums from his newspapers over an indeterminate time or cash in big all at once, perhaps hastening the end, Smith has chosen the latter.

    Man, this sounds familiar. My local paper, Foster's Daily Democrat, is also owned by a nationwide chain, Gatehouse Media ("We operate in 565 markets across 38 states.").

    Raising prices and lowering quality? Check!

    Relying on aging, stupid "loyal customers" to keep buying the product anyway out of sheer inertia? I look in the mirror… oh oh. Check!


  • Jeff Jacoby writes on history we don't remember, but should: The Palestinians' real 'nakba'.

    SEVENTY YEARS AGO this month, on May 14, 1948, the state of Israel proclaimed its independence. The next day, a story in The New York Times — "Jews In Grave Danger In All Moslem Lands" — reported that Jewish communities throughout the Arab world were under siege. Jews were starting to be fired from their jobs and terrorized into fleeing. Across the region, said the Times, "the stage is being set for a tragedy of incalculable proportions."

    What ensued was a purge of Jews from Arab lands: nearly a million there in 1948, near zero today.

    And yet, today there's no "Jewish refugee" problem. The "Palestinian refugees"—well, that's a different story. Why? Well, because of cynical Arab leaders, who like to keep 70-year-old wounds festering.


  • I was previously unaware of the web-based publication VTDigger, but there seems to be first-rate journalism in its recent article on the unlikely serial winners of the Vermont Lottery: More Than Luck?

    A VTDigger investigation has found that some store owners and clerks are claiming winning tickets with remarkable frequency, and that total payoffs for some individuals have reached into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

    Who are these people? Well, they're owners/employees of stores selling lottery tickets. One of a number of examples:

    Elisha Steele won $224,000 from scratch tickets of $500 or more between 2011 and 2014 in Windham County, where she had been employed at several stores.

    Interviewed officials of the Vermont Lottery Commission seem unconcerned and clueless. Statisticians are also interviewed, and are unsurprisingly skeptical about the winners' claimed "luck".

    I've long said you have to be an idiot to play the lottery. I should amend that: Unless you're a crook, you have to be an idiot to play the lottery. Obviously, the crooks make the odds even worse for the suckers.


  • The (Canadian) CBC News reports How romance novels are getting a makeover in the Trump era. And one brave soul leading the charge is…

    A day after the 2016 U.S. presidential election, bestselling New York-based author Sarah MacLean said she vowed to use her "very considerable platform" to step up and speak up, as she wants to "make a difference in the world."

    MacLean said she realized the book she was writing "had 275 pages of a character who probably would have voted for Donald Trump," so she deleted the entire manuscript. "I threw it all out and started over."

    I have less-than-zero interest in that genre, so I don't care much. Except to note that if you can cheerfully discard 275 pages of prose, it strongly indicates that, deep down, you know it's something you're churning out just as mechanically as Hormel makes spam.


  • James Lileks on podcasts: Not keeping up with podcasts is the new 'not keeping up with Netflix'. There's the true-crimers:

    “This ... is ‘Under the Night.’ ”

    (Sad music. A lonely violin played by an orphan in a graveyard.)

    Narrator: “In the rural Iowa town of Rurliwa, there’s not much to do on a summer night. The Tastee-Squeeze is open until 10, the neon sign buzzing like the lost soul crying for justice, except using a buzzing sound. Years ago the high school boys might lay a crowbar across the train tracks to derail the 10:52 out of the Quad Cities, but the train hasn’t come to Rurliwa since the mattress factory closed.”

    I've tried and failed to fit podcasts into my so-called lifestyle. Maybe while dog walking?


Last Modified 2018-05-15 4:52 AM EST