Sunday, November 13, 2005

Read All About It!

A future of empty doorsteps? Dark days for US newspapers
Nov 13 9:53 AM US/Eastern

Dark days are ahead for American newspapers, as sales tumble, a warp-speed news culture leaves lumbering dailies behind and scandals over flawed reporting taint heavyweight titles.

US papers are battling an explosion in online information, a news agenda powered by bloggers and 24-hour cable news, and they can't seem to connect with young readers.

Credibility questions hang over several papers and journalists are under more scrutiny than ever in the highly polarised US political climate.

Doomsayers say changes in modern lifestyles mean the days when American homeowners open their front door every morning and haul in a thick multi-section paper may be numbered.

Latest figures released by the Audit Bureau of Circulations found a 2.6 percent drop in circulation for 786 newspapers across the country in the six months to September -- meaning that 1.2 million people deserted their paper.

Several US newspaper giants suffered heavy circulation drops -- figures which mirror the declining readership across the globe.

The San Francisco Chronicle saw circulation fall 17 percent for its Wednesday to Saturday editions, while another big beast of the newspaper jungle, the Boston Globe, slumped 8.2 percent to a weekday average of 414,225.

Bucking the trend, two papers -- USA Today and the New York Times, the closest to national dailies in the United States -- gained readership of just under one percent.

The Columbia Journalism Review, in a recent editorial titled "The American Newspaper at a Crossroads," outlined a vicious circle, where falling circulation figures prompt further cost cutting.

"This can work for a while, but at some point it has to erode the quality of the product, which further erodes readership, because who needs a paper when the reporters producing it are too rushed to get beneath the surface," CJR said.

Some big-budget papers like the New York Times, the Baltimore Sun and the Boston Globe have cut jobs in the newsroom or the advertising department.

Meanwhile, a generation gap is widening, and unless younger Americans quickly get into the habit of reading a daily paper, circulation figures seem sure to dip even lower.

In a survey last year, the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press found only 23 percent of people under 30 read a daily newspaper, compared with 60 percent of older people.

The number of people going online for news, or getting their fix from cable television, was growing, the survey found, a trend that was also hitting traditional television network news.

Executives at a World Association of Newspapers meeting in Madrid on Thursday were told that the traditional newspaper has no future without online editions.

With that in mind, many US papers are trying new ways to chase fast-moving readers, expanding online content and offering portable "commuter" papers.

Some are also experimenting with design and considering a tabloid rather than a broadsheet format, in a tactic tried by several top papers in Britain.

That has been a sea change in an industry where great papers are typically dryer, more traditional and wordy and less irreverent than counterparts, for instance, in Britain or Australia -- more Neue Zurcher Zeitung or Le Monde than the London Times or the Sydney Morning Herald.

But predictions of doom are "completely premature," said Randy Bennett, vice president of the Association of American Newspapers.

"I think some people have a very narrow view and look at decline in circulation numbers and see the end is near," he said. "But it is a very incomplete story if you are not looking at how newspapers reach people across a variety of media platforms."

Some readers already get their newspaper exclusively online, in an easy commuter version, or even have favourite sections e-mailed to them.

Though there is much talk of bloggers and websites superseding "mainstream media," most offer links to established sources with the resources to chase down the news.

"People point to the success of Yahoo News and Google News. If you look at the stories they are pointing to, they are from local newspapers which still have the greatest editorial capacity (of) any other media," said Bennett.


At November 13, 2005 10:22 PM, Blogger Mike Hu said...

Agustin Blazquez with the collaboration of Jaums Sutton
Monday, April 8, 2002

Does anyone know the origins of Political Correctness? Who originally developed it and what was its purpose?

I looked it up. It was developed at the Institute for Social Research in Frankfurt, Germany, which was founded in 1923 and came to be known as the "Frankfurt School." It was a group of thinkers who pulled together to find a solution to the biggest problem facing the implementers of communism in Russia.

The problem? Why wasn't communism spreading?

Their answer? Because Western Civilization was in its way.

What was the problem with Western Civilization? Its belief in the individual, that an individual could develop valid ideas. At the root of communism was the theory that all valid ideas come from the effect of the social group of the masses. The individual is nothing.

And they believed that the only way for communism to advance was to help (or force, if necessary) Western Civilization to destroy itself. How to do that? Undermine its foundations by chipping away at the rights of those annoying individuals.

One way to do that? Change their speech and thought patterns by spreading the idea that vocalizing your beliefs is disrespectful to others and must be avoided to make up for past inequities and injustices.

And call it something that sounds positive: "Political Correctness."

Inspired by the brand new communist technique, Mao, in the 1930s, wrote an article on the "correct" handling of contradictions among the people. "Sensitive training" – sound familiar? – and speech codes were born.

In 1935, after Hitler came to power, the Frankfurt School moved to New York City, where they continued their work by translating Marxism from economic to cultural terms using Sigmund Freud's psychological conditioning mechanisms to get Americans to buy into Political Correctness. In 1941, they moved to California to spread their wings.

But Political Correctness remains just what it was intended to be: a sophisticated and dangerous form of censorship and oppression, imposed upon the citizenry with the ultimate goal of manipulating, brainwashing and destroying our society.

At November 13, 2005 10:24 PM, Blogger Mike Hu said...

Aloha to the urban myths of high-priced oil
Paul Jacob (archive)
September 11, 2005

Have you heard the rumor yet? Oil companies are destroying fuel — emptying, even, gallons and gallons into thirsty desert sands — so that they can keep prices high at the pump. And make tons more moolah.

A friend heard such a rumor the other day. Maybe you have, too, before hurricane Katrina dominated the news and almost every conversation. Such stories were as common as wet dirt back in the '70s, back when oil prices were not only soaring but supplies at the pump were plummeting. Those were the days when we had to queue up in long lines to pump gasoline into our guzzlers. And while in line we had to talk about something.

Trouble is, there's not a gallon — not even a pint — of truth to these tales.

It makes no sense to destroy your own supplies of oil. Portions of one's own stock can have little effect on price levels, so you have every incentive to sell, sell, sell, not burn, dump, and waste. That goes for even the biggest of oil companies. If some mid-level manager ordered good fuel to be wasted like the rumors said, he'd not merely have been fired, he'd likely have been sued — or charged with theft.

Back in the late '70s, people swore to me that they "knew" a friend of a friend whose uncle's cousin was a low-level flunky of some oil company, and that the refineries — or was it the raw oil merchants? or the gasoline delivery companies? — routinely did such things. He witnessed it. Honest to gosh!

Nonsense. These are urban myths . . . that fill a human need to blame somebody. They feed the conspiratorial view of history. If something bad happens, then a few somebodies must be to blame.

It's too hard for some people to wrap their heads around a few obvious truths. Take the current oil situation. People in business make money off our need for petroleum products year in and year out. No urban myths about that.

But a war comes along, the future becomes uncertain, supplies diminish — and then a hurricane wrecks a few refineries and supply lines, reducing U.S. production to the tune of nearly two million barrels per day — and for some reason a few people find the consequent price rises puzzling. All the sudden, the motives that led to supplying us petroleum products in normal times become suspect in troubling times.

This sort of panicked thought leads, all-too-naturally, to a demand: "We must do something."

And here of course is where a few people do some horribly bad things that make our lives a whole lot worse.

Pandering to the belief that "somehow" oil companies are "taking advantage" and "gouging" us with price increases, politicians hold hearings, and then "take action." What action? One word: regulation. Two words: price controls.

That's what politicians in Hawaii did the other day. They waded out into the desert of idiot economics and said "the water's fine!" And they gave their state price controls on petroleum.

Thinking themselves the greatest of sophisticates, they didn't cap gas prices at the pump, though. They capped the wholesale prices, which they'll renegotiate and fiddle with for a while. They ostensibly knew the harm that consumer price caps would cause. So they focused on the wholesale end.

I'm not an economist, so I should probably leave the economics of this well enough alone. But the whole thing stinks far worse than a vat of Texas Tea. Still, I've read their litany of complaints, and I understand that they blame the refineries. But so what if refineries are making more profits now? Their number has been artificially diminished for decades, what with the stringent environmental regulations placed on their, er, placement. (How about putting an oil refinery in your back yard!) So, a limited supply of refineries suggests to me increased prices for refinement.

But it turns out that I'd be nearly as wrong as the regulators. Actual figures from the industry tell a different story. Robert L. Bradley, Jr., president of the Institute for Energy Research, notes that though crude oil prices have increased above their historic average by a whopping 185 percent, gasoline prices have increased by only 25 percent. Increased efficiency in refining and transportation and marketing have actually decreased the margins for profits off of each barrel of oil. It looks like the increased profits of the oil refineries rest on that old principle of business: volume, volume, volume. Oh, and efficiency, too.

But those are mainland statistics. Are things different back on the distant island of Hawaii? Well, gasoline prices are higher, naturally. It's an outpost, so increased costs of transportation alone should lead to higher prices for consumers. Though the prices appear to be as natural as anything in society, Democratic politicians have been listening to the complainers. (I guess whining is natural, too.) And they've gone and done something. That's the biggest difference so far.

Scott Foster of Advocates for Consumer Rights, one of the groups that pushed the Hawaii oil cap bill, declares that his harebrained notion is "a grand experiment," and that his "hopes are very high." Looking to spread the gospel of regulation, he added, "If this bill works here, there are a lot of other states that are watching it and might do likewise."

It won't work there, of course. The real question is: will other states wait for the evidence to come in, or will they rush to consign us to long gas lines again, to suffer and fume (and breathe fumes) and tell stories that make no sense?

Paul Jacob is Senior Fellow at Americans for Limited Government, a partner organization. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web, and on radio stations across America.

At November 13, 2005 10:43 PM, Blogger Mike Hu said...

Mass media has become merely a propaganda machine -- which many more people are recognizing, and therefore, dropping their subscriptions and creating their own alternative media -- to get their message out.

Of course the old media propagated the belief that all information and communications had to flow through them -- giving them tremendous power to control the intellectual environment. But their ideas did not run deep, and in fact, were so shallow, that they had to be reinforced daily, maintaining the dependence and control. Once people stopped their habits of obtaining information in this manner, they might realize that reality was not as it was portrayed in the newspapers.

First off, one will notice that the conflict and arguments that are tireless in their editorial pages, are almost nonexistent in actuality. Most people are not the bigoted partisans featured exclusively on the editorial pages and letters to the editors. Those ideological arguments are only to be found in the pages of the newspapers. They have created and sustained that reality of society that is illusory.

The reality is that most people are proudly nonpartisan and avoid politics because they do not like the partisanship represented by the extremists featured exclusviely in the newspapers. News junkies are the notable exceptions of contentious, argumenntative, deceptive and manipulative people.

Why would an intelligent person choose to have that exposure if he can easily avoid it by just not reading the newspaper?

At November 14, 2005 8:33 AM, Blogger Mike Hu said...

Who should run against Linda Lingle for governor?

Why, the editors of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin and Advertiser, naturally.

They like to unilaterally proclaim they speak for the people of Hawaii, and like to incite attacks and animosities of Democrats and Republicans against each other -- far beyond the actual differences.

Let's find out if they actually do speak for the people -- and have a right to suppress those who oppose them. I'd like to see the first shutout in electorial history -- something both the Democrats and Republicans can get behind.


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