Monthly Archives: September 2009

Grudges aside, Wisconsin rep. announces proposal to save newspapers

Maybe hating newspapers isn’t such a bad thing.

A self-described paper loather, Democratic Wisconsin state Rep. Marlin Schneider announced a plan Tuesday that would make all buildings associated with newspapers exempt from property taxes.

But the proposal is long-overdue. Two newspapers in Milwaukee — the Journal and the Sentinel — merged into the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in 1995, and a daily afternoon paper in Madison, the Capital Times, has been reduced to twice-weekly editions.

During a press conference after his announcement, Schneider — also known affectionately as “Snarlin’ Marlin” — said his proposal required more than political acumen to bail out the state’s papers. “It’s hard for me because you guys jerk me around all the time,” he said. “Some days I hate your guts.”

Schneider acknowledged the “bill may be too little, too late for many papers,” but maybe his delay in attempting to revive print when it is at its most vulnerable was intentional. Though he hasn’t lost an election since 1970, bailing out these meanie newspapers now will definitely win him some favorable press coverage during his 2010 campaign.

And odds are pretty good he’ll be more “darlin'” and less “snarlin'” after he saves the press.


Newspapers: a new fashion statement

People may not be reading newspapers anymore, but could it be because they’re just confused?

Newspapers have always been informally referred to as “rags,” — as in, “our local paper is such a rag. All it prints is celebrity gossip.” — but it seems like some people are taking the fabric-y slang seriously. Havana officials reported last month that Cubans are using the Communist newspaper Granma to alleviate the toilet paper shortage, and a Spanish company called mitemite unnecessary objects lab has designed laptop sleeves to look like newspapers to make them less attractive to thieves. Apparently, print is so unappealing that the company thinks no one would ever try to steal newspaper-clad MacBooks.

wedding11And now, newspapers are hip at weddings. According to an article in North Dakota’s Grand Forks Herald, a print-happy couple designed newspaper-themed nuptials. The groom told the paper he was initially unsure about wearing a newspaper-decorated vest, but he said he eventually came around after much coaxing from his future wife.

And though the bridesmaids were probably all secretly complaining about their unflattering newspaper skirts, at least the bride could rest assured that no one would try to steal her husband.

No taxation for communication: Americans say they won’t support newspaper bail out

Just added to the growing list of things Americans say they won’t support with their hard-earned dollars: newspapers.

Less than a week after President Obama said he “would be happy to look at” legislation that would bail out the dying newspaper industry, Sacred Heart University — a Catholic institution in Fairfield, Conn. — released a poll showing eight of ten people do not support the idea of a government bail out. That is, if they have to pay taxes for it.

The poll also found 45 percent of its respondents said they think the internet is “adequately covering for failing newspapers,” and that only 55.9 percent expect the media to tell the truth.

On a more positive note, 64.1 percent of respondents said they think good journalism ensured a “healthy democracy,” kind of like daily vitamins or twice yearly doctor appointments for the government’s well-being. But, given that many Americans don’t even want to pay taxes for their own health care, we’re not really shocked they won’t spring for a newspaper’s.

Nielsen releases August data for newspaper Web sites

Two-thirds of the top 30 newspaper Web sites posted year-over-year gains last month, according to an Editor & Publisher report.

August 2009 Top 10: — 17,183,000 — (-13%) — 11,681,000 — 4%
Wall Street Journal Online — 10,867,000 — 42% — 9,787,000 — (-6%)
LA Times — 9,245,000 — 3%

Daily News Online Edition — 8,573,000 — 90% — 4,981,000 — 11%
New York Post — 4,843,000 — 46% Francisco Chronicle — 4,269,000 — (-5%)
Chicago Tribune — 3,910,000 — (-17%)

Compare this to the previous month.

July 2009 Top 10: — 14,277,000 — (-27%) — 11,565,000 — 29% — 9,761,000 — (-6%)
Daily News Online Edition — 9,131,000 — 112%
LA Times — 8,938,000 — 2%

Wall Street Journal Online — 8,341,000 — (-4%)
New York Post — 6,535,000 — 32% — 5,274,000 — 8% Francisco Chronicle — 5,092,000 — 13%
Chicago Tribune — 4,442,000 — 14%

So the top 10 stayed the same, with some non-earth shattering shake-ups in the top five. And though six in the top 10 posted year-over-year gains, only four of these sites attracted more unique views in August than in July.

But, much as economists adjust for inflation, the newspaper industry should adjust for August’s lack of morbidly popular celebrity news. This way, even these minor drops are less severe given that Obama was on vacation and celebrities decided, for the most part, to stay alive.

Amish newspaper goes digital

budgetThough the Amish usually shirk technological innovations and modern conveniences, they seem to be accepting one stylish advancement.

The Budget, the community weekly publication known nationally as the Amish newspaper, has gone digital, launching a Web site for easier local news reading. But, lest this brave foray alters some traditional cosmic force — or somehow spooks the buggy-lugging horses — the publishers have promised not to offer their national edition online.

To find out more about the print-only edition of the Budget, the Web site reads, “For more information on The Budget – The Amish Newspaper National Edition, please refer to the Contact Us link and e-mail the appropriate department.”

E-mails? Links? Though the publishers said they won’t put national content on the web “out of respect for our 116-year relationship with our Amish and Mennonite writers, readers and friends,” maintaining a cozy relationship apparently isn’t as important now that there is web traffic to secure.

Newspapers get presidential endorsement

President Obama says he still reads newspapers. And everyone has seen his “Hope” poster. But did he really just give hope to newspapers?

On Friday, Obama talked with editors from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Toledo Blade in an exclusive Oval Office interview centered on the newspaper industry. During the conversation, Obama confessed he was still a “big newspaper junkie,” which might place him in the unique position as the world’s only devoted print reader left. Or maybe this is just his way of saying he found a replacement for his much maligned smoking habits.

Either way, Obama expressed optimism for the dying newspaper industry in what could be the impetus it needs to regain status and readers. And he even said he would “be happy” to look at any Congressional legislation introduced to aid the industry.

But one step forward, two steps back.

Obama then said this:

I am concerned that if the direction of the news is all blogosphere, all opinions, with no serious fact-checking, no serious attempts to put stories in context, that what you will end up getting is people shouting at each other across the void but not a lot of mutual understanding.

Alienating bloggers was probably not a good choice, especially when his comments weren’t picked up by any major newspaper, but were, incidentally, picked up by blogs.

Saturday cartoon: the vacuum conglomerate

Google sucks: