I learned in Iraq that the No. 1 reason foreign fighters flocked there to fight were the abuses carried out at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. Our policy of torture was directly and swiftly recruiting fighters for al-Qaeda in Iraq. The large majority of suicide bombings in Iraq are still carried out by these foreigners. They are also involved in most of the attacks on U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq. It's no exaggeration to say that at least half of our losses and casualties in that country have come at the hands of foreigners who joined the fray because of our program of detainee abuse. The number of U.S. soldiers who have died because of our torture policy will never be definitively known, but it is fair to say that it is close to the number of lives lost on Sept. 11, 2001. How anyone can say that torture keeps Americans safe is beyond me -- unless you don't count American soldiers as Americans.
With the many challenges facing the newspaper business, many different ideas on how to save the industry have been trotted out.
One that I had pretty much dismissed immediately was the non-profit model. Maybe it's the capitalist in me, but I thought the quest for profits to be a great catalyst for innovation, and a required element of any attempt to revolutionize the newspaper business.
But the more I think about it, the more I'm beginning to see the genius of the non-profit news model, at least as it pertains to local media.
To understand this change, you have to understand the huge problems facing local news. I read a recent piece by Vin Crosbie that lays out how the industry got behind the supply and demand curve, to a point where the value of what we produce just isn't enough to pay the bills. I would add to that the supply and demand difficulties on the advertising side as well, which has dropped online advertising rates to levels that make it increasingly hard to make sustainable revenues for online-only enterprises.
Local newspapers have been viewed by the community as performing a public service, informing them of the news they need to know. But as newspapers cut back on staff and newshole, this perception is changing. Readers are becoming increasingly aware that our motives are private profit, not public service. They can see all those years when we pulled in 20 and 30 percent profit margins that flowed out of the communities and into corporate coffers, usually to buy more newspapers. But now during the tough times, there is no reserve left to maintain the level of public service the readers expect.
And then we hit them with our efforts at "community journalism," trying to get our readers to write the stories and shoot the photos that we don't do anymore. I'm not knocking the concept of getting readers to participate in the journalism. But when you cut back on the public service you used to offer and ask readers to take up the slack, the "public service" perception starts breaking down. Why should the readers help subsidize a for-profit business that was too short-sighted to deal with this crisis?
I think this is where non-profit Internet news start-ups have an opening. As non-profits, they can successfully gain the advantage with the public in terms of providing a public service. They can call out for volunteers and donations without the for-profit hypocracy hanging over their heads. And while you can't become the next Rupert Murdock becoming a non-profit publisher, but you can earn a decent paycheck. And in this economy, that's doing OK.
I'm not too optimistic about the success of newspapers companies to survive much longer. If they economy turns around next year, they may live to print another day. But if the downturn goes into 2010 and longer, they are toast. McClatchy stock was at $75 three years ago. The last I saw, it was at $1.50. Gannett was at $90, and is now at $8. Pretty soon, someone is going to realize that they can make more money liquidating these companies than keeping them going.
If newspapers start going under, those who are set up as non-profit news organizations in their communities could see a huge benefit.
In the midst of writing this post, I came across this article from the New York Times about non-profit news outlets like Minnpost.com and voiceofsandiego.com. Here is a good quote from Buzz Woolley, president of voiceofsandiego.com:
“Information is now a public service as much as it’s a commodity,” he said. “It should be thought of the same way as education, health care. It’s one of the things you need to operate a civil society, and the market isn’t doing it very well.”
(cross-posted to Sustainable News Project)
Does anyone think it’s just a little weird to be stampeded into a $700 billion solution to the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression by the very people who brought us the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression?
How about a second opinion?
This may be the best explanation for how we got in this financial mess. Here is just a sample:
It may come as a surprise to the champions of deregulation, but nobody likes regulation. The restrictions that were placed on banks, S&Ls, and other institutions in the 1930s weren't put there because someone thought it would be fun. They were put in place because they addressed problems that had just been clearly and painfully revealed. They were put in place because they were necessary.
Over the past few weeks, there has been some big changes happening in my life, in regards to my working situation. As many already know, newspapers in general are having a tough time, both with the sagging economy and changes in reader habits. And this newspaper company is no exception.
My position of Group Internet Editor for Sierra Nevada Media Group was eliminated due to budget cuts. I was then pulled into the Nevada Appeal newsroom to serve as City Editor, and help lead our local news efforts. It's an interesting challenge going back into a daily print cycle where I had spent so much time before.
But one big consequence of this move is that my weekly political column and blog will need to go away. My editor thinks that writing such opinions every week will conflict with my new role, and I agree with him in part. I passionately believe that the future of newspapers rests with being local, local, local. If I'm going to talk that talk, then I have to walk that walk, and my national political column just doesn't fit that vision.
It will not be easy. Politics is an addiction, and I've been mainlining the stuff for a long, long time. I first started writing political columns back in the mid-80s, and I've only had a few breaks since. I think the only solution will be to go cold turkey and just kill all my political news feeds and other sources so I can concentrate on just local news. Is there a 12-step program for this?
As for this blog, I might post occasional stuff here, perhaps dealing with newspapers and Internet, which is another big interest of mine. But don't look for much political stuff here, unless I have a relapse.
Thanks to everyone for reading and leaving comments. You helped make this a lot of fun.
Sarah Palin's teen daughter is pregnant. The only real problem I have here is the old Republican double standard. If Palin were a Democrat, we would be hearing endless moralizing conservatives talking about how she can't run the country if she can't keep her family from straying into sin.
I've been on vacation for the last few days, so I missed John McCain's big gamble to derail the Obama Express. But his pick Sarah Palin has some Dick Cheney-type problems:
We rely on elected officials not to use the power of their office to pursue personal agendas or vendettas. It's called an abuse of power. There is ample evidence that Palin used her power as governor to get her ex-brother-in-law fired. When his boss refused to fire him, she fired his boss. She first denied Monegan's claims of pressure to fire Wooten and then had to amend her story when evidence proved otherwise. The available evidence now suggests that she 1) tried to have an ex-relative fired from his job for personal reasons, something that was clearly inappropriate, and perhaps illegal, though possibly understandable in human terms, 2) fired a state official for not himself acting inappropriately by firing the relative, 3) lied to the public about what happened and 4) continues to lie about what happened.These are, to put it mildly, not the traits or temperament you want in someone who could hold the executive power of the federal government.
Now that the Democratic disunity storyline has been blown to pieces, perhaps we can get some stories about how the Republicans are in far worse shape on this score. How about noticing that former GOP Congressman Bob Barr is running on the Libertarian ticket and siphoning away a significant amount of Republican votes.
How about the Ron Paul insurgents who are still making serious waves in the GOP. Here in Nevada, they had enough votes at the state convention that the GOP leaders shut it down without electing any delegates, which they then hand picked. If that had happened on the Democratic side, it would have been breaking national news on every network.
How about the conservative grumblings about McCain considering a pro-choice VP?
There's far more disunity in the GOP than anything those Hillary dead-ender PUMAs were stirring up on the other side. But because everyone thinks the Democrats are the ones with the problems, they get the coverage.
And don't think the Republicans don't know this. Why is McCain running ads blasting Obama for not picking Hillary? Why is Mayor Rudy in Denver saying that Clinton should be on the ticket? They are the ones riling up all this fake PUMA crap. They punked the media into believing this was a real movement, when it was all a GOP-led rat-f---ing game.