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More gloom for newspapers

Posted By Michael Ackley On 03/21/2011 @ 1:00 am In Commentary | Comments Disabled

Editor’s note: Michael Ackley’s columns may include satire and parody based on current events, and thus mix fact with fiction. He assumes informed readers will be able to tell which is which.

I confess, I miss the rumble and the whoosh of a big, metro press churning out a newspaper’s home edition. First comes a slow turning of the drums bearing the printing plates, and the reels of newsprint begin to turn in time. The massive, exquisitely balanced machine accelerates, getting louder as it goes faster, and the web of paper provides a hissing counterpoint to the low tones of the machinery.

The newsprint web becomes a dark blur as ink is applied, and complete newspapers come magically out of the folder into wire-spring conveyors that carry the completed product to the mail room for stacking and bundling. It’s mechanical genius at work. It’s thrilling.

It won’t be long – on a historical scale – before this spectacle will be confined to vintage movies, like the Humphrey Bogart classic “Deadline USA.” Another web, the Internet, is winning. Last week we learned that Internet advertising sales and readership had surpassed those of newspapers. More and more readers, accustomed to the convenience of the Net and feeling no nostalgia for ink and newsprint, are abandoning print editions.

Some years ago, I talked with the head of a large chain of newspapers, who said the Internet didn’t worry him. The newspaper, he said, was the repository of information and would remain so. He neglected to consider two factors: the declining quality of newspaper reporting and that American virtue, competition.

Make that three factors. He also forgot that newspaper readers aren’t stupid. They know when journalists are pretending to be objective and would rather peruse sources whose bias is undisguised.

It used to be that freedom of the press was exercised only by those who owned printing presses. Now, everyone with a personal computer is a potential publisher. It’s not a bad thing.


 

More mass media: First we had the very gravid Natalie Portman accepting the Oscar. She plans to marry the baby’s father – sometime.

Then came Parade magazine with a cover story on a TV actress and her infant, including the intelligence that it was difficult for her to conceive. (Of course, helping in this regard was no trouble for her “partner.”)

Latest in the procession of celebrity alternative families were the stars of a recent season of “The Bachelor.” Or was it “The Bachelorette”? It doesn’t really matter. The final two are “in love” but not ready for marriage. However, they plan to have a baby, a decision celebrated in a network news feature.

And let us not forget the MTV series, “16 and Pregnant.” (Allow us to suggest a follow-up series: “18, on Welfare.”)

But remember: The entertainment industry maintains it is not hostile to traditional values.


California’s Public Employees’ Retirement System has the biggest pot of money in the pension business, some $228 billion in assets.

You might think this would tempt those who run the system to enrich themselves.

You would be correct.

According to the Los Angeles Times (which continues, from time to time, to do actual journalism) a report prepared for CalPERS by a Washington law firm shows former CEO Federico Buenrostro Jr. and fund board members “strong-armed a benefits firm to pay more than $4 million in fees to consultant to Alfred J.R. Villalobos, who later hired Buenrostro.”

Four million? Small potatoes. Revelations of conflict of interest go on and on in the report. However, the outcome might be positive. The scandal provides ammunition to those pushing for pension reform, including a degree of privatization.


Words have meaning: Authorities in Malaysia worry that the use of the word “Allah” for “God” in translated Bibles will confuse Muslims. Their solution was to allow the release of 35,000 impounded Bibles, provided they were imprinted “For Christians Only.”

Of course, we agree that Islam is a tolerant religion. That is, unless you live in a Muslim-dominant nation.


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