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“Yes, the company is in the black,” says Light. “The economy is helping, but mostly this is the result of the efforts of the people that [new owner Platinum Equity] has brought in…. Thanks to that team, we have a strong U-T once again.”

Employees will not be comforted by that statement. Platinum Equity is a private equity organization. It buys assets cheap and attempts to sell them dear. All too often, a private equity group achieves profitability by juggling the books or making only cosmetic changes. With all the employment slashes, the media company should be making money again. But does the profitability result from all the layoffs or from significantly enhanced revenue? If the U-T is now making money, will Platinum, which paid an extremely low price for it and whose normal holding period is three to five years, be putting it on the market again soon? And will employees go through the same kind of shake-ups for a new owner?

And will the intellectual community be supporting the paper?

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a2zresource June 30, 2010 @ 12:40 p.m.

One of the reasons I write the blogs I do here is because I fear the U-T is losing its audience here in San Diego, and my main thrust so far has been to bring various California Public Utilities Commission filings to light that would otherwise be ignored as the electronic background noise of California living.

I agree that we have an abundance of educated potential writers here locally, and therefore you are correct for the reasons you gave that any newspaper here will need more and not less editors... unless the contributors are self-righteous unedited bloggers like myself.

As for the U-T becoming immaterial to any national debate due to narrow-minded parochialism... what ever gave you that idea? Is not San Diego internationally known for for being by the sea in large part for the cutting-edge well-nuanced transparent operating structure of our civic redevelopment agencies?

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Don Bauder June 30, 2010 @ 1:06 p.m.

Response to post #1: Yes, San Diego government has become internationally recognized for its transparency -- why, every bit as transparent as Enron. That's how the New York Times came up with the classic headline, "Enron by the Sea." Just think: there will be an unaffordable library right near a ballpark that is bleeding civic money, partly because near-empty hotels in the area aren't generating transient occupancy tax receipts, as promised. The near-empty condos there don't help. Then if taxpayers subsidize the Chargers to the tune of $700 million to $1 billion, servicing that debt could finally push the City into bankruptcy court, where, often, the accounting often finally becomes transparent, or close to it. Best, Don Bauder

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HonestGovernment June 30, 2010 @ 7:06 p.m.

Oh, drollery! The likes never before published! Thank you Don and a2z and Reader.

"You lose some local knowledge."

As if the U-T was ever where one sought local knowledge.

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Don Bauder June 30, 2010 @ 7:38 p.m.

Response to post #3: It always had a lot of local knowledge but, unfortunately, wouldn't print a lot of it. Mustn't print anything that would ruffle the establishment, upset an advertiser, or conflict with the U-T's editorial opinions. Best, Don Bauder

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historymatters June 30, 2010 @ 7:56 p.m.

@1: Im not sure Im hearing you correctly....was that last part a joke?

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Visduh June 30, 2010 @ 8:47 p.m.

Much of this reminds me of the late, lamented Evening Tribune. Almost on a daily basis, it had some sort of factual error in a story or comment, usually of a local nature. One time it had the international border twenty miles either closer to or farther from downtown that it actually is. At that time, I preferred the Trib to the Union because it seemed less pretentious and was a little looser in its approach. But the simple, factual errors that kept surfacing would have left an unquestioning reader with a badly muddled picture of the local scene. When it finally folded, I think that they claimed that over 90 people were working on the editorial product. How many editors did it have checking the input from reporters? I'd have guessed that it was nearly none.

But if anyone cares to remember, you have seen a paper that appeared to have no editors whatsoever. In the 70's, Harte-Hanks news chain attempted to invade San Diego County with a series of small newspaper buyouts. It gobbled up the Sentinel (beach and Clairemont), the Chula Vista Star News (known to many as Lowell Blankfort's Red Star of Chula Vista) and the La Jolla Light. But that left large parts of the metro area unserved. So, H-H started up an East County rag first called the Life News, later converted to a tabloid format paper, the Sun News. Both were utterly wretched. The reporters just submitted their drafts, and they shot right through and were printed. One day, I counted over FORTY obvious mistakes, such as spelling, grammar and undisputed fact, on one page of the Life News. One page!

No editors, and that's what you get, especially from cub reporters. So, what is Dark (Light) doing? Seems as if he's cutting editors and hiring cubs, or at least hiring those without much local knowledge. And away we go. Think the paper is humble now? Just wait.

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historymatters June 30, 2010 @ 9:14 p.m.

Oh the UT! The big giant Dinosaur. Well aside from how appalled I am at all the trees they kill everyday printing a paper that just gets tossed in a trash bin, the content has ALWAYS been slanted. Its just a pulpit for the developers and they have their favorite politicians that they praise. If they were the real news they would be uncovering the corruption that Don Bauder does an excellent job of covering. There is no end to the amount of good news to write about, but the UT will NEVER turn on their own.

As for transparency....its funny you bring that up. I just wrote about how Todd Gloria the Golden Boy of developers and unions has a facebook page for his Council seat. He presents it as a place for open discussion amongst the constituency except that if you do not praise him or question him he promptly blocks you from joining the discussion.

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historymatters June 30, 2010 @ 9:20 p.m.

"Is not San Diego internationally known for for being by the sea in large part for the cutting-edge well-nuanced transparent operating structure of our civic redevelopment agencies?"

Im still trying to figure out if this is sarcasm or not. The redevelopment agencies are as far from transparent as possible. In fact WE dont even get to know who the investors are. The mayor himself could be an investor in redevelopment projects but because they hide under Delaware LLCs we have NO way of knowing who should be in jail. Im pretty sure all of them and I cant wait til the redevelopment shell game falls apart and Jerry Sanders gets dragged off in handcuffs.

Not to mention the mayors illegal Technical Advisory committee where special interests meet and advise the mayor and the city on how they can increase their profits and make you pay for it.

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Don Bauder June 30, 2010 @ 9:24 p.m.

NOTE: Friday, July 9, at Warwick' bookstore, 7812 Girard, La Jolla, there will be a Community Arts and Culture forum that is open to the public. The subject is the future of arts and culture coverage in San Diego media. Moderator is Richard Farson, president of Western Behavioral Sciences Institute. Panel members are U-T Editor Jeff Light; former U-T arts and book editor Bob Pincus; book agent Sandra Dijkstra; Director, SD Museum of Contemporary Art Hugh Davies, and KPBS Arts and Culture Producer Angela Carone. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder June 30, 2010 @ 9:29 p.m.

Response to post #5: I can assure that a2zresource's tongue was planted firmly in his cheek when he penned those final words in post #1. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder June 30, 2010 @ 9:33 p.m.

Response to post #6: I do remember Harte-Hanks's invasion of the San Diego metro area. It did not last long. Mercifully. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder June 30, 2010 @ 9:38 p.m.

Response to post #7: Historically, the San Diego establishment has always claimed it favored free discussion of ideas. But when anybody challenged the conventional wisdom -- that is, the developers' point of view -- they got smeared. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder June 30, 2010 @ 9:41 p.m.

Response to post #8: It's sarcasm of the most caustic -- and insightful -- kind. You and a2zresource are both right. There is no transparency in San Diego government. CCDC is its own little fiefdom. It utterly ignores its so-called boss, the redevelopment agency, which is the city council. There are numerous examples. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder June 30, 2010 @ 9:47 p.m.

NOTE: There is now a campaign to reinstate Pincus to his former posts. here are the links: http://BringBobBack.blogspot.com/ and http://www.facebook.com/WeWantBob Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder July 1, 2010 @ 7:28 a.m.

Response to post #15: It appears that in this new media environment, we will have to get used to typos, misspellings, poorly organized stories, etc. Of course, I should talk. Because I respond to comments to my columns and blog items, I make thousands of posts. I am 74 years old. My fingers aren't as steady as they once were. Also, I am often in a hurry to post something so I can beat the competition. As a result, I make errors. Also, I don't carefully craft every response. I simply don't have time. If the error is in the headline, or changes the meaning of something, I make a change. If it is a simple typo, then I usually let it go. Mea maxima culpa. Best, Don Bauder

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Ponzi July 2, 2010 @ 6:58 a.m.

I feel many typos we read today are the result of too much faith in spellcheckers (word processors) and too little time spent proofreading.

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Don Bauder July 2, 2010 @ 7:49 a.m.

Response to post #17: Good point. In my own case, I never use a spellchecker (don't even know how), but often spend too little time proofreading my blog copy. Best, Don Bauder

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donbreese July 2, 2010 @ 11:19 a.m.

This is a pretty tough time to run a daily newspaper, and I doubt Jeff Light will increase the UT's profitability by increasing book and museum coverage, or by declaring war on SD's local government and business community. This is just wishful thinking.

Most self-styled intellectuals in SD never really took the UT that seriously anyway. Twenty years ago, when I was a student at UCSD, many of my politicial science professors made fun of the newspaper, and most of them made clear they got their national/world news from other sources. I doubt Light can save the UT by appealing to their bohemian tastes and preferences.

Light is trying to make the paper more user friendly, more local in its focus, which is probably the best strategy. Then again, there may be NO good strategy, since newspapers are folding right and left in the US, just like independent booksellers.

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a2zresource July 2, 2010 @ 12:25 p.m.

RE #17:

Recent personal example: writing "eminent" in a blog when I was thinking "imminent"...


Sorry, Mr. Bauder: Looking at some of the above comments, I did not realize my sophomoric sarcasm in #1 would have you responding for me!

As for the lack of CCDC/SEDC/et al transparency, I still can't figure out if the real reason for the Redevelopment Agency needing the up-coming July 13 $288 million HUD block grant loan write-off from the City of San Diego is that the new City SAP accounting software just plain "misplaced" it... which might also go far to explaining why the City is being asked not to charge any interest on the $288 million in loans to the Redevelopment Agency after June 2009?!?

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Russ Lewis July 2, 2010 @ 1:01 p.m.

(#17) The spell checker is only as good as the idiot using it.

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Don Bauder July 2, 2010 @ 2:20 p.m.

Response to post #18: You make a good point, but I do think that if any metro daily is to survive (both on paper and online), it will have to appeal to the intellectual and arts communities. I fear one of our society's greatest problems is the apathy of the young -- and by young, I mean up to and including early middle age. They don't read enough -- even about the vapid topics in which they are absorbed. I continue to own New York Times stock (only 200 shares) even though I have a big loss in it and the dividend has been slashed. I own it because I think that if any publication can make the transition from paper to the web, it's the Times. It has become the national newspaper for intellectuals. Admittedly, a metro daily in a community like San Diego is different. The intellectual community is small and there is no national distribution. But Light is obviously de-emphasizing this community, and that is a mistake. An even bigger mistake, though, is releasing so many people with knowledge of the market and hiring so many (including cubs) with little or none. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder July 2, 2010 @ 2:23 p.m.

Response to post #19: It was immediately clear to me that you were being sarcastic. It was well-written sarcasm. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder July 2, 2010 @ 2:25 p.m.

Response to post #20: Dam, your rite. Best, Don Bauder

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Twister July 4, 2010 @ 5:39 p.m.

If any newspaper's gotta fail, Lord, let it be the U-T! Many a business has been hollowed out by a "manager" who forgot that the two ends of the bell curve also are above the bottom line, and most managers these days are products of Harvard or some imitation's MBA "program," not vertical ascent through the organization. It is time for renewal, a re-invention of media of all sorts, and if the quality of the UT content is reflective of it value as such, its demise may well serve as fertilizer for some kinda Phoenix, perhaps the Reader itself. Its business plan looks smarter anyway, as much as I ain't into the body-beautiful stuff.

With respect to the youth, I respect them. Tattoos and studs and worn-out clothes and all. They aren't buying it. They're learning to be frugal. They're largely dropping out in greater numbers. Bohemians, indeed!

Light may be just providing more complete illumination of the paper's hollow nature. Dirt makes a better floor for the canary cage anyhow.

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Twister July 4, 2010 @ 5:45 p.m.

Response to 15:

There used to be a self-taught pianist in my building who always made a lot of misteaks playing the Great Concertos, but the error-ridden sounds he made would send chills up and down my spine . . .

As to your other remarks, I resemble them a lot!

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Don Bauder July 5, 2010 @ 7:14 a.m.

Response to post #24: The U-T is moving from print to online, and that's a sound strategy, although papers have not yet figured out how to make the online product consistently profitable. I think the electronic move is necessary for metro dailies, and other papers, too. I think he is making mistakes, such as hiring so many editors from the outside and so many tyros, and neglecting the intellectual community. But if top management won't provide him with the money, he may feel that hiring the rookies is all he can do. He will find that his staff lacks sufficient institutional knowledge of the San Diego market. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder July 5, 2010 @ 7:30 a.m.

Response to post #25: Wow! If he was playing the great concerti, I assume he was accompanied by an orchestra. That must have been a large building you lived in. Who conducted the orchestra? Best, Don Bauder

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Bob McPhail July 10, 2010 @ 2:21 p.m.

The survival of print journalism will depend on at least two things: (1) a niche audience, and (2) a willingness by publishers to accept much lower rates of profitability. For too long, daily newspapers made obscene amounts of money -- and apparently never imagined tough times could fall upon them. Newspapers have fallen prey to the same fate as so many other businesses in our current economy -- virtually no more family-owned local papers, replaced by corporate journalism with one thing in mind: making as much dough as possible.

I greatly respect Mr. Bauder and find his work always worth reading. But the NYT? Come on -- the paper has become so captive of a particular point of view and has so blurred the line between reporting and opinion that it is almost not worth reading -- unless you understand that you are not reading real reporting anymore.

I'd give the Wall Street Journal a much better chance of long-term survival -- and personally find it much more worth reading than the TImes.

Advice to Don re: NYT shares -- sell, sell, sell!

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Don Bauder July 10, 2010 @ 11:27 p.m.

Response to post #28: Sell NY Times stock? Well, I must admit I have a big loss in it and the dividend isn't worth a hoot anymore. The Times does have a bias, but that bias fits in well with its readership, both in New York and around the country. You are correct that newspapers were once exceedingly profitable and that's in the past. Now they must transition to online which is not profitable. Tough task. Best, Don Bauder

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Twister July 12, 2010 @ 8:53 p.m.

Well, there's the ECONOMY, and that's the straw that is breaking the newspapers' backs. But it was the self-inflicted decline in real journalism, the cutting back on bureaus and real investigative reporting that produced the crumbling of their bones--like taking Prilosec for heartburn without recognizing the so-called "side" effects.

Newspapers could have gained readers, kept readers, had they introduced much needed improvements rather than stomping on their laurels. They could have organized their web sites and their print editions as sources for continuous coverage of issues rather than isolate "man bites dog" stuff, and increased support for responsible, coherent, comprehensive "coverage" instead of cutting the heart out of their organizations and selling their souls for a few sou, the siren song of short-term blips in net at the cost of sustained growth. The corps are dead and hollow. Mandragon is coming, and I hope it catches on. But we also need something to hold all the subunits together, and that's a healthy Fourth Estate.

What will we do without investigative reporting? What WILL we DO?

PS: Why can't I subscribe to this column so that I can get notices when there are new responses? It's getting tedious to look them all up. Reader, are you listening?

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Don Bauder July 12, 2010 @ 9:33 p.m.

Response to post #30: Today's economy is definitely hurting newspapers, but the handwriting was on the wall long before the economy crumbled. Back in the 1980s, there were studies indicating that young people were not reading newspapers (or magazines, for that matter, except maybe People.) In the very early 1990s I wrote a column for the U-T about how newspapers were not getting young readers. The U-T general manager, who was very, very slow on the learning curve, to put it gently, wrote a letter to Helen and David Copley, saying what a horrible influence I was, and that local TV and radio stations were using my column to sell ads. Mind you, I didn't talk about the U-T or any specific newspaper; it was just a column on media investments. This kind of stupidity kept many newspapers from facing their looming problem decades ago. Daily newspapers in the U.S. really started to collapse around 2006, and that was before the economy went off a cliff. The papers weren't ready for the cataclysm, and should have been. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder July 12, 2010 @ 9:35 p.m.

Response to post #31: I didn't notice. Best, Don Bauder

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Twister July 17, 2010 @ 8:26 a.m.

Re 32

Have you noticed a general decline in the quality and effectiveness of managers starting about the time Harvard started handing out MBA's?

Experience in the business and five bucks won't even get you a cup of coffee anymore, but it will get you off the short-list.

"Management" may be the most nefarious pseudoscience ever conceived--through a cross between a liar and an incompetent.

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Don Bauder July 17, 2010 @ 3:14 p.m.

Response to post #34: Some of the most egregious quacks and crooks I have ever associated with were Harvard MBA's. Best, Don Bauder

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Twister July 18, 2010 @ 2:22 a.m.

Well, yeah--but have you ever met an honest, capable one?

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Don Bauder July 18, 2010 @ 8:26 a.m.

Response to post #36: Oh yes. Hal Walker, an executive VP at Copley, was honest and quite competent. The late Ken Gammage, San Diego stock technician, was another good Harvard MBA. Those are just a couple of good ones. I have known others. Best, Don Bauder

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Twister July 19, 2010 @ 6:11 p.m.

Dear Don and pals.

Scanning some of my last Op-Ed drafts from 09, I dusted one off that addresses this subject (albeit on a broader scale, but applicable to the U-T, of course). Knowing they won't read it here and wouldn't "get it" if they did, I submit it for your and your exceptional commentators for what it might be worth, in serial form to keep from upsetting the Big Reader Brotha Computer by going over some character limit--oh, how entertaining are the novo-control freaks in protecting us from drivel ad nauseam.

Cranks, Prophets, and the Rebirth of Newspapers?

by

Twister

I’m cranked into the grapevine of a group of people with their fingers in the dike of a serious Southern California (well, worldwide, in a sense) problem that is largely caused by bureaucratic and political inertia but wt can’t get—or find—anything published on it. We’re sitting on stories that are either not on the Internet or so diffusely present amid the babble of bytes and opinions that it is utterly impossible for either writers to find readers or readers to find and separate the wheat from the chaff in a maddening array of websites, clicks and clickthroughs, 404 errors, and vertigo-inducing astigmatic flashes and colors that would drive any serious reader to a newspaper.

It’s so easy to “get published” pm the Internet these days that one hardly needs to huff and puff to struggle through to the big newspapers, the venerable stalwarts that used to be so heavy with advertising that their delivery could cause serious physical injury should you be hiding in the bushes when the paperboy (talk about archaic!) tossed it in the direction of your front porch (another anachronism?). So newspapers are busy writing their own obituaries. What? Did I just say that? We’re gonna stand by whilst the only rock in the midst of this insane whirlwind of media madness is dismantled by “takeover corps” bent on sucking them dry for a few microcents on the dollar? And the pros within are just gonna stand by in a glassy- or misty-eyed trance while their lives are eviscerated and sold off like chopped liver. Gimme a break!

Like, really, give me a break. You’re really gonna sit there, ink in your blood and green eyeshades on, and your head in the past, and tell me that I can’t pick up a paper at a curbside machine (when there are any to be found to buy for a fraction of their constant-dollar price—how do you know we wouldn’t buy ‘em if we could stick a card into a 21st century machine [a new kind of subscription—got it?]), and tell me that I’ve got to squint at some flippin’ cell-phone or drag out a laptop and run down its battery and start pounding a keyboard to flip through the headlines, and not just have my coffee without being plugged in, walk through the park out of Wi-Fi range, mark up the stuff of great stimulating interest, and THEN go home later and dig it up on-line and file the clipping in a word-processing file for later consultation?

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Twister July 19, 2010 @ 6:13 p.m.

Don and friends:

Here's the second and final installment:

That huge but ignored demographic, those of us who are baby-boomers and beyond, may not be as wired as the X-Generation, but by jingo, there are enough of us still kickin’ and still willing to buy a newspaper, perhaps at a price equivalent to a Depression-Era nickel or more, to have the quickest, most in-depth survey of our world, distilled by folks who live, eat, and breathe news, features, and analysis rather than baby noveau-cranks who honk, flame, and rage into the wind, dispersing the gutsiness of reality into passing fantasies.

But—yeah, BUT! Newspapers can’t hope to keep the presses rolling by aping their erring, presumptuous, adolescent upstart Internet imitators—they’ve gotta keep what’s working and reassign the rest to the database (but one that can be used, not as an even more troublesome way to nickel-and-dime consumers with who can just click off to a competitor). It may seem to publishers that their classifieds have been usurped by the likes of Craig’s List, and that might be true—to a point, and for a while. But are such cases passing phenomena, flashes in the pan of Internet growing pains or classics in the making immune to obsolescence via Moore’s Law? How, pray tell, can newspapers make money and transform the reader/media interface? Well, by transforming, of course! By finding opportunities that intuitively look like liabilities and truly rethinking them in the cold, hard, light of fast-moving reality, not by lighting a candle and cursing the darkness of the infant Internet. Gutless! Get out of the fetal, corporate-sucking position and man-up!

And, instead of running from pieces like this that challenge their mindsets, they would do well to smell the particular-matter that makes the crucial difference between a sharp break with convention and the hollow drumbeat of mere opinion that is merely traditionally crankily dogmatic. Newspapers are better than they used to be, but they can be far, far better than they are. And I want to be able to stick a few subscription-card bucks in a machine or had the corner clerk a twenty and get back some change and a rag on the cutting edge rather than a crumbling pseudo-Internet site on newsprint. And, ok, I still want something to wrap fish in.

Twister is an Op-Ed writer who has given up on trying to swim with the multitudes against the odds for the pittance papers pay.

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Don Bauder July 19, 2010 @ 11:32 p.m.

Response to post #38: I get your point. I drive 20 miles a day to get the NY Times (which I have already seen online) and the Wall Street Journal. Sane? Maybe not. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder July 19, 2010 @ 11:35 p.m.

Response to post #39: Baby boomers aren't big print (newspapers, magazines) readers -- with the exception of the oldest boomers. You have to go back another generation to get avid readers. Best, Don Bauder

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Twister July 20, 2010 @ 1:26 p.m.

Don, can you cite some studies?

Yeah, I'm basing my "conclusions" on my own anecdotal observations, but something tells me that journalism has to "man up" and shoulder its share of the responsibility (as, of course, should the school system and society for abandoning the young to develop their own culture. Adaptation is a two-way street, and cultures tend to employ fragments of the old ones, particularly in trying to invent contrary notions, converting them into fads, then mindlessly worshiping the thin gruel rather than tasting it critically and adjusting the flavor. Just think of what the "flower children" might have become, and what they have become . . .

How young is the youngest "boomer?" And why don't they read print media?

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Twister July 20, 2010 @ 1:36 p.m.

Re 40:

The web designs suck big time. They don't have to. Some simple user studies would show up the problems, but the complaint departments consist of the web designers, not the decision-makers, so nobody complains--it's futile in the face of cya corp culture.

It's simple. Make the site look like the front page with a search function, facilitate scanning, and lead with what we should know rather than only satisfying our existing biases. I read a paper to change my mind, not to validate my biases.

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