Thursday, May 28, 2009

Birthday meditation: The Song of a Geezer

Tomorrow I will be 55 years-old.


I share the date with Bob Hope, JFK and Patrick Henry, By the way, Vincent Pice and Christopher Lee are on May 27 and Peter Cushing on May 26.

I didn't feel any trepidation at 30 or 40 or 50. No big deal.

This one feels very different. I think it's because 55 is a retirement age for many folks – military, police, fire, state employees. It is literally a second chapter for many people.

Needless to say I won't be retiring any time soon.

What also concerns me is how close 55 is to 60. And that is a number that concerns me.

As a diabetic, even though my numbers are good, I will be dropping dead sooner than I should. So I have an even more limited time to git r done, in the parlance of the day.

So I have to worker harder to find a home for some books, figure out what my next career move should be – if there is one – and generally not waste any time.

That is the rub as many times I wonder just why I am forced to give up chucks of my increasingly valuable time to non-productive, non-fun pursuits.

At times I don't feel older. I'm glad I'm the age I am. Other times I admit to wanting to strangle people younger than me – much younger – who treat me as some sort of clueless old fart unaware of today's popular culture and fashion.

Screw them. Their pop culture frequently stinks.

I guess sometimes the dark side of the force is what keeps me going. I want to live a long productive life just to piss those folks off by my continuing existence.

Heh, heh, heh.

But if a bus hits me tonight, I'll go wherever knowing I've had a great life with a wonderful wife, a supportive family, a loving foster daughter and grandkids, some great friends and the satisfaction of actually doing a bunch of stuff I wanted to do. I didn't make much money, but at least I still have most of my hair and low blood pressure.

Hey, where's my cake from my favorite Italian bakery? I double up on the insulin. It's my birthday, dammit!

© 2009 by Gordon Michael Dobbs

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

From Sgt. John Delaney of the Springfield Police Dept.

"On Friday, May 22nd at 9:45 P.M. Officers Anthony Sowers and Craig Davis were dispatched to the area of Bay and Marion Street for a large disturbance. When they arrived they observed the whole neighborhood gathered around a subject I.D. as 61 year old Randolph Barden of 147 Marion Street who was beaten up by the entire group and laying on the ground suffering from injuries.

"According to the entire neighborhood, right before Mr. Barden's "beat down" he was traveling through the neighborhood in a red Chevy Corsica with N.H. registration. He would drive up to little girls on the side walk and in front yards trying to 'entice' them into his car with candy. There were four separate little girls between the ages of 10-12. One of the victims stated that he tried to get her into the car during the week prior. He asked one of the girls for her cell phone number. Mr. Barden tried to entice the girls again on May 22nd and was caught by the adults in the neighborhood. Mr. Barden was transported to Baystate Medical Center for treatment. Detectives found Barden's car parked on Girard Avenue loaded with candy. The vehicle was towed as evidence.

"Detective Lieutenant Cheryl Clapprood and her team of detectives assigned to the 'Special Victims Unit' arrived to take statements from the children and witnesses. They applied for a warrant for four separate accounts of Enticing a Child Under 16. The warrants was issued and Detectives arrested Barden as he was being released from the hospital yesterday evening at 9:30 PM.

"Barden will be arraigned in Springfield District Court today. Detective Allen Mackler of the "Special Victims Unit" asked for high bail "to ensure the safety of the young female children in the neighborhood."

Neighborhood justice in the City of Homes!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

My lunch with Irish president

Normally I hate working on a holiday, but how could I resist accepting the invitation of Congressman Richard Neal – thank you sir – and attending a luncheon to honor Mary McAleese, the president of Ireland.

Here is what Forbes had to say about her last year.

McAleese made quite a swing through Western Massachusetts this weekend and Neal had about 150-200 local well wishers gathered at the Barney Carriage House at Forest Park for the meal.

Mayor Domenic Sarno if Springfield told me he was very impressed with the president and her husband – who is both a dentist and an accountant – and said that at an event the previous night at the MassMutual Center had shown a down to earth quality one doesn't naturally associate with someone carrying the title of "president."

What fascinated me was the mechanics of the event. Well before her arrival there were several Secret Service agents and advance staff members working with Neal's staff. When her motorcade arrived, more staff preceded her entrance and security agents stood around the large tent as well as in the audience.

I recorded her speech with my Kodak flip camera – pardon the shakiness but I didn't bring a tripod.

I left as dessert was being served and by then, as she ate her own strawberry shortcake, some people were coming to her table to say hello. I didn't feel comfortable doing this as I knew by speaking with one of her advance staff that she had to be in Worcester by 3 p.m. for an event. She had less than an hour to make it at that point, but I'm sure the state police escort would ensure her swift and safe arrival.

Besides let the lady eat her dessert!

© 2009 by Gordon Michael Dobbs

Friday, May 22, 2009

Beginning of the end for the daily?

On May 4, the advertising director of The Republican sent out a letter to advertisers of an impending change in the paper's format that was described as "historic."

Beginning June 1, the paper will be a tabloid instead of a broadsheet on Mondays and Wednesdays. The letter from Mark French didn't list any reasons, but a semi-informed person will understand that this is another cost-saving move.

The next step will be the elimination of these editions and the end of the paper's status as a daily.

I really don't want to see this area without a daily paper, but I'm afraid that is what is going to happen.

Before you say, "Well MassLive will take up the daily slack of reporting,” remember that the bulk of MassLive's local news coverage is from The Republican. The question is whether or not the MassLive business model can support daily reporters.

Right now the development of economic models for Web-based daily local news products is in its infancy. The sour economy doesn't help as well. So-called futurists who like to kick the crap out of newspapers seem to forget this fact.
They also conveniently forget that many people depend on newspapers as a source for more in-depth reporting than they see on local TV and that the can afford a paper – especially a free one.

In a city such as Springfield, there are many people without a home computer who cannot be part of the new media. That's an economic fact. I doubt many of the futurist types I've read would be willing to shell out money to pay for computers just so their vision – and ego – is fulfilled.

The plain truth is that for our form of government to survive, the people need access to information. Right now, both the economy and the habits of many people will not allow a wholesale switchover to Web based media. Local news reflects the events that have the most immediate impact on a community and that news is the most endangered by what is going on in media.

© 2009 by Gordon Michael Dobbs

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Once a week: animation

I'm going to write about animation at least once a week and today are two reviews of DVDs you might not be aware of.

Gigantor: The Collection, Volume One

When I was a kid and lived on Okinawa – my dad was stationed there – I regularly watched Japanese cartoons and other programs on the local station. Of course I didn't understand the dialogue as it was in Japanese, but like any TV-addicted child I was willing to watch whatever was one the tube.

So my brother and I watched Japan be defended every week from monsters by Ultraman and the cartoons "Big X" and "8 Man" regardless of our inability to follow dialogue.

Somehow, in all of this sampling of another country's pop culture for kids, we missed "Gigantor," a popular animated adaptation of "Tetsujin-28" manga – a Japanese comic book – about a 12-year-old boy who controls a huge robot.

Fred Ladd, the producer who had successfully brought over to this country "Astroboy," perhaps the best known and most highly influential Japanese animated series, bought the rights to "Gigantor" for American distribution in the mid-1960s. The show was a big hit in syndication.

Because of my own interest in animation – as well as my time in Japan as a child – I was more than interested in seeing these "Gigantor" cartoons; the first 26 episodes have been collected for this four-disc edition.

They might be a shock to today's anime fans used to accomplished animation and sophisticated storylines. "Gigantor" is a loud, boisterous, crude affair with simplistic plots and a hero who can make his robot do just about anything with his control box. It's interesting that the star of the show, the robot itself, has no personality. It is just a machine controlled by a young boy.

Entertaining in a cheesy way, I liked "Gigantor," but I have to admit that many animation fans might easily be put off by its inadequacies. Hardcore anime fans may be the most receptive audience.

The set included commentary from producer Fred Ladd as well as an interview with him and anime historian Fred Patten.
The Best of Dr. Katz Professional Therapist

The late animator Chuck Jones was responsible for some of the most memorable Warner Brothers shorts including "One Froggy Evening," What's Opera Doc?" and "Duck Amuck." He also produced and directed the animated "How the Grinch Stole Christmas," which is definitely a holiday classic.

I bring up some of the Jones' credits so when I quote him, you'll have some context. He called limited animation – specifically television cartoons such as "Yogi Bear" or "The Flintstones" – "illustrated radio." Jones said a good animated cartoon needs to carry the story and gags thought the visuals instead of through the dialogue.

Dialogue, though, is cheaper than creating the drawings necessary for good animation.

Jones died in 2002 and I don't know if he ever was exposed to "Dr. Katz Professional Therapist." I hope not. As limited as the Hanna-Barbera cartoons were, they are paragons of movement next to "Dr. Katz," which is truly "illustrated radio."

The premise for "Dr. Katz" isn't bad at all. Comedian Jonathan Katz plays a low-key therapist beset with a surly receptionist and a lazy son as well as an assortment of odd patients. His patients are played by other comedians, including Dave Attell, Kathy Griffin, Denis Leary, Richard Lewis and many more.

The animation is done in "squiggle-vision," a computer technique that jiggles the lines of the drawings to give the illusion of movement without there really being any. There is only the most basic animation in the series, such as mouths moving.

I suppose it was much cheaper to do this series in animation than in live action, as there is no artistic reason to use this very limited form, just a financial one.

The show can be quite funny, as clearly the comedians not only used good bits from their acts but also adlibbed with Katz.

The way I watched this disc for review was to close my eyes periodically, and yup, it plays just as well. It is truly radio with pictures.

If you're fan of contemporary stand-up comedians, you might like "Dr. Katz." Just keep your eyes closed.

© 2009 by Gordon Michael Dobbs

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Fatman and fish

My buddy Dave D. and I participated in the annual Beaver Lake fishing tournament in Ware – Dave's home is on the lake – and with his expert guidance – he knows the fish are – I landed this 18 3/4 inch large mouth bass.

Don't worry, only minnows were harmed in the catching of this fish. He went back into the lake.

The following from is pretty interesting.

Television station revenue is down steeply across the country - so much so that in many places, media conglomerates are combining television news broadcasts with their newspaper operations to avoid the possibility of having to close their TV news divisions altogether.

E.W. Scripps was down 20% in the first quarter, compared with the same quarter last year, while Belo was down 23% and LIN TV was down 21%. News Corp.’s station revenue fell 28% and the Walt Disney Company’s station revenue slipped 28%, according to The New York Times.

With TV station revenue tanking, Tribune Company has merged its TV stations with its daily newspapers in two markets - Miami and Hartford - in order to combine forces and fight the challenges facing the industries together.

Last summer, for example, Tribune CW affiliate WSFL moved into the same building as Tribune’s South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Now, employees of each are assigned to stories from a single assignment desk.

TV stations have also begun to share camera crews. NBC and Fox stations have created camera pools in cities including Philadelphia and New York.

SNL Kagan predicts that TV station revenue will fall 15.7% this year, with markets in Michigan suffering the most, due to the auto industry crisis. Things look slightly better for 2010, though declines for local TV will continue to be about 2% for the next five years, according to the updated Radio/TV Station Annual Outlook report.

BIA Advisory Services predicts that revenue television revenue overall will take a dramatic fall this year, plunging below the $20 billion mark.

After six years with industry revenue hovering between $20 billion and $22 billion, 2009 is expected to end at an even $17 billion in revenues, a 21.2% drop in two years from 2007’s $21.5 billion, BIA says.

LIN operates TV22 in our market. It's interesting that the media corporations are merging the two news operations to save the television ones.

© 2009 by Gordon Michael Dobbs

Friday, May 15, 2009

No more "free" content from newspapers?


MediaNews Group, publisher of 54 daily newspapers including The Denver Post and the Detroit News, is making a major change to its business model and will begin charging for its newspaper content online.

The company has not yet revealed exactly what its strategy will be for charging for newspaper content. Rather, a memo to MediaNews staff (via Brand Republic) said that the group will begin to move away from making all newspaper content free online and will instead “explore a variety of premium offerings that apply real value to our print content.”

MediaNews hopes to convince readers that the print and online product has “real value;” if non-subscribers want to access online content, they will have to register and/or pay. “To be clear, the brand value proposition to the consumer is that the newspaper is a product, whether in print or online, which must be paid for,” the memo reads.

The company also plans to publish different content online and to distinguish it from its newspaper content, in order to reach a younger online audience. “Obviously, our sites must draw upon the content of the newspaper, but the presentation of that content will be different,” according to the memo.

The news follows the recent announcement by News Corp. that it will begin charging for individual articles and premium subscriptions to the Wall Street Journal website this year. Non-subscribers will be charged fees to read single articles. Other News Corp. newspapers will begin charging for content within the next year.

“We are now in the midst of an epochal debate over the value of content and it is clear to many newspapers that the current model is malfunctioning,” News Corp. chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch said during an earnings call last week. Murdoch said (via CNN) that the current free access business model favored by most content providers is flawed. “We have been at the forefront of that debate and you can confidently presume that we are leading the way in finding a model that maximizes revenues in return for our shareholders… The current days of the internet will soon be over.”

The New York Times Co., too, is “exploring a new online financial strategy,” Chairman Arthur Sulzberger Jr. told shareholders last month.

Sulzberger suggested the Times would once again look at trying to charge for its content.

Newspapers across the country are facing bankruptcy and closures, and publishers are struggling to modify their business models in a way that will bring in enough additional revenue to survive and thrive. Zenith Optimedia predicts that newspaper ad revenue will fall 12% this year.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Beaver Lake...chortle...snicker...he said "beaver"

Beavis and Butthead aside, here is my Cafe Press store and the first items that celebrate Beaver Lake in Ware Massachusetts and the home of our dear friends Dave and Kim.

Amazingly, there are plenty of lakes in this country adorned with the name of Beaver so I hope folks around the country will turn their wallets inside out for Beaver Lake gear, since I cleverly made it non-state specific.

Cunning aren't I?

The shirt's design is mine and the artwork is done by the talented Leo Pilares. Thanks you Leo!

Now how many can I put you down for?

© 2009 by Gordon Michael Dobbs

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

A true test for Mayor Sarno

Here's the front page top of the fold story I wrote for our Springfield edition:

SPRINGFIELD -- Mayor Domenic Sarno met with various members of his administration on Monday to discuss a plan that would scrap the controversial apartment complex on Longhill Street in favor of building a new Forest Park Middle School on the site.

Sarno's Director of Communications, Thomas Walsh, released the following statement Monday afternoon from Sarno:

"Mayor Domenic J. Sarno had received information late last week indicating that the Longhill Gardens Project located on Longhill Street may be a viable site for the new Forest Park Middle School. At the direction of Mayor Sarno, city officials are currently looking into the feasibility of this site being a potential location for the new school.

"If the Longhill Gardens property is determined to be a feasible site it will save the city significant expenses on displacement and/or relocation costs that would be incurred for alternative sites in the Forest Park neighborhood. Presently, the Longhill Gardens properties are vacant.

"Mayor Sarno has directed city officials to work expeditiously and to report their findings back to him as soon as practically possible.

"Mayor Sarno maintains his commitment to continue working with the neighborhood to ensure that the best option for this location is ultimately chosen."

The question that confronts the mayor is whether or not the city can change directions at this point on how the property can be used. The state has already requested the release of federal HOME monies to help fund the apartment complex to be built by Winn Development and the city has made a similar request for the release of its HOME funds for the low income project.

The city has until June 30 to show the the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) "substanial progress" on the selection of a site for a new Forest Park Middle School in order to qualify for a 90 percent reimbursement of what is estimated to be a $32 million project.

School Committee member Antonette Pepe told Sarno Monday morning she is "upset and concerned that we could lose the money for the Forest Park school."

Pepe said the mayor needs to act quickly on the site selection to preserve the funding for the new school. She noted there are many people in the Forest Park neighborhood who support the use of the property for a new school. Although Sarno has not yet announced an answer to the question he posed to the state in March concerning the ability to change the apartment project to include 40 percent market-rate housing, he went ahead and requested the city's share of HOME funds with a form dated March 23.

The request described the project as being a total of 109 units and "all of the units will be utilized as family affordable housing." There was no mention of a change to include market rate units.

On April 30, Philip Dromey, the deputy director of the city's Office of Planning & Economic Development, sent Robert Paquin of the U. S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) the request for funds as well as a letter that dismissed the two objections made to the project, one by Springfield activist Karen Powell and the other from the McKnight Homeowners Association Inc.

The documents concerning the school project as well as the city's request for funds came through Springfield Forward, an advocacy group that has long opposed the current plans for the property, an apartment complex for low income residents.

Maureen Hayes, of Hayes Development Services in Springfield, sent Sarno an e-mail on May 4 with an outline of the middle school proposal. She described the current Forest Park Middle School as being in "deteriorating condition and its facilities are obsolete."

"Discussions on upgrading or replacing the school have been ongoing since the 1990s. In July 2007, the MSBA determined that renovating the current building is not an option due to its deteriorating structural condition. Immediately thereafter the city initiated an identification and feasibility study process in an effort to locate a potential site for a new middle school," Hayes wrote.

The new school would serve 660 students. The present one has 300 more students who would be assigned to other middle schools.

"Recently, CBI Consulting Inc., the consultants evaluating potential school sites, identified Longhill Gardens as a possible location. Based on a cursory review, Longhill Gardens seems to offer a number of advantages as a site for the new middle school: it is located in the Forest Park neighborhood; it meets or exceeds the minimum size requirement; it is in single ownership; it would require no displacement of occupants and it would involve no relocation costs," Hayes wrote.

George Pappas of Springfield Forward said his organization "consistently advised the mayor to build the new middle school at the Longhill Gardens location."

What concerned Pappas is what he described as "astounding" -- that Sarno's present discussion of the site for a school is coming at "the 11th and an half hour of this process."

He charged that Sarno has been "disingenuous" with his comments since March 2008 that he has been reviewing all of the options for the Longhill property.

"We now know that was not true," Pappas told Reminder Publications.

Pappas and his group have called on Sarno to retract his request for HOME funds in light of the report about using the site for a school.

Now we have a set of unresolved issues here:

1. Has the state ever replied to the mayor's request to add market-rate housing to the project?

2. Why did the city apply for the HUD HOME funds before the state have the mayor an answer?

3. Does this mean the mayor supports the project as planned – more low income housing?

4. Doesn't Win Development own the land?

5. Are there any other sites for the Forest Park Middle School?

6. Why has the city waited so close to the deadline to consider the site as one for the school?

If the mayor can address these questions to the satisfaction of the voters, he may be re-elected. If he can't his campaign will not be an easy one.

© 2009 by Gordon Michael Dobbs

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Animation puzzle solved...I think

I love rooting around the Hadley (MA) flea market and especially finding a pile of old Popular Science magazines as they frequently ran articles on animation. Perhaps it was a bit of a nod to Max Fleischer who had been the art director at the magazine.

The problem is that many of articles were either liable to error – such as the one profiling someone other than Jack Mercer as the voice of Popeye or writing about the Kong effects achieved by a man in a costume – or they were incomplete.

When I found the following I was amazed and a little cheesed that the name of the film profiled was not included nor were the names of the creators.

Well, the men who produced this film were German stop motion animators Ferdinand and Hermann Dieh and the name of the film is “The Race of the Rabbit and the Hedgehog." If the hedgehog looks familiar to you it's Mecki the hedgehog, an iconic German character who has appeared in a number of media as well as many. many dolls produced by Steiff.

The film as pictured in these stills certainly looks interested. I can't find out if it was distributed here and a Web search didn't yield a contemporary source for the film, but I bet if I read German I might be able to find it.

Love to hear more information about it.

From June 1939 edition of Popular Science

Monday, May 11, 2009

Okay, folks this is why big corporate media sucks:

from Media Buyer

President Obama’s three recent prime time news conference pre-emptions have cost the Big Four TV networks an estimated $30 million in ad revenue this year, executives say.

Fox rejected the President’s most recent press event on April 29, in a move that may serve as precedent for other networks to refuse future White House requests for prime time air time if they believe there will be no urgent breaking news to be discussed, writes Mediaweek. Fox lost as much as $6 million in ad revenue during the President’s second news conference, which forced the network to bump its hit show, American Idol.

While President Obama has proven a ratings darling, with his appearances on NBC’s The Tonight Show and CBS’s 60 Minutes giving major boosts in viewership, network executives - none of whom would speak for attribution - feel there have been too many demands at a time when too much money is at stake. They believe the President should speak to the nation earlier in the day, either from 7-8pm or during the evening news telecasts.

But while the networks claim to be considering refusing future White House requests, one industry observer says that will never happen. ABC, CBS and NBC all have nightly national newscasts, prime time news shows and Sunday morning news shows - and keeping the White House happy, and a future Presidential appearance a possibility, is paramount.

The smallest audience of the three news conferences turned out on April 29, but the event still reached 28 million people. The third press conference was down 42% from the first event.

So we're in a financial meltdown only dwarfed by the Great Depression, fighting two wars and trying to re-tool healthcare so American could actually be healthier, but we don't see the need to give Obama airtime if he requests it.

I think the president is operating on the concept that if the electorate understands what he is trying to do perhaps Congress will go along. And maybe, just maybe, he is giving the American people some credit for having brains.

We need information to function as a republic. Are we getting it?

Let's face it for the networks it's all bread and circuses, my friends. Let's have more Britney news, more Madonna adopting orphinks news, more American Idol chatter, more mindless celebrity slop, more time with former VP Dick Cheney sniping at the present administration, more inane real life crime shows, more shows with judges... you see where I'm going here.

This is why the big corporate media needs some sort of break-up. This is why local media must find ways to take their place. This is why an economic model for the Web must be devised.

Tomorrow: an animation riddle – at least for me.
© 2009 by Gordon Michael Dobbs

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

This is my completed column:

Among the press releases I recently found in my inbox was the following:
“Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.), Chairman of the Commerce Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet, will hold a hearing on Wednesday entitled, ‘The Future of Journalism.’ The subcommittee will examine issues threatening the news media, explore how the industry arrived at this point and discuss potential models for news delivery in the future.

“‘It’s a critical time to examine the future of journalism in the digital Information Age and what it means to our country and our democracy,’ said Kerry. ‘American history is inextricably linked to the narrative of our free and independent press, and today, America’s newspapers, which have been the bedrock of the free press, are struggling just to stay afloat as new means of delivering information are multiplying by the day. Whatever the model for the future, we must do all we can to ensure a diverse and independent news media endures.’”

Yes, that’s absolutely true. To help Kerry understand the current situation a whole bunch of big media types, including a vice president of Google, were asked to testify. Interestingly enough, there was no one from Massachusetts and no one from any paper that wasn’t from a large market.

I’m sorry, but I have to laugh a bit. When did the VP of Google sell an ad, worry about circulation or make sure a story got covered? If you want to find out what wrong with newspapers these days, you’re not going to get the full picture from this group.

Up front, though, I have to say I’m very worried about the federal government trying to “fix” journalism.

Senator, this is an open invitation for you to come by my office and be my guest the next time you’re in Western Massachusetts and allow me and my colleagues to speak with you about the challenges newspapers face.

You see, Senator, every time a chain store opens in our area, there is the very good chance they won’t be interested in advertising locally – not with us, our print competitors or with television and radio.

The economic model for local newspapers was founded on the idea of local businesses supporting the publications and then in turn the local businesses were supported by the readers of the ‘paper. Circulation funds coming from the price of the ‘paper were also considered icing on the cake.

There has always been competition in most markets for advertising dollars, so that’s not new. What is new is the dynamic that has taken place beginning with the Reagan Administration: the erosion of the working class through the moving of manufacturing out of this country and the weakening of the labor movement.

Local retail businesses have suffered and closed because of these changes in their markets. Chain stores that don’t play on the same playing field have hurt locally based retail. That has affected the number of ads bought, which in turn has weakened newspapers.

There’s more than that, though. The Internet has become the medium of choice for many people and newspapers have followed this audience by establishing Web sites with news content. The difficulty many publications face is establishing enough ad revenue on these sites so they are profitable. These problems have come during a time in which the economy has slowed down until it hit the current depression – oh, sorry, deep recession.

It’s clear the newspaper industry needs to devise new economic models. The challenge is that Americans expect their news to come to them either “free” – you just have to look and respond to the ads – or at a slight cost. In these economic conditions, that arrangement has proven to be insufficient.

This has nothing to do with the hard copy versus digital agreement some futurists put forward, as Web-based products are facing the same issue.

The other issue that has affected journalism is the earning expectations media corporations have had. In recent history, profit margins have been higher with media companies than with other businesses and that spoiled some corporate types. When the profits began to fall, content was cut to maintain profits. When content was cut, readers had less reason to buy a paper. Less circulation coupled with diminished ad revenue led to more cuts of content, which in turn – you get the idea.

If the middle class hadn’t been decimated; if local businesses had been able to remain strong; if corporate greed hadn’t taken its toll; and if the present recession hadn’t taken place, newspapers in general might be in a different position.

That’s a lot of “ifs.”

I have no idea what the federal government could do in this situation other than to prohibit the number of newspapers a company could own, so the big media companies could be broken up, although the economy seems to be doing a good job of that.

Still, Senator, I hope that you would take me up on your offer. I’ll spring for lunch at a good locally owned restaurant.

By the way, the radio industry is suffering through its own problems, many of which are similar. Would you be interested in hearing about that?

© 2009 by Gordon Michael Dobbs
I received the following yesterday:

Kerry to Chair Commerce Subcommittee Hearing on Future of Journalism

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.), Chairman of the Commerce Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet, will hold a hearing on Wednesday entitled, “The Future of Journalism.” The subcommittee will examine issues threatening the news media, explore how the industry arrived at this point and discuss potential models for news delivery in the future.

“It’s a critical time to examine the future of journalism in the digital Information Age and what it means to our country and our democracy,” said Kerry. “American history is inextricably linked to the narrative of our free and independent press, and today, America’s newspapers, which have been the bedrock of the free press, are struggling just to stay afloat as new means of delivering information are multiplying by the day. Whatever the model for the future, we must do all we can to ensure a diverse and independent news media endures.”

This is the subcommittee’s first hearing since Commerce Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) appointed Kerry to lead the panel.

WHO: Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.)
Chairman of the Commerce Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet

WHAT: “The Future of Journalism”
Commerce Subcommittee Hearing

WHEN: Wednesday, May 6, 2009
2:30 pm

WHERE: Commerce Committee Hearing Room
253 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510


Panel I

Senator Ben Cardin
United States Senate

Panel II

Marissa Mayer
Vice President
Google Inc.

Albert Ibarguen
The Knight Foundation

David Simon
Former reporter
The Baltimore Sun

Steve Coll
Former Managing Editor of the Washington Post

James Moroney
Chief Executive Officer
The Dallas Morning News

Arianna Huffington
Co-founder and Editor-in-Chief
The Huffington Post

Please dear Lord, please don't let the federal government get involved in "helping" journalism. The problems we face lie in greedy corporations and the over-all economy as well as antiquated economic models.

The only "help" I could see is restricting the number of media outlets any one company could own and I doubt that would get much support. It's so "anti-business."

I wonder when was the last time any of the witnesses actually faced the industry at the level most of us face it?

Monday, May 04, 2009

As Gene Autry would say, "I'm back in the saddle again."

The vacation week flew by and here are various bits and pieces that may or may not be of interest.

I spend Sunday with my ass essentially glued to the couch watching an odd variety of DVDs including:

• "Tsui Hark's Vampire Hunters" – a fairly diverting take on Chinese vampires that was ultimately not as interesting to me as the "Mr. Vampire" series
• "Frankenstein Must be Destroyed" – Peter Cushing next to last appearance as the mad Baron had its moments and I think Hammer was smart in understanding that Frankenstein was the monster, not his creations.
• "Dillenger" – Lawrence Tierney's screen debut as the legendary bank robber isn't very historically accurate, but the guy could certainly play a cold blooded killer well. The King Brothers production was released by Monogram and this must have been an "A" picture for them. The real surprise for me was to see a clip from a Mickey Mouse cartoon in the film!
• "Arizona Stagecoach" – Another Monogram release, this time a B Western starring "The Rangebusters," a team of good guys patterned affer The Three Mesquiteers and starring two of them – Ray "Crash" Corrigan and Max Terhune. Not a bad little western, but not real memorable either. Terhune was an ventriloquist whose dummy Elmer rides with him. In this film, Elmer speaks unaided which adds a surreal effect to the wild west proceedings.

We also took a day trip to Cape Cod. Mary and I are late comers to the Cape. Until a few years ago we had gone only once or twice, but now we venture forth several times a year, frequently with friends.

So our first stop was in Sandwich for lunch at the best place for seafood on the Cape, Seafood Sam's. Here is food porn, a fisherman's platter for two, a bargain at $24.

Then we took a walk along the nearby Cape Cod Canal.

Next was a tip to the Green Briar Nature Center in Sandwich operated by theThornton Burgess Society . Although we claim Burges for our own around here, he was born on the Cape and the society does a fine job preserving his memory and work. The center is a great place to visit with an art gallery, gardens on the grounds, its turn of the century jam kitchen – they were making strawberry rhubarb that day –

We then drove over to Bass River and walked along the public beach. if the weather had been a little warmer we would have set up the chairs and I'm sure I would have fallen to sleep. I find the ocean very relaxing, especially when there are no crowds around you.

Later we drove into Hyannis where I went to Tim's Books on Main Street – a very solid used book store – and Spinnaker's, a DVD, CD, pop culture place. We finished the day with a great meal at the British Brewing Company.

I can't remember when I last visted the Cape during the summer. I must say I like the relative privacy of the off season much better.

Unashamed tourists!
© 2009 by Gordon Michael Dobbs