Should Newspapers Do Whatever It Takes To Make Money?

Something to ponder on a cloudy Monday.

In a way, newspapers have only themselves to blame for this turn of events. In the early days of the industry, no one really expected newspapers to be engines for protecting the public good. Their job was to sell as many papers as possible, and publishers like William Randolph Hearst did whatever they thought would accomplish that goal, including making stories up out of whole cloth, just as some “tabloid” newspapers still do now.

But in the 1960s and 70s, newspapers became a massive industry with corporate owners, who wanted to appeal to national and international advertisers and readers — and as part of that process they became public institutions, something that was accelerated by the Watergate scandal and the role that the Washington Post played in it. In many ways, that helped create the idea that newspapers should protect and uphold certain public principles for the good of society.

So the problem now is that newspapers are trying to charge readers more directly for their content than they ever have before, and by definition that restricts the number of people who can read it. If a paper erects a paywall that costs $15 a month, that’s one thing — but what if it’s a subscription plan designed for hedge funds and bond traders? If that is a newspaper’s central focus, hasn’t it given up any hope of being a public entity or keeping the interests of society at heart? In some ways, general-interest papers seem to be damned if they do and damned if they don’t.

What Happens After The Election Of François Hollande In France?

There is hardly any doubt that the next President of France will be François Hollande, the socialist candidate.  The voters will make it so on May 6th. 

But then what?

What would an actual, honest-to-God Socialist President do in office? Probably not anything particularly socialist—nationalizing the means of production or the like—but, rather, something more along the lines of striking a protective stance. Hollande would defend French “solidarity”—the expensive social programs that make life pleasant and predictable for the vast majority of working people, though they seem to insure high unemployment even in the best of times. But a protective stance, as Muhammad Ali used to demonstrate, is in its way a fighting position. Defending solidarity means fighting austerity, and this seems likely to lead Hollande into conflict with the Germans and their tight-lipped (and walleted) bankers. The hope of American liberals that an Hollande victory would vindicate their position that austerity is bad policy—even though that may be the case—seems unlikely to take hold here. To the American right, anything that goes wrong in Europe does so because Europe is wrong, and not because of austerity, because austerity is right.

Ben Bradlee Standing By Bob Woodward

Bob Woodward needs no one to provide foundation for his past journalistic efforts, but nonetheless it was nice to see Ben Bradlee making a strong statement this morning.

This whole episode started after yesterdays New York Times Magazine story.  The crux of the matter is that Bob Woodward is coming out strongly against a new report that reveals Benjamin Bradlee, the Washington Post editor who oversaw his Watergate stories, once said he had “fear in [his] soul” that Woodward embellished details about his reporting of the scandal.

Then from Politico today comes this statement.

Ben Bradlee and Sally Quinn made strong statements of support for Bob Woodward and his Watergate reporting on Monday, moving to defuse damaging questions raised by a new biography that includes musing by Bradlee about whether some details had been embellished. “No editor, no reader, can hope for more than Bob Woodward’s byline on a story that really matters,” Bradlee said in the two-sentence statement, read to POLITICO by his wife, the journalist Sally Quinn. “I always trusted him, and I always will.” Quinn told POLITICO: “There was nothing specific that Ben had doubts about. … The story stands up. No one is questioning Bob’s veracity. … Nixon resigned.”

Last night Woodward had an interview with Politico, and this was the result.

In an interview with POLITICO Sunday night, Woodward asserted that Himmelman failed to include in the New York magazine article a much more recent interview he did with Bradlee that was more supportive of Woodward.

“There’s a transcript of an interview that Himmelman did with Bradlee 18 months ago in which Ben undercuts the [New York magazine] piece. It’s amazing that it’s not in Jeff’s piece,” Woodward said. “It’s almost like the way Nixon’s tapings did him in, Jeff’s own interview with Bradlee does him in.”

Woodward said he has a transcript of an interview on Oct. 7, 2010, in which Bradlee told Himmelman that he is fully confident about Woodward’s reporting on Watergate.

”Jeff went back to Ben and said, ‘Hey, what about this?’” Woodward told POLITICO. “Jeff gave me a copy of this interview, but he didn’t put it in the article.”

According to Woodward’s reading of the transcript, Bradlee told Himmelman: “If you would ask me, do I think that [Woodward] embellished, I would say no.”

”He did nothing to play down the drama of all of this,” Bradlee continues, according to Woodward. “You know I’m sure they had a signal, but if it was roses or something else I don’t know. But they had the means of communicating with each other. But because I never knew Felt, I never knew if there was anything from Bob that didn’t ring true. And I don’t think there was.”

“It undercuts the whole premise” of the New York magazine article, Woodward insisted to POLITICO. “The whole premise is based on what Ben said 22 years ago, Ben in 1990 saying he had some doubt. Then 15 years later, Mark Felt comes out, he does a book, I do a book, everyone re-excavates, and everything rings true.”

John Edwards Soap Opera Does Not Disappoint

While John Edwards is a major disspointment, the choas of his life is not letting any reader down when it comes to the legal drama underway this past week in Greensboro. 

I admit to following the tawdry details, and while stunned at the lack of deceney exhibited by Edwards as it relates to the evidence being presented, I am also ready to hear more.  That is part human nature, part arm-chair legal buff, and part political junkie.  Whatever it is labeled one thing is for certain. 

This is one amazing soap opera type story—with weeks more to be presented to the nation.

A law school graduate who was as much a fan of the University of North Carolina Tar Heels as Mr. Edwards was, Mr. Young became swept up in the campaign, which was Mr. Edwards’s first. He volunteered. One of his first jobs was arranging the Edwards family’s Christmas photograph.

On election night that year, he was in Mr. Edwards’s suite, watching him deftly calm one of his crying children, accept congratulations and talk of a bright future for America.

“He was a great man, inspiring, exciting,” Mr. Young, who has been granted immunity in exchange for his testimony, told the court.

At that point, he knew that working for Mr. Edwards was all he wanted to do. He was drawn to the power and to the money.

“I thought it would lead to good things for my family,” he said.

Within the year, Mr. Young was spending his days doing whatever the Edwards family needed. He changed light bulbs at their home and changed the oil in their cars. He became Mr. Edwards’s driver, always making sure the senator had three newspapers, hand sanitizer and cold Sprite and wine at the ready.

By 2006, Elizabeth Edwards, Mr. Edwards’s wife, had discovered the affair. So Mr. Young became the lovers’ go-between, holding the special “bat phone” that Mr. Edwards used to call Ms. Hunter and making sure she got in and out of hotel rooms so the two could be together.

Mr. Young said he went to increasingly elaborate lengths to help Mr. Edwards hide his relationship with Ms. Hunter. At one political event where both women were present, it was his job to keep them apart. In return, Mr. Edwards gave Mr. Young access to his business associates and helped him acquire some land so Mr. Young and his wife could build a dream house. Such was his devotion to Mr. Edwards that by the end of their relationship in 2008, Mr. Young would claim paternity of the child Mr. Edwards fathered with Ms. Hunter while running for president. “You said you actually fell in love with Mr. Edwards?” Abbe D. Lowell, Mr. Edwards’s lawyer, asked him at one point during last week’s testimony.

“We all did,” Mr. Young replied.

And, Mr. Lowell pressed, you fell out of love?

“Later, yes sir.”

Bishop Morlino Brings Back Penalty Widely Used In Middle Ages–Maybe He Should Just Go Shopping Instead

How ‘forward thinking’ of Bishop Morlino to bring back the use of an interdict as a way to control free thought and growing dissension among his fellow Catholics. 

Given the rate that Morlino seems to be slipping away from reality in dealing with the chasm of his own making, it might not be so far into the future before the rotund bishop will mount a sturdy horse and lead his own holy crusade on the streets of Platteville.    If an interdict is growing in Morlino’s mind as a legitimate solution to the problems he has created, can anyone be sure that dispensation as used in the Middle Ages is also not again to be used in Southern Wisconsin?

No one knows for sure why Morlino is digging into the soulless past of the church to again threaten people about where they will be buried.  Someone needs to get Bishop  Morlino a calendar with 2012 highlighted in red!

Rolling out the oldies is best left to radio announcers with a stack of vinyl.  When it comes to Morlino one might advise him to stop threatening the faithful in Platteville, and instead go shopping for some  cute little frilly accessories that might look nice with a red hat.  It seems from all of Morlino’s lunacy that is what he is bucking for, but even the old man in the Vatican must be smarter than to wish that on his church.

The action by Morlino, which two Catholic scholars called highly unusual, appears to include the possibility of offenders being prohibited from taking part in church sacraments such as communion, confession and burial.

The warning came in a five-page letter Wednesday from Morlino to St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Platteville. The congregation has been roiled by opposition to the traditionalist priests, who began serving the parish in June 2010.

Within months, church donations fell by more than half, and about 40 percent of the church’s 1,200 members signed a petition seeking the priests’ ouster. The church’s 77-year-old school is set to close June 1, a loss many parishioners tie directly to the collapse of donations.

The term “interdict” carries great weight in Catholicism, said the Rev. Steven Avella, a history professor at Marquette University in Milwaukee and a Catholic priest. “Interdict is a very severe penalty that effectively prohibits the Catholic sacraments from being celebrated,” he said.

The penalty was widely used in the Middle Ages and sometimes employed in the early years of the United States, he said. It has been used sparingly in recent history, he said. “Sanctions and penalties of this kind would only be a last resort — a sort of ‘nuclear option,’ if you will.”

Dennis Doyle, a Catholic theologian at the University of Dayton in Ohio, said it is “a very unusual situation for a bishop to invoke the possibility of canonical penalties.”

This Is What I Want To See Fly Over New York City

Hat Tip To James

Wisconsin Unions Make Front Page (Above The Fold) In Sunday New York Times

With a by-line from Green Bay comes one of those must reads in the Sunday papers.

“Recall Walker” bumper stickers dotted the workers’ parking lot at the Georgia Pacific paper mill on Day Street here one recent afternoon, proof of their union’s role in the effort to oust Gov. Scott Walkerfrom office early for his legislation limiting public employees’ bargaining rights.

But among the largest donors to Mr. Walker and his cause are the plant’s owners, the billionaire industrialists Charles G. and David H. Koch, the latter of whom has said of the recall election to be held in June, “If the unions win the recall, there will be no stopping union power.”

The recall vote here has been billed as a critical test of labor muscle versus corporate money. But it is only a warm-up for a confrontation that will play out during the presidential election, which both sides view as the biggest political showdown in at least 30 years between pro- and anti-union forces — a labor-management fight writ large.

Perhaps the best line in the article comes from Scott Walker—and it reminds me of South Parks Officer Barbrady’s famed line ”Nothing To See Here Folks”.


In an interview, Mr. Walker called that a “bogus argument,” saying he has no plans to pursue right-to-work legislation, as private sector unions have feared. Such legislation lets employees at unionized workplaces opt out of paying union fees.

Scott Walker Taken To Woodshed By Milwaukee Journal Sentinel For Taking Eyes Off Ball With Job Creation

I want to note this week I posted–in part–the following about the lack of job creation from the Scott Walker administration.

What is needed in this state is a political climate that allows for compromise aimed at taking steps that moves our people forward, as opposed to partisan power plays that are designed to increase a person’s name ID, or a political party’s chances in the next election.

There is no reason that our state politicians did not find the resolve to have both a venture capital bill, and the mining issue land on Governor Walker’s desk. If there had been better relations from the East Wing, and less partisan sniping from the two parties this state could have had two very important issues resolved. Two issues that would have made a positive difference for the state’s economy in the years to come. Issues that would in time impact job creation.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has joined the chorus with a stinging editorial that takes Scott Walker to task for taking his eyes off the ball when it comes to job creation.  This editorial bites right where it should—in Scott Walker’s East Wing office!

Certainly, Gov. Scott Walker is responsible for politicizing job creation in Wisconsin – and then taking his eye off the ball as his fellow Republicans embarked on fulfilling a conservative wish list ranging from concealed carry to the castle doctrine to voter ID. But is Walker responsible for the state’s dreary job numbers? And is any politician really capable of creating significant job growth?

Walker made a promise over which he had little control – essentially he was betting on the come – by pledging that Wisconsin would create 250,000 new private-sector jobs during his first term. That may have been a political mistake.

Walker seems to believe the magical thinking that Wisconsin can recruit businesses from other states. This approach has seldom worked for the Badger State. It is far better to create incentives and capital pools for start-up businesses. But the centerpiece of that effort – a bill to jump-start venture capital – flopped because Walker couldn’t persuade his own party to abandon a risky version of the bill in the Assembly last year. Another centerpiece initiative – to loosen mining regulation – did too little to protect the environment and couldn’t achieve bipartisan support. Republicans thought they could ram it through without proper input. They were wrong. We suspect former Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson would have found a way to get both bills passed.

Walker’s Republican colleagues in the Legislature did find time for voter ID, promoting abstinence in the place of comprehensive sex education and other issues that play well with social conservatives. But their lack of political discipline was disappointing at a time when the state needs smart strategic thinking and execution and to maintain a laserlike focus on the main problem the state has: a lack of jobs.

Like we said: The eyes came off the ball.