October 03, 2014

I'm putting a kibosh on the self-hating woman voter meme

This, in that exact phrase of “self-hating woman,” or similar, has become an ever-growing meme this year among liberal-minded women and men on the issue of reproductive choice.

And, if ever there were a poster child for the old cliché of trying to catch flies with vinegar rather than honey  (or bullshit), this would be it.

To me, even though I’m not female, it still comes off as offense. Let’s first put this in male terms. If Fundamentalist LDS leader Warren Jeffs said that every anti-polygamy man in America is a self-hating male, how would you react? Well, some horndog males, ignoring that he’s talking about multiple simultaneous marriages, and not multiple simultaneous hookups, might say “cool,” but the rest of us? We’d be upset at the least.

Or, let’s say AARP said you’re a “self-hating senior” if you don’t join AARP, to name another voting “interest group.”

I do know that, were I a woman who’s pro-life, even if not the farthest edges of the pro-life movement, I’d be insulted. If I were a woman who accepts some pro-choice arguments, even, but is still “personally pro-life,” I’d be insulted, too. I might be even more insulted, I think, than a woman who has a dug-in position on the far right edge of the pro-life movement.

People who read me regularly know how I feel about the abortion issue. I’m a centrist who doesn’t try to camouflage some of the tougher ethical issues.

I'm somewhat, if not exactly, with Ted Rall on this, and have been ever since I read his take, which is in this blog post about the "Gordian knot" of the issue:
Abortion is murder. In my view women have — and ought to continue to have — the right to murder their unborn babies. Each abortion is a tragedy, some necessary and others not, and all of them are murder.
If you let me caveat Rall to add “Post-viability” before each occurrence of the word “abortion,” I’d be totally with him.

Pre-viability? The issue is even murkier yet.

And, that’s the point.

It’s also why, although I know Planned Parenthood does other things, they’re one liberal organization I’ve never given money to.

(Now, is it possible that the likes of Greg Abbott want to take us back to pre-Roe days, per Perry? Yes, it is. Although none of them want to take the logical next step, per conservative Grade-A asshat Kevin Williamson, and arrest either women or doctors as murderers, let alone give them the death penalty.

As Perry notes, Williamson has made a career out of dickery that's just slightly less offensive than that of racialist Steve Sailer.)

Besides, whether on this issue or others, you can’t, won’t and don’t convert wingnuts by acting like them.

That doesn’t mean that liberals, per public radio, should act like Nice Polite Republicans. It means, on some issues, you still keep the mailed fist inside a velvet glove and on others, you never put it inside armor in the first place.

But, some women want even that — criminal convictions, at least for abortion providers, but not with death sentences — that doesn't mean they're self-hating.


#Yankees manager Girardi: A-Rod gets no #Jeter treatment

Alex Rodriguez
Well, on one sense, this is a no-brainer. Alex Rodriguez does not have the sangfrodi or the savior faire of Derek Jeter. And, he doesn't have Jeter's Junk Adjusters, either! Just paintings of A-Rod as centaur and selfies in the mirror.

So, it's no wonder that Yankees manager Joe Girardi is making it ever more clear that A-Rod's not getting the Jeter stroke.

But, per ESPN, despite the Yankees outperforming their Pythagorean expectation this year, it's yet another issue that still brings into question Girardi's managerial chops.

Joe Girardi
First, earlier in the season, he claimed he wasn't in the Bronx to manage the Jeter retirement show. Yet, by not dropping him into the back half of the order, sitting him a bit more often, and pulling him in 1-run games for late-game defense, he did exactly that.

Second, his rant a week ago about this year's team rained on the Yankees' player retirement time for Jeter, and worse. Girardi clearly irritated Carlos Beltran and possibly others.

Beyond that, with that offensive turkey of a lineup the Yankees had this year not guaranteed to get any better, the Yankees need A-Rod, as Ian O'Conner notes. In my opinion, they won't resign Chase Headley, and, whether Girardi likes it or not, A-Rod is a sunk cost in the Steinbrenners' eyes. Unless he sinks to Stephen Drew level, he's staying with the Yankees.

Also, per O'Conner? While A-Rod isn't the leadership type, I'm not sure Brian McCann is. We shall see.

Anyway, back to the main point. If Girardi gives A-Rod a cold shoulder during the season, despite him playing as well as, say 2012, on top of his rant, it may damage team chemistry further.

A-Rod's possible performance? Girardi and other talk about him being rusty, as well as older.

Well, what if the year's rest healed him up a bit? I could see 110 games at 3B, coming out for defensive needs at times, 35 at DH as part of a rotation, and 15 or so days off entirely. That would play him a little bit more than in 2012. If that happens, and he posts 2012 numbers next year, he's worth 2.5 WAR, maybe a touch more.

No, that's not worth his contract, but it's not nothing, either.

As for Girardi? It wouldn't surprise me if the 2015 Yankees get off to a bad start, especially if they're below Pythagorean, to become a stereotypical Buck Showalter and rub players too long the wrong way. And, especially if Masahiro Tanaka's last outing of this year wasn't 100 percent due to bad control, but also a wing that's still not perfect, this could all very easily happen.

October 02, 2014

Smackdown! A #Green vs #Democrat brouhaha

Friend Perry says I'm more snarky than him, but this time, per the header, he's the one stirring the pot on independent progressive voters. But, I'm here to back him up! ( Not that he actually needs it. Just that I want to jump in.)

What riled him up is a post on a Dems-only Facebook group to which I shall not directly link, which had a link to a Mother Jones article talking about a New York Republican operative using its ballot access laws to put two Greens, unbeknownst to them, on the primary ballot for a Congressional race in New York State against a vulnerable first-term Republican.

First, why this Facebook group was just now posting a link to a five-month-old article, I have no idea. Maybe that's a problem right there?

The Facebook group also included the photo-poster above.

But, let's get at the meat of the issue, as Mojo has another article, from 2012, about rich conservatives giving money to Green candidates in such races.

That said, it's not just Mojo that gives the back of its hand to third-party candidates.

That's one reason I refuse to subscribe to The Nation. And, as I blogged, even somebody theoretically as brainful as Charles Pierce has jumped in the Obamiac wading pool.

Do I believe the Green Party is ideal? No. I've blogged before about its uncritical embrace, at the national level, of pseudomedicine ideas. I also don't think GMO plants are Satan incarnate, though I do cast a skeptical eye on the likes of Monsanto and some particular ways it pushes GMOs. Here is a bit of my thought on that issue, and a bit more here.

Is it often a better alternative to Democrats? Yes. Per Perry, I describe why I vote Green when I can, here. If that's not enough, Dear Leader himself has provided plenty of reasons to vote Green at the presidential level. And continues to do so today. Only the "soft bigotry of low post-Bush expectations" allows for him not getting more flack for the flop in Libya.

Oh, and STOP FUCKING ASKING ME FOR MONEY. William Rivers Pitt nails it. That said, it's not just Dems who do this. I stopped giving money to the ACLU in 2008, maybe earlier; I still regularly get "final notices" from them, just like the Dems. Gang Green enviro groups are horrible about this, and anti-environmental with the amount of trees killed for all their paper hardcopy mailings.

Jon Stewart also nails it, complete with reading those idiotic fund-sucking emails.



Sometimes, for a comic, more than jokes writing themselves, reality writes the jokes, as when Jon Stewart notes that Democrats are just as money-grubbing as Republicans. A guy named Rich Richman hosting a national Democratic fundraiser headlined by Dear Leader. Gee!

Back to the issues at hand, though.

Dems who whine about Greens taking votes? Get better candidates. Dems who whine about Greens getting GOP help to get on ballots? BOTH "main" parties block third parties; if you don't like it otherwise, go help more Libertarians get on the ballot.

All's fair in love and war, after all. Grow some cojones or ovaries.

Otherwise, Democrats? Stop nominating neolib candidates, especially at the national level.

Beyond that, both "main" parties have for years continued to make ballot access harder and harder for third party candidates. In swing states, they've eliminated fusion candidates or slates. Elsewhere, they've made individual third-party candidate or party-line ballot access harder to obtain. 

And, as for Democrats who equate the Green Party with Ralph Nader? First, Ralph Nader has never been an official Green Party presidential candidate. Second, I've thrown him under the bus myself. That said, people who make the Nader claim are typical Obamiacs.

As for booting people? Daily Kos, the Great Orange Satan, booted me, what, 7-8 years ago, for being too Green. Of course, Markos Moulitsas is the "genius" who thinks there's "secret librulz" hiding inside the CIA.

I mean, with Dems like this, who needs Republicans?

October 01, 2014

Comptroller Combs 1, endangered lizards 0

Unfortunately, per PR from the Texas Comptroller, Center for Biological Diversity and Defenders of Wildlife have lost in federal district court the lawsuit they filed last year trying to reverse U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, reject Combs' management plan for the dunes sagebrush lizard, and force Fish and Wildlife to reconsider its 2012 decision not to consider Endangered Species Act listing for the lizard.

Combs sweet-talked FWS into seeing things her way because West Texas oil and gas folks were shitting bricks over the idea of having to spend money to do more to protect the lizard's habitat. The link has all the details.  She had help from FWS' boss at that time, then-Interior Secretary Ken (Kenny Boy) Salazar, who had never met an oilman he didn't like. And, this is in spite of the fact that an ESA listing probably wouldn't have affected the O&G folks that much.

I certainly hope the environmental agencies appeal.

Because, if this stands, the likes of Combs will try it with other endangered animals, like the lesser prairie chicken.

Given her general favoritism toward Big Oil, this is no surprise, though.

#WendyDavis wins debate round 2, still has long road to climb

Friend Perry has a good wrap on last night's second Texas gubernatorial debate.

Wendy Davis clearly landed blows on Abbott, including on his lack of oversight of the Texas Enterprise Fund, as the Observer, linked by Perry, notes:
Davis and Abbott grappled with each other on two wide fronts—the first, over ethics issues. Davis was asked about her legal work, which she rebuffed and went through the list of accumulated attack lines about Abbott’s tenure as AG. (She gave a stronger refutation of the conflict-of-interest charge after she was pressed.) 
But when Abbott was asked (at about 19:45 in the video) about accusations his office helped hide incompetence and mismanagement with Gov. Perry’s Texas Enterprise Fund, he didn’t handle it very well. He offered that the recently issued audit of the fund didn’t single him out for criticism. “From the beginning of my campaign I’ve been questioning this very fund,” he said. (Perhaps, one suspects, because he knew how badly it was being run.) He tried to turn the question back to Davis, but she beat it back forcefully. As to the question of why Abbott’s office helped hide non-existing TEF applications from reporters, he couldn’t really answer. 
Too bad, as I previously noted, she didn't do this in the first debate.

But, she laid gloves on him on education funding, Medicaid expansion and more.

For more, here's the Observer's debate video:



That said, how much did this close the gap?

Well, the Texas Lyceum Poll says — Not a lot:


Takeaways?

Greens are fiercely devoted enough that 7 percent of them support a walking dead man as their gubernatorial candidate, among independents.

Davis, whether despite, or because of, soft-pedaling the abortion and reproductive choice issue that got her the Democratic nomination based on last year's filibuster, is barely ahead among women voters. (More thoughts on that later.) Related to that, perhaps, she still trails among independent voters.

Honestly? If she can do better than Bill White in 2010, against a slicker (and richer?) campaigner than Rick Perry, Battleground Texas, Lone Star Project and the Texas Democratic Party should start spinning the "moral victory" angle on Nov. 5.

And, start looking for a new candidate for 2018 ASAP.

Both Castro brothers are in Washington. Julian will go from HUD Secretary to a lobbyist (Univision?) about a week after Jan. 20, 2017. Joaquin's staying in his nice Congress seat. (I keep wanting to call them "Castrol" because they're both good, slick, charming neolibs.) And, per conversations Perry and I have had, Royce West and Rodney Ellis ain't leaving their state Senate seats.

Mayors? Well, we've scratched Castro. Both Castrols, actually. (There, I did it.) Annalise Parker of Houston might eyeball something bigger. Julian Castro's replacement, Ivy Taylor, is a nonentity, and not even running for a full term as mayor in 2015. Dallas' Mike Rawlings is, as far as I know, a Republican. Austin's Lee Leffingwell? Fuhgeddaboutit. He'd be nearly 80. Fort Worth's Betsey Price is a Repub. El Paso's Oscar Leeser might be nice, but the city has little "coattails" with the rest of the state.

At least she's doing better that Letitia Van de Putte, who trails Dan Patrick 47-33 percent in a "soft" race as far as voter commitment. David Alameel is even further behind John Cornyn. So much for Alameel's Daddy Warbucks money.

Texas Dems have one silver lining in Lyceum's executive summary of its polls, which cover other races. That's that they're just 7 percentage points behind the GOP on a generic ballot for the state Lege.


#OCRegister continues to implode, as does #DFM (and now, the NYTimes)

The Orange County Register, whose Aaron Kushner made himself out to be a media savior just a year or so ago, is seeing his seeming Ponzi scheme continue to crash.

First, within Los Angeles County, he started a Long Beach paper to compete with the LB Telegram. Then, he started a Los Angeles paper to compete with the LA Times.

Well, first, the LB Register got folded into the LA Register. And now, the LA Register is being shuttered — along with cuts at the Orange County home office, too.

I call it a seeming Ponzi scheme because it seems that each expansion of the Register made little sense on its own, per Rick Edmonds' comment at the link, so I was guessing that each expansion was being done as an attempt to fund the previous expansion. More here from the alt-press LA Weekly confirms some of my suspicions. It also notes that both the LA Daily News and the Times could go on the auction block soon; both will probably be at fire sale prices. The OC Weekly has more, and yet more, on the seeming Ponzi scheme; among other things, Kushner was paying the LA Times to distribute both the LA and the OC Registers. Well, no; actually, he had contracted to pay the Times to do that, and hadn't paid his bills.

Digital First Media, owner of the Daily News and many other papers, is itself owned by a hedge fund, as are several other larger groups of newspapers, such as GateHouse. Some came under hedge funds' control as part of Great Recession-related bankruptcies. A few were at least partially owned by hedge funds before that. And a few became speculative buys by hedge funds after that.

Well, DFM's parent, the Alden Capital group, apparently is throwing in the towel on the possibility of finding further lemonade to squeeze out of lemons, and is reportedly ready to sell. Given all the LA turmoil, I think the Daily News sells for pennies on its theoretical dollar. The St. Paul Pioneer Press seems to be in similar shape. Given its Silicon Valley location, the print part of the San Jose Mercury News will surely be worth little. The Denver Post is the only "good" property on the list.

And, let's not forget that DFM crunched its own "content hub" earlier this year. GateHouse, this spring, created a design hub that it also talks about making into a content site; let's not count those chickens before they hatch.

Meanwhile, in San Diego, the old Union Tribune could become a nonprofit. This (other than its silly burning through money without a paywall) has worked for Britain's Guardian.

The Tampa Bay Times (formerly St. Pete Times) is a model but, per Romanesko, facing its own financial woes.

And, even before the latest cutbacks, already thin enough to run a header like the one in the picture. Yes, per a current or former Times staffer, it went out to less than 10 percent of its print run. But, that means it went out to more than 5 percent. And, an error that egregious never should have been made in the first place.

I know it's technically a correct spelling, but still. It should have been caught before it went out.

As for the future in the Florida bay? Doesn't look so good there, either.

The Times took out a big old $28M loan last December; it's a short-term note that matures in 2016.

And, Jeff Bezos is now, despite all that nice news about new hires, slashing at the Post, namely, slashing retiree benefits. Well, he is a libertarian; basically, he's converting a defined-benefit pension into a 401(k).

Meanwhile, for the industry as a whole? A Moody's report from earlier this week expects newspaper print ad revenue to decline another 7-10 percent or near that by the end of 2015. It expects newspapers (assuming this is print ads only) to have just 7 percent of total US ad revenue by 2016. That compares with 10 percent a year ago and 25 percent as recently as 2004. And, among major chains, Moody's still rates Gannett's overall financials as negative.

Update, Oct. 1: Looks like the Old Gray Lady is older and grayer, too. Guess those digital dimes on the circ side are flattening out, and on the advertising side, just aren't coming through, if its laying off another 100.

And, on that digitality, Editor Dean Baquet's claim of "promising signs" is just another case of peeing on my leg and trying to tell me its raining.

More here from a Baquet email to staff.
In a letter to the company this morning, Arthur and Mark described the financial conditions that are forcing us to make cuts across the company. While there are promising signs in digital advertising and digital subscriptions, the print business remains under pressure. And our new products are not achieving the business success we expected, even though they are journalistic sensations. 
So, regrettably, we are going to have to reduce costs in the newsroom. The masthead and I will be looking for every possible way to do this without harming our stunning report. I will use this as an opportunity to seriously reconsider some of what we do — from the number of sections we produce to the amount we spend on freelance content. 
But there is no getting around the hard fact that the newsroom will have to lose 100 jobs. We hope to meet this number through voluntary buyouts. But if we don’t get there we will be forced to do layoffs.

And, as the LA Times link about the story notes, Baquet resigned as LATimes managing editor because he feared the results of additional staff cuts there. Guess once you move from managing editor to editor or executive editor, though, you butter your bread differently.

Much more at Poynter. Interesting to see the take of Ryan Chittum at CJR. He, like me, has been a paywalls proponent, but I don't think even he saw them flattening out this quickly.

Meanwhile, the Times' right hand, and left hand, in the online circ world, apparently don't know what the other is doing. Or fingers on the same hand aren't communicating.

The Times is killing its Opinion app, the story said. Meanwhile, in an email today, the Times told me it was starting a Cooking app. Food porn in a place like NYC aside, is a Cooking app really worth more in circ revenue?

And, if it is, does that show how little the general public values columnists? Even with "Mark Bittman" jokes?

September 30, 2014

#Climatechange roundup: Australia, Greenland, Aral Sea

Consensus about human-caused climate change continues to grow. Five groups of researchers, all collaborative efforts themselves, look at Australia's 2013 heat wave and all pin its ferocity on climate change, specifically its global warming portion.
“When we look at the heat across the whole of Australia and the whole 12 months of 2013, we can say that this was virtually impossible without climate change,” said David Karoly, a climate scientist at the University of Melbourne who led some of the research.
Wingnuts still not listening, to be sure.

Next anthropogenic climate change is on the ground, not in the atmosphere. A number of years ago, due to irrigation diversions from the Amu Darya and Syr Darya rivers in what was then Soviet Centra Asia, the Aral Sea, famed in antiquity, broke up into smaller parts. Now, the biggest of those, by surface area at least, has dried up and gone away.

The climate change here is regional, nt global, but it's bad enough. The loss of a major body of water is making all four seasons more extreme. Let's not forgot that this is a land of other extremes, like Islamic extremism, despite the majority of the Turkic peoples of this area opting for more moderate, traditional, nativist-influenced Islam.

Finally, Greenland's ice sheet is not entirely anchored on bedrock and thus could slide into the ocean sooner than previously expected. And, if it disappears faster than expected, we're definitely in a new ballgame.

Meanwhile, hacks and semi-hacks writing at places as disparate at the Wall Street Journal and ESPN's 538, continue to minimize much of our causing this, including minimizing natural-gas leakage from fracking wells, pumps and piles.

September 29, 2014

Why does Jim Caple and #ESPN hate the #Cardinals?

ESPN seems to get more and more fact-free all the time.

Sorry, Jim, but you're "off base" about
MLB stadium funding. / ESPN image
(The most recent example before this week was ombudsman Robert Lipsyte claiming the reason the Big Red One suspended Bill Simmons was for his calling NFL commissioner Roger Goodell a liar without proof, when in actuality, Keith Olbermann had done the same a couple of days earlier. Actually, Simmons got suspended because he dared ESPN to suspend him.)

The most recent example? Baseball columnist Jim Caple (who gave me less reason to read him this year when he discontinued Off Base, his old game box score trivia columns) has a new one up about reasons to like and dislike each of this year's MLB playoff contestants.

About the Cards, under cons?
With so many postseason appearances in recent years, the Cardinals are becoming the new Yankees. Actually, they're worse than the Yankees because their shortstop isn't Derek Jeter -- it's PED cheat Jhonny Peralta. Rewarding Peralta with a $52 million contract so soon after he was busted in the Biogenesis scandal is intolerable for a team that so proudly "does things the right way." And don't get me started on the Rally Squirrel.

First, beyond the slam on Peralta, did Jeets ever speak out about Andy Pettitte or Roger Clemens using PEDs? Erm, NO!

Second, he then says this about the Giants, under pros:
Like the Cardinals, the Giants build their teams the right way, using a lot of homegrown talent. Unlike the Cardinals (and every other team), they also built their stadium the right way, by paying for it themselves.
Uhh, wrong again, at least partially! 

The Cards did the majority (albeit not all) of their stadium funding themselves:
Public financing: $45 million long-term loan from St. Louis County. 
Private financing: $90.1 million from the Cardinals, $9.2 million in interest earned on the construction fund, and $200.5 million in bonds to be paid over a 22-year period ($15.9 million per year) by the team. Anheuser-Busch agreed to a 20 year naming rights deal (through the 2025 season) which will help offset construction costs.
That wasn't hard to find at all!

Nor was it hard to find, via info at the same website on the AT&T Park, that Caple was wrong about the Giants, too:
Private financing: $170 million loan from Chase Manhattan Bank, $70 million from the sale of charter seat licenses, $102 million from the sale of naming rights, sponsorships and other sources, and $15 million in tax increment financing by the city's redevelopment agency.
Now, that website, and Caple, may call that "private," I as a newspaper editor, and most John and Jane Citizen folks, would call it "public" as its based on local tax dollars.

That's why Wikipedia also calls tax increment financing "public." Here's the specifics of how a TIF works:
TIF is a method to use future gains in taxes to subsidize current improvements, which are projected to create the conditions for gains above the routine yearly increases which often occur without the improvements. To provide the needed subsidy, the urban renewal district, or TIF district, is essentially always drawn around 100s or 1000s of acres of additional real estate (beyond the project site) to provide the needed borrowing capacity for the project or projects. The borrowing capacity is established by committing all of normal yearly future real estate tax increases from every parcel in the TIF district (for 20–25 years, or more) along with the anticipated new tax revenue eventually coming from the project or projects themselves. If the projects are public improvements paying no real estate taxes all of the repayment will come from the adjacent properties within the TIF district. Although questioned, it is often presumed that even public improvements trigger gains in taxes above what occurs, or would have occurred in the district without the investment.
See the number of times "tax" or "taxes" occurs in that? That's clearly "public," as in governmental, funding. And, since the TIF includes an area broader than the actual planned development area, it's a transfer of tax funds from one entity to another.

In other words, Caple is some mix of liar, idiot and West Coast "homer." He even admits that he grew up "a passionate Giants fan." Show him some love on Twitter!

Texas Comptroller tells Lege to start favoring oil and gas more

If wind power's not going to get special tax breaks, and never has gotten road repair subsidies or similar, isn't that really Comptroller Susan Combs' actual message, what I put in the header, and not her strident screech that wind power needs to be cut off from the state tax teat?

I'm not alone in saying that, either:
Jeff Clark, executive director of The Wind Coalition, said Combs’ report is unbalanced, misinformed and repeats the “flawed talking points pushed by the anti-renewables lobby.” 
“Texas’ wind energy industry has now invested more than $26 billion in 56 counties across Texas and provides 10 percent of the state’s electricity supply cleanly, reliably, cheaply, and without using water,” Clark said. 
Furthermore, he said, the wind power installed in Texas will avoid 23,103,000 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions a year, the equivalent of taking 4,075,000 cars off the road. 
Clark also notes that the state continues to heavily subsidize the oil and gas industry at the same time.
And, that's far more than allegedly "clean" fracked natural gas will do, those green energy figures.

Clark also isn't alone. Note this:
Environmentalists criticized the report, saying it took a blinkered approach to energy policy. 
It understates the subsidies given to natural gas, nuclear and coal plants, said Tom Smith, head of the Austin office of the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen, and “ignores totally the costs of hidden environmental damages caused by these types of plants — such as the wastes from coal mining, fracking or nuclear power generation.” 
Russel Smith, head of the Texas Renewable Energy Industries Association, said he had no comment on the Combs report, but in June he told the Statesman that rolling back support for wind power “ignores the obvious — that all energy sources have and continue to receive governmental support.”
Per comments in this piece by State Sen. Troy Fraser, the real issues is that the O&G industry has long, and historically well-developed, lobbying tentacles.

Plus, we haven't even talked about solar power, an area where Texas, despite its semi-tropical location, large amounts of sun (especially in West Texas, where higher altitude also helps) and other advantages, lags sadly behind other states.

As for Combs? As Texas Public Citizen showed three years ago, Combs has a long history of fighting renewable energy, speaking of O&G tentacles.

She also has a long history of being subservient to it in anti-environmental ways, as just documented again.

September 28, 2014

Community newspapers, wake up and plan for worst case 2025 now!

Community newspapers, a somewhat vague term but one that starts with small-circulation six-day dailies and goes downward in size from there, face somewhat different concerns in today's world of financial perils than do their larger siblings. This is even more true for the non-daily segment of the community newspaper world.

Non-daily newspapers don't have to worry about people going online to find AP news, because that's never been in their papers. They don't have to worry too much about slashed national advertising money. (They do have to worry about that to a degree, though; retailers and fast-food chains have cut their pass-through money for advertising and marketing to local franchises, and Valassis, the nation's No. 1 publisher of insert advertising, has increased its downward pressure on community newspapers after cutting a sweetheart deal with the United States Postal Service.)

That said, that parenthetical comment shows that community newspapers aren't worry-free. And, given that they can look at their bigger seven-day dailies, they have no excuse to be complacent.

For example, the L.A. and Tampa Bay daily newspaper worlds have hit new levels of crisis, as I blogged earlier this week.

That said, back to the community newspaper world, both the daily and non-daily sides.

First, "programmatic advertising," in which major national ad brokers use computer algorithms to find the cheapest slotting they can for their clients, is likely going to partially trickle down to those five- and six-day community daily newspapers.

And, digital ad revenue will fail to make up for print ad declines. Print ads will decline less at community newspapers, to be true, but digital advertising won't pick up much. With no wire stories, local websites just don't get that much traffic. See here for more on ad issues in general.

And, Valassis, and other major inserters, like Red Plum, will continue to apply downward pressure.

Second, circulation revenue will likely continue to slip. There's a couple of reasons for that. At the daily wing of community newspapers, days that are thinnest on community news will continue to fall in single-copy sales. More six-day dailies will thus look at moving to five-day editions. If they don't provide a slight break on subscriptions with that, they'll lose yet more folks. A fair amount of five-day dailies will look at going tri-weekly (with a mini-wire service feed) or even semi-weekly. That will save money, yes, but subscriptions will have to be adjusted at the same time. (Personal experience: CNHI tried going from five-day daily to semiweekly at the first newspaper where I worked, without crediting current subscribers or extending their subscriptions. By the time the mass of subscriptions cancellations told them what a mistake they had made, they wound up deciding to close the paper.)

Circulation revenue will slip for two other reasons. One, for community papers that have put up paywalls, there's not only no more low-hanging fruit, there's no more fruit, period. Unlike a New York Times, you can't price out mini-subscriptions for just op-eds, or just the books review, or whatever. See here for more on digital subscription issues in general; same link as above.

Also, while old white folks are the most regular newspaper readers, they're also the ones nearest death! Most of the obits in community newspapers are lost subscribers.

Meanwhile, the Postal Service is only going to get worse. Even at the NAA, I don't see anybody picking up the Washington lobbying cudgels for my ideal solution of going back to the pre-1971 United States Post Office, either. By 2025, half of the remaining regional service centers may well be closed. And, the kids of the old white subscribers, especially if the parents are dead, the kids that have moved away, will drop their subscriptions. They'll only do a digital one if it's digital-only, and discounted.

That leads to a related issue. Even if you have a paywall, saying the digital comes free with print, as a sneaky way of saying you don't offer digital-only subscriptions, won't fly forever, either.

And, Facebook in particular and social media in general will not be your salvation! If anything, it will be even less the salvation of community newspapers than it has been for major ones. Community gossip, rumor, and occasional fact are easy to get spread digitally with somebody's "community" Facebook page.

Hence, my header.

Community newspaper owners need to brainstorm what they think could be their worst scenario in 2025 — then start planning for that to happen in 2020. And then, of course, figure out how they can prevent, or at least mitigate that.

The worst case? Per that link above, newsprint prices have held pretty low. Picture them taking a major jump. Picture electricity prices for presses taking a hike as the shale gas "boom" turns out to be pretty much of a bubble by 2025. And, the Postal Service is 3x teh suck of today.

Dear community newspapers: Are you really preparing now to be really digital-first newspapers? I kind of doubt it. Even more, are you preparing for the outside possibility that your best realistic financial move 10-12 years from now might be digital-only? I totally doubt that.