Wednesday, December 31, 2008
In 1975 - Lulu and I founded a weekly newspaper called The Tamaqua Paper. The daily newspaper - The Tamaqua Evening Courier - was closed and we thought our town of 10,000 could still support its own paper. Although we planned to publish daily we soon realized that publishing weekly was even a difficult task. We had the entire operation set up in our 20 by 20 basement - printing press - darkroom - offices - circulation.
Lulu was fresh out of college and reluctantly served as editor. I was the publisher and did much of the reporting. We slugged it out for 2 years - finally selling it when our children starting coming along. Russ Funk - a local pastor - bought it and folded it 2 years later after running up a lot of debt.
Fast forward 30 years. With the advent of the Internet - news can be circulated at lightning speed. Electronic web pages can be published in seconds from anywhere in the world. The term Weblog was born and everybody could now publish what they wanted - when they wanted. You are reading my weblog right now.
Like every large town in America - Tallahassee has a daily newspaper called the Democrat. This town of 185,000 has faithfully supported this newspaper for over 100 years. It is the history book covering whatever happens in the capital city. It is owned by Gannet publishing which also owns many newspaper throughout the land.
The Democrat is dying a slow death. They offer a fantastic product by historic standards - but we live in an electronic age. It is hard to compete with a product that is virtually free. It is 9 AM - and I have already read over 10 newspapers from throughout the land - even the world. I have also faithfully read my Tallahassee Democrat that was on the driveway at 4 AM. The problem is that I already read most of the stories in their Internet edition last night.
When computers first were marketed - it was difficult reading news printed on a black screen in dot matrix type. But today - one can skim pages that in most cases look better than the version printed on newsprint. Since I have just crossed the 60 year old barrier - my eyesight is not what it used to be. With the touch of one key - I can enlarge or brighten the page to my comfort. I can also cut and paste any article or picture I want to save. It is so easy to highlight an article and send it to all of my friends in one swoop.
Old terrestrial newspapers have a lot of expenses. Beside having a large capital investment in equipment - it is a labor intensive industry. It is also expensive to keep a staff of reporters - writers - editors - photographers - deliverers - printers - and office workers. It is difficult to cover that nut by selling a product for 50 cents that costs you $5.00 to produce.
Newspapers have lived on advertising fees and retail sales. But services on the Internet like eBay and Craigslist have virtually wiped out the classified advertising pages of the paper. An example of this dramatic loss is in today's newspaper. There are only 2 pages of classified ads where there may have been 12 pages just 5 years ago when we arrived in town. Also in today's edition they are offering a two for one subscription deal. Pay for one subscription and have the newspaper sent to a friend for free. A newspaper generally charges for advertising space based upon paid circulation. This is a cute way of increasing circulation in an effort to not lose advertising customers.
Newspapers are failing all over the country. The Morning Call of Allentown - the daily that covered Tamaqua for 100 years - has filed for bankruptcy. It was the flagship of all media in our area and their demise was unthinkable right up to when the parent company - The Tribune - made the announcement. Keep you eyes on the news - more will follow.
Almost all newspapers offer an electronic version on the Internet - but the dirty little secret is - they make very little money in the process. They are all marking time waiting for someone to come up with a model that they can follow. The New York Times offered a special edition on line for $5.00 a month. It failed miserably. There just wasn't enough added value over their free Internet version.
On this last day of 2008 - a year filled with much sadness about wars - lost homes - lost jobs - lost fortunes - it is sad to throw another log on this fire of gloom and doom. Many older folks can't start the day without their fresh newspaper and coffee at the breakfast table. It is like reading a novel that did not exist just a few hours ago. What they do not realize is that even this fresh crisp copy in their hands is already obsolete. Meanwhile their kids are catching up with the latest news on their iPhones and Blackberries. News stories that have broken in the last 5 minutes are available on the Internet now.
In the old days - people used to heat their homes with wood and ride their horses to work. They used to buy fresh food daily because it would spoil from the lack of refrigeration. They would bathe only once a week and use an outhouse for waste. You are experiencing another change.
Tomorrow is 2009 - place the newspaper on the romantic scrap pile of the past. Out with the old - in with the new. I doubt that the Tallahassee Democrat will print this weblog in the paper.
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Holiday moments jog the mind. Fragrances - decorations - flavors - music - pictures play tricks on us. The arrival of Jack beckons me back to a really happy time - when my boys were young and I was the big daddy. It seems like a new Everhart comes along every 30 years. Now the cycle is repeating again. Each one seems better than the last.
You are invited to become a Florida Coal Cracker Follower.
Saturday, December 27, 2008
at 1300 miles and are on the way home. We had a white Christmas but
did not see any snowfall - just a little sleet.
The Taylor Family had a nice party for us. It was a nice way to see so
many friends at once.
Today we will see Jack - Robin - and Drew. We will cheer on the Noles
together in Baltimore.
Tomorrow we will drop Keith in DC and cover the last 900 miles alone.
It has been a cheap trip. The Honda is getting 25 mpg and gas is $1.50
a gallon. We will barely drop $200 on the whole trip.
Our hotel suite was perfect. We even put up a Christmas tree.
We are looking forward to showering Jack with presents on his first
I am posting this story while Keith chaffeurs us down I-83. It is
foggy but the snow is gone now. As the snow melts our memories last of
our first Christmas spent in a hotel back in the valley of our youth -
and the first Christmas of the newest Everhart.
Sent from Harry's iPhone.
Friday, December 26, 2008
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
I am writing this from under two quilts in our hotel room. We are spending our first night up north in the Phoenix Park Hotel in Washington DC. It is just across the street from where Keith works at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. We have a corner room on the 4th floor - you can see the Capitol down the street.
It is 10 degrees outside and very windy. Our corner room is beautiful - but let's just say the temperature is much lower than we usually keep our home in Tallahassee. This is a beautiful old hotel with colonial architecture and appointments. On the first floor there is an Irish pub that reminds us of the many pubs that we visited in London last summer. No one can say they are wasting energy though.
Keith met us at the hotel last night and we had supper in the Irish pub. He parked our car in the secure parking garage under his office building. We wanted to make sure all of our Christmas gifts are safely stowed away. Today - we tour the Capitol arranged by Representative Boyd. Then after seeing Georgetown play Florida International in basketball - we will drive to Towson near Baltimore to spend a night and visit Robin - Drew - and JACK.
After that - we will head to Tamaqua for 3 nights - then visit Drew and his family in Towson - then drive home to Florida the next day.
We have not seen any snow yet - we are supposed to run into that north of town. It is a good thing that I installed a Die Hard Gold Battery right before we left Tallahassee. The last thing we need is to be stuck alongside the road here.
Happy holidays to everyone. It is a time of the year to enjoy the friends and family. We are looking forward to seeing you all.
What do you do if a close friend or family member comes to you in dire need of financial help? If you have not yet faced this situation, the chances are you might in the near future. The question of whether it is wise to lend money to loved ones is not a new one, however more and more people may find themselves in the position to request help or extend help. Banks are not really in the business of lending these days and people are losing their jobs and homes in record numbers, so it is no great surprise that some people are turning toward friends or family for assistance. Which leads us back to the original question, what should you do if you are approached by a friend in need? By answering the following questions you will be one step closer to knowing if this is something you can live with.
Are you in a position to offer assistance? Just because someone thinks you are in a position to help them, doesn’t make it so. Before considering loaning a friend money, take a hard look at your finances. Do you have the money to loan without adding financial hardship to your own budget? You should only consider loaning money if you have your own expenses covered and the loan will not affect maintaining your own household responsibilities.
Can you afford the financial risk of this loan? If this loan is not paid back or is paid back over a period of time, will it cause you financial hardship? Ask yourself if you can afford to give this money away? If you can’t afford to live without it if it isn’t repaid, you should probably think twice before loaning it.
Reason for needing the loan? Do not be afraid to ask what the money is needed for. You will know better than anyone if the person who is asking for the loan is one who has just fallen on bad times or someone who is always falling on bad times largely due to their own decisions. While you may feel obligated to help a loved one, you should also consider how this loan will help them in the long term. If they have previous issues handling finances or struggling with debt, loaning them money might not help them beyond their immediate needs. Are you OK with loaning money that might not really help them in the long run?
How much are you willing to lose? Are you willing to risk a strained relationship with this individual if the loan goes south? While both parties may enter the loan with the best intentions, life has a way of throwing a wrench in the best laid plans. Do you want to take the chance with your money and relationship?
If after considering the aforementioned questions you feel this loan is something you are interested in doing, please include a legal document as part of the process. Hopefully you will never need to proof the terms and conditions, but it is always better to be prepared.
Trisha Wagner is a freelance writer for DestroyDebt.com, a debt community featuring debt forums. Trisha writes regularly on the topics of getting out of debt and personal finance.
Sunday, December 21, 2008
Jekyll island ga
Listening to john Lennon book CDs - almost not wanting stop
Hit a little rain in ga
Will have lunch here with kay - lulu's. Library buddy
They rented house on beach for week
Honda van is great for highway travel - full to brim with gifts.
Will drive to Santee sc today. DC tomorrow.
Sent from Harry's iPhone.
Saturday, December 20, 2008
Tomorrow is the Winter Solstice and Jack Everhart - our number one grandson is 1/2 year old. Jack was born on June 20th - the longest day of the year. He has been nothing but a bundle of joy for the family. Jack is spending the day in New York City with Drew - Robin - and grandmother Charlotte. They will do Christmas shopping and enjoy the decorations of the city.
Lulu and I will be driving north for the holidays. We will stop along the way in Jekyll Island, Georgia - Santee, SC - and Washington, DC. We will spend some time in Washington and when Keith is done work - we will drive to Baltimore and spend Christmas Eve with Jack (and Robin and Drew) - finally driving north to the Valley. Nancy booked a hotel suite at the Residence Inn just north of Tamaqua where we will entertain friends and family. We also will have a fireplace and decorate a Christmas tree.
After Christmas - it s back to Baltimore - where the whole family will watch the Florida State Seminoles play Wisconsin in the Tangerine Bowl on the 27th. After a few days - we will head back to the sunshine of Florida.
As I type this story - it is 75 degrees and sunny here in Tallahassee. We have doors and windows open. Meanwhile - up north in Syracuse they are getting tons of snow. We are looking forward to driving in the snow and seeing all our friends and family from back in the Valley.
In the earth picture above - the earth is in the far right position - and the 21st will be the shortest day of the year. Then the days start getting longer - about 2 minutes a day until June 20th - when Jack will be one year old.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Sometimes called "The Real Rocky," Vince Papale is a local guy whose dream really came true, to play professional NFL football for the Philadelphia Eagles.
Vincent Francis Papale was born on Saturday, February 9, 1946 in Glenolden, Pennsylvania. He was graduated from Interboro High School, in Prospect Park, Delaware County in Pennsylvania. Papale was a letterman in basketball, football plus track and field.
Playing only one year of varsity football, he won "All Delaware County Honorable Mention" and in track, Papale was outstanding as a pole vaulter, triple jumper and long jumper. During his senior year at Interboro, he won the "District One" large schools championship in pole vault, finishing 4th in the statewide competition. His best pole jump (12 foot 9 inches) put him in the top ten all-time pole vault jumpers in the state.
Vince went on to St. Joe's with a track scholarship as the college didn't have a football team. Papale, as a junior, won a US Track & Field Federation college development pole vault at Madison Square Garden with a vault of 14'6."
During the seventies, Vince Papale was bartending at Max's Bar in Prospect Park while doing some substitute teaching at his old high school. The Philadelphia Bell was a World Football Federation team that played here in the Quaker City for the 1974 season and part of the next year. Vince played for them as a wide receiver catching nine passes for 121 yards.
In 1976, Papale's life changed. Dick Vermeil, the former head coach for UCLA came to Philly as head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles, a losing team at that time. Vermeil, who was our 1985 "Person of the Year," held open tryouts. No one thought that a superstar would be found, but that's before they knew of Vince Papale. As season ticket holder, Papale loved the "Birds." He was invited to the Eagles training camp at Widener College.
He made the team (the oldest rookie in NFL history without the benefit of college football) and played for three seasons, retiring in 1979 after an injury. Afterwards, he became a sports broadcaster for the next decade. Then he became involved with commercial mortgage banking which led to his being named "Marketing Executive & Special Projects Director for Sallie Mae, the country's top student financial aid company. He has served as chairman or co-chairman for literally dozens of different charitible organizations in our area.
In 2006, Vince Papale's life changed again when "Invincible" was released and Vince was the inspiration for the movie. Just five years before that, he was diagnosed with colorectal cancer and has since recovered. He resides in the area with his wife, Janet. The couple has two children, Gabriella and Vincent.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Tallahassans pride themselves in living in one of the greenest and cleanest towns in the country. It is one of the things that has attracted us to town and the city's south side. When the city voted to invest in a coal fired power plant in Perry - a militant minority forced our elected officials to defy the majority and end our investment in the Perry power plant. We lost a lot of money backing out of that deal - and now a double whammy is that we need more electricity.
Now a company has come to town and wants to built a Bio-Mass Power Plant that will make us electricity by burning wood waste - turning it to gas - using the gas to heat water - turning a steam turbine to make us kilowatts of power. They selected an available site that is in an industrially zoned area. It has the needed rail lines to bring in the wood waste. There is even an electrical substation already on the site to distribute the power. It seems like a deal made in heaven. Once again Tallahassee is blessed by nature with a situation that is the envy of the country. We could be a vanguard that would be looked up to by a nation in quest of a solution.
Back home in Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania - there is 400 years worth of coal underground just waiting to be used. But another even bigger commodity they have there are holes - really big deep holes. some of the holes are 2 miles long - 1/2 mile wide - and 1/4 mile deep. They were made by strip mining - the process of ripping off the mountain top to take coal. From outer space the county looks like it has a bad case of acne. These holes were made a long time ago - the coal companies chose to pay a fine rather than fill the holes.
Philadelphia offered this Appalachian county an deal to take mud from dredging the Delaware River and filling those holes. They even offered some towns $1 a ton to allow them to fill the holes. We are talking about millions of tons. The town of Tamaqua cut such a deal - only to back out of it after the entire town council was voted out for making the bargain. The local people were too proud to accept waste from the big city - even at $1 a ton. After a cancer scare from a local Superfund site - you can't blame them.
For years- New York City has wanted to throw their garbage into Schuylkill County holes. The city pays $177 a ton to get rid of their trash. But usually when they make offers to the coal country - they only offer single digits.
To me- the solution to their problem is money. Money changes everything. Just like the story on what you would do for $1 million - I would not sell my soul for it - but I would come pretty close. A million bucks could set up my kids and posterity for life. There are a lot of things I would do for a large amount of money. Try me.
Getting back to our bio-mass electric plant on the Southside. Since the power plant would make a lot of people rich - it would also save a lot of citizens money as the energy crunch tightens the market and raises prices once again. I guarantee you that it is going to happen - prices will rise higher and faster. Don't go out buying any big SUV's thinking it is all over and we will always have $2 a gallon gasoline.
The Bio-Mass Power Company should sweeten the pot for the locals. The homes close to the power plant will lose value. No one is sure if the quality of life in that area will be affected. But money could change things. The powers that be should offer the people that live within a mile or so of the plant a reward. How about free electricity? How about eliminate their property taxes? That way - if the people wanted to move away form the power plant - the homes would be attractive to people willing to move there for free power or no taxes. Put me on that list.
After raising two sons - in the later years I stopped trying to reason with them to see things my way. I found out that bribery put smiles on their faces very quickly. I would simple say - what is this going to cost me. There was no yelling - no protesting - no whining - no delays.
To the people of the south side - how much is it going to cost us? We want to set up this bio-mass plant in your backyard. What do you want in return? We all need electricity. We do not want the Southside holding the bag. Let's give them an offer they can't refuse. Can you imagine the stampede to live by the power plant if we offer the locals free electricity and no property taxes? Put me on that list.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Monday, December 15, 2008
FSU's Kuijken wins European cross country title
DEMOCRAT STAFF REPORTS
Florida State junior Susan Kuijken was crowned the 2008 European Cross Country Champion Under 23 earlier Sunday in Brussels, Belgium. Kuijken represented her native country of the Netherlands while 65 other participants represented 18 countries around Europe in the 6K run.
"It wasn't easy to win this race; cross country is never easy," said Kuijken. "The start was very fast, but I'd made up my mind not to go for silver, only gold counts."
Crossing the finish line with a relaxing few last steps and one of the biggest smiles on her face, Kuijken defeated her closest opponent, Britain's Sarah Tunstall, by eight seconds with a time of 21:02. Competing on what she says is her favorite cross country course was not difficult for Kuijken as she ran on the same field as a teenager.
Still feeling the excitement from her second-place finish at the 2008 NCAA Cross Country Nationals, Kuijken used her training and tactics there to prepare her for this.
"I knew I was in good shape and I could go for gold today because of my result in the NCAA nationals," said Kuijken. "I have been training very well in Florida and now I want to prove in Europe I have made a lot of progress on the international scene."
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
When the Tuskegee Airmen, the all-black force of elite pilots, emerged from combat in World War II, they faced as much discrimination as they had before the war. It was not until six decades later that their valor was recognized and they received the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian honor Congress can give.
Now, the roughly 330 pilots and members of the ground crew who are left from about 16,000 who served are receiving another honor that has surpassed their dreams: They are being invited to watch the inauguration of Barack Obama as the country’s first black president.
“I didn’t believe I’d live long enough to see something like this,” said Lt. Col. Charles A. Lane Jr., 83, of Omaha, a retired Tuskegee fighter pilot who flew missions over Italy.
“I would love to be there, I would love to be able to see it with my own eyes,” he said, chuckling on the phone as he heard about the invitation. But, he said, he had a “physical limitation” and was not sure he would be able to attend.
Thousands of people who participated in the fight for civil rights over several decades helped pave the way for Mr. Obama’s triumph. But the Tuskegee Airmen have a special place in history. Their bravery during the war — on behalf of a country that actively discriminated against them — helped persuade President Harry S. Truman to desegregate the military in 1948.
Tuesday, December 09, 2008
I have been using Intuit's Turbo Tax (formerly called Mac-in-Tax) since 1994. It has been a great program for filing my federal income taxes - even my state income taxes when I lived in Pennsylvania. It was a reasonably price program that went through a step by step process to file income tax returns - by paper or over the Internet. One could buy the product and file several returns for friends and other members of your family.
Starting this year - if you buy Turbo Tax for the increased price of $29 - you can use it only to file one tax return. It will charge you $10 for each additional return.
This year - I will try H & R Block's TaxCut. This program continues to allow the filing of many returns. With Turbo Tax - the filer could transfer information from the previous year's return. New users will have to re-enter their name and address in TaxCut. Big deal.
Opinion - In this era of cost cutting measures - I think Intuit cut off its own nose. Their savings will be short term - and they will lose their number one position in the field.
Our old hometown newspaper - The Allentown Morning Call - has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. This is a way of protecting the company from its creditors while it tries to reorganize. It's parent company - Tribune - has about $8 billion in assets and $13 billion in debt. The problems have been caused by competition with the Internet - advertising revenue downturn - and the credit crunch.
Tribune owns newspapers in Chicago and Los Angeles among others. They own 23 television stations - but two of their most noted assets are the Chicago Cubs and Wrigley Field.
In a cost cutting measure - The Morning Call closed their branch offices in Lehighton - Quakertown - and Bethlehem. This caused the layoff of 36 employees. The newspaper shares daily delivery in Tamaqua with The Lehighton Times News - The Hazleton Standard Speaker - and the Pottsvile Republican.
See the Morning Call at - http://www.mcall.com
Sunday, December 07, 2008
Thirty years ago the trailing spouse got his first computer. Twenty years ago - he used his first Mac while working on a science project at Florida State University. Ever since then - computers have been a big part of his life. When he bought his first 300 baud modem - the world of e-mail opened up to him - even though he and Al Gore hadn't officially opened the Internet to the general public. So Harry was "all dressed up with nowhere to go" with his new toys.
Lulu was busy helping the world "computerize" school libraries. She used to proudly carry her complete library card catalog on a 5 megabyte hard drive the size of breadbox. While attending a library convention - she met Sally. Sally was also a computer nerd and had a computer and modem. Back home - Lulu leanred about this free 800 telephone number that you could dial with your computer and receive and send something called email.
Lulu rushed home with this news. Harry hooked the family computer up to the telephone and dialed the number. After a series of very strange sounds - like magic the computer was "talking" to another computer. After following directions on how to set up a mail box - they saw the message from heaven - "you have mail." Sally had left Harry a message. For the next several years Harry and Sally emailed each other almost everyday. Since we didn't know anyone else with "email" we got to know a lot about each other.
We talked about school - hobbies - cars - but mostly about sports - namely college football. I found out that Sally was one of the biggest Penn State fans. My stories about Seminole football and Bobby Bowden were a common interest. Her Nittany Lions had Joe Paterno who was ancient even back them.
It was years before we met for the first time at a basketball game. Leter we meet at an Apple Computer Convention in New York City. Sally was a surprise guest at my retirement party. We became really good friends. One night when Florida State was playing Penn State in the Orange Bowl - we stood outside the stadium with fingers in the air looking for tickets. We sat on the sidelines in row one - and sat through several overtimes to see Penn State win. So all in all we met 4 or 5 times.
Sally always admired Bobby Bowden. She said she wanted to see FSU play in a game at Doak and also hear Bobby speak at his luncheon. We decided she would visit last weekend to see the game. Sally would fly into TLH Airport - spend a few nights in our guest house and see Coach Bowden speak and maybe get an autograph and picture.
Sally arrived in town Friday night after a hard day's work at school. Harry's job was to get tickets - a major task of trying to get four good seats together for a reasonable price. Son - Keith - was flying into town from Washington for the game. Son - Drew - wanted to come from Syracuse in the worst way but he was busy starting a family of his own. He would watch the FSU game TV with wife - Robin - and 5 month old Jack.
All week long we had been hunting for tickets on Craigslist and ebay. We even tried the Seminole Booster page. Tickets were priced in the hundreds for four seats together. Son Drew is an Internet whiz. Even though he was in Syracuse - while we were touring the Capitol - Wakulla Springs - several museums - Drew's eyes were glued to the computer screen.
Saturday morning Drew called to say Peter who lives in Southwood was willing to sell us four extra seats together. Peter was very concerned that whoever sat in the seats must be FSU fans. The thoughts of a con job went through our minds.
I rushed out to Southwood to Peter's house. Peter was very nice and was happy to see me wearing FSU garb. Peter decided that it was bad luck to sell the tickets ----- so he gave them to me for FREE. I expected a strong arm heist - and met a compassionate soul.
Sally got to experience a Doak tailgate party. We sat on the 35 yard line - half way up. It poured during our party and during most of the game. The good karma from Peter giving up the tickets did not hold. The Gators pounded us.
Monday morning - we took Sally to the bookstore. She bought a bunch of FSU gifts for friends and family. She bought a little helmet hoping that Bobby Bowden would sign it. We got to the luncheon early and got seats right up in front to see Bobby speak. Bobby walked in and personally said "Hi" to us as he walked to his chair. He didn't look too happy - maybe had a hint of a cold - but he was gracious throughout lunch and his talk. Sally was so impressed especially when I told her that he preaches at a local church sometimes.
Sadly - Bobby announced that he had to leave early to go recruiting. There would be no autographs. No one knew that Sally's little helmet was on the floor by her chair. She just passed it off as bad karma.
Not only did Bobby have promises to keep. Sally's plane awaited and the next day she would be back at her school desk wearing an FSU pullover. Life would go on for both Harry and Sally. Emails travel much faster now. We can even send pictures and video to each other.
You experience joy and sadness in your friends' eye. Harry only met Sally a couple of times in his life - but in this last weekend - these two FSU fans continued a 20 year relationship/affair that only friends can understand.
Sally left the little helmet in the car. Here's hoping I see Bobby on the street some day - I will tell him the story of "How Harry Met Sally" and ask him to please sign this little helmet.
The View From Here
We'll remember it as Terrible Tuesday: The day last week this newspaper cut 25 employee positions.
That followed layoffs of 10 employees in August and two longtime managers in September. Co-workers huddled, whispering, worrying, crying.
This round was particularly painful in the newsroom, as it claimed four veterans: editor Ron Hartung and editorial writer Bill Berlow, who took voluntary buy-outs, plus editor Zilpha Underwood and reporter Bruce Ritchie. Combined, they had 93 years of service to this newspaper.
Yes, this is a bad year for the economy and all industries. But it's the worst year ever for newspapers.
Hundreds of journalists lost their jobs in Florida cities such as Miami, Tampa, Palm Beach, Gainesville and Ocala. Thousands of journalists were cut loose nationwide in cities such as Atlanta, Milwaukee, Fort Worth, Newark, Tacoma and Savannah.
The Christian Science Monitor quit being a newspaper: It will publish online only. Reportedly, the Tampa Tribune will follow suit in January.
Common wisdom holds that the Internet is killing newspapers.
Eighty percent of newspaper revenues come from print advertising — which is shrinking like a mud puddle in the desert. Classified ads in particular have galloped away to online. And efforts by newspapers to make up ad revenues online — "monetize the Internet," as our business people call it — have been only mildly successful.
The Internet is also killing newspapers by dividing our attention: We now have to feed the beast of online, because the readers expect it. And we have to put out a print product, because that's where the money is even as it declines.
You can serve two masters if you have enough people. But without the money, you don't have enough people.
"It's a bloody time for newspapers," said Lou Heldman, a former Tallahassee Democrat executive editor who now teaches at Wichita State University. "The whole industry is in search of a new business model."
Yet, I would argue the Internet's biggest impact on newspapers is how it has changed readers.
Between CNN and the Internet, readers have come to expect all news now . That demand for now forces newspapers to cover things that can be reported quickly online and updated constantly (to give the appearance of more now ): robberies, shootings, traffic accidents, arrests.
Such things qualify as news because they just happened. But they are really just statistics that do little to inform the decisions you make about your life or community. And because we have to expend manpower on the now , we have less manpower to cover the issues that do affect your life, such as City Hall decisions or environmental controversies or changes in school policies.
The Internet also is eroding our legitimacy. Newspapers have always been held in contempt by those who confuse our mix of information and opinions as promoting an agenda (which isn't true).
But the Internet has accelerated that contempt. People understand you have to be an expert to be a plumber, a hair stylist or an accountant. But they assign no value to the skills and filters of journalism. Everyone blogs, everyone posts — ergo, everyone is a reporter.
That's hooey. Gathering and delivering information is a craft. A cub reporter can deliver a half-good story when he or she walks in the door; the other half comes with practice, learning and the editing of those with experience.
Our most painful loss is Ron Hartung, who has been this newsroom's writing coach for most of his 32 years. Ron's role was a recognition of the value, impact and necessity of correctly crafting the written word. His departure is a signal that craft is held in less regard.
None of this is to blame readers — though folks who read newspapers only online for free aren't doing us any favors. Readers didn't invent the Internet, they just fell in love with it when it became available.
Nor is to say the Internet hasn't done some good for newspapers. Once readers could access 1 million sources online, it was clear local papers could no longer remain a smorgasbord of general information. We had to surrender the national and international stories we couldn't deliver very well to focus on the local stories we could deliver best.
Newspapers will survive and find ways to meet the economic challenges: Someday, several newspapers may share a single regional printing plant. Someday, local papers may be a 10-12-page insert in a national newspaper.
But we are a labor-intensive business. We need people to gather and deliver information.
And a lot of good people are being lost in the march through change.
Four of them this week.
Contact Senior Writer Gerald Ensley at (850) 599-2310 or email@example.com.
Friday, December 05, 2008
Retailers posted the worst November sales in more than 30 years yesterday, as holiday shopping not only failed to lift the economy but showed that the financial crisis is further distressing everyday consumers.
About 30 major companies -- including Macy's, Abercrombie & Fitch and Target -- posted sales declines at established stores. Overall, retail sales in November fell 2.7 percent compared with the same month last year, marking the second consecutive negative month, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers, a trade group.
Wednesday, December 03, 2008
score keeper. I rode the scooter over. Lulu is teaching.
Game over. I am home. FSU won by 13. Rough game - lots of fouls. Three PSU girls fouled out.