Sunday, March 1, 2009

Good bye dear Rocky

Good bye Colorado
It is with great sadness that we say goodbye to you today. Our time chronicling the life of Denver and Colorado, the nation and the world, is over. Thousands of men and women have worked at this newspaper since William Byers produced its first edition on the banks of Cherry Creek on April 23, 1859. We speak, we believe, for all of them, when we say that it has been an honor to serve you. To have reached this day, the final edition of the Rocky Mountain News, just 55 days shy of its 150th birthday is painful.

Truth be known I always wanted to be writer. In fact, as a teenager I submitted numerous science fiction and fantasy stories to the pulps of the time, generating nothing more than rejection slips and one short note from the Scott Meredith agency noting that one of my recent submissions had been close and if I actually sold one to let them know.

That angered me because even as a teenager I reasoned that if I had sold one, I didn't need an agent, although I will admit there was a great deal of fallacy in that.

Not content with just fiction, I produced reams of limericks and poetry. Several stories and poetry was published in the "fanzines" of science fiction and two poems in a "Literary" type magazine which rewarded me with a free subscription. A few of the poems survive until this day and mostly demonstrate that eighteen year olds know absolutely nothing about anything. To finish off what spare time I had, I became a writer of letters to the editor, mostly of critique and deconstruction of their last issue in the vein of... "the characters are well drawn except for..." Some were actually published and one won a prize, an original art piece from the noted sci-fi illustrator, Kelly Freas. Proving, of course, that the editors were desperate to fill space.

It was the last thing of possible monetary value I ever received for my literary efforts. But I did learn a lot of mostly useless information and got a bit of ego boost.

You might say I was into blogging before blogging.

I never made it into writing. Somewhere along the way I started at least a dozen novels but never completed one. Marriage, a career, family, military life all kept me one notch off, or so I like to tell myself. Of course the reality is that I enjoyed doing the other more than I enjoyed writing. Probably because it was easier and less painful.

But I never gave up reading. Books have always been part of my life, and at some point I started reading newspapers. And that is when I started to appreciate the difference between what I saw on TV and read on the news pages versus the slant some editorial writer gave it. And then I discovered that one writer would slant this way and another that way and then I understood that what I was told on TV was as much opinion as what I read on the front page as I read in the editorial section.

I had discovered “opinion” and with it the understanding that life lies to you regularly and routinely and always, of course, for your own good. That is an important fact that too many never learn.

So I grew to treasure newspapers. They were real. You could tear out an article from a newspaper but not from TV. After a time you could guess the bias of the newspaper and the writer and could read both sides before forming an opinion. And almost all cities had at least two dailies, and maybe several for the ‘burbs. But going back some twenty years, a funny thing started to happen. Newspapers started dying. Memphis lost one, Seattle one, Nashville one, Atlanta one and New York, Chicago and LA lost several. Cost kept going up and revenues couldn’t keep up.

Management reasoned that if you survived you won because of the increased readers that would allow you to increase advertising rates. Or something like that must have been in the minds of the super smart people who bid up the prices to own a survivor and, at the same time, assume a helluva amount of debt and the cost of servicing that debt.

But, of course, it didn’t work that way. A large percentage of the people who bought one paper also bought two papers, so the only increase was from those who had only bought the other. And since many had bought the other because they detested the survivor, they just quit buying. As younger people came along they were inclined to go to the Internet and as notebook computers became smaller faster cheaper and wireless exploded the trend exploded.

The newspapers lost their base, and as demographics showed the remaining market to be older and less affluent advertising prices fell…..

But all of that is not news and has been ongoing for quite a few years. The latest thing is the economy is now providing the coup de grace.

This is sad. Very sad. The Internet is composed mostly of sites dedicated to commerce, or biased views. And since the “reader” cannot see the “editorial page” as a whole, it is very difficult to develop an accurate understanding of the political position of the paper. After a time too much information becomes as harmful as “no information,” since no information leads to caution and more research. Too much information leads the reader to think they actually know something, when in fact they are ignorant. That is truly dangerous. See the last election for confirmation.

The Internet is filled with millions of facts. Some of them are even true.

So goodbye, dear Rocky. I enjoyed you for seventeen plus years. You provided truth that the surviving Post would not and will not, but in the end that mattered not. Just as the fact that the Post is as doomed as you, only it doesn’t yet know its death date, matters not.

What our “newspapers” will become is not yet known beyond the fact that what they are cannot last any more than a six year will remain a six year old. Whether or not I, or you dear chums, will like the results is meaningless. They will be what they will be. More does not mean better. One truism I heard years ago from one of cable’s founders was this.

“It is not technology or money that is slowing the wiring of America. It is lack of content.”

Training Day redux

I love Bill Whittle. The following is from Eject!Eject!Eject under the title of "Training Day."

Where do I begin?

Well, first of all, I find it deeply offensive to my personal sense of honor and integrity to be punished or otherwise lectured on something I did not do. Period. And to be subjected to two hours of second-grade style, “who can tell me what Johnny did wrong by telling Sarah she has a hot body” lecturing infuriates me on many levels.

To begin with, I do not need to be told this is inappropriate behavior. I already know that is inappropriate behavior. I learned that was inappropriate behavior not from the State of California or a battalion of corporate lawyers, but from my parents, who raised me to be polite, well-mannered, and who spent much of their own youth trying to form me into a civilized gentleman. I know, I can see the smiles on many faces already. It’s like I’m speaking in Aramaic.


Perhaps, in future editions of the handbook, we can add another victim group to the protected category: rational adults. Perhaps I might contribute a chapter to this sensitivity training. Something like:

“The rational adult is a small and shrinking minority in the workplace. His cultural heritage – which is just as valuable as anyone else's! – has taught him that “personal responsibility” means he has a right to feel insulted, offended and harassed when being lectured on things that he did not do, nor would ever contemplate doing. In this ancient and primitive culture, a person’s “honor” and “integrity” are relied upon to govern behavior. If such a person unknowingly gives insult, they will “apologize.” According to their tribal ethics, people who intentionally harm, insult or harass others deserve to be fired on the spot.”

Years ago I happened to be in our corporate headquarters when we had such training. I sat through it, signed the oath to never do anything that would insult anybody about anything, and then went back to the real world.

About a month later the lady brought her course to the region office. As requested I had gathered all the troops together for this special day, introduced the trainer, noted that I had attended a class and went back to my office.

The lady finished her training and left.

You guessed it.

The next day, along about 9AM MST my boss called. His query?

"Why didn't you attend the training session?"

Me. "I did."

"X said you did not."

Me. "I attended at headquarters with you. You know that. She knew that, she gave that class, too. I even mentioned it when I introduced her."

"Yes, but she feels you disrespected her and the intent of the training when you didn't attend with your people."

Me. "They aren't my people. They are sales reps and managers. They report to me."

"You know what I mean."

Me. "No, I don't know what you mean."

"I have interceded on your behalf. Send her an email apologizing and I think everything will be okay."

Me. "No."

"She will write you up."

Me. "Tell her I will overnight her a pen if she doesn't have one."

So now you know why I never went above a certain point in my business career. My inability to suffer nonsense. I think that is why Patton is my favorite military type.