Saturday, February 16, 2019

Vampiric Chain, Desiccated Newspaper

CEO David Bonner, Retirement Systems of Alabama

By Luke T. Bush


Hear that giant sucking sound? That's the lifeblood being drained off the local newspaper.

Community Newspaper Holdings Inc. (CNHI) is drawing money away from the Press-Republican (PR) for the benefit of the Retirement System of Alabama (RSA). Does CNHI or RSA care about journalism? Sure, as long as the returns are good.

RSA CEO David Bonner just loves journali$m. In one article (Alabama’s One-Man Pension Show) the reporter declares Bonner's office rivals that of governors in larger and wealthier states. And in an opinion piece (How an Alabama state employee built a billionaire’s lifestyle in a taxpayer-funded job) the reporter chooses the adjective "palatial" to describe Bonners' executive digs.

On this list David Bonner is #1.
Meet Alabama’s highest-paid state employees

And befitting such a man Bonner has access to two private jets used by RSA.  (The RSA General Counsel states this saves money for the State of Alabama.) Meanwhile some Press-Republican employees have to make do with their aging personal cars, keeping up with insurance payments and repair bills. Maybe Bonner will fly to Plattsburgh City and give these employees a thrill ride on one of those jets.

When it comes to air travel RSA uses this type of private jet
Such adequate transportation saves money.

Let's not forget those in Bonner's circle who slave hard for low pay as detailed in articles like Dr. Bronner’s newest $200,000 employee and Retirement Systems of Alabama pays $370,000 in bonuses to investment staff.

With his deep interest in journalism I wonder if Bonner ever heard of the news desert. The University of North Carolina - School of Media and Journalism - Center for Innovation and Sustainability in Local Media (Got that?) has this definition: a community, either rural or urban, with limited access to the sort of credible and comprehensive news and information that feeds democracy at the grassroots level.

The University of North Carolina etc., etc. has another term it uses: ghost newspapers referring to papers that still exist but are shells of themselves.

So how did the PR end up getting the lifeblood sucked out of it?

According to the 2018 The Expanding News Desert report by the University of Carolina etc., etc. RSA decided to get into the newspaper business when things were going well. Most papers in non-competitive markets were operating with margins of 20 to 50 percent. (I heard in the PR's heyday its profit margin was about 50 per cent.) Time to buy up local newspapers, creating a profitable chain. But online competition like Craig's List ate into local newspapers' classified ads. Add the 2008 recession and print journalism went into a deep decline.

Thus began the cost cutting. Putting employees on one week furloughs per quarter -- you know, a wage cut. With fewer reporters the PR has to fill in its newshole with oversized photos, some of them submitted for free by readers. The paper also gets free "news" by quoting reader comments from its Facebook page. ("Jeezum Crow, that Trump is the man!")  Lately sharing news articles from other regional papers like the Glens Falls Post Star keeps the cost down. So how local is local news?

What stories aren't being covered by PR reporters? It's been a while since the PR has published anything resembling investigative reporting. From what I hear there are stories to be uncovered so the excuse for news not being there is invalid.

Corners cut means stupid typos and dumb layout mistakes like an advertisement covering up part of an obituary. The quality drops and only older readers keep with the newspaper habit. Like the joke says: If you want to see the latest subscription cancellations for the paper read the obits.

At one time the PR was locally owned until it got "chained." The best bet for its survival is to unchain itself from CNHI. Keep the money at home instead of spending it on private jets for rich guys living in luxury in Alabama.

So what does the future hold for the Press-Republican?

Summing up its take on CNHI The Expanding News Desert report says the chain is facing declining profit margins, causing RSA to push for better returns on its investments. CNHI newspapers are up for sale, meaning that those not sold will be shut down.

Who wants to buy a hollowed out husk?

That is, a ghost?

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Bright Creativity On A Dull Winter Afternoon

By Luke T. Bush


Outside gray clouds rule with a dismal rain.  Inside various colors are applied to tiles,.  changing patterns and hues.

This afternoon Community Art Group Coordinator Audra Green is showing how to create art with small square white tiles.  Each participant expresses individuality by selecting different paint colors and how they are applied.

Folding tables form a large rectangular seating area.  Sometimes Audra gets up from her seat to provide more supplies from the large rolling cabinet nearby.  The cabinet is a familiar sight from the days when the group used to meet at the ROTA Studio and Art Gallery.  Each large sliding shelf has an array of materials, paint: pens, colored markers, whatever is needed.

Community Art Group Coordinator Audra Green
creates along with the other participants.

Years later the group is still going strong but it now meets on the Plattsburgh Public Library second floor, 2 PM on Thursday.  The Community Art Group is one of the public outreach programs under the auspices of NAMI-CV, National Alliance on Mental Illness, Champlain Valley.

Popular projects in the past include wood burning, collages, even decorating wine bottles.  All skill levels are welcome.  Audra explains the group is for relaxation, just getting together and creating.

The Community Art Group Facebook page provides more info about the program or you can contact Audra at  NAMI-CV sponsors other programs during the week like creative writing and board games.  More info at its Facebook page .

Monday, January 21, 2019

Bad Juxtaposition Fixed - Sorta

On Google News there's a different photo accompanying a Press-Republican drug bust story.  As mentioned previously next to the headline had been an obit photo, not an image of one of the perpetrators.  This photo shows one of the arrestees while the headline still mentions two men.  You have to click through to find out two women had also been arrested.  I hope no one assumed the Google News photo was supposed to be a man.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Bad Juxtaposition

This screencap from Google News shows a link to a Press Republican mobile site article about a drug bust (1/20/19).  On Google News there's a photo next to the article.  Since the headline mentions two men being busted one could easily assume the man in the photo was one of the arrestees.

But if you click on the article's link and scroll down on the PR site you discover the real story behind the photo.  It's from the obituary section.