Another depressing day for newspapers

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Being in the newspaper business in the United States is like being in the eye of a hurricane. What was once stable is enduring  a cataclysm as recently robust newspapers fall by the wayside, leaving their employers and readers abandoned.

The latest casualty is The Tampa Tribune. The Tampa Bay Times announced yesterday that it was buying and shutting down the Tribune, its daily rival. The Tribune employed 265 full-time staff. At least 100 of those are expected to be let go.

The move was so quick The Times didn’t even let The Tampa Tribune put out a last paper for the staff to say goodbye to all it’s readers. Visitors to the website of the 123-year-old Tribune are already being redirected to the website of the Times.

The Tribune went from heady times to death in a relatively short period of time.

“We were the scrappy, energetic staff that did not want to get beat by the St. Pete Times,” wrote Barbara Boyer, now a reporter at the Philadelphia Inquirer.

“We worked hard and played hard at a paper that rapidly expanded in the 1990s with reporters in the far reaches of inner Florida. We were one big, happy — but somewhat dysfunctional — family,” wrote Barbara Boyer said on the paper’s Facebook alumni page.

Revolution Capital, a private equity firm that owned the Tribune, treated it like any other investment, according to NiemanLab. Their formula — buy undervalued company, milk cash flow, sell off valuable assets, shut down the rest — can work just as well in any industry. And once you strip out any sense of civic responsibility, the formula works.

In this case, according to NiemanLab, Revolution Capital bought the Tribune in 2012 for a mere $9.5 million. It gutted the cost structure — going from 618 employees in 2012 to 265 this week. Revolution then identified a core Tribune asset — the land underneath its offices — and sold it off to condo developers for $17.75 million — a nifty profit. Then, seeing what an unending series of revenue declines ahead, it got whatever it could for the core product and signed the paper’s death warrant.

Meanwhile, The Oregonian’s future continues to be hazy as well.

Certainly the barely there periodic print edition, which gives  almost as much space to comics as to the news, is slipping gradually into oblivion.  With the shift to digital news undermining the earnings of The Oregonian and other traditional newspapers across the country, you have to wonder how long the paper, now a mere shadow of its former self, will be able to hold on, and whether at some point anybody but the alumni and employees will care if it doesn’t.

Sock it to ’em: Hales and the left long for more taxes

More taxes. That’s the left’s answer for everything. Usually, they try to spread out the tax increases so you won’t notice how the total is escalating. But this year, they’re going whole hog.

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On Tuesday, Portland Mayor Charlie Hales proposed an $8.7 million increase in the Business License Fee. Now 2.2 percent of a business’ net profit, the fee would increase to 2.5 percent for 25,200 Portland businesses.

“We need to be responsible leaders by providing enough revenue to deliver basic City services and invest in making lasting progress on our challenges,” Hales said. “A slightly larger fee on business’ profits will have a far-reaching, positive impact on the city as a whole.”

Meanwhile, Our Oregon, a coalition of unions and progressive groups, is promoting Initiative Petition 28 for the November 2016 ballot.

The measure would raise the corporate minimum tax on Oregon sales of more than $25 million a year from the current minimum of $50,000 to $30,001 plus 2.5 percent of the excess over $25 million. The tax would be based solely on sales, not profit.

The Legislative Revenue Office estimates the corporate tax measure would raise $5.3 billion during the 2017-2019 biennium. Corporate taxes during that biennium under the current system are projected to reach about $1.1 billion.

In other words, the measure would increase corporate tax collections per biennium by a whopping 400 percent in one fell swoop.

“If that passes, we’ll have a lot of money to pay for stuff,” said Rep. Mitch Greenlick (D-Portland).

All this would be on top of Portland’s much-maligned Arts Tax, which a large swath of the city’s liberal population isn’t paying, and an additional 10 cents a gallon gas tax in Portland, the brainchild of Portland Commissioner Steve Novick, that would generate $64 million over the next four years if voters approve it on May 17.

Yesterday, May 3, an Oregon judge approved ballot language for another tax, a payroll tax that would support Portland State University. Supporters will now begin collecting signatures to get the tax on the ballot in November. The proposed one-tenth of 1 percent payroll tax on wages paid by Portland-area businesses would generate about $40 million annually for PSU.

And if all these new taxes aren’t enough, the increases in the minimum wage that the Democrats in the state Legislature just pushed through will start in July.

Meanwhile, Gov. Brown is meeting in Portland today with lawmakers and business executives to start the process of crafting a multi-billion dollar funding package for state roads. The package would likely involve higher gas taxes and vehicle registration and driver license fees.

Hold on  to your wallets, folks.

 

 

 

Let them eat cake: the White House Correspondents Association dinner

Ninety-three murders of journalists have been documented in Mexico since 2000, according to Article 19, an international organization devoted to freedom of the press.

Want some names? In the first three months of 2016, there were 69 attacks against the press in Mexico, including the murders of three journalists: Marco Hernández Bautista, Anabel Flores Salazar and Moisés Dagdug Lutzow.

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Mexican reporter Anabel Flores Salazar, a 32-year-old mother of two, was discovered on the side of the road half-naked with her arms tied behind her back and a plastic bag over her head. She worked as a crime reporter for the newspaper El Sol de Orizaba in the eastern state of Veracruz

 

But the journalists, politicians and celebrities didn’t let any of that get in the way of the revelry, schmoozing and self-congratulatory behavior at the White House Correspondents Association dinner on April 30.

Like at the Academy Awards, toned and tanned women in designer outfits posed for the cameras on the red carpet as they arrived. There were actresses Kerry Washington, Vivica A. Fox and Carrie Fisher (with her dog, Gary), models Karlie Kloss, Kendall Jenner and Daniela Lopez, even the entire cast of The View.

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Media and public policy expert Kendall Jenner at the White House Correspondents Association dinner, April 30, 2016. Source: perezhilton.com

 

All the talk after the splashy dinner, more like Anna Wintour’s annual Met Gala than a media event, was about comedian Larry Wilmore’s controversial remarks. None of the talk was about how the event affirmed the close, almost cloying, relationships between the politicians and the political press who cover the White House.

If you want an explanation for the precipitous across-the-board bipartisan decline in the public’s respect for the press, you have it in the White House Correspondents Association dinner.

When I handled public relations for a major corporation, a standard warning to employees likely to come into contact with the media was, “Remember. A reporter is not your friend.” That didn’t mean the media were your enemy, just that no matter how amiable they might be, their objective is to search out the news, to inform the public debate, not to serve as a marketing arm of the company.

The media in Washington, D.C. seem to have forgotten that.

The White House Correspondents Association dinner that began on May 7, 1921 as a somewhat stuffy black-tie event for 50 guests (yes, all men) has expanded to a 2620 guest dinner and a bacchanalia of parties stretching out over days.

A turning point in the dinner’s perception came in 2012 when respected NBC newsman Tom Brokaw said on “Meet the Press” that it was “time to rethink” the celebrity-focused occasion since it, in his words, “separates the press from the people that they’re supposed to serve, symbolically.”

“What kind of image do we present to the rest of the country?” Brokaw asked. “ Are we doing their business, or are we just a group of narcissists who are mostly interested in elevating our own profiles?”

If you wonder where Donald Trump came from, and even to some degree Bernie Sanders, this is it. The whole self-congratulatory White House Correspondents Association affair is a celebration by politicians and the press of their specialness, a reminder of why so many Americans feel abandoned and ignored by the elite decision-makers who live in their bubble of mutual admiration.

“…now it’s not just one night of clubby backslapping, carousing and drinking between the press and the powerful, it’s four full days of signature cocktails and inside jokes that just underscore how out of step the Washington elite is with the rest of the country,” wrote Politico before this year’s dinner. “It’s not us (journalists) versus them (government officials); it’s us (Washington) versus them (the rest of America).”