When great satire can't make it anymore in the printed newspaper world, that's not so funny here in the belly of The Chronicle and at other publications.
The Onion, which blew into San Francisco a few years ago with its hilarious headlines and endless news parodies -- there was a big party then and an ominous reminder that MSM hadn't exactly cornered the fun market -- is closing its SF and LA print editions, victim of the same newspaper home wrecking that's quickly corroding its straight-man counterparts.
Just when we needed more laughs, not fewer. Especially after Warren Buffett said he would not buy a newspaper "at any price" and Presidential Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said about newspaper pain and suffering, "I don't know what, in all honesty, government can do about it." Thanks, we wouldn't take your money anyway, Bob.
And it was barely 10 seconds after even just the rumor that Amazon would introduce a bigger-screen, newspaper content-friendlier Kindle -- an attempt at "throwing an electronic life preserver to old-media companies," according to TechCrunch -- that the nattering and relentless offensive line charged in for the tackle. Not gonna work, was essentially the ornery punditry. Not soon enough, not revolutionary enough, not enough, period, to resurrect old habits. "It's a pass (the industry) won't catch," said the same TechCrunch.
But crunchgear, as opposed to TechCrunch, says the improved Kindle means large papers and magazines "will win."
I wish I were that sure about even a few things in life. There are more of these reader devices coming to market, some as thin as a few magazine pages. Foldability and color are ahead. Whoever turns out to be right, there's no escaping the severe turbulence of the moment and, as the motivational speakers like to say, the opportunities.
Things are bumpy enough that even Valleywag's normally trenchant and witty Owen Thomas called me in a post yesterday slamming the new Kindle as both a "digital chieftain" and one of the "addled lords of print." Wow. Addled may be fair comment, but digital chieftain and lord of print at the same time? There's hardly enough royal bunting to cover all that.
Even from those commanding heights of power, I still have no answers. But here's an idea:
In Chicago, a 15-year-old kid dressed up like a police officer and went out on patrol (he eventually got busted). A few months later, he put on a suit and apparently looked enough like an adult that an auto dealership let him take one of their cars out for a test drive. He crashed it. But it got me thinking: maybe we can just dress up as a successful business and get by.
That may be what's happening in San Diego, where a Beverly Hills investment firm called Platinum Equity has bought the drowning San Diego Union-Tribune. Sounds impressive. How can you not feel good about that? So there, Mr. Papers-Unsafe-At-Any-Speed Buffett!
I've never had a platinum credit card but they look pretty cool (though carbon is now more hip). Platinum the company is, according to a Union-Tribune story, a turnaround specialist. Some serious turning is good, but we should avoid spinning.
And in case you believe that newspapers are doomed, here's the latest from the New York Times, where a five percent wage cut and the possible closure of its Boston Globe this week didn't seem to be quite enough. A Q&A with Times president Scott Heekin-Canedy was reprinted on Jim Romenesko's media blog with this headline: "NYTer: The Future Format of News? It's Your Choice."
So that's great that the paper of record is thinking about letting readers decide how they want to get their information. Just in time to get ahead of that trend.
Teenagers, start your engines.
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