Friday, March 20, 2009

It's not the journalists' fault that newspapers are dying

Happy Friday and happy spring.

I have a favorite thing to say on the first day of spring. I attribute it to the humorist Ogden Nash. I'm not sure he said it, and I don't want to find out because I like the ditty and I like Ogden Nash. 
It goes: "Spring has sprung/ the grass is riz/ I wonder where/the birdies is."
Now please don't look it up and tell me that he didn't write this thing. It's a once-a-year thing and I've gotten it out of my system.
For those who don't know Nash, he wrote little poems like:A panther is a leopard/that hasn't been peppered. If you see a panther crouch/prepare to say 'Ouch.' Better yet, when called by a panther/don't anther."

Anyway, happy spring.

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I told you so! The depression in the newspaper business isn't the journalists' fault. It isn't that there aren't enough happy stories for young people, or enough stories about rock or hip-hop stars or enough stories about cars. People are still reading the paper. 

It's the greed of the newspaper owners, many if not most of whom are corporate bottom-feeders and bottom-liners who have piled on too much debt. The papers, like, for example, the New Haven Register in Connecticut, make money. It's that the paper's owners, Journal Register Corp., piled on so much debt buying it and the dozens of other publications they had owned, that they finally drowned in the debt.

Read an expert about it here.

Some good news: The San Diego Union has been bought by a deal maker who thought enough of the newspaper business in general and the paper in particular to buy it. Thank you.

The Tuscon papers, one of which is owned by Gannett, still teeter at the brink. It's one of those well-close-it-unless-someone-buys-it deals. That way, the killer company can blame someone else for the paper folding.

In the meantime, papers still soldier on. I read the Register today. It had some news in it, thanks to Mark Zaretsky and Mary O'Leary. These veterans, among a few others, keep the paper going by hard work, sometimes with no pay for some of the number of hours they put in. Mark beat me on the Tweed story by working all day Sunday. I was at my daughter and son-in-law's playing with my grandchildren. That comes first. Could I have gotten the story had I been home that Sunday? I'd like to think so. 

So instead I got the back story on how this deal was completed after 40 years of strife. I guess what I'm trying to say is that the Reg is lucky to have people like Mark and Mary. Other papers also have reporters and editors they don't deserve, but they are getting rid of them quickly. 

In Westchester, it was the Rev and Pennsylvania Mike and Dan the Van Man and many others. It's in the blood. Get the story. Make sure it's right. Worry about the fine points, like getting paid, later. 

It's never been that way in the electronic media, for the most part. Of course there are exceptions. 

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This wouldn't be Len's Lens without some carping, so here goes. Let me do my Andy Rooney impression. I've met him and have a good Andy Rooney story. But only in private. 

Did ya ever think about how rude the checkers are in supermarkets? I'm not talking about the places like Trader Joe's or Edge of the Woods, a vegetarian, health-food supermarket in New Haven. They're fine.

I'm mostly talking about Stop & Shop. I don't know where they get these kids, but they can't be made to pass an intelligence test. They must work cheap, and that's all the test the store needs. I'm sure the problem isn't just at that one store. It must be chain-wide.
For example, I brought in a bag to pack my groceries in. It was a large, sturdy bag. All of my order would have fit into that bag. But the checker put a couple of things into the bag and then proceeded to bag the rest of my order in plastic bags.

Then she proceeded to hand my change and receipts to me. While I was putting these things away (maybe 10 seconds), the next order came flying down. She couldn't have waited those 10 seconds so I could clear my stuff off the counter?

This isn't the first time this has happened. Not by a long shot. Why do places like Trader Joe's have such nice, smart, genial checkers and Stop & Shop such dregs? 

Look, Stop & Shop has gotten much better in stocking the kind of foods I like, in reacting to complaints. 

For example, I like Ken's ranch salad dressing, the lite kind. So Stop & Shop replaced it with their own brand. The problem is: their brand isn't certified kosher, while Ken's is. I told them about it. Within weeks, the Ken's dressing reappeared. Wonderful.

Why ruin it with idiots at the checkout counter? 

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Tomorrow is March 21, the traditional first day of spring. 

It's also the birthday of two who are near and dear. Older one first. Paula Weber of Marlborough, my sister, will be one year closer to 60. 
Mike Olkin, Andrea's husband, also celebrates a birthday tomorrow. When you are as young as Mike, it's pointless to tease about age.

Happy birthday to both. 

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I put the snow shovel away today. If we get snow next week, blame me. Otherwise, it looks like a great weekend to get out and enjoy. The weather is slowly getting warmer and there is no hint of rain until at least Thursday. For now that is. So, have a great weekend and for those in the Tribe, a great Shabbos.

Until next time...

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