Friday, May 1, 2009


"Even when you are surrounded by idiots, they are still the idiots" - Daria

Do you ever find yourself seeing all the things that are wrong around you, all the idiots and the idiotic things they do and wonder to yourself "maybe I am the idiot". I wonder that every now and then, which is why I have the quote above hanging on my bulletin board at work. It serves as a reminder, that I am not the idiot, no matter how many of them may surround me. Now - you may disagree with that, but this is my blog. So I decide who the idiots are.

They last few days have not been particularly good ones as far as my newspaper life goes. As you may know, I work in a place that is being dismantled before my eyes. I work in an industry that has run itself into the ground, all the while blaming outside forces. Thursday afternoon, there were some more layoffs of part time works at my paper. The sick feeling I had in my stomach when I heard that news, is still with me now as I write it here.

Then, at 4:14 today, The Columbian, the local newspaper in Vancouver filed for Chapter 11. What follows is where the idiots come in....

In January of 2008, The Columbian completed and moved into a $40 million dollar beautiful, state of the art building in downtown Vancouver. To make the story a little more exciting, the Publisher of The Columbian and his "development group" developed the property and the building. Then leased it back to the paper (at least that is how I understand it). Shortly after the move into the new building, like the same month, they realized that their revenues were short and so what did they do....layed people off. So let's say you work for The Columbian and you just moved into your brand new office in the brand new building and now you have no job. How would you feel about that?

Over the next year, things got worse - because of the economy...I mean....who knew that things would get tougher for newspapers. Here is the quote from the publisher ""Our new downtown office building, which could have been paid off with our modest profits in a normal or even a conventional bad economy, contributed to our problem. But our debt peaked at the same time the economy stumbled, and the scope of the downturn exceeded my worst fears,". Your debt peaked at the same time the economy tumbled. What an awful conincidence. How could you have known?

They spent the next year laying people off and finally at the beginning of this year made the decision to move back into their old building. Then it was reported that Bank of America had The Columbian in foreclosure.

This is the true American story. What you have works just fine, does just fine, has served you just fine for many years. But you want more, you have to have more - you have to say "look what we have" and so even though all the signs are telling you its a bad decision, you go buy something you can't afford, don't need and won't be able to pay for. Then, you blame everyone and everything else when things don't work out.

Why is it that I knew it was a stupid idea to build that new building, but the people making those decisions, the people responsible for hundreds of jobs, thousands of advertisers and subscribers, didn't know.

Do I sound mad? I am mad. I am so tired of the people who we count on to bring us the truth, the clear story, not being able to tie their own shoes. Here's another quote for you: "Despite the financial setbacks, Campbell (The Columbian's Publisher) is optimistic about the future." Christ. Are you kidding me. Maybe you should pull your head out of your ass, stop trying to make people feel better and take a good hard look at what is ACTUALLY going on.

This story I have just told you is at the root of the newspaper business' demise. We lack the ability to see and acknowledge the truth. It has been that way the entire 13 years I have been involved. It is that way in many other businesses, I know. Here's the irony...we are supposed the ones that report the truth.

And here's the thing. I LOVE THE COLUMBIAN. Our business advertises in the paper and you know what, it works. They have mentioned us in their business section every now and then and that drives business into our store. I read the paper and they hold the record for reporting things that I had not previously known. It is rare to go out and get the paper in the morning and see something on the front page the you haven't already seen online, on TV or heard on the radio. When that happens, I am excited, no matter what the news is. I believe those are the times that newspapers are at their best. The Columbian does that. I think the anger comes from the fear of losing these things that I love. Because when they are gone, what happens next. That's another post for another day.

I exhausted now.

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