Saturday, January 1, 2011

New publisher represents big opportunity for change

We learn today that the rumors have been true, Kit Atwell is retiring, and Kelly Soldwedel is replacing her at the top of the masthead. It will be fascinating to see whether this makes any difference in the paper.

On a newspaper, the publisher is the cheese. She makes the big business decisions on behalf of the financial interests who pocket the dividends. She's the strategist for the future and crisis manager for the present. The editors create the product, but the publisher tells them what sort of product it has to be.

From the announcement in the paper it's clear Ms Soldwedel didn't reach this position by climbing the experience ladder. She's all of seven and a half years out of college, and made general manager in four. The paper seems proud that she's only running the company because her progenitors did. I hope she's got enough pride in herself to overcome her elevation-as-inheritance. The paper needs it.

Any attentive reader can see pretty quickly that the Courier desperately needs new blood and real-world experience to blow the cobwebs out of its congested, incestuous culture and make the changes necessary to survive and thrive in a radically changing media environment. Our community needs a vibrant, engaged and muscular Courier.

I challenge Ms Soldwedel to seek out and learn from her more worldly peers, eschew flabby tradition, embrace community service first, kick out the dead wood and push the paper bodily into the 21st century. There is no other hope for its future.

Stupidest headline ever?

Or maybe today's chuckle: Officials tackle underage drinking issue with pizza box fliers

Editorial: Fergadsake, don't look back!

In which the unnamed Courier editor encourages the sort of gnatlike attention span that's killing the newspaper business and driving our jolly old American empire ever deeper into ruin.

He tells us to forget the Gulf oil spill, as sensible remembering could only lead to recrimination and perhaps better regulation of the industry most responsible for global pollution and climate change.

Forget Afghanistan -- it's clear he already has -- for it's just too difficult to understand, and sensible remembering could only lead to the conclusion that the insane revenge-seeking that led us there was a huge mistake we must correct as quickly as possible. (As long as we require our military to be there, editor, forgetting is morally repugnant.)

Forget our ravaged economy, for closer scrutiny might reveal the moral bankruptcy of the financial corporations that own and operate the editor's favored political party. While you're at it, forget the legislative gridlock and fascist rhetoric his party has forced on us ever more avidly for thirty years.

Instead, dear reader, cling to the myths of empire -- our great strength as a people (belied by the fear and denial we collectively express at the slightest difficulty), our international generosity with our wealth (as much smaller and less rich countries show us up every time and we scream at each other over pennies in foreign assistance), our "grit"* (though we can't find a way clear to even start transitioning our economy off dirty, dwindling, foreign-controlled and evermore expensive energy sources).

Be glad that nothing worse happened, like the exposure of official fraud and neglect of infrastructure that was the result of Hurricane Katrina (as our infrastructure falls further into neglect), or the egregious failures of foreign policy and intelligence that led to the killing or injury of over 10,000 innocents nine-odd years ago (as we tread farther down that same stupid path every day. Oh yeah, and how many innocent Afghans and Iraqis have we murdered in that time?).

It's delightfully easy to stay positive when you refuse to face your problems. Don't worry, be happy.

Me, I think I'd rather try to learn from history and avoid repeating it. Call me a cockeyed optimist.

*: Clearly the editor, in the grand tradition of Courier editorialists, has been keeping up on his cowboy movies.