Thursday, April 23, 2009

Let them eat newsprint!

I can't decide whether this moment in journalism -- this moment in the history of capitalism -- is a Billie Holiday cum Blood, Sweat and Tears moment or, perhaps, a Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young moment instead.

Is the continuing evacuation of journalists out of American journalism just another instance of "them that's got shall get, them that's not shall lose -- so the Bible said, and it still is news"? Or is this more like an economic Kent State, corporations figuratively gunning down folks' livelihoods because somebody's got to pay for the sins of the "best and brightest" . . . except, of course, for the best and brightest?

Richard Nixon had the pointless Vietnam War; Sam Zell has a mountain of debt leveraged against the revenues of the Chicago Tribune and the whole damn Tribune Co.

MAYBE . . . just maybe, it's both. Cue Neil Young (loosely rendered):
Tin bankers and Sam Zell's comin'.
We're finally on our own.
This spring we all hear the drummin'.
Fifty fired in Chicago.

Gotta get down to it.
Bankers are mowing us down.
Should have been done long ago.
What if you knew them and
Found their lives all unwound?
How can you run when you know?
WEDNESDAY, Zell's Tribune purged 53 staffers from its newsroom -- probably meaning nearly that many will never work in journalism again. Fifty-three of the people who on Tuesday brought the news to Chicago readers, on Wednesday wondered how they'd pay the bills . . . put Junior through school . . . put food on the table.

Fiddle-dee-dee. Layoff, layoff, layoff; this layoff talk's spoiling all the fun at every party this spring. I get so bored I could scream.

Fortunately for them -- so as to avert any party screaming -- a whole bunch of Chicago Tribune muckedy-mucks will have millions and millions in bonus money to tamp down their high-society anxiety. It's all in Crain's Chicago Business:
On the same day the Chicago Tribune cut 53 jobs from its newsroom, its parent Tribune Co. asked a Bankruptcy Court to approve of $13.3 million in bonuses and other incentive payments to 703 employees.

The payments are “vitally necessary” to reward employees for a difficult year and motivate them during the current year, according to Tribune's motion filed with the court Wednesday. The top ten executives in the company are not eligible for the payments.

On Wednesday the Chicago Tribune’s difficult year continued, as it cut staff in its latest bid to reduce expenses amid continuing advertising declines, the newspaper’s editor said in a memo.

"With today’s actions, we are making the leap to a newsroom structure that we believe is sustainable barring further significant declines in advertising revenue," Editor Gerould Kern said in a memo to staffers obtained by Crain's. "While some are leaving now, others will join the newsroom over time as we invest in new skills necessary to grow in the future."

Wednesday’s layoffs leave the Trib with 430 workers in its newsroom, Mr. Kern said.
SOMEBODY DONE GONE and took the word "unseemly" right out of Webster's dictionary, didn't they?

For the love of God, the fictional O'Hara family -- Scarlett included -- treated their slaves better than Corporate America treats the country's workers. It's not just a journalism thang -- wait till The Man gets through with the auto workers.

And, soon enough, you.

WE LIVE in an era when not only is the American worker thoroughly expendable -- at least so the suits think -- but also when the "brights" obviously feel some compulsion to rub the faces of the "right-sized" into the detritus of their former livelihoods.

And as the rendering of the middle and working classes into rich men's portfolios continues apace, we're going to really find out what pieces of meat we are.

For, you see, the Culture of Death isn't just for fetuses. Our society is aborting the already-born with reckless abandon . . . in all kinds of ways.

¡Viva la Revolución!

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