Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Hell, no, we ain't all right!

Long before anyone busted the first rhyme, put on the first piece of bling or intentionally tried to walk down the street with his pants moving south and his drawers creeping north, my old man invented rap on the back patio of our house in blue-collar Baton Rouge.

GOTdamn sonofabitch! Gotdamn bastard! GOTdamn sonofabitch! Gotdamn bastard!

All it took for the old man to go old school (before it was even the new wave), was a wayward hammer head on his thumb and not the nail. Or a balky lawnmower engine. Or a balky dog.

Oftentimes, it was a balky teenager of my intimate acquaintance.

GOTdamn sonofabitch! Gotdamn bastard! GOTdamn sonofabitch! Gotdamn bastard! Gotdamn sonofabitch, c********* bastard!

Though he little realized it, the old man was a human beatbox in coveralls -- as blue as 2 Live Crew, with a purple thumbnail to boot. If only he'd had his own personal DJ to punctuate his raptastic freestyles with some mad scratching and killer mixes.

Eh . . . he would have told him to "cut that goddamn shit off" right in the middle of a performance.

BUT THIS ISN'T about my old man, though I am my father's son -- which pretty much scares the holy living hell out of my wife. No, this is about the carnage at New Orleans' newspaper, The Times-Picayune.

It wasn't the work of a madman, but it was close. It was the work of a bunch of executives at corporate who left not bodies strewn across the newsroom floor, but instead careers.

By the end of the day Tuesday, 201 employees of the
Picayune had been told that come Sept. 30, they would be shit out of luck -- not to mention shit out of a job. Of the 201 people getting the old heave-ho, which I think we're supposed to call "right-sizing" now, 84 came from the newsroom.

Firing 84 out of 173 newsroom employees, if we do the math, comes to 49 percent of the people actually responsible for covering the news that south Louisianians need to read. That's how Advance Publications makes sure that "essential journalism" endures in this star-crossed American city in direst need of it.

That's how cheap men in expensive suits "continue our 175-year commitment to covering the communities we serve."

GOTdamn sonofabitch! Gotdamn bastard! GOTdamn sonofabitch! Gotdamn bastard!

Thus goes the first act of a newspaper company transitioning to the "digital future" -- firing half the people who "cover the communities we serve." Trading a seven-day print schedule for a three-day one. Shifting the lions' share of the "news coverage" to the paper's really, really bad website. Letting the vast majority of the newsroom layoffs fall upon the news and business sections.

GOTdamn sonofabitch! Gotdamn bastard! GOTdamn sonofabitch! Gotdamn bastard!

MEANTIME, one might be curious about where this "bold move" into newspapers' digital future will take place.

Nothing notable, just your average midsize city more murderous than "pre-surge" Baghdad that also happens to be Latin American corrupt, Latin American uneducated and absolutely Latin American poor. With a small ruling coterie of Latin American-rich types who got that way either through business or genetics.

Also, the digital strategy is aimed at a city where lots and lots of people have no broadband service -- New Orleans has just a 40- to 60-percent subscription rate for Internet service fast enough to fully access a multimedia website. For the poorest areas of town -- which are mostly all-black -- the subscription rates hover somewhere between zero and 40 percent.

It seems to me that it's one thing to argue that most poor folks don't subscribe to the paper, but quite another to, for profit's sake, raise the bar higher and higher to even aspire to be an informed citizen. Like this Harvard professor, one wonders exactly when did we cross the line between having a market economy and becoming a market society -- one where everything has a price.

Even those things that oughtn't.

GOTdamn sonofabitch! Gotdamn bastard! GOTdamn sonofabitch! Gotdamn bastard!

By the way, the Picayune isn't exactly losing money. It's still plenty profitable -- just not profitable enough for the Newhouse family, owners of Advance Publications.

GOTdamn sonofabitch! Gotdamn bastard! GOTdamn sonofabitch! Gotdamn bastard!

OH . . .
and then there's this sad reminder amid the economic and emotional carnage inflicted Tuesday on employees of The Times-Picayune: This is the "new economy," bucko. Loyalty is a one-way street that always runs in management's direction. Channel 8 in New Orleans illustrates this principle vividly for us:
"It's almost like a funeral inside, like a wake," said commercial artist Patricia Gonzalez after she got word she was being let go. She said she has worked at the TP for four decades.

Even though employees knew it was coming, Tuesday's developments still hit some like a brick.

"Next to my father's death, this is second in my life. I feel like I lost my family, somewhat ashamed that I lost my job, or will be losing my job," continued Gonzalez.

Staff writer Danny Monteverde also received bad news about his job.

"It's rough today, and it's sad to see all my co-workers and friends, really, and family go through stuff like this, but I had a good six years, I really did. I wish I had a lot more," he said.

Workers who have been axed are getting severance packages, but some were too distraught to pay attention to the details right away.

"I really haven't checked into the package, but I can't talk," Gonzalez said while choking up.


Amoss said laid-off workers can apply for jobs that will be posted.

"When we launch the new company we will have a significant number of journalists, especially newsgathering, reporters, photographers, videographers, graphic artists," he said.

"I'm never going to give up. I will be reapplying for whatever is available, even if it's to cut the grass outside; that's how dedicated I am to the company," Gonzalez stated.
GOTDAMN sonofabitch! Gotdamn bastard! GOTdamn sonofabitch! Gotdamn bastard! Gotdamn sonofabitch, c********* bastards!

Freestyle THAT, Advance.

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