Newspapers Are Not Toilet Roll Manufacturers

They are not and cannot be run as out-and-out cash cows for the greedy and the idle.

By Steven Wells
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 7 | Posted Mar. 9, 2009

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The grand dumb certainty that unshackling the spivs of Wall Street and letting them concoct an alternate economy based on moonbeams and magic pixie dust was going be good for America has collapsed. Poof. Gone. Even Alan Greenspan—idiot-in-chief of that tribe of spectacularly deluded idiots, the libertarians, is talking of the desperate need to nationalize whole chucks of the economy.

Meanwhile, the struggle for the zeitgeist is under way. There are those who’d love this current state of disarray to continue forever—old-school ultrasurvivalist Soldier of Fortune subscribers and zombie comic writers, mostly (did you see the soon-to-be-an-Elton-John movie zombie Jane Austin adaptation?). And the Republicans trot out a Kenneth-the-Page doppelganger to tell us that what we actually need is more of the same.

And Tucker “Dick” Carlson—bowtie-less at last—gets roundly booed by Republicans for making the outrageous suggestion that The New York Times uses fact checkers. Which pretty much tells us everything we need to know at the moment about the Republicans.

Meanwhile, comedian Louis CK provided some much-needed “shut the fuck up complaining, people” perspective, which was delightedly slapped down by contributor “stammer” who mocked a flippant pro-economic collapse comment by CK thus: “The people who will be forcibly reacquainted with good old-fashioned migrant labor and early death are the ones who are right now catching the junkie terror bus to their 15-hour shift at the shit factory.”

Can I get personal for a second? I’ve been sucking up all this oh-no-the-sky-is-falling terror blurt at a time when my own body has been undergoing one of its own periodic meltdowns. I mean, there’s nothing like lying in a hospital bed, looking for a distraction from the fact that you’re lying in your shit with tubes coming out of every orifice and turning on the radio to be reminded that—hey, guess what?—the whole fucking country is lying in its own shit with tubes coming out of every orifice.

And then there’s the fact that so much of the shit news seems to be about the industry I’ve spent most of my life working in—print media. The Inky and the News declare redundancy, the Rocky Mountain News closes its doors. And there’s even an increase in the wailing Greek chorus of doomsayers claiming that we’re mere months away from the entire industry prolapsing like an overripe tomato in a pressure vacuum. KERSPLAT! Recently, the weepers, wailers and gnashers-of-teeth have been joined by a raft of old-guy columnists who seem to be having the same collective brain-fart: “Hey, waidaminnit! How about we charge people for stuff they’re getting online for free?” Uh, because they’re getting it for free, you fucking birdbrains.

The blogs—the alien monster that’s supposed to be in newsprint’s base killing all it’s d00ds—have spectacularly failed to provide a lucrative alternative economic model and have absolutely no chance of providing anything but the merest percentage of the quality and services provided by newspapers and magazines. This is due to the simple fact that they’re nearly all one or two guys working 18 hours a day, seven days a week, just to keep the piss-weak (and faltering) ad-revenue stream trickling so they don’t have to beg for the jobs back from the alt-weeklies that fired them in the first place.

You know what? It’s all utter fucking bollocks. It doesn’t matter if newspapers are generating less profit than they were x years ago. Or at least it shouldn’t. Why? Because newspapers are not fucking toilet roll manufacturers, They’re not fucking McDonald’s. They’re not “businesses.” Oh, sure, they’ve got to make payroll, same as the Boy Scouts and the Catholic Church. But they are not and cannot be run as out-and-out cash cows for the greedy and the idle. Same as sports clubs are not businesses. Same as families are not businesses (do you know anybody who ever had a kid because they could make a profit doing so?).

Here’s the paradigm shift I’d like to see emerge from our current economic, cultural and social meltdown: The re-realization that not everything has a price. Not everything is best run for the benefit of shareholders. Some things—rail systems, public broadcasters, newspapers, locally rooted sports teams, farms (is their an uglier oxymoron in the English language than “agribusiness”?), museums, art galleries, unions, families—need to be run by people who love them for their own sake, who treasure the immeasurable good these institutions deliver, good that can’t be measured in dollars and cents.

This is something the Victorians discovered—after they figured out that sticking kids up chimneys and sending toddlers down mines and generally letting laissez-faire capitalism do what ever they heck it wanted (the libertarian dream!) was in fact tearing the very fabric of society apart.

This was the great era of slum clearance and park and library building—projects that never made a dime for anybody, and yet made every single city dweller massively richer.

The Western democracies, and in particularly the U.S.A, discovered communal values afresh in the 1930s after the capitalist beast was again unshackled and allowed to run amok (released by yet another generation of wild-eyed economic right-wingers who believed in the mythical “free market” the way 4-year-old girls believe in fairies).

And it looks—after the last spectacular round of suicidal libertarian bed-shitting—that we’re about to discover those values again. Let’s hope.

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Comments 1 - 7 of 7
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1. Phillycook said... on Mar 10, 2009 at 01:15PM

“Yes, yes and yes again.

Your last two paragraphs are the crowning touch - I was especially taken with the "suicidal libertarian" line. Ayn Rand and her present day disciples have much to answer for and if I believed in a hell, I'm sure she's there.”

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2. Libertarians are total scum! said... on Mar 10, 2009 at 02:42PM

“Yeah let's get the Libertarians! We know they caused the economic meltdown not only in the U.S. but in Britain too! Because Britain's libertarians run the entire government don't they. You bet your sweet ass they do! Gordon Brown calls himself Labour but we know he's a Ron Paul acolyte. They cleverly installed all those CCTV cameras just to make us think they weren't libertarians, that they were in fact the opposite of libertarians. Clever bunch thsee government haters, always head faking us and running misdirections. Then the libertarians do other tricky stuff like forcing Britons to have the highest personal debt loads not only in the world, but in the HISTORY OF THE WORLD. Who knew libertarians were so sneaky? Well, they are, because a Limey with a credit card is a reckless beast indeed. We know how they get with online pornography--another libertarian trick to enslave us and force Ayn Rand down our throats, so to speak. And if Ron Paul were here right now, I'd pimp slap him with a copy of "Atlas Shrugged." Amen Stevie!”

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3. U.W. said... on Mar 10, 2009 at 03:46PM

“My grandmother was alive in the 1930s. She hated it.”

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4. MR said... on Mar 10, 2009 at 04:29PM

“The intellectual thumb sucking of Wells' screed is a perfect example of why newspapers like the Inquirer and Daily News are failing. A sense of unencumbered entitlement and arrogance of belief. They think the rules don't apply to them and that society owes them a living. As a result they remain clueless to basic principles of finance and change.

Newspapers not a business?

Tell that to the people who work there. Tell that to the creditors the Inquirers of the world lied to and now won't pay.

The problem is newspapers in general have not been run as a business. They've been run by dilettantes and the idiot spawn of their founders. (And oh, the irony that an organ that delights in telling every business, government and individual how to run their life, can't run their own.)

Really how stupid must Inquirer management be if they can't make money as a monopoly?

They need to realize they sell information. Not badly written, badly printed stories.

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5. sj said... on Mar 11, 2009 at 02:42PM

“right on Steven.”

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6. the Steven Wells said... on Mar 12, 2009 at 09:18AM

“An angry young libertarian is complaining that the comment has been censored. (I think it more likely that it fell victim to a PW website re-launch teething problem.)

Here's the link to his blog on the subject, which includes a screenshot of the original comment.

So we all better now?”

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7. Anonymous said... on Jul 5, 2009 at 03:48PM

“@MR: twunt”


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