September 19, 2006

The 527 Media Has Totally Abandoned Business Sense

This post could be a mile long, and I’ve promised myself I’m going to cut back on the long ones.

So let me simply say this: When I started blogging, I expected the repeated failures by the business press to objectively and accurately describe what is happening in the economy and the government to give me plenty of material to work with. And it has.

What I did not expect, and what continues to amaze me, is the total lack of business sense in the newsrooms of America.

Fundamentally, in a business transaction, each party operates expecting to be treated fairly by the other. Of course, fairness is in the eye of the beholder, but so is the perception that the other party is trying to be fair.

It has become painfully obvious that all too often the press doesn’t even try to be fair with its viewers and readers, doesn’t even try to be balanced and objective, and simply doesn’t care if we don’t like it. That would be fine if there weren’t alternatives, but there are plenty, and The 527 Media companies are paying the steep price of lost readership and viewership that can’t be explained away by whining, “Oh, it’s the Internet.”

The people in charge of The 527 Media companies either can’t or won’t get their newsrooms to acknowledge that their conduct is hurting their businesses, and has the potential in many instances to deal blows that will put them out of business, or at least leave them as shells of their former selves.

Five examples of press coverage that is not only dumb but also costly to the businesses themselves will suffice (I could probably come up with 50 and barely break a sweat), and then my brief-post pledge will shut me up:

  • Plamegate — It should have been obvious to anyone that only the most dedicated of partisans would even try to follow the ins and outs of this story, and that continuing to beat on it would alienate readers. Beyond that, now that the leaker has been identified and the press found to be at least complicit in perpetuating a story that those covering it almost certainly knew wasn’t going anywhere, the wrath of readers and viewers who DID invest their time in following these stories will be strong. Relevant NewsBusters posts on Plamegate are here, here, and here. Jeff Babbin at American Spectator has the definitive take (“A Special Place in Hell”; HT e-mailer Larwyn) on the Plamegate fallout.
  • The White House Press Corps’ ConductTheir boorishness is on display for all to see within minutes of when it occurs. How many viewers are going to make it a point to avoid watching yet another prolonged game of “gotcha”?
  • The ID Games — Newspapers and broadcasts stubbornly refuse to identify the origin of who has committed a crime (illegal immigrant, race, ethnicity, Muslim terrorist, etc.), even when that person is at large and the public could be of help in nabbing the perp. People are not going to buy newspapers or view TV shows if they feel that the media outlets involved won’t even carry out their minimal civic duties.
  • No Political Coverage of Legitimate Challengers — This one partcularly frosts me, as those who have read this post and others know, from the standpoint of basic fairness. But from a business perspective, failing to cover challengers is dumb too. Isn’t it reasonable to assume that The Cincinnati Enquirer would have sold more than a few additional papers if it had reported that Mike DeWine was losing party endorsement contests to his challenger, including one in Clermont County? An upset by a local sports team sells papers; the four upsets DeWine suffered at the hands of local resident Bill Pierce should have been covered for that reason alone.
  • The AP Photographer/Terrorist in Iraq — The latest from Michelle Malkin (HT Sister Toldjah) is that:

    “Bilal Hussein had strong insurgent ties.”

    The underlying story has the Pentagon saying that:

    “In three separate “independent objective reviews, it was determined that Hussein was a security threat and recommended his continued detention.”

    Is the AP so tone-deaf that it doesn’t realize that having a terrorist on its payroll might affect readers’ attitudes towards the wire service, and the papers that carry its stories?

Like I said, that’s a quick five, and I could get to 50 without any trouble (let’s see, there’s Reuters Fauxtography, the fake dead guy, the fake press vehicle bombing, the Red Cross ambulance hoax, Green Helmet Guy, hammering the “no Iraq-Al Qaeda ties” when they reported the opposite in 1999 (HT Gateway Pundit via Wizbang; Update — also noticed today by Porkopolis, who has another link about the link) ….. (stop, fingers, stop!).

One wonders what it will take for the people who own and run The 527 Media businesses to tire of watching their newsrooms destroy business value, resist their pleas that the newspeople know best because they are (all bow, please) “journalists,” and return some sanity to the situation.

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UPDATE: In an e-mail earlier today, Porkopolis pointed me to an item by Jeff Jarvis about a successful German totally-online newspaper effort. Notably, it was a ground-up effort, not some kind of brand extension.

The Economy: When You Don’t Like the Facts, Use Contrary Anecdotes, and Bury the Facts

Yesterday, Stephen Spruiell at National Review’s Media Blog noticed the NewsBusters version of this BizzyBlog post from Sunday on the continued decline in the welfare rolls as a jumping-off point to criticize an AP story by Liz Sidoti (my link is to the CBS web site insead of the Yahoo! link, but it’s the same story). I was trying to figure out what to do with it myself, because it’s a gloomy recitation of theh views of a few Midwestern “everyday people” on the economy.

Spruiell cleverly went for help to the usually astute Captain Ed, who did not disappoint:

Sidoti at least relates some of the true economic data, even if she does so dismissively. She reports the 5.7 million jobs created over the last three years, making hash of the argument that Democrats used in 2004 of a “job-free recovery”. Remember that canard? That doesn’t get a mention in Sidoti’s article. She also notes that unemployment is down to its lowest level in almost ten years and that wages are rising, although she claims that inflation takes a big chunk out of them. She also states ominously that economists predict “subdued” growth but most don’t expect a recession.

Interesting, then, that she chooses to lead with such a distorted sense of the economy in the first five paragraphs of her piece. If Sidoti’s job is to report the news, then why doesn’t she do so until halfway down the piece, and why did the AP headline writer create such a misleading banner for the story?
By all measures, the economy has grown substantially and broadly, and it continues to do so. Instead of reporting the real effects of the economic policies of the last few years, the media seems determined to distort the record by highlighting the exceptions and eschewing real data for anecdotes. Unfortunately, Sidoti’s approach will surprise no one familiar with the media’s political biases.

Read the AP story yourself. Captain Ed is absolutely correct.

Psst, No One Will Believe This — Afghanistan Has a Booming Economy

From Ann Marlowe in a subscription-only Wall Street Journal op-ed:

KABUL — The recent spate of violence shouldn’t be allowed to detract from the real story here: Afghanistan’s booming economy. Frightened by exaggerated scare stories, American and other Western companies are missing out on lucrative investment opportunities grasped by ostensibly less sophisticated Afghan and regional players.

There’s no shortage of profit to be made in an economy that grew 14% in the 12 months to March 21, and is expected to expand by a similar amount in the current financial year. In Kabul alone the number of cars and taxis has increased by one-third since last year to 400,000, up from fewer than 1,000 under the Taliban. Large sections of the city boast three- and four-storey buildings where mud brick houses stood only a few years ago, and twin 17- and 20-storey towers are currently under construction in Herat.

Telecom was one of the first big success stories. U.S. companies stood by as Afghanistan’s first four mobile-phone licenses were auctioned off, starting in January 2003. The Afghan-American and regional investors who got licenses have profited as the number of private mobile-phone users rocketed from zero to 1.5 million over the last five years.

Now finance and banking is taking off — and, once again, Western companies are missing out.

….. Local and regional businessmen have been quick to see the huge opportunities presented by Afghanistan’s booming economy. Kabul Bank, Azizi Bank and AIB all have Afghan or Afghan-diaspora ownership. Others should take their cue from these insiders. If only American and other Western investors could see past the doomsayers, they too could play a part in the Afghan economic success story. It is this, together with decisive military responses to the insurgents and drug traffickers, that will ensure Afghanistan becomes a stable member of the community of nations.

Would it be fair to blame The 527 Media if Western companies lose out on the business opportunities in Afghanistan (just reading that phrase must seem bizarre to many)? To an extent, though the big banks and telecoms at least should know better than to believe everything they read from people who inexplicably seem to have a vested interest in the failure of the War on Terror.

But don’t worry. In a few years, if prosperity really does takes hold in Afghanistan, The 527 Media will show up to complain about income inequality, or affordable housing, or something else.

Instapundit Is Right: “This Stinks”

Filed under: News from Other Sites,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 8:17 am

He’s talking about this.

What I don’t believe he realizes is that it’s been going on for over a year. The police response to all of this is especially pathetic.

The McCarthy Question (“At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”) comes to mind.

Speaking of How the Mighty Have Fallen

Filed under: Taxes & Government — Tom @ 8:12 am

As I was with GM and Ford in the previous entry …. It’s almost impossible to be in Ohio and not be saddened by this:

Clarett OKs 3 1/2-Year Prison Term
September 18, 2006

Former Ohio State football star Maurice Clarett agreed in court to plead guilty to aggravated robbery and carrying a concealed weapon in a deal that will send him to prison for at least 3 1/2 years to end two criminal cases against him.

Sources tell The Columbus Dispatch and other local media that Franklin County Common Pleas Judge David Fais will sentence Clarett to 7 1/2 years in prison with an opportunity for early release.

Clarett is getting what he deserved. What is so sad is seeing someone with so much talent and potential squander it all. He had help from a lot of people who should have known better, but the primary responsibility is his.

One can only hope that Clarett learns something in the next 3-1/2 years.

Ford and GM: That This Is Even Being Discussed Shows How the Mighty Have Fallen

Filed under: Business Moves,Economy — Tom @ 8:07 am

I’d like to see what the initial reaction to this was in the formerly cozy confines of Solidarity House:

DETROIT (AP) — Executives of General Motors Corp. and Ford Motor Co. have discussed a possible merger or alliance, the trade journal Automotive News reported Monday. Both companies declined comment.

Selected Previous Posts:

  • Aug. 16 — Family Minority Ownership with Voting Control: Another Reason Why Ford May Not Be Able to Turn Around
  • Aug. 1 — The Car Dealer-State Government Racket
  • July 27 — Ford May Be the Weaker of the Big Two Auto Companies
  • Mar. 22 — General Motors Partially “Privatizes” Retirement in Its Buyout of Thousands of Workers
  • Feb. 9 — UAW Splinter Group May Have Cost Western Michigan a Multibillion-Dollar Toyota Plant
  • Jan. 4, 2006 — Passage of the Day: Barone Compares Wal-Mart to General Motors (Who Do You Think Comes Out Better?)
  • Nov. 22, 2005 — Like a Rock — Not
  • Oct. 15 — Excerpt of the Day: Barone on the Domestic Auto Industry
  • May 12 – Car Business Links of the Day
  • April 26 — General Motors on the Ropes (Maybe Ford, Too)

Ho-Hum Hiring Headline (091906)

Filed under: Business Moves,Economy — Tom @ 8:02 am

From Houston:

BP takes part in office boom
The Energy Corridor expands as higher oil prices push resurgence in exploration

Oil giant BP is planning a major expansion of its West Houston campus to accommodate 2,000 new workers over the next few years.

The company recently added 50 acres to the campus at Interstate 10 and West Lake Park Boulevard and plans to build a seven-story, 390,000-square-foot, environmentally friendly building for its natural gas and power trading business.

….. BP has 96,000 employees worldwide, but Houston is its largest single location. Exploration and production already employs about 3,500 here, there are 1,500 in the trading and marketing business and 1,000 more on the 97-acre campus work in other divisions, such as ones that offer support services or imports and markets liquefied natural gas.

The construction and renovation work announced Thursday is expected to cost about $250 million, said BP spokeswoman Annie Smith, adding that planned future projects could push the total to $660 million. The initial phase will include a parking garage for 1,700 cars and the widening of Grisby Road. Added parking is a priority because the BP campus has only 100 spare parking spaces.

Brussels Court Begins Unwinding the Internet as a Free Reference Tool

Filed under: Consumer Outrage,Corporate Outrage,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 7:57 am

BizzyBlog readers already saw this coming. Well, here it is:

A Brussels court has ordered internet giant Google to pay 1 million euro a day if it does not remove all news articles and pictures from French and German language newspapers on its news site, Belgian media reported on Monday.

“The judgment, dating back to September 5, made public only yesterday (Sunday), says that Google provides texts after the publishers have taken them off their own websites,” Flemish newspaper De Morgen reported.

The court considered this a breach of authors’ rights, as well as Belgian law on databanks, the daily said.

If the ruling is not published on Google’s Belgian website, the company will have to pay another half a million euro per day.

….. In De Morgen, director of the Flemish Daily Press Alex Fordyn complained that often the fact that journalists and publishers have to be paid for their research is forgotten by those who advocate news should be free for everyone.

I believe the traffic generated from a Google listing is compensation for that research, and that it’s up to the news media to figure out how to make money from the additional traffic generated.

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Related: Someone else agrees — “How Dare Google Send Belgian News Sites Traffic! Court Orders Them To Stop”

“Hotel Minibar” Keys Open Diebold Voting Machines

Here’s the item (HT Techdirt).

Geez, if you take something out a hotel’s minibar, at least the hotel knows.

Based on the Princeton report released last week on the vulnerability of Diebold machines to hacking, someone can take or switch “things” (i.e., votes), and no one would know.

Now we learn that getting into the machine in the first place is pretty easy too. Marvelous.

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UPDATE: Glenn “Instapundit” Reynolds has a TCS Daily column today on our flawed voting system. He emphasizes that voting hardware and voting procedures require equal attention, and that those who are focusing on hardware while pooh-poohing procedures (cleaning up voter rolls, presenting ID, etc.) should be assumed to be not legitamately worried about fraud. I could not agree more.

Positivity: New Orleans Superdome to Reopen

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 6:02 am

Shortly after Hurricane Katrina, several news organizations, including the one at this link stated AS A FACT that the New Orleans Superdome would have to be torn down. Some others who reported the same news have links here and here (Washington Post saying that ABC News reported it the previous evening).

Someone forgot to tell Paul Griesemer and the Kansas City architectural firm Ellerbe Becket. The Dome, not just salvaged but improved, will be the site of its first post-Katrina National Football League game next Monday night (HT Interested-Participant):

KC architects help rebuild Saints’ home
September 15, 2006

Paul Griesemer donned a protective Tyvek safety suit and respirator and carried a flashlight as he inspected a darkened and damaged Louisiana Superdome last October.

Griesemer, architectural director of Kansas City’s Ellerbe Becket, and his inspection team of nearly 50 engineers, architects and consultants, crawled though the crippled building, going from room to room, section to section, floor to ceiling, assessing the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina and determining whether the Louisiana landmark could be saved.

It took nearly three months just to complete the inspection and determine it would take $185 million to restore the 1.9 million-square-foot edifice. That was followed by nearly another three months to remove 5,000 tons of damaged and water-soaked carpeting, sheetrock, ceiling tiles, furniture and equipment and 3.8 million gallons of water from the dome and garages.

Then it took six months of 850 around-the-clock workers getting the Superdome functioning in time for this football season.

On Sept. 25, the world will see the results of the project when the New Orleans Saints face Atlanta in their first regular-season game at the Superdome since 2004.

“This was a chance to be involved in something truly historic,” said Griesemer. “Not just from a football stadium or NFL stadium, but the building was such a focal point of the human tragedy, and in the same regard, it’s going to be the focal point of the rebuilding.

“The world is going to come back and see a rebuilt Superdome. It’s been a Herculean effort, just like this whole city and whole community has gone through a Herculean effort, and it’s going to be a symbol of these people to get something done.”

Ellerbe Becket, one of Kansas City’s renowned sports architectural firms, has designed and renovated some of the nation’s finest stadiums, including Qwest Field in Seattle and the refurbished Lambeau Field in Green Bay, but nothing could compare to the daunting task of this project.

“It is the biggest rebuilding project of any stadium in the history of the United States,” said Bill Curl, spokesman for SMG, which operates the Superdome.

Ellerbe Becket had one advantage in that it had been chosen a few years ago to examine potential improvements of the Superdome, which opened 1975.

“We had a lot of knowledge where the building was going to be susceptible,” Griesemer said. “I can’t say I foresaw everything we found. … The first thing we had to do was test everything. We tested every system, all the security systems, all the elevators, escalators, all the food service equipment. Everything was turned on and tested to determine what the true damage was.

“A lot of what was affected the worst were a lot of the specialty systems, the phone systems, the audio systems, the things that are high-tech and affected by moisture. A lot of those we’re replacing completely. We’re recabling the building. Those things have been a challenge.”

The biggest challenge was repairing the 9.7-acre roof that rises 273 feet — or 27 stories — above downtown New Orleans. It cost $32.5 million to complete the largest reroofing project of its kind in the United States.

In addition to the repairs, the renovated Superdome includes a new scoreboard/video board system with LED ribbon message board; complete remodeling of 38 permanent concession stands; upgrading 8,000 club level sideline seats and 4,000 box suite seats; and still in progress are 137 remodeled suites and four club lounges.

“The building was designed in a different generation of sports facilities,” Griesemer said. “It’s a hugely flexible building and generates a huge amount of revenue because of it, but in terms of the NFL and the revenue needed to stay competitive, it was done in a different generation.

….. While some might question placing a priority on rebuilding a stadium when there is so much other destruction in New Orleans, the community made restoring the Superdome a priority. SMG and Curl conducted dozens of tours of the Superdome with reporters from around the world during the last few weeks.“New Orleans will say to the world on Sept. 25, ‘Look what we did, and look at how this city is doing,” Curl said. “We are the symbol. Before Katrina, most people in the country, certainly sports fans, knew the Saints play at the Superdome, and they’ve had some Super Bowls and Final Fours there. And they are pretty sure it’s in New Orleans. Now, the entire world equates the Superdome with New Orleans because of the stories and the video that emanated from Katrina.”

The Saints players can’t wait to get inside.