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State of the Debate
George Pyle
George Pyle has been a newspaper writer in Kansas, Utah, Upstate New York, and now Utah again, for more than 30 years - most of it as an editorial writer and columnist. Now on his second tour of duty on The Salt Lake Tribune Editorial Board, he has also done a stretch as a talk radio host, published a book on the ongoing flaws of U.S.agricultural policy and, in 1998, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Writing. His most active bookmarks are Andrew Sullivan, Christopher Hitchens and Tina Brown. And he still thinks the Internet can be used for intelligent conversation and uplifting ideas.

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Times-Picayune editor Jim Amoss answers questions from members of the newsroom staff during a meeting at the New Orleans offices, Thursday, May 24, 2012. (AP Photo/The Times-Picayune, Ted Jackson) MAGS OUT; NO SALES; USA TODAY OUT
Newspaper news: Good and bad ...

The good news:

- The News, dailies get Buffett vote of confidence - Margaret Sullivan, The Buffalo News

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A letter from the world's best-known investor, Warren Buffett, was made public, describing the reasons he thinks newspapers can make it in the digital world. ...

... Local newspapers can thrive if they "reign supreme" in local news. Buffett wrote: "I believe newspapers that intensively cover their communities will have a good future. It's your job to make your paper indispensable to anyone who cares about what is going on in your city or town."

I would add one very important proviso to Uncle Warren's wise words. Covering your community means covering your congressional delegation.

The bad news:

- In Which a Still-Great Newspaper Surrenders - Charles P. Pearce, Esquire.com

One of the greatest sustained performances in the history of American newspapers was the one put on by the New Orleans Times-Picayune during, and in the immediate aftermath, of Hurricane Katrina. Operating, I am told, literally at some points by candlelight, the staff managed to the point of exhaustion to keep the drowning city informed of what was going on in and around it. I mention this because, today, it was announced that the Times-Picayune will cut its print editions back to three days a week because, as we know, everyone who matters in New Orleans is fully wired into the Internet. (In the Ninth Ward in particular, laptops grow on trees.) Naturally, this will require a third of the staff to get thrown out of work. Is this because the newspaper is unprofitable? Of course not. The staff found out about all of this by reading about it in the New York Times. Classy.

I know the Intertoobz are the future — teach them well and let them lead the way — but this just sucks pond water in all kinds of ways. Of all the cities in the country, New Orleans should be the one most aware that a huge number of Americans don't have access to the Toobz. (Another thing Newt Gingrich was right about, by the way.) Gutting a profitable newspaper in a city like New Orleans is the functional equivalent in an information sense of lining up to piss into a reservoir. The main reason that newspapers are failing in this country is that they are being set up to fail by publishers who think like hedge fund cowboys, and by editors who think like corporate officers. If there's another major institution in this country that hasn't yet gone out of its way to fail the people of New Orleans, I don't know what it is.

That quote is kinda long for an aggregator blog like this one, I know. But cutting a word out of it would be criminal.



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