Thursday, March 12, 2009

Newspapers: going, going, gone.

One of my three wishes for the Genie when he appears in front of me is to always know the exact right thing to say at the precise moment it needs to be said. The Genie has not appeared and now, when I need those perfect words, I can't find the right ones to comfort or inspire. The best I can do is go out and make a photograph. A Canadian goose in flight. Fly away and be free.

My head and heart are having trouble staying connected this week following the announcement of more layoffs of journalists at the Sacramento Bee. My head knew it was coming, my heart is not as accommodating and aches for my friends and former colleagues who are now tossed into the burgeoning ranks of the unemployed. The process, from this distant point of view, appears flawed..again. No upper management layoffs; only the folks who actually do the work of getting out on the streets to get the stories and photographs get axed. The list is there for all to see on the Sacramento Bee Guild website.

The first person I heard sound the siren of the quantum shift of news dissemination from newsprint to online was the former publisher of the Courier-Journal and Louisville Times, Barry Bingham Jr. in 1982 when the internet was barely out of the womb. His vision of people reading the news off computer screens instead of newsprint was not readily accepted. He was predicting that new world journalism be round, not flat. And he was more right than he'll ever know. He died in 2006 without seeing the current march of many major U.S. newspapers, like a herd of wildebeests plunging over a cliff in very slow-motion, to obscurity or outright oblivion.

I rarely have dreams that I recall but I had one recently that sticks in my mind. I was standing in an orchard in California and there were no bees buzzing around. The thought I had in the scene was that the collapse of the bee colonies was a siren warning that that the financial world, without the banking and credit markets pollinating as they are supposed to, would lead to world economic turmoil. The bees were fleeing, like coastal animals who sense an oncoming tsunami and move to higher ground long before humans figure out what's happening.

Awakening, I'm at a loss for words.

1 comment: said...

Hi Jay -
I really appreciate your missives, particularly on the demise of newspapers. My dad worked for the Bee, the Union, Davis Enterprise, Daily Democrat and a string of others going all the way back to the Post and the Greeley Gazette. Your words are well chosen.

I'm a riding buddy of Gene Masuda, happy to have found your blog through him. Take care -
~ Peter Saucerman