Pull Up a Lawn Chair

I’m quite baffled at the tone of editorial reaction and commentary by the goings at the Recorder in light of their recent acquisition and attendant management change.

According to the new owners and publisher, they state the following:

Both Kosineski and McClary said readers should be excited for the new, but gradual, changes that will help the newspaper advance to the next level.

“I expect that readers and advertisers will notice positive improvements in the papers very soon and will be pleased as future plans are implemented later this year,” McClary said.

Some changes Kosineski said he wants to make over time are printing a consistently larger paper and in full color. He said he wants to explore upgrading the paper’s overall design. Readers can also look forward to more in-depth reporting and expanded sports coverage.

Given those statements, I’d expect a sternly worded editorial against such expectations — growth, design,  investment, change. Why, there’s even a hint of –gasp–optimism?!

I would think the editors would face the reality that the newspaper industry trend is downward and the very last thing we should do is plan for growth or spend money on investment. Sure, you can change the corporate strategy here but should the editors not advocate for themselves what they preach other entities in decline to do — consolidate, slash costs, ignore design and aesthetic, and decry any efforts centered on technology. Should the editors not warn the new owners , like they editorialize to existing businesses,  that city tax rates may rise and businesses and consumers — the very life blood of their newspaper — will flee?

Of course, my equivalency of the economic environment facing the local newspaper to the economic environment facing the city will be challenged as apples and oranges or perhaps, more aptly, demolition balls and lawn chairs.  I disagree as the dire economic challenges facing the city as a result of significant technology, cultural and economic changes mirror quite closely to the radical changes faced by newspapers.

You see, the very advice administered daily and year-in-year-out to the city administration by the editorial pages of the Recorder — cut costs, forsake growth, consolidate, forsake any new approaches or change, shun the Web and technology, take no risks, and even, believe it or not, even cease to exist as an entity — is suddenly cast aside.

Why can the Recorder — in a state of decline and weakened competitiveness — deem itself worthy of adapting and changing while not granting , and even advocating against, the city from pursuing a similar transformation?

Indeed, the editorial pages took particular delight with the demolition of Chalmers quipping that it was an event worthy of a lawn chair to sit and watch the attendant destruction, not only of the physical but, I daresay, of the very notion of change, optimism and progress. That’s what made it all the more spectacular. What better metaphor to the future of the city as one of ultimate decline and hopelessness with which we are meant to watch , helpless and resigned to its downward spiral. But I guess lawn chairs lose their charm when they encircle your very own building.

I like highlighting Chalmers as it teaches us many things about issues subject to this editorial mindset of cutting versus growing, demolishing versus building, consolidating versus focusing. But ,by no means, is Chalmers the only issue framed in this way as many posts on this blog prove.

I think this lawn chair mindset of do-nothingness, fatalism, passiveness, unimaginativeness, risk-aversion, and on, just needs to stop as it is fundamentally toxic to building anything — whether it is a business or a city.  If the Recorder wants us to believe that strategy, investment, change and technology matter, they should consider extending that courtesy to other entities facing their own challenges who also believe they might have a chance to turn things around.

I wish the new owners and all the Recorder folks well on their new course and for the record, I don’t own any lawn chairs.


4 thoughts on “Pull Up a Lawn Chair

  1. “Gentlemen, gentlemen…we have to protect our phony-baloney jobs!” – Mel Brooks in Blazing Saddles

  2. I proposed a while back that the Recorder consolidate with the Leader Herald and I think I made a very good argument using exactly the same reasoning as many editorials and opinion pieces featured in the Recorder used. This idea of trying to be more competitive is just tomfoolery, sheesh!

    Seriously, though, the old owners did follow their own advice, they quit. That is completely consistent. Hopefully the positive attitude the new owners have will be infectious in the community!

    • Tim,
      Your argument is indisputable in establishing consolidation as the only reasonable choice–why do we need two newspapers?. Apparently their failure to do so proves that , as they like to say of others who turn against consolidation, their decision is one strictly based on “emotions”.

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