Archive | December, 2009

On The Reading Of The Newspapers

23 Dec

Margaret Sullivan wrote another defensive defense of the newspaper industry this week. I can’t blame her. I would feel beset on all sides too if my job was to continually produce a product fewer and fewer people want.

Here at WNYMedia, we have a lot of great things planned for 2010. Most involved getting the readers of the content more involved with the producers. In other words, you help decide what stories we cover. Its not just a one way pontification . . . though I bet that will continue as well.

Its exciting to be part of this news revolution – I hopped on this ship at the right time. I’m also all in favor of this hyper-local news model. Which is why it may surprise you to hear that I (or anyone at WNYMedia) still subscribe to the daily print edition of The Buffalo News. It is not because I am 80 years old. My reason: completeness.

I travel a lot. When on the road, I obviously still want to keep in touch, so I read The Buffalo News online everyday. And it takes me about 6 seconds. At home, reading the print edition tales me a half hour or longer. Why? I read the paper nearly cover to cover, and at least scan every page. I pick up the cues on what’s “important” by story placement and size. I scan the first couple paragraphs of some stories and see if I’m interested. I read George Will and Eugene Robinson. I know some of the most interesting tidbits are always in the Local section, page 3, under “Local News Briefs.” And when I’m done, I know I’ve seen it all. No news is hiding from me. Things have happened since the edition was printed, but those things will be in the next paper. Nothing is missed.

Contrast this with Top stories are jumbled or in random order. Stories are in “sections” but not necessarily where they’d be found in the print paper. Updates come throughout the day, but shift locations. Stories are updated and changed, with no notice or evidence of what was changed. Local columnists are not separated or highlighted. Stories appear and disappear. The search function is almost useless. You get the sense that important news is hiding from you somewhere on the site. And most frustratingly, you can’t see stories more than a couple weeks old. All in all, there is no sense of completely, finality, or definition. Slapdash is the word I am searching for, I believe. Its so bad I have my wife save all the old print copies while I’m gone, and I read them when I return from a business trip, so I can see what I missed.

One could imagine a Machiavellian scheme to make the online Buffalo news so bad to keep readers buying the expensive paper copy. I do not give them that much credit. I think they’re still not sure how to present news online – though they do a significantly better job than some major cities.

But there are other models, and I will give two local ones: us and Buffalo Business First. Note that here at WNYMedia we have some highlighted stories up front, and then a chronological (!) list of stories under Artvoice, WECK or WNYMedia. Columnists are highlighted in, once again, chronological order. If you check back a couple times a day, you know you’ve seen everything. If you need to see a favorite columnist’s older work, you can read to your heart’s content. Business First too, keeps things organized. And my favorite function – if you are a subscriber, you can read the digital print edition each week. And its the actual print edition, just on teh internets. Once again, nothing is missed.

The city of Buffalo will be better served by having a competent daily newspaper of record. It is my hope the Buffalo News figures out how to do that in the internet age before it goes bankrupt.

If You Go Carryin' Pictures of Chairman Mao

23 Dec

Idiots are upset that Obama’s Christmas tree contains an ornament with a reproduction Warhol print of Chairman Mao.

I guess they take this as proof positive that Obama is transforming the country into a place where our society could pretty much skip the whole bourgeois capitalist phase anticipated by Marxist philosophy, and go directly to socialism on its way to communism using the peasants as the vanguard of the revolution to wage guerrilla war against feudal leaders.

Or something.

Meanwhile, Obama’s just pissed off the left wing of his own party, because he’s such a moderate centrist.

Seriously, it would so much help if people knew what they were talking about when they throw the dumb around.

Transparent Truck

23 Dec

Art Lebedev studio designed a “transparent” truck to enable you to see what’s in front of it.

Did You Pray Hard Enough?

23 Dec

The Republican Party has taken to praying for the death of Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV) in an effort to ensure that the status quo be maintained and 40+ million Americans remain uninsured. Death panels indeed,

“What the American people ought to pray is that somebody can’t make the vote tonight.”

— Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), on the cloture vote for the health care reform bill scheduled for 1 a.m. ET.

Whilst classy as all getout, there was this exchange on C-SPAN, where a teabagger thought all those imprecatory prayers had mistakenly killed Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), who was absent for the 1 a.m. cloture vote instead.


Disruption Trumps Education

22 Dec


There was a candidates’ forum scheduled last Friday evening to introduce Democratic committeepeople in the city’s Ellicott District to the candidates vying to be appointed to replace disgraced convict Brian Davis in the Common Council.

But members of PigeonCaseyWorld Grassroots, including Davis himself and deal-cutting county legislator Barbara Miller-Williams, disrupted the forum and called for an immediate vote to replace Davis with the Rev. Darius Pridgen.

Jim Heaney reports that the Grassroots people stormed out, and Champ Eve’s group was also a no-show. Only 32 of 84 committeepeople showed up in the first place, and after the temper tantrums had subsided, only 20 bothered to sit and listen to the candidates who arrived to earn support.

Pridgen? The man who is to be the beneficiary of this toddleresque bluster?

The Rev. Darius Pridgen showed up an hour-and-a-half late, with numerous supporters in tow.

Pridgen explained his supporters were circling the building in their cars seven times to bring down the walls erected by the Democratic Party, alluding to the biblical story of the Battle of Jericho in which the Children of Israel circled the city seven times until its walls came tumbling down.

If that’s not enough to disqualify him as a serious candidate, I don’t know what is. He shows up late and makes up stuff that is ridiculous and insulting. Fantastic.

Seems to me that the Ellicott District, and the city, will continue to be ill-served for years to come.

And we’re busy worrying about Peace Bridges and reviving the private sector in the city.


22 Dec

If 2009 was the year of the shrinking town board, let 2010 be the year that people discuss the abolition of county government.

Everyone CTFO

22 Dec

Ezra Klein tackles the progressives’ Obama’s-betrayal narrative:

Thanks to the magic of Google, it’s easy enough to revisit the plan (pdf) Obama campaigned on in light of the plan that seems likely to pass. And there are, to be sure, some differences. The public option did not survive the Senate. The individual mandate, which Obama campaigned against, was added after key members of Congress and the administration realized that the plan wouldn’t function in its absence. Drug reimportation was defeated, and a vague effort to have government pick up some catastrophic costs was never really mentioned.

But the basic structure of the proposal is remarkably similar.


But whether you love the Senate bill or loathe it, whether you’re impressed by Obama’s effort or disappointed, it is very hard to argue that the bill Congress looks likely to pass is fundamentally different from the approach Obama initially advocated. “The Obama-Biden plan both builds on and improves our current insurance system,” the campaign promised, and on that, for better or for worse, they’ve delivered. You can debate whether Obama should have lashed himself to such an incremental and status-quo oriented approach, but you cannot argue that he kept it a secret.

As I’ve been saying all week, this is a positive change that lays the groundwork for future improvement. Taking this first, arguably incomplete, step towards health insurance reform, where consumer protections are implemented, and the notion that all Americans have access to insurance is implemented, is critically important. It is a massive sea-change, regardless of whether it has a public option in it at this time.

So, not only is the macro reform incomplete, but so is the legislation itself. Hissy fits are unbecoming, and while we should certainly be working to reduce the influence of campaign cash on legislators, and we should be ensuring that congresspeople are providing us with their “honest services”, we have to work within the system we have now to get this huge and positive – yet incremental – change.

Bill of Rights

22 Dec

The air passenger’s bill of rights will go into effect in the spring, imposing strict fines on air carriers who let people languish on the tarmac for hours on end.

airlines that do not provide food and water after two hours or a chance to disembark after three hours will face penalties of $27,500 a passenger,

The rules go into effect without congressional approval, but John Cole took the opportunity to quip:

Sounds good, but I’ve been told if Obama used his bully pulpit and really got in front of the issue, he could have gotten rid of airline delays completely.


21 Dec

Diss Collins

21 Dec

County Executive and agenda-fighter Chris Collins is gearing up for some sort of statewide political race, most likely for governor. This despite a spotty, politics-laden, light-on-substance first couple of years as head of Erie County.

Collins is seen as politically aligned with Rudy Giuliani, but the former New York City mayor reportedly endorsed Collins’ rival for the gubernatorial nomination, Rick Lazio. Perhaps Collins is being groomed by Giuliani to run as Lazio’s running mate, and a deal has been struck.

The notion that Collins is ready for a statewide run is a joke, his fundraising prowess notwithstanding. No one downstate has heard of him, and the first thing they’ll hear is that he compared a Jewish downstate politician to Hitler and the anti-Christ. That’s no, I say, that’s no way to start out a NY statewide political campaign, son. /Leghorn

Likewise, I am unenthused by an Andrew Cuomo run for governor. The AG does a great job as AG, but the thing is that I’m liking a lot of what both Lazio and Paterson have to say about reforming New York State. I welcome a substantive race for governor where tough, unpopular or controversial choices are discussed openly.