It’s Nobody’s Fault

Michael Connelly, letting everybody off the hook:

The Wall Street Journal:In this book Jack is quite bitter about being pushed out of his job. Who is the villain?

Michael Connelly: I don’t think there is a real
villain, which is what makes it good to write about. Papers are losing
money, which means measures have to be taken. You’re seeing cutbacks in
all phases. Because I’m an old reporter, I think the newsroom cutbacks
have a larger ripple effect in terms of what the papers deliver to the
community. In Los Angeles, the community isn’t getting the paper it got
even five years ago. The paper doesn’t have the resources. You see it
in the breadth and depth of the news reporting. Their commitment to the
news has been a retreat because of economic constraints. But it doesn’t
make the company a villain. What can it do? We’re seeing a societal

WSJ:How should the Chandler
family, which sold the Los Angeles Times to the Tribune Co., be judged
today? Were they smart to have sold when they did?

Mr. Connelly: It looks that way.
Should they have gone down with a sinking ship? I don’t think so. One
of the great things about fiction is you can use an issue and describe
it in human terms. Through this story you get a sense of what the
disappearing newspaper will mean for a community. But you don’t have to
have an answer. You can initiate thought and debate on the subject. I
don’t want to be didactic. The newspaper corporation isn’t the villain.
You can focus on the guy at the top as many do. But you have to
question what choices they have.

Okay. Fine. Let’s question what choices they have. I know Connelly meant this as some kind of shrug, as sort of “oh, well, what can you do?” kind of excuse, but I don’t, actually. It’s amazing how that works. I can question what choices they have because I know what choices they have and so does everybody else who possesses a functioning brain stem and the ability to read an income-expense statement.

The “choices” that were made, more often than not, were choices to give up rather than fight, to sit back and let others take the lead in innovation and invention rather than lead ourselves, to sacrifice the simple things readers wanted in favor of more and more and more profit, and to treat anyone with ideas about how to fix it like a cute little puppy yapping at their heels instead of listening and letting them help. The choice they had was to not suck anymore, and they chose to be paralyzed by fear and corporate assholitude and to do nothing, and now they want to blame “societal change.” And plenty of otherwise intelligent people are so Stockholmed by years of their bosses’ bullshit that they regurgitate it unthinkingly in interviews with the Wall Street Journal.

Goddammit, this pisses me off. It might be easier for Connelly and plenty of others to imagine this was the only way it could have gone. It might be easier for us all to think there was nothing we could have done, it’s a “societal change” (again, blaming the consumers for your product sucking is SUCH a smart marketing strategy), it’s all just out of our hands. Let’s move on, watch Good Morning America together and get closure. Well, fuck that. I sat in too many of those meetings. They don’t get to let themselves off the hook like that. It wasn’t “society” and it wasn’t the Internet and you can’t shrug off what happened by saying they had no choice.

Sam Zell had a choice when he overburdened the Tribune Co. with debt. Conrad Black and David Radler (MAY THEY ROT IN HELL) had a choice when they used Hollinger as an ATM for their personal amusement. Dennis Fitzsimmons had a choice when he walked away from the Tribune Company — having gutted and skullfucked it — with millions of dollars in compensation. The publisher of the Boston Globe will get a $1.5 million severance package should he get himself shitcanned. And Gannett papers are pulling down double-digit profits while talking about downturns and layoffs. The Rocky had thousands of subscribers. What were the choices they made? Can we question those?

Or does that get in the way of a good cynicism session? Jesus tits.


2 thoughts on “It’s Nobody’s Fault

  1. Rock on, Jesse:
    “It’s drowning. It gives you the complete sensation that you are drowning. It is no good, because you … I’ll put it to you this way, you give me a water board, Dick Cheney and one hour, and I’ll have him confess to the Sharon Tate murders.
    “I don’t have a lot of respect for Dick Cheney. Here’s a guy who got five deferments from the Vietnam War. Clearly, he’s a coward. He wouldn’t go when it was his time to go. And now he is a chicken hawk. Now he is this big tough guy who wants this hardcore policy. And he’s the guy that sanctioned all this torture by calling it enhanced interrogation.”
    You rock that receding mullet, too!

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