One of my favorite jokes has unfortunately come true in
Two little old ladies are sitting down for tea and talking
about their daughters.
“My Jeanie has so many nice boyfriends,” the one began.
“She’s always out to eat at the nicest restaurants. She gets to see the best
shows and attend the nicest concerts. And the men are so generous with their
money. They buy her such nice things…”
“Yeah,” The second one chimes in. “My daughter’s a whore
The folks at the Belo Corporation are implementing “bold strategies” that involve news
people reporting to sales people. The folks launching this thing are living
under the delusion held by the first little old lady. The rest of us see it
like the second little old lady.
To that end, I want to see Bob Mong dressed in clear heels
and a latex mini skirt. That way, he’d have a harder time looking at himself in
the mirror and trying to convince himself that he’s not a whore this morning.
It might not be his fault. Perhaps he realized Belo turned on his newsroom and
the rest of its journalistic properties by mandating this “synergy” of news and
ads. Perhaps he knows it’s an unholy alliance, the likes of which would have
the authors of the Bill of Rights spinning in their graves fast enough to
create a black hole. Perhaps he looks at this the way a garbage man looks at garbage:
It’s all trash. It’s a job. It pays the bills. I don’t know how he rationalizes
this set up, or if he even believes in what he’s pumping out of “Bold Strategy
Central.” The point is, he’s trumpeting this and that’s despicable.
You can put a happy face on this all you want. You can say
it’s been done before in more subtle and surreptitious ways at every news
agency in the country. You can say that there’s a line that’s drawn and that we
don’t cross it. That’s all fine and good, but when you keep moving the line the
way the DMN has now, you are never sure if you’ll cross the line or the line
will cross you. For decades, the rule was that the money twerps stayed out of
the way of the news geeks and vice versa. We didn’t let you tell us to print a
story on a new business in town in hopes of getting some ads and you didn’t let
us tell you that you couldn’t take an ad because we were going after them with
a story. That was a nice, thick, broad line. BELO’s line is a narrow one that
has the tensile strength of wet tissue paper. You can’t even call it a line.
You can’t even dress it up as some bastion of safety against what could lead to
clear conflicts of interest where money holds the ace in the deck. If this
abomination were to be tried and the two sides were equals in the discussion,
it would still be horrible, but at least there wouldn’t be such an egregious
power imbalance. Having the ad people serve as bosses for the news people goes
against the basic idea ofhow a
U.S. newspaper should work.
Sure, times are tough. Sure newspapers are in trouble. And
sure, if it weren’t for this damned Internet, these unethical bloggers and
these kids with their hippity hoppity music, we’d be so much better off in
life. However, selling out your paper because times are tough is the LAST thing
you should consider doing, regardless of how “bold” of a move it is.
Thus, you have two choices: Either get the hell out of the situation
and keep your high ground or put on the red dress.
Either way, admit what you’re doing. The honesty would be refreshing.