Thursday, March 22, 2007

Looking into the future: The Day the Presses Stopped

Attention: Editors & Publishers
Newspapers no longer printed
Monday, January 1, 2057

SHENANDOAH, Iowa (AP) – The last 600 copies of Iowa’s Shenandoah Valley News rolled off the presses last night, making it the last U.S. newspaper to shut down its print edition and closing a chapter in the history of the American daily newspaper industry.

Starting today, if the local population wants to read the Valley News, they’ll need to make sure their subscription is paid up so they can access the newspaper on the Internet.

The Shenandoah Valley News stood out in the landscape of the American daily newspaper industry because it was the sole, remaining holdout with a printed edition. Prior to the Valley News closing its printed edition, there had been a group of small newspapers in Kentucky that continued to offer a print edition but they were discontinued five years ago.

As of today, not a single American daily newspaper is printed. If anyone wants to read a daily newspaper published in the United States, they’ll need access to the Internet, and, more often than not, a valid subscription, so they can read it on their home, office, car or handheld computer as well as the many other ways that the Internet can be accessed.

The Shenandoah Valley News, until 10 years ago, had a daily and Sunday circulation of around 1,200 copies. But with a decline in the local population, and the ones that remained handy with a computer or other handheld devices that also accessed the Internet, the paper’s circulation slipped more than 50 percent, to around 570 on Sunday and 540 on Thursday, the only other day it was printed.

Like others in the American daily newspaper industry, the Valley News cutback on the number of pages it printed and reduced the number of days it published a printed edition; it even offered a tabloid edition of itself, starting 10 years ago.

“Nothing worked,” said Roy Oakes, publisher of the Valley News, so he and his managing editor, Wanda Lloyd, on instructions from their corporate owner, Google, started preparing for the day when they would only offer the paper on the Internet.

“We’ll save a bundle by not printing the thing,” said Oakes. “And, so far, the paper – can we still call it that? – is receiving a strong reception on the Internet.”

“The only thing that’s surprising about this move is how long we waited to make it,” said Lauren Jurgins, CEO of Google, the country’s largest newspaper publisher. “We’re an Internet company so it’s surprising we let the Shenandoah Valley News offer a print edition as long as it did. Our other newspapers stopped printing years ago.”

Google changed its strategy about 20 years ago when it decided to own information providers and intellectual property, not just broker them. As a result, they purchased a slew of newspapers, including the Gannett and McClatchy chains, as well as a number of book publishers.

“Traditional publishers, whether it was newspapers, books or other kinds of intellectual property, as we saw it, just didn’t appreciate what they had,” said Jurgins. “We’ve put these products on steroids, making them available anyway possible, and the results, so far, have exceeded our expectations.”

Microsoft soon followed, purchasing Chicago-based Tribune Company as well as a few assets from Hearst, including its newspapers and some magazines.

As of today, Oakes says, the paper’s Internet subscriptions are more than double what they were in print, around 1,300.

The Valley News has been offering its subscribers a 50 percent discount for the Internet edition. Subscribers can purchase either a 12-week or a full-year subscription for either $72.00 or $312.00, respectively.

Not only will the paper save money on newsprint costs, it also eliminated its circulation department. The paper’s classified advertising telemarketing department, based in the Philippines, will also handle consumer sales of the newspaper’s Web site.

The paper’s affiliation with Newspaper Editing, a company offering off-shore copyediting services from Vietnam, will continue.

“Our newsroom staff is composed of one editor and three reporters, one of whom is part time,” said Oakes. “Everyone in our newsroom knows how to update our Web site as well as send our stories to our digital distributor.

“Our ad folks are only selling retailers and car dealers in our designated market area,” Oakes said.

“In order to keep these subscriptions, and get a few new ones, we’ll need to make sure we’re on top of the communities we cover,” said Lloyd. “Hopefully, our advertising people we’ll be successful, too.”

It’s generally accepted by economists that the American daily newspaper industry started its decline about a century ago when television networks started offering news programming. The industry was further hindered with the advent of the World Wide Web.

“People became accustomed to reading the paper on their home PC,” said Arthur Twyinesome, an economics professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “As a result, newspaper circulation declined and the newspaper industry, for about three decades, never charged anyone to read the paper on the Internet.”

Further hindering the newspaper industry was the line of “i” products introduced by Apple Computer, starting in the century’s first decade. After the successful introduction of the iPod and iPhone, the company went on to introduce, with great success, the iBox, iCup and iShades – products that allowed people Internet access at anytime, regardless of what they were doing, and, as a result, reduced their purchases of printed products.

The iBox, sold exclusively to Kellogg’s, allows consumers Internet access from their favorite box of cereal.

“The great thing about the iBox is that consumers can learn more about our cereals or catch up on the news or even read a book – all while eating their breakfast,” said Winston Jared, a spokesman for Kellogg’s.

The iCup, initially oblong-shaped, gives consumers that ability to access the Internet from their coffee cup and was sold exclusively to Starbucks; a rounded iCup was introduced last year and Starbucks reports that consumers are accepting the rounded screen.

“The iCup is a hit with our customers,” said Anne Nestroff, Starbucks CEO. “It gives us an advantage over other coffee sellers because it allows our customers to catch up on the news, e-mail or whatever while enjoying their favorite java.”

“The beauty of the iBox and the iCup is that they’re disposable,” said a spokesman for Apple. “Once you’re done, you just throw it away – or place it in your recycling bin.”

Apple introduced iShades, a line of eyeglasses that can be used in a variety of ways, five years ago. Not only they can be used to correct vision but they’re also sunglasses and can access the Internet. They’re especially popular with train commuters or other travelers, allowing them to catch up on news and entertainment programming without having to carry anything.

Apple reports that more than 500 million iShades have been sold.

“We’re ahead of our own expectations,” said Steve Jenson, Apple CEO.

Some communities, like New York, Boston and Chicago, have cracked down on iShades, prohibiting people from wearing them if they decide to drive their car. If they’re just sitting in their car, and have placed it on automatic drive, then their allowed to wear their iShades.

Printed products took a further hit when Verizon, Microsoft and Electronic Arts teamed up to create a handheld gaming and telephone device that connects to the Internet, called the XPG.

“You can play games, go to the Internet, call your friends or download a book,” said Sally Higgins, a spokesman for Microsoft. “The XPG is the only handheld device anyone needs.”

By the time most U.S. daily newspapers stopped offering a printed edition, around 2040, the industry’s aggregate circulation had dropped to under 30 million. That was a loss of 20 million over the course of 30 years, said Juan Agranos, executive director of the Newspaper Association of America.

“Newspaper Internet subscriptions are increasing,” he said. “As of the last audit, overall newspaper Internet circulation is around 45 million.”

As a result, Agranos said, advertising on newspaper Web sites is increasing.

“Advertisers are learning that, once again, people turn to daily newspapers to be informed,” he said.

In addition to selling more subscriptions to its Web edition, the Shenandoah Valley News, like its newspaper colleagues, will sell its stories รก la carte on Apple’s iNews, a system that allows consumers to have news stories covering their interests sent to their e-mail address.

“We think that’ll be a good source of revenue for us, especially since so many people have moved away,” said Oakes. “Our stories on iNews will be an easy way for them to stay in touch with southwest Iowa.”


Friday, March 16, 2007

Pledging While Black -- The Value of Institutional Memory

Institutional memory is one of those things that's easy to lose. Replace a few executives, or key personnel, and, before you know it, the current crop of managers has no idea what their organization did or didn’t do in the past.

This means that their organization – whether it’s a major corporation, a small business, a church, a school, a college, or a sorority – is vulnerable to repeating a mistake it made once before.

I’m not here to debate the merits of history lessons – I’m all for them – but I am suggesting that if there is little or no institutional memory, then there is a higher likelihood that the organization will make a mistake that could have easily been avoided – had the managers only known the past.

More years ago than I care to count, I was student at DePauw University, a humble liberal arts school located in central Indiana, that has recently found itself the focus of The New York Times, CNN and a few other media outlets, especially in the Hoosier state.

I was a reporter for the school’s student newspaper, The DePauw, when Delta Zeta, also the focus of the media lately, decided to discriminate against an African American woman who attempted to pledge the sorority.

A few members of the sorority approached University officials, saying the student was not allowed to pledge because she was black.

Heavens to Betsy!!!! If only this girl hadn’t been PWBing everything would have been okay. I mean the nerve of some people – Pledging While Black. It’s almost as a bad as Driving While Black through a wealthy, discriminating white community!

A fellow reporter and I covered the sorority and the University’s actions against Delta Zeta. As I recall, the University asked Delta Zeta to accept the student. I can’t remember if she joined the group or not.

In the latest news, Delta Zeta’s headquarters, located in Ohio, forced out what they determined were all of the ugly girls in the DePauw chapter, saying, as a cover, that they weren’t doing all they could to make their chapter successful.

What it really came down to, according to all of the news reports, was that Delta Zeta headquarters, last Fall, decided it wanted to improve its looks at DePauw. So if you were carrying a few extra pounds or didn’t possess the kind of looks that turned a guy’s head, then you were history.

Once again, some of the girls from Delta Zeta, especially those that were forced out, approached the University, telling them they had no where to live and how they had been discriminated against because of their looks.

Had someone at Delta Zeta gone through the files, or had the organization even possessed some kind of institutional memory, there’s a good chance this wouldn’t have happened. Or, perhaps, it would have gone down differently.

That’s something that will be debated long into the future – among those who care.

What is known is that DePauw possesses a long memory. The University’s president, Bob Bottoms, has been around the campus a long time, even before I was a student there. So he knew DePauw had to respond, especially because it was the focus of some of the country’s top media outlets.

To his credit, Bottoms shut down the Delta Zeta chapter at DePauw. That’s the advantage of institutional memory. Bottoms had seen this before and he’d had enough.

Too bad no one at Delta Zeta headquarters possessed the same knowledge.

Ten or twenty years from now, Delta Zeta will likely re-open on DePauw’s campus. When they do, the sorority’s top officers will likely make sure they get their fair share of the best-looking girls they can find.

The Battle of Okinawa & How the War Started

Friday, June 29, 1945
By Combined News Services

GUAM – The Battle of Okinawa, lasting 83 days, was declared completed today as American forces moved into the mop-up stage of the operation, neutralizing pockets of Japanese resistance and taking far more prisoners than had been expected, Navy officials said.

Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz, the top U.S. military commander of the operation, reported that the invasion’s success came at a high price: Nearly 12,000 U.S. soldiers, marines and sailors were killed during the battle that also saw the loss of more than 30 American warships, each and every one sunk by Japanese suicide planes, known as kamikazes, and nearly 800 aircraft.

About 65,000 American military personnel were wounded for a total of nearly 80,000 American casualties in the 83-day campaign, making it the bloodiest operation in the island-hopping drive against Japan.

Admiral Nimitz reported that 7,613 Army and Marine troops were killed, 31,807 were wounded and there were another 26,000 casualties, most of them suffering from combat fatigue. The Navy lost 4,320 sailors, with another 7,300 sailors wounded during the battle.

“Our casualties were high but not unexpected,” said Nimitz. “The Japs are a tough enemy, and we knew this would be a very difficult operation. It’s over.”

Included among the dead was the commanding officer of the ground troops, Lt. Gen. Simon Bolivar Buckner, Jr., commanding officer of the 10th Army, which included nearly 200,000 combat soldiers.

“General Buckner, I’m sorry to report, was killed at the front, observing the Marines,” said Admiral Nimitz. “A Japanese shell blew up a nearby rock and a fragment from that rock went through the General’s chest.”

Buckner is the highest ranking U.S. officer killed in combat in the Pacific, the Admiral reported.

Okinawa, an island about 60 miles long and 18 miles wide at its widest point, was defended by more than 100,000 Japanese troops. Other than the 10,000 Japanese soldiers that surrendered, the rest were either killed by American forces or by their own hand because they refused to surrender.

The operation also cost the lives of nearly 80,000 of the island’s native, civilian inhabitants. U.S. military personnel are distributing food and medical assistance to the surviving native population.

Okinawa, considered a part of Tokyo by the Japanese, is a highly valuable prize in the war because it’s 350 miles from Japan’s Kyushu island and less than 1,000 miles from Tokyo, putting these two targets within easy range of U.S. bombers soon be based on the island. Because of its size, Okinawa is considered, highly placed military sources say, an excellent staging point for an invasion of Japan.

One of the biggest problems that the Navy faced with Okinawa is that there was very little known about the island. Few Americans had visited it since Commodore Matthew Perry stopped by on his way to Japan in 1853.

Navy intelligence did track down an American citizen who had visited the island, and he provided valuable information. But the number and type of Japan’s forces on the island was a guess, Nimitz said, and that’s the reason so many American troops were used in the attack.

General of the Army Douglas MacArthur, commanding U.S. and Allied forces in the south Pacific, has been critical of the Okinawa operation, saying there was no reason to wipe out the entire Japanese force at such a cost to American life.

“They could have cordoned off the remaining Japanese troops and starved them,” the General said from his headquarters in Manila. Most of the Japanese troops had been bottled up in the southern part of the island, MacArthur said.

Prior to the attack, military sources said, it was thought that Japanese defenders would be entrenched throughout the island. They would be so well hidden, they said, that it would be difficult for American ground troops to overwhelm the enemy.

As a result, a new weapon was introduced during the Okinawa invasion – the flame-throwing tank, Admiral Nimitz said. It was used to kill Japanese troops hidden in caves throughout the island.

As the operation on Okinawa comes to an end, U.S. and Allied military planners are figuring out the next stage of the war against the sole remaining Axis Power, Japan.

“Japan will feel the full force and weight of the United States,” said General of the Army George Marshall, the Army’s commanding general. Marshall would not comment on MacArthur’s disagreement with the Navy over tactics used on Okinawa.

The Pentagon today said that nearly 400,000 Americans had been killed during the war and that nearly 600,000 more had been wounded.

“We’ve averaged about 5,000 killed and wounded every week since we entered the war,” said a Pentagon spokesman, Lt. Cdr. Elliot Jones.

Back in Washington, a document has surfaced that shows that Roosevelt administration may have actually provoked Japan into a war. Congressional sources say they’re releasing parts of the document now because President Roosevelt is dead.

Written by a Navy officer just prior to the 1940 presidential election, the document laid out eight proposals, that if taken by the United States, would likely provoke Japan into taking hostile action against the United States.

The proposals included arranging for the United States to have access to British bases in Singapore; assisting the Chinese government of Chiang Kai-shek in its attempt to defeat the Japanese invasion of China; placing the Pacific Fleet in Hawaii; insisting that the Dutch refuse to provide oil to Japan from their holdings in the West Indies; and embargoing all trade with Japan.

“All of these actions were taken by the Roosevelt administration,” said U.S. Sen. Alben Barkley, (D-KY), whose office released the document.

“It shows that the Roosevelt Administration deliberately pushed us into a war with Japan,” said U.S. Sen. Arthur Vandenburg, (R-MI). “Japan had no choice but to attack us.”

“This may hinder the Truman administration as it finds a way to end the war with Japan,” said Senator Barkley.

The Truman administration would not comment on the memo but said it was determined to find a way to accomplish both a political and military victory over Japan.

Friday, March 02, 2007

On The Other Hand: American Troops Defeated

Friday, February 26, 1943
By Combined News Services
ALLIED FORCES HEADQUARTERS, NORTH AFRICA – Germany’s battle-hardened Afrika Korps soldiers, led by the infamous “Desert Fox,” attacked U.S. troops in Tunisia’s Kasserine Pass, handing the Allied forces its second defeat in two months at the cost of more than 6,000 American casualties.

The three-day battle, which pitted American troops against Nazi soldiers led by Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, nicknamed the “Desert Fox,” cost U.S. troops dearly: 300 were killed, 3,000 were wounded, and another 3,000 were reported missing, most of them likely to be prisoners of war, Allied military officials said.

German forces pushed American soldiers back more than 80 miles.

This was the second Allied defeat in North Africa in eight weeks and puts the entire Allied war plan on the continent into doubt, Allied military officials said.

“The general accepts full responsibility for this defeat,” said Maj. Gen. Walter Bedell Smith of his commanding officer, Lt. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Allies’ commander-in-chief in North Africa. “It causes us to reconsider our strategy and tactics.”

As the Germans struck U.S. lines, American military officials said, chaos ensued, with troops abandoning their positions and weapons and fleeing to the rear. It was, said a U.S. general who requested anonymity, “The worst performance of U.S. Army troops in their whole proud history.”

The first defeat came back in December, just after Christmas, when Allied forces were prevented from liberating Tunis, an important Allied objective because the city’s ports are vital to re-supplying Nazi troops in North Africa.

More than 350 U.S. troops were reported killed, wounded or missing in December’s battle while another 180 British troops were reported killed, wounded or missing.

Earlier this week, British Lt. Gen. Harold Alexander was appointed the new ground commander, leading all Allied ground forces in North Africa and reporting to General Eisenhower.

After inspecting U.S. soldiers on Wednesday, Alexander told one American reporter that “American troops are soft, green and quite untrained. They lack the will to fight.”

Officers on General Eisenhower’s staff told reporters that some American generals in the African theatre may be relieved of their duties as a result of this latest defeat. Eisenhower, however, apparently remains safe in his job.

“There will be no change at the top,” said U.S. Army chief of staff, Gen. George C. Marshall, from Washington. “Eisenhower is our general.”

The latest casualty numbers from North Africa come about six weeks after the War Department reported that the United States lost 60,000 soldiers, Marines, sailors and aviators last year.

Meanwhile, in the Pacific Theatre, Army Maj. Gen. Alexander M. Patch, commander of American forces on Guadalcanal, announced that the island has been liberated from the Japanese. Nearly 1,600 American soldiers and Marines were killed in the six-month battle for the island.

The U.S. Navy also lost of a number of ships and sailors during the battle.

“Total and complete Japanese defeat on Guadalcanal effected today,” said General Patch.

Allied forces on New Guinea are making progress against the Japanese, too.

The latest Gallop poll shows that 53 percent of Americans say that Japan is America’s chief enemy while only 34 percent report that Germany is.

Writer’s question: Would American confidence on World War II have suffered if some of the battles had been reported in this fashion?