More on the Slow, Impending and Eventual Doom of Newspapers

As lascivious, corporate greed and the fall of the American economy both continue unabated, the bowties in their towers built upon strata formed by ink, hot type and pulp look down upon their megacorpconglomeranational empires and, merely, wait.  They abide.  For they know, no matter what happens to the newspaper industry today, tomorrow, or by 2017, the year when the last major American newspapers are predicted to have died, that there is absolutely nothing they can do.  At all.
They also know their executive bonuses and perks are safe, no matter what happens.
They’ll never admit this.  Ever.  Right now, even though newspapers are closing and layoffs are massive, print newspapers bring in more revenue than their online counterparts.  And it’s predicted — accurately, I believe — that their online counterparts will NEVER bring in an equal amount of revenue.
The bowties will never admit any of this because it will devalue their stock even more than their stock is devalued now.
It is, after all, not about news, not about journalism, not about loyal employees, and not about what the community needs.
It’s all about money.
The question remains: How can they stay in business?
The bowties already know the answer to this one.  Hell, it’s as simple as an answer can get:
They can’t.
Warren Buffett summed it up for them.

“Should you find yourself in a chronically leaking boat, energy devoted to changing vessels is likely to be more productive than energy devoted to patching leaks.”

I’ve written about Jeff Jarvis before, and I think he’s usually on point about his predictions and trendspotting for the newspaper business.  He’s written a piece you should read, that gets to the heart of the issue: deliberately shutting the newspapers, firing thousands, and moving on . . . but to what?

“To take advantage of bankruptcy, a company has to have courage and bold visions of the future. Do newspaper companies? So far, we haven’t seen evidence of it.”

His facts jibe with Papercuts, a site that’s keeping track of the layoffs at newspapers across the country.
The countdown has begun.  2017 is right around the corner.
The bowties better get used to wearing sweat-stained t-shirts and dealing crystal meth out of their doublewides.

RTD: 2 more out on the street

One sales rep at the Times-Dispatch has already been laid off this week, and an HR manager was let go about ten days ago. Along with the five from editorial in May, I’m not sure if this indicates they’re going to lay people off on a period by period basis, or if they’re just warming up for the end of the quarter in about 3 weeks.

They’re probably just priming the pump.

"Psst! Newspapers meeting in secret! Chicago! Today! Keep it on the down low!"

Despite the possibility of federal anti-trust violations, a day-long series of meetings are being held today outside Chicago, where the upper management of newspaper chains across the company are meeting to determine the fate of online news — that is, they’re trying to decide how best to start charging for content, and then, probably, how to spin it so they won’t end up looking like the greedy bastards they really are.

James Warren at The Atlantic broke the story here just this morning, and since it’s not exactly newsworthy in and of itself, I doubt you’ll find much mention of the confab out on the Web, and certainly it won’t be mentioned at all on television, due to the cataclysmic significance of Jon and Kate, their brood of precious snowflakes, what Michelle Obama is wearing, or Bill O’Reilley’s combover. And, by the way, Anna Nicole is still dead.

However, a meeting of top execs that has been kept, well, not secret, but certainly clandestine, which is not even mentioned on its host’s online calendar of events — it’s hosted by the Newspaper Association of America — is important to every journalist across the country, and to every newspaper employee.

It should be important to consumers, too, because the whole point of the meeting, apparently, is to figure out how to gouge you — I mean, us — out of more money. “Models to Monetize Content” is all about how to charge us for reading their stories on the ‘net. But that’s not enough: they want to go after aggregators for “stealing” their content — even though aggregators, such as Yahoo and Google, or one of my favorite sites, Fark, do not steal content — they link a headline on their site to the story on the newspaper’s site. In actuality, this creates traffic for newspapers . . . but media conglomerates are insistent that it’s stealing.


Because they want the revenue. All the revenue.

This isn’t about the next evolution of quality journalism.

It’s about greed. It’s about arrogance.

Monetizing and micropayments simply will not work. I love newspapers; I love the information. I’ll buy a newspaper when I want one. But their content is no longer interesting to me as an informed adult in the 21st century. It’s old-fashioned. It’s trite.

It’s boring. There. I said it.

And I will not pay a penny for their content online.

It ain’t worth it.

Content is king, and when newspapers realize their online content has to evolve to reflect the interests of readers in this day and age — not the 1960s — maybe then newspapers will become successful online.

Until then, the geriatric newspaper will continue to be a snoozefest. Hey, let me know how that lawn and garden section is working for ya, okay?


Suicide and the Times-Dispatch

Thank you, Style Weekly!

If you haven’t read it yet, go here. This is an open letter to all Media General shareholders, read at MG’s annual meeting on April 23 by the author, Michael Paul Williams. Williams has the public persona of a rabble-rouser, according to those people I’ve talked with who dislike him. But this letter is gentle, as far as I’m concerned; if I had been speaking up there to the shareholders and the bow ties, much more rabble would have been roused. (Perhaps security would have been called as well, when I started shouting, “Attica! Attica! You’re out of order! You’re out of order!”)

I’m cutting and pasting to make my own comments. Again, here’s the letter in its entirety.

On April 2, 22 of our members were laid off — about 18 percent of our staff. We also lost five deputy editors, all but one of them former union members at the lowest rung of management. No upper level managers lost their jobs.

With “22,” Williams means union members. 37 other people lost their jobs in those two days, and about 20 more the quarter before that.

As journalists for Media General’s Richmond Times-Dispatch, we are committed to accurate, truthful reporting.

But Media General is not being transparent with its shareholders, who aren’t being told, as we are by top management, that the Times-Dispatch is in “survival mode.” They aren’t being told that Media General is demanding cuts in the newspaper that undermine the viability of a flagship product that management acknowledges is profitable.

I think the cuts they’ve made, and the consensus that the newspaper industry is next in line for ICU, should be obvious to shareholders if they have even half a brain in their pointy little heads. However, opinions like Williams’ are, let’s say, frowned upon by the bow ties, as are any public declarations of any instability at all — because it could have a detrimental effect on stock prices.

They aren’t being told that top executives aren’t willing to take pay cuts in exorbitant salaries, beyond sharing in furloughs and forgoing their lucrative bonuses. We have asked them to take additional pay cuts, and we believe they have been asked internally to take additional pay cuts, but they refuse. And yet they are threatening to lay off more of our people to save less than $200,000, which could be accounted for easily by modest cuts in executive pay or trimming of the newspaper’s bloated senior management staff.

And don’t expect the bow ties to give up one damn penny. Instead, read between the lines of the whole letter, ask yourself exactly what are the bigwigs doing, and then ask:

• Why did the Times-Dispatch cancel publication of the Dining Guide — their only affordable and useful publication for area restaurants to reach the public?
• Why has Channels, the TV section, been reduced to a subscriber-only, 50¢ an issue publication?
• Why isn’t there anything to read in the paper nowadays?

The only thing I can come up with is that the bow ties are systematically designing their own escape plan: cut and run. It’s deliberate sabotage. Cut everything that isn’t 105% profitable, raise the price, cut pages, cut employees — and then, when nothing they do stabilizes the books, they’ll tip the boat over on purpose. They will kill the Times-Dispatch, shrug their shoulders, say “We tried,” and run home with their salaries intact, their paisley ties knotted tight below their flabby, red faces, and sit back with a vodka martini or three.

Ah Michael, at least someone of intelligence has spoken out. I do have some advice for you, though, from one rabble rouser to another: you might as well start cleaning out your desk. The end of June — and the end of the fiscal quarter — is right around the corner, and you know how the bow ties — and some ineffectual middle managers I know — don’t like people who rock the boat.

News in a Death Spiral…and They’re Pressing the Gas Pedal!

There is nothing more horrifying than stupidity in action.
• Adlai E. Stevenson

Here’s a press release from the mighty brains behind “Journalism Online.”

See that? There’s one big hint that this venture will not be successful. Internet success stories use originality in their very names. Online book store? Amazon. Online shoe store? Zappo’s.

Online journalism? Journalism Online.

I can smell the corpse beginning to stink already!

The press release is reprinted in its entirety, but here’s the link. My comments, if you care to read them, will be obvious.

• • •

Media Leaders Form Journalism Online, LLC

Company Will Be Global Platform for Easy Payment Option Enabling New Revenue Models For News In Time of Crisis
Charging for content will only exacerbate the crisis…

‘Strong interest’ already expressed by major newspaper, magazine companies
Because they have nowhere else to turn, and they’re all looking for a savior.

NEW YORK, April 14, 2009 – Citing “the urgent need” for a comprehensive, immediate plan to address the downward spiral in the business of publishing original, quality journalism,
It IS the business that’s the real problem, not the journalism
experienced journalism and media industry executives Steven Brill, Gordon Crovitz, and Leo Hindery today announced the formation of Journalism Online, a company that will quickly facilitate the ability of newspaper, magazine and online publishers to realize revenue from the digital distribution of the original journalism they produce. Unless the public refuses to pay for it any longer…and that’s exactly what’s happening.

“We have formed Journalism Online, because we think this is a special moment in time when there is an urgent need for a business model that allows quality journalism to be the beneficiary of the Internet’s efficient delivery mechanism rather than its victim,” said co-founder Steven Brill. Sour grapes. They’re pissed because they don’t want Internet content to be free any more. Too bad, bitches. “We believe we have developed a strategy and a set of services that will establish that model by restoring a stream of circulation revenue to supplement advertising revenue, while taking advantage of the savings to be gained from producing and delivering content electronically.”

The company will offer four key services to publishers.

First, Journalism Online will develop a password-protected website with one easy-to-use account through which consumers will be able to purchase annual or monthly subscriptions, day passes, and single articles from multiple publishers. The password-enabled payment system will be integrated into all of the member-publishers’ websites, and the publishers will have sole discretion over which content to charge for, how much to charge, and the manner of charge. And consumers will refuse to go there and pay for a damn thing. Why is this so hard for newspaper people to fathom?

“The website will provide a way for publishers of quality journalism to charge whatever they believe is a reasonable amount for their content in ways that are seamlessly convenient for readers,” explained co-founder Leo Hindery. Charging is not convenient at all. Nor is a system of varying prices “convenient,” except to the greedy publishers. “The only condition of participation is that the publishers have to charge for some portion of their content,” he explained. “They can do this while also offering the first portion of all articles for free (old-fashioned “tease” model — it’s bullshit), or by making a certain number of articles free each month for potential customers to sample (pricktease model #2), or by employing any other strategy they choose to balance the prospect of online circulation revenue with the need to maintain traffic and advertising revenue.” Starting to reek down here. Somebody open a window!

Second, Journalism Online will aggressively market all-inclusive annual or monthly subscriptions for those consumers who want to pay one fee to access all of the JOI-member publishers’ content. Revenues will be shared among publishers. Zero divided by zero still equals zero.

“This will allow readers the option of one simple subscription to a full range of quality content, while offering publishers a new revenue stream to support journalism, supplementing online advertising revenues,” said co-founder Gordon Crovitz. “This way, when a story from a publisher that is not one that a consumer usually reads ‘pops’ in popularity and becomes prominent, that publisher will benefit from all of the interest in it in a way that would not happen if the reader had to have a separate subscription to that paper.” Applying 19th century newspaper models to a 21st century technology is only going to make newspapers spiral faster into the ground. When are they going to get that they can no longer think in the old ways?

“We will market this feature aggressively, and proudly, because we believe that quality journalism is something that people understand must be supported,” Brill added. Plus, we’re greedy bastards, and you cant’ have it for free! So there! Nyah nyah nyah! “We’ve all heard some people say that Internet journalism needs to be free because other less-valuable content is free,” Brill continued. Wrong. That’s the way you want to perceive it. The fact is, content is free because users will not pay for it. Period. I’m in the news business, and I refuse to pay for it. Doesn’t that tell you something? “But we believe Americans know that advertising alone can’t support quality journalism – and the truth is that it never has.” Following old tradition is like following an old horse — you’re going to step in shit all along the way. In the 21st century, the paradigms of readership have changed. No one is buying the news because they can get it on tv and elsewhere for free. It is no longer the important product it used to be. The irony is that by using the Internet publishers of newspapers and magazines have dramatically improved the quality and breadth of their journalism with online updates, video reports, blogs, data analyses, and specialized beat coverage. The problem is that, with rare exceptions, they are getting paid nothing for it.” It’s the medium of the Internet. Get used to it. You aren’t going to change user behavior — you can’t. They will, instead, change the newspaper industry.

Third, a key initiative of Journalism Online will be to negotiate wholesale licensing and royalty fees with intermediaries such as search engines and other websites that currently base much of their business models on referrals of readers to the original content on newspaper, magazine and online news websites. Good luck with that. You’re not going to get a penny out of Google.

The company has appointed to its board of advisors New York attorney David Boies and Washington, D.C. attorney Theodore B. Olson, who is also former Solicitor General of the U.S. The law firm of Boies Schiller has been retained to assist in negotiations, as well as to counsel the venture and its publisher members on other legal and regulatory issues. In other words, they’re going to try and force the search engines and consumers to pay for news. They’re going to strongarm aggregators — whose links jump back to the news sites — and perhaps even bloggers when news is reported. Man, I hate bullies.

“We intend to help establish a more stable relationship between referral intermediaries and those who produce, at great cost, the content that is so important in ensuring that the Internet remains a powerful way for people to access the most important news and information,” explained Crovitz. We’re gonna strangle the cash out of them. And if you say extortion again, I’ll break your legs. “Whether it’s traditional news people or online-only journalists and bloggers doing the work, there are real costs associated with the quality journalism that helps create enormous value to search engines and other online services that don’t incur these expenses. Journalism Online will enable news publishers to negotiate from a position of strength. Bullies. Consumers will benefit because they will have greater choice HAHAHAHAHAHAHA, and search engines and other intermediaries will benefit because they will have access to more journalism.” Lies, bullshit, spin — really, is there any difference?

Fourth, Journalism Online will provide reports to member publishers on which strategies and tactics are achieving the best results in building circulation revenue while maintaining the traffic necessary to support advertising revenue. “Our members will be engaged in a bold new effort to recreate the journalism business model,” Hindery said. “We’ll be sharing reports and metrics from the front lines of that battle and, if asked, even consult with members on how to maximize the value for the journalism they invest in.” So the “experts” really think their 1850-1950 newspaper ideas are going to stand up to the merging here and now of news and technology? I’d help them dig their grave, but they’re doing well enough on their own.

“We’re convinced that publishers are ready to take this step and that the journalists who work with them are anxious for them to do so,” Hindery added. Journalists just want to keep their jobs, dude. Get a clue. “Both groups now believe that they can and must receive fair value for their online work. Passing the costs onto the consumer is gonna kick you in your journonuts. Whether it’s the smaller newspapers or online news sites with their unique local content, larger-city publications with their strong regional content, or national publications, all of them will be able finally to realize the value of the unique, original stories their journalists work so hard to produce.”

“We’re also convinced,” Brill added, “that readers, who have been paying billions of dollars a year for print journalism, will continue to support journalists by paying a modest, fair price for original, independent, professional work distributed online. They realize—as we do—that quality journalism is a vital component of a functioning democracy and free market.” Like consumers care about a functioning democracy and free market when they’re looking for the weather report.

“My experience with The Wall Street Journal taught me that people will pay a reasonable price to access exclusive, differentiated and essential journalism, whether delivered in print or online,” Crovitz explained. The WSJ is an essential to financial professionals across the country. Specialized markets can clearly charge for content, because it is absolutely needed by their readers. General news is a different product — and the dinosaurs still aren’t getting it. “News publishers, including digital-only operations, need to find ways to attract revenues from readers as well as from advertisers. Viable journalism enterprises need both, and we believe the solution must include state-of-the-art technology, smart pricing options and creative, aggressive marketing based on best practices for monetizing online content and services.” Oh, and suing search engines and aggregators eventually.

“We have had initial talks, and in many cases longer follow-up discussions, with most of the major newspaper and magazine publishers, as well as many online journalism enterprises,” Brill said. “They have all been extremely encouraging and expressed strong interest. They have nowhere else to turn — it doesn’t mean yours is a good or viable idea. It’s clear that this is exactly the right time for us to proceed as quickly as possible. It’s equally clear,” he concluded, “that our multi-faceted approach is what publishers are looking for (but not consumers), and that the combination of services we are offering—one password account and payment processing system for multiple publishers, an equally-simple subscription alternative for all content from all members, engagement from a position of strength with intermediary users of original content, and a clearinghouse for information on best practices—presents the best way for consumers and publishers alike to preserve quality journalism.”

Brill, the founder of Court TV, The American Lawyer, and Brill’s Content, most recently founded and was CEO of Clear, the airport biometric fast-pass security card. He also founded the Yale Journalism Initiative.

As publisher of The Wall Street Journal, Crovitz grew to become the largest paid news site on the Web, with more than one million paying subscribers. Crovitz, who founded the news-database Factiva and is a member of the board of directors of ProQuest and an advisor to several early-stage technology and online media companies, has long experience in using digital technologies to help news publishers generate significant and highly profitable revenues from readers and users.

Hindery, a longtime media executive whose positions have included being CEO of cable giants TCI and AT&T Broadband, is managing partner of InterMedia Partners, a media industry private equity firm. He currently sits on the board of advisors of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

• • •

HEREWITH MY CONCLUSIONS: The Internet is a new and original idea that newspapermen not only despise, but they are scared shitless of. Because everything is changing; their little, insular world is in massive upheaval, and they’re so stupid they don’t know how to run out of the way.

The subscription and micropayment models will never work with anything other than highly specialized web publications. But I can only repeat this so much. When the metropolitan dailies finally crash to earth, they’ll see the new reality all around them — and they still won’t figure out what to do.

There is no adequate defense, except stupidity, against the impact of a new idea.
•Percy W. Bridgman

If you quote it, they won’t come

One thing the dinosaurs in the newspaper industry just keep on doing is using phrases and clichés that show just how outside the times they truly are. They quote defunct newspaper comic strips and thirty year-old movies in an effort to connect with the contemporary public, completely unaware that these maxims are no longer valid — they are, at best, like all clichés: wisdom gone stale.

And they wonder why the young people refuse to read newspapers. Damn kids.

The latest, laughable salvo in the “We have to do something about those whippersnappers on the Internet!” war has been fired by the Geriatric Fleet. Please read, “AP Shakes Fist at Google, Tells Internet to Get Off Its Damn Lawn” and ask yourself . . .

“Where’s the beef?”

If he’s that smart, why was he a shill for Radio Shack?

The printed word will not be replaced or grow less important (but then the printed word has always been the refuge of a small minority — few Americans read as many as on complete book a year), but it will be supplemented.

For instance, a newspaper is still superior as a transmitter of news, by a nearly infinite margin, to the average television news broadcast (which is usually a reading of those headlines that lend themselves to image-illustration), but who says that a newspaper must be printed on a forest of woodpulp and delivered in pound-lots to individuals?

It can be transmitted by screen in a fashion so controlled that it can be skimmed, or halted for closer reading, with particularly interesting items — the financial page, for instance, the sports page, the comic page, a certain news story — printed off on demand.

Again, there is a democratization. you get exactly what you want, not everything that everybody wants.

Issac Asimov, writer, editor or co-editor of more than 500 books, was not only prolific, but he was a visionary. His description of the newspaper of the future absolutely nails the online concept of the newspaper — and it was written in 1972.*

Newspapers rushed into building online components fifteen or so years ago, when the Internet took off under the World Wide Web aegis, thus capturing the imagination of America. They did so under an enormous burden: they HAD to enter the Internet marketplace immediately, because, if they didn’t, they knew they’d get left behind by entrepreneurs and visionaries.

Here it is the 21st Century, and newspapers still don’t know how to make money on the Internet — or even if they can. Most online advertising does not work for the advertisers, and readers demand too much autonomy over what they read and access. And it exactly those entrepreneurs and visionaries papers had to beat who have now beaten them, with unique news websites that do more than simply import a static print experience to the interactive world of cyberspace.

It’s not just the democratization of news that is killing newspapers; it’s audience fragmentation combined with the unintended consequences of catastrophically inept management. A friend in the publishing business, upon hearing of the most recent mass firings at the Times-Dispatch, emailed me: “Short sighted, short-term optimization is brand destruction.”

And he’s right. Whether it’s a deliberate act of corporate suicide or not, it amounts to the same thing: the death of the metropolitan newspaper.

They should have been reading Asimov.

* Asimov’s essay, “Person to Person,” was published in the December 1972 issue of Lifestyle. It was retitled “The Ultimate in Communication” and reprinted in his 1983 collection of essays, The Roving Mind, published by Prometheus Books.

Newspapers: Learn from Vegas

Here’s a post by L.A. writer Mark Evanier. He talks specifically about what Disney needs to learn from Las Vegas.

Whistle While You Don’t Work

Disney is laying off people left and right at its theme parks. Several Dwarfs have been let go and believe me, they’re not Happy.

I know the economic news is not all bad but the part that is bad is bad enough to drown out the good. Still, I would like to suggest that today’s dire Disney news may not be wholly the fault of the usual villains — the deregulation nuts who let Wall Street go Ponzi. Yeah, they crashed the Dow but one reason Disney revenues are down is because in times like these, people can’t afford to pay Disney prices. Las Vegas is dropping its prices sharply since they figured out how tight recreational moola was becoming. Disneyland is just Vegas with mouse ears and bad food. They need to learn the same thing.

Needless to say, newspapers are laying people off left and right, but they’re not learning the lesson. They’re not doing what needs to be done.

Las Vegas and Disney provide products that people desire. Las Vegas has learned that their product has to be affordable for Las Vegas to be successful. Disney needs to follow suit.

Newspapers need to make their product affordable to both the readers and the advertisers. Even more importantly, they have to offer a product that people want. This means the current print newspaper has to change into something exciting. Vibrant. Colorful. Fresh. Innovative.

As much as I want newspapers to evolve, I’m not so naive as to believe they really can.

I don’t think the bow ties really want to.

The Long, Slow Death of the Times-Dispatch

. . . and the dinosaurs are feasting today on their own young at 300 East Franklin.

57 good people were shit-canned today, and two more are scheduled for May. Some are people I worked with for nine years; some are friends I’d known for years beforehand, as colleagues and as rivals. Good people, all of them.

Not a single one of them is a bow tie from the corporate office directly across Franklin Street.

Here’s the press release masquerading as an article on Note how it pretty much says nothing of any importance whatsoever. Seriously, you’ve got to love the sheer artistry, the disingenuous genius, that goes into writing bullshit of this caliber:

“This is not a day I ever wanted to see come. I thank each and every departing employee for their years of valued service that helped publish Richmond’s daily newspapers,” said President and Publisher Thomas A. Silvestri.

There are no plans to eliminate days of publication. The Times-Dispatch will continue its focus on breaking, local news and insightful and thorough coverage of our core market in Central Virginia where more than 80% of its readers live and work.

“Despite today’s announcement, our news mission at the RTD remains clear,” said Vice President and Executive Editor Glenn Proctor. “We will provide readers and viewers with a vibrant news website and print product worth reading every day. We will do that by sharpening our focus on state and municipal government, state and local politics, education, crime and public safety, college and prep sports, and, of course, the economy and business.”

“We will do everything we can to retain our current customers by demonstrating our strength as the leading provider of high-quality content and services,” Silvestri added.

Beautiful, isn’t it? And it’s curious how Silvestri and Proctor sound so similar in this piece. I mean, it’s eerie, isn’t it? Unearthly. Almost as if someone were writing the words for them.


The dinosaurs obviously have it all figured out and are doing the best for their company. Right? They’re performing surgery on themselves on the advice of middle managers and bean counters who simply don’t understand that the future is here and it’s coming to get them if they don’t evolve and run faster, better, and leave behind their usual, hidebound, corporate bullshit.

And why, exactly, is it bullshit? Well, let’s read between the lines, shall we, and try to discern the pattern hidden behind the corporate curtain, and you tell me what you come up with:

1. Downsizing the reporting staff is one thing. But the primary sales rep responsible for at least — and this is conservative — half the revenue that flows from national accounts was let go. Why?

2. The library staff was let go, except for two. Why?

3. Three months ago the two-person research staff was let go. Why?

4. In May — the end of the school year — the Newspaper in Education staff will be terminated. They aren’t revenue producing, but they pulled in circulation numbers — about 2 million papers were distributed to area schools last year. Why?

5. Despite “Silvestri’s” claim in the press release that there are no plans to cut publication days, Style Weekly reports that:

Media General, the Times-Dispatch’s parent company, announced a reorganization of its corporate business structure last week, described by company officials as a move to a “Web First strategy.” Divisions between the company’s television, print and Internet holdings were broken down and replaced with five geographic markets. That strategy is in line with remarks made by T-D Publisher Tom Silvestri in recent years, in which he’s speculated on a merging of the company’s mediums, with the daily print newspaper ideally scaled back to three times a week or fewer, in favor of an online presence.

6. Style also reports that:

“Sources also say the newsroom was recently informed of changes that largely do away with the food section and real estate pages. Times-Dispatch spokeswoman Frazier Millner clarifies with Style that Wednesday food coverage will stay with a “change in format,” including going to black and white . . .”

NOTE THIS LAST PART. It’s extremely important . . .

Sure, the bow ties will tell us these positions were being eradicated and it’s all an effort to cut costs. Somewhat true, that is. (Why, suddenly, do I sound like Yoda?)

But here’s what I’m thinking. Here’s the truth I see lurking behind their flimsy, patchwork wall of excuses and bullshit: The Times-Dispatch doesn’t need a few million in national sales; they don’t need a research staff; they don’t need to promote papers in schools; they don’t need librarians to get facts and answers to reporters; they may or may not go to a three-day a week publishing schedule, but it won”t really matter in the long run; and the paper can return to glorious black and white despite what readers really want . . . all this because the bow ties up in the MG dinosaur den are gutting the company not only to save short term costs, but in order to justify the company’s deliberate and eventual suicide.

I admit: on the surface, some of the personnel cuts they made today were justified. Some were justified during the last two rounds, as well. But this round eliminates people and jobs that are only unnecessary if you begin to consider the unthinkable: that the company is preparing not only to go Web-first, but Web-only, and that the RTD will cease publication, perhaps not in a matter of years, but in months.

The RTD is quite top heavy now, but there won’t be any cuts up in the dinosaur den. They’re tightening their bow ties and polishing their spats, getting ready to run with their seven figure salaries and bonuses, as per their contracts, as signed by God! But be assured there will be more bloodletting at the staff levels in three months — the end of the current fiscal quarter. Personally, I think that the RTD will sell out their advertising art department and outsource to freaking India for all ad production, just like their Winston-Salem and Tampa papers — if not by July, then by October.

If I’m proven wrong, it will be because the bow ties will kill the paper by the end of the fiscal year.

Deliberate and eventual suicide.

Today the dinosaurs posted an editorial that makes fun of Twitter, the online messaging site.

Web-first. You’ve gotta laugh. They just don’t get it. The future is here — hell, Asimov predicted this in an essay in 1983 (I’ll blog about that another time) — and it’s inconceivable to them!

How can they possibly go Web-first if they are woefully Web-ignorant?

The RTD can again become successful — not through downsizing and knee-jerk change, but by the embrace of deliberate corporate evolution; by a careful examination of American culture and consumer needs in the 21st century; by working with the public, instead of merely exploiting them; by hiring people who just freaking get it and by the firing of those who don’t; and by the adoption of reasonable financial goals.

But I no longer think the bow ties will take the high road and do what’s necessary.

I think they’re gonna cash their bonus checks and bail, leaving us with the Richmond Times-Disgrace. “Thanks, Richmond! Been nice knowing ya! I’ll see ya on hole 9!”