Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Lifelong things

AOG; Madrid

Today, whilst browsing through the internet, I came a cross a couple of newspieces which I found interesting.

The first one concerns the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, a paper I had never heard about until today. The news pice in particular refers to its demise as a printed paper, and its inception as an online publication only.

The article states thus:

The Hearst Corp. announced Monday that it would stop publishing the 146-year old newspaper, Seattle's oldest business, and cease delivery to more than 117,600 weekday readers

The company said it would maintain seattlepi.com, making it the largest daily newspaper in the US to shift to an entirely digital news product.

Here is how the New York Times covers the story.

They say:

"But The P-I, as it is called, will resemble a local Huffington Post more than a traditional newspaper, with a news staff of about 20 people rather than the 165 it had, and a site with mostly commentary, advice and links to other news sites, along with some original reporting.

Other newspapers have closed and many more are threatened. But the transition to an all-digital product for The P-I will be especially closely watched in an industry that is fast losing revenue and is casting around for a new economic model."

On a related note, the Financial Times ran an article today which spoke of the eventual demise of journalism.

The piece, entitled "
When newspapers fold" somehow missed out on today's happenings over in Seattle, though this might be because the paper in question continues.

Their article starts like this:

The death of a modern newspaper is a real-time, multimedia event. When journalists on the Rocky Mountain News were summoned to their Denver newsroom on February 26 to be told they were working on their final edition, they relayed the announcement through live blogs, online videos, slide shows of tearful colleagues and a minute-by-minute stream of updates on Twitter. “It’s odd to cover your own funeral,” read one tweet.

Among the links to the article there are pieces which talk about how in Europe free papers are winning the day. Perhaps, but a month ago, Metro, one of Madrid's pioneer freebies folded.

Because I had never heard of the Seattle paper, I was very curious to "check it out". For some reason, here's a paper which appeals to me in many levels. Quality of reporting aside (I've only read a couple articles), aesthetically I find it very self assured.

It also boasts photographic galleries from times past. I came across this one which sparked my interest.

It is an image of Barbara Beers, first woman Seattle firefighter, the day she was sworn in on May 11, 1978. That is 31 years ago.

I became interested in her life pattern and did a little googling.

Turns out Ms. Beers was a lifelong firefighter who retired last month after 31 years years of service. 31 years a firefighter! I find this dedication amazing.

She is 53. Here is the article which outlines this. She was 22 in the photograph.

I know the being a firefighter is a vocational thing, which is why I was surprised she is retiring at such a young age. I am in no way judging her, but I did wonder to myself if she thought about her future at the age of 22, back in 1978.

Did she know she was going to retire in 2009? Probably not. I think that when you are 22 you don't think about those things. I didn't.

So her job was not for ever. It seems newspapers aren't either.

Is this a good thing or a bad thing?

I can't decide, but I am not entirely sure it is good.

Monday, March 02, 2009

The Orange and the Crisis

AOG, Madrid

The last time I went to London I noticed the fall in prices. No, not a major fall, but large enough to notice.

I am not sure if it is the cut in VAT (down from 17.5% to 15% I think), or if market forces are just forcing down the price of things. I think probably both.

Here in the beta version of the 1st world which is Spain, the price of nothing has come down.

A week ago I took a cab to get to work. The driver was telling me about his brother in law.

The man in question owns a restaurant with a staff of 14.

Do you know how many dinners he served last Friday?” he asked.

Four. How can you make a living like that?

I suppose he was looking for sympathy, and, of course, he got little.

Has your brother in law lowered his prices?” I asked.

He almost had a heart attack.

No, of course not! He can’t do that, the prices can’t come down. Where would the profit be?

If you were selling oranges”, I said, “and no one was buying them at one Euro a piece, would it not make sense to sell them at 50 cents? Wouldn’t you sell more at a lower price?”

But what about the profit? Where is that?

If you don’t sell any oranges, you won’t even have a stall!

No no no no. Prices can’t come down because salaries would have to come down too.”

I was too tired to discuss anything beyond this point and left my driver and his cab (btw, cab prices have gone up in Madrid and Barcelona to make up for the predicted loss in revenue!) and wondered to myself if more people in Spain thought like this.

It turns out that, by my estimates, most people do.

The feel on the streets is that, somehow, as if by magic, the economy will pull through without having to lower the price of anything.

This is not the first time this country defies world trends to its detriment.

A couple of weeks ago I went to a press conference at the Ministry of Economics. The speaker mentioned how he was surprised that Spain had about 1 million unsold homes for which realtors were having to pay.

It costs a lot of money to keep and take care of empty properties”.

Eventually, he predicted, the realtors will have to sell these properties at a lower price, whether they want to, or not.

Sooner would be better than later, they would loose less money”.

Since then, do you think this has happened?


Oh, did I mention that Spain has the highest unemployment rate in the developed world?

Most analysts predict it will reach 4 million by the end of 2009.

The Spanish
Government begs to differ. I am not an econmist, but I think this situation is untennable. Something has got to give.

And soon.