EXPLAINER: Why Lawyers Make The Big Bucks

Because they can say shit like this out loud in a court of law with a completely straight face:

lawyerevil.jpg“The Philadelphia Inquirer has been published in Philadelphia since 1828. It’s over 180 years old and it is an institution and a treasure to its community,” said McMichael. He said no one – including the local investor group that bought the newspapers for $515 million in 2006 – foresaw how the economy and other factors would rout the newspaper industry. “These people put $150 million cash into this thing,” McMichael said of the investor group brought together by Tierney, who is chief executive officer of the media company. “The lenders put $300 million cash into the thing. And everybody’s expectation at the time was that this was going to be a prudent, good sound investment. We were all wrong. Every single one of us.” — Philadelphia Newspapers’ Bankruptcy Attorney Lawrence G. McMichael lays it on thick for the judge

“Newspapers have not yet started to shut down in large numbers, but it is only a matter of time. Overeconomist.thumbnail.jpg the next few decades half the rich world’s general papers may fold. Jobs are already disappearing. According to the Newspaper Association of America, the number of people employed in the industry fell by 18% between 1990 and 2004. Tumbling shares of listed newspaper firms have prompted fury from investors. In 2005 a group of shareholders in Knight Ridder, the owner of several big American dailies, got the firm to sell its papers and thus end a 114-year history. This year Morgan Stanley, an investment bank, attacked the New York Times Company, the most august journalistic institution of all, because its share price had fallen by nearly half in four years.”— The Economist, August 24th, 2006

Other great moments in playing dumb:

condi_rice.thumbnail.jpg“I don’t think anybody could have predicted that these people would take an airplane and slam it into the World Trade Center, take another one and slam it into the Pentagon; that they would try to use an airplane as a missile, a hijacked airplane as a missile.” — Condoleezza Rice on May 16, 2002

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President Bush, in a televised interview three days after Katrina hit, suggested that the scale of the bushyouaredoingitwrong.thumbnail.jpgflooding in New Orleans was unexpected. “I don’t think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees. They did anticipate a serious storm,” Bush said in a Sept. 1 interview on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

REUTERS: “The scenario of a major hurricane hitting New Orleans was well anticipated, predicted and drilled around,” said Clare Rubin, an emergency management consultant who also teaches at the Institute for Crisis, Disaster and Risk Management at George Washington University. Computer models developed at Louisiana State University and other institutions made detailed projections of what would happen if water flowed over the levees protecting the city or if they failed…In light of that, said disaster expert Bill Waugh of Georgia State University, “it’s inexplicable how unprepared for the flooding they were.” MORE

RELATED: The fall of journalism is, indeed, journalists’ fault. It is our fault that we did not see the change coming soon enough and ready our craft for the transition. It is our fault that we did not see and exploit — hell, we resisted Newspaperchart_042808_1_1.jpg— all the opportunities new media and new relationships with the public presented. It is our fault that we did not give adequate stewardship to journalism and left the business to the business people. It is our fault that we lost readers and squandered trust. It is our fault that we sat back and expected to be supported in the manner to which we had become accustomed by some unknown princely patron. Responsibility and blame are indeed ours. […]

Farhi assumes that a newspaper is a well-defined product that is no longer supported by classified and retail advertisers and that’s not our fault. He acknowledges that newspapers should be updating their sites, adding Twitter, social networking, Google Maps, and more video. But he ignores the greater need and opportunity to rethink and reinvent journalism itself.

The internet does not just present a few glittery toys. It presents the circumstances to change our relationship with the public, to work collaboratively in networks, to find new efficiencies thanks to the link, to rethink how we cover and present news. No, the essence of the problem is that we thought the internet represented just a new gadget and not a fundamental change in society, the economy, and thus journalism. MORE

THE BEACHWOOD REPORTER: The revolution of the simple link has irrevocably altered the way we should Newspaperchart_042808_1_1.jpgbe writing and structuring our stories. But guess what? Newspaper reporters don’t put links in their stories! It’s true! And when newspapers put stories online, an editor doesn’t put links in those, either! Oh sure, there are auto-generated links that helpfully point readers to encyclopedia entries of every proper name mentioned . . . woo-hoo! And it’s not just because journalists need to master some simple forms of technology; that’s the least of it. It’s because the technological tools of the Internet age make journalism incredibly superior that what you can do on paper. You can tell stories better, you can do better reporting, you can fulfill your public service mission a thousand times better, because you don’t have to operate within the artificial constraints of time and space; because you can use multimedia; because you can marshal more evidence to support your reporting; because you can increase your transparency a thousand-fold; because your work can reach gazillions more people than a print paper can; because your work has a longer life; and those are just a few of the reasons. Most of all, you can do what reporters are always taught to do but rarely pull off: Show, don’t tell. MORE

TIME:  During the past few months, the crisis in journalism has reached meltdown proportions. It is now possible to contemplate a time when some major cities will no longer have a newspaper and when magazines and network-news operations will employ no more than a handful of reporters. There is, however, a striking and somewhat odd fact about this crisis. Newspapers have more readers than ever. Their content, as well as that of newsmagazines and other producers of traditional journalism, is more popular than ever — even (in fact, especially) among young people.

The problem is that fewer of these consumers are paying. Instead, news organizations are merrily giving away their Newspaperchart_042808_1_1.jpgnews. According to a Pew Research Center study, a tipping point occurred last year: more people in the U.S. got their news online for free than paid for it by buying newspapers and magazines. Who can blame them? Even an old print junkie like me has quit subscribing to the New York Times, because if it doesn’t see fit to charge for its content, I’d feel like a fool paying for it.

This is not a business model that makes sense. Perhaps it appeared to when Web advertising was booming and every half-sentient publisher could pretend to be among the clan who “got it” by chanting the mantra that the ad-supported Web was “the future.” But when Web advertising declined in the fourth quarter of 2008, free felt like the future of journalism only in the sense that a steep cliff is the future for a herd of lemmings.

Newspapers and magazines traditionally have had three revenue sources: newsstand sales, subscriptions and advertising. The new business model relies only on the last of these. That makes for a wobbly stool even when the one leg is strong. When it weakens — as countless publishers have seen happen as a result of the recession — the stool can’t possibly stand. MORE

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