Perhaps I should begin this post with the opening words of today's first reading in the Catholic lectionary:
"Today I have set before you
life and prosperity, death and doom…"
— Deuteronomy 30:15
Since this last post on the subject ("TNR on the 'end' of newspapers") — when I mentioned the bankruptcies of the Philadelphia papers and alluded to that of the Journal Register Co. — the flood of bad news in my industry has continued unabated this week. For instance:
- Hearst Corp. said if it can't drastically cut expenses enough in the next few weeks, it will close or sell off The San Francisco Chronicle, northern California's largest newspaper.
- Washington Post Co. earnings fell 77 percent in the fourth quarter of 2008.
- The Providence Journal will lay off another 100 people.
- Meanwhile, Morris Publishing Group, which publishes several small papers in S.C. (in North Augusta, Hardeeville, and Beaufort, Jasper and Hampton counties) as well as the Augusta and Savannah dailies, continued to be mentioned among the more troubled in the business.
That's just a sampling.
But that's not the big story, is it? The big story is that what's killing the newspapers is the dying economy — no economic activity, no advertising, no newspapers.
As President Obama gamely tried to buck up the country Tuesday night, the picture looked grimmer and grimmer for the whole economy. Of all that I've read this week about bailouts, layoffs, losses, cutbacks and so forth this week, nothing made as big an impression on me as a piece in the WSJ yesterday about several new economic indicators.
The story began with Ben Bernanke telling us that we could start to snap out of this by 2010 — if EVERYTHING goes right from here on. It continued:
That worst-in-41-years was actually the worst ever, since consumers' pulses were first taken this way in 1967. Additionally:
Almost a quarter of respondents said they expected their incomes to decrease over the next six months, an all-time high.
If only a quarter expect their incomes to decrease, it makes me think three-quarters of us are fooling ourselves.
Oh, by the way, speaking of Ben Bernanke — did you see that his boyhood home in Dillon — yes, Dillon, S.C. — was foreclosed upon? It was no longer owned by the Bernanke's, but still, as omens go… The WSJ followed up that story with a slideshow of Dillon (including pics from South of the Border).
Let me add to all this my firm belief that we can't possibly turn this around until we start feeling a little more upbeat about our prospects. So enough of the gloom and doom for today; I just needed to get that out of my system.
Anybody have any happy news to share?
For me, I'll return to today's readings, where the responsorial psalm promises this to one who hopes in the Lord:
planted near running water,
That yields its fruit in due season,
and whose leaves never fade.
Whatever he does, prospers.
Amen to that.