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Archive for January 2009

Whom will President Obama appoint as ambassadors?

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Much of President Barack Obama’s pre-election stump speeches focused on the perceived need to reinvigorate America’s moral leadership around the world. Indeed, rhetoric on the White House website says, “President Obama and Vice President Biden will renew America’s security and standing in the world through a new era of American leadership.”

Critical first steps, many would argue, were his appointments of former rival and New York senator Hillary Rodham Clinton as secretary of State and adviser Susan Rice as ambassador to the United Nations. The president has sent former senator George Mitchell to the Mideast and Richard Holbrook to Afghanistan and Pakistan as special envoys. So far, so good.

Presidents appoint ambassadors to represent American interests abroad. Presumably presidents appoint seasoned, experienced foreign diplomats to such delicate tasks. So President Obama has dozens of ambassadors to appoint. And the first rumor is … Dan Rooney as ambassador to Ireland? The owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers and president and co-founder of The American Ireland Funds?
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Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

January 29, 2009 at 1:30 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Strib files for bankruptcy under equity firm owner

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A business ought to make a profit if it’s properly capitalized and wisely run. If it is neither, it fails. Today, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune filed for bankruptcy under Chapter 11, joining the Tribune Co., publisher of the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times, in the red-ink tank.

With assets of $493.2 million and liabilities of $661.1 million, the Strib, as it’s commonly known, certainly qualifies as undercapitalized. (Yes, we know: Declines in print advertising revenues had a great deal to do with this.) Wisely run? Less than two years ago, then-owner McClatchy Co. sold the Strib to a private equity group, Avista Capital Partners of New York, for $530 million.

So what does a gaggle of “seasoned professionals” — whose Web site says its “Global Partnership Strategy of focus, collaboration and expertise in business and investing—will enable us to do more than just make ‘good buys’ in today’s market … and supports management and enhances operational performance, creating real value” — know about newspapering?
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Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

January 16, 2009 at 4:52 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Newspapers: Do as we say. Read online. Well, pfui!

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Remember the days when you’d bring in the newspaper from the front porch and drop it on the kitchen table, hearing a satisfying thunk as it landed? Remember when the newspaper had heft?

The newspaper business is contracting, much like a hypothermia victim losing circulation in the extremities to protect the body’s core. The recession now swallowing the global economy has accelerated that shrinkage.

Newspapers have contracted in physical size, rate of print publication, ability to produce quality journalism in quantity, reputation for credibility, meaningful participation in public discourse — and, of course, revenue. Their corporate leaders say the lousy revenue’s their problem; therefore, either more revenue or fewer expenses will solve the problem. Well, they’re not getting more revenue. Hence, the contractions.

And that is the problem: The newspaper industry doesn’t recognize what its problem truly is. Well, here it is: Newspapers no longer control readers’ habits.
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Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

January 14, 2009 at 5:50 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Bridging a life

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At Cabot Cove near where I grew up in western New England, the Millers River meets the Connecticut. The Iron Bridge Co. of Canton, Ohio, erected a one-lane bridge over the Millers in 1898 for $7,000 — or so an old plaque on the cross-beam over the western end used to proclaim. Standing on the bridge, you can see the Connecticut rush by 100 yards downstream of the bridge. In spring, the Connecticut sweeps the surging effluent of Millers to the south and eventually inhales it, adding the silt of the Millers to its own.

The bridge connects East Mineral Road in Montague to River Road in Northfield. It’s no marvel — just a turn-of-the-century, strut-and-truss iron bridge with a paved roadway. Montague had the bridge inspected in 1989. The engineers from the state said the abutments – then made of stone — were unsafe. They had begun to shift and collapse, the engineers warned. The town closed the bridge, saying it could not afford to pay $100,000 to repair it, given how little vehicle traffic crossed the bridge. Years later, the bridge was modestly renovated as a pedestrian river crossing.

I think of 1988 as the year I left home. That’s the year I screwed up the nerve to leave the newspaper and go to graduate school at Evergreen, sight unseen. Whenever I return home, I visit this bridge. I love this bridge, but I can’t explain why. I only know that I am irrevocably connected to the bridge, and it is irrevocably connected to me.
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Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

January 3, 2009 at 4:51 pm

Posted in Uncategorized