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Bruce plays during tomorrow’s Super Bowl halftime show. I don’t care if the critics have been luke warm in their reviews, I say go out an buy this album. If you are a fan, you will love it. We’re all just workin’ on a dream. I think my favorite song on Working on a Dream…

Working on a Dream

Bruce plays during tomorrow’s Super Bowl halftime show. I don’t care if the critics have been luke warm in their reviews, I say go out an buy this album. If you are a fan, you will love it. We’re all just workin’ on a dream.

I think my favorite song on Working on a Dream is The Last Carnival, a tribute to the late E Street Band member Danny Federici.

In the New York Times, Bruce has this to say about the recent election: “A lot of the core of our songs is the American idea: What is it? What does it mean? ‘Promised Land,’ ‘Badlands,’ I’ve seen people singing those songs back to me all over the world. I’d seen that country on a grass-roots level through the ’80s, since I was a teenager. And I met people who were always working toward the country being that kind of place. But on a national level it always seemed very far away.

“And so on election night it showed its face, for maybe, probably, one of the first times in my adult life,” he said. “I sat there on the couch, and my jaw dropped, and I went, ‘Oh my God, it exists.’ Not just dreaming it. It exists, it’s there, and if this much of it is there, the rest of it’s there. Let’s go get that. Let’s go get it. Just that is enough to keep you going for the rest of your life. All the songs you wrote are a little truer today than they were a month or two ago.”

Posted by Joel on January 31 2009 • Current Affairs

Books Unbound

What will books, or the entire publishing industry for that matter, look like in the near future? Much is changing. Time magazine offers some insight in their recently published article, Books Unbound.

An excerpt: “Not that Old Publishing will disappear--for now, at least, it’s certainly the best way for authors to get the money and status they need to survive--but it will live on in a radically altered, symbiotic form as the small, pointy peak of a mighty pyramid. If readers want to pay for the old-school premium package, they can get their literature the old-fashioned way: carefully selected and edited, and presented in a bespoke, art-directed paper package. But below that there will be a vast continuum of other options: quickie print-on-demand editions and electronic editions for digital devices, with a corresponding hierarchy of professional and amateur editorial selectiveness. (Unpaid amateur editors have already hit the world of fan fiction, where they’re called beta readers.) The wide bottom of the pyramid will consist of a vast loamy layer of free, unedited, Web-only fiction, rated and ranked YouTube-style by the anonymous reading masses.”

Posted by Joel on January 24 2009 • Books

Not So Fast

It seems that the New York Times has quickly responded to an article appearing in the Atlantic that speculates about the fate of the newspaper (see my last post). Here’s the entire letter as it appeared Folio magazine’s Web site:

To the Editor,

Your article “End Times,” which speculates on whether The New York Times can survive the death of journalism, leaves a lot to be desired from the standpoint of . . . well, journalism.

It’s not unusual that a journalist calls the subject of a piece before actually publishing the article or column. In fact, in some areas of journalism that’s standard practice. We wish that had happened with this story. We could have helped. Here are some of the things we would have told you.

We fully recognize that our industry is undergoing unprecedented change as technology alters the habits of our readers and advertisers. At the same time, the cyclical downturn in the U.S. economy has exacerbated advertising declines. But The New York Times Company is in a better position than many others in the newspaper industry because of the steps we have taken to improve our performance. In the last five years, we have focused on developing our digital properties and carefully reducing costs while continuing to provide our readers with great journalism both in print and online.

Your article refers to the paper’s credit crisis (never mind the fact that the debt is at the corporate level). We disagree with that characterization. Here’s our situation.

We have two revolving credit agreements.

These are agreements with banks that allow us to borrow up to $400 million under each agreement, or $800 million in total, whenever we need it. We repay what we have borrowed as cash comes in and the amount we can borrow is then replenished.

One of our agreements will expire in May 2009 and the other in June 2011.

As we have said publicly on more than one occasion, because we believe we need significantly less than the total $800 million available credit, we do not plan to replace the full $400 million that is expiring in May. There is no need to do so.

We have not already borrowed money against our building’s value as your article states. Rather we are in the process of pursuing a sale-leaseback for up to $225 million for some of the space we own in our headquarters building.

The proposed transaction for our building gives us the right to buy back the space at the end of the lease. In the meantime, we would continue to occupy our headquarters. We plan to use the proceeds from the sale-leaseback to repay some of the long-term debt we currently have. So the sale-leaseback would not add to the debt of the company, but rather is a way to refinance some of our existing debt. We have chosen to pursue this form of transaction because it is one of the less expensive forms of borrowing in this difficult credit market.

While credit markets remain tight, we have been talking with lenders and, based on our conversations with them, we expect to get the financing to meet our obligations when they come due. And please remember, we continue to generate good cash flow from our operations.

With regard to the specific point made about the demise of the print edition of The Times in May, it may make for a good a story but it is poor analysis. We have 830,000 loyal readers who have subscribed to The New York Times for more than two years, a number that has increased by about a third over the past decade. They like reading the print edition and pay a substantial amount of money to do so. That’s not to say they don’t visit NYTimes.com or read our journalism on their mobile devices. They do. But they would be unhappy if they couldn’t pick up a print copy. And since it’s profitable for us to print these copies, we will continue to do so.

This is a challenging time in our industry and for the U.S. economy. Employees are concerned about their jobs. People in the media industry are working extraordinarily hard to find creative solutions to the issues they face. It is a time for clear thinking and analysis, not uninformed speculation.

Sincerely,

Catherine Mathis
SVP, Corporate Communications
The New York Times Company

Posted by Joel on January 17 2009 • Journalism

End Times

The Atlantic has a good article in its current issue about the state of American journalism. What’s alarming in this article is the speed with which change could come. Coule the New York Times end its print product, and go online only by May? How about a New York Times that operates with only 20 percent of its current reporting power? Believe it or not, it’s not that far from possible, if you believe the Atlantic.

From the article: “Regardless of what happens over the next few months, The Times is destined for significant and traumatic change. At some point soon—sooner than most of us think—the print edition, and with it The Times as we know it, will no longer exist. And it will likely have plenty of company. In December, the Fitch Ratings service, which monitors the health of media companies, predicted a widespread newspaper die-off: “Fitch believes more newspapers and news paper groups will default, be shut down and be liquidated in 2009 and several cities could go without a daily print newspaper by 2010.””

Posted by Joel on January 11 2009 • Journalism

News You Can Lose

Happy New Year everyone. Here’s to a successful 2009.

I realize that I have turned my blog into a bit of a media watch lately, but I can’t help but follow the economic condition of mass media. James Surowiecki has this wonderful look at newspapers in his recent column in the New Yorker:

“There’s no mystery as to the source of all the trouble: advertising revenue has dried up. In the third quarter alone, it dropped eighteen per cent, or almost two billion dollars, from last year. For most of the past decade, newspaper companies had profit margins that were the envy of other industries. This year, they have been happy just to stay in the black. Many traditional advertisers, like big department stores, are struggling, and the bursting of the housing bubble has devastated real-estate advertising.”

Surowiecki compares newspapers to railraods at the turn of the century: “Newspaper readership has been slowly dropping for decades—as a percentage of the population, newspapers have about half as many subscribers as they did four decades ago—but the Internet helped turn that slow puncture into a blowout. Papers now seem to be the equivalent of the railroads at the start of the twentieth century—a once-great business eclipsed by a new technology.”

I agree with his conclusion in that we won’t realize what we have in the reporting that newspaper reporters provide until it is gone.

Posted by Joel on January 04 2009 • Journalism