Monday, January 21, 2008

On the Chopping Block

I spent nearly all of the weekend doing the spreadsheets and then writing a report on how the latest casual attack on California state government - Arnold Schwarzenegger, Director - will end the University of California as a public university, converting it to a public-private partnership at the mercy of private donors and interests. Fun stuff - trying to issue a wake-up call to folks who can seem to quite believe that their well-educated and docile heads are getting lopped off.

On some gut level I am furious with myself for having not only stayed in but spent much time trying to save what looks like a loser institution, when I should have just said bye-bye about ten years ago.

The middle-class has slept through the demise of the institutions that built it - as I say often enough on these pages. This is no longer the case at the Los Angeles Times, one of the country's
best newspapers, where yet another chief editor has just been fired for not cutting fast enough. The piece notes that this is "the fourth time in less than three years that the highest-ranking editor or the publisher has left for that reason."

The latest ex-editor, James O'Shea, was apparently resisting cuts on top of a long series of previous cuts. It is in the nature of modern managers and investors not to care - Arnold-style - about your previous sacrifices. The people who do the actual work know about the steady deterioration of both job and product. They already know that "The Times had a newsroom staff of more than 1,100 people at the start of this decade, but the number has declined to below 900, officials say. Its weekday circulation has dropped to about 800,000, from 1.1 million."

The owners look at the circulation and revenue numbers and demand even more cuts. The cuts are apparently completely unreasonable, given the fact that this fired editor started out as a hired gun for management.
The removal of the editor, James E. O’Shea, by the publisher, David D. Hiller, mirrors the odd spectacle of a little more than a year ago, when the previous publisher, Jeffrey M. Johnson, was fired for refusing to eliminate newsroom jobs as directed by the paper’s owner, the Tribune Company. In each case, a longtime Tribune executive was expected to rein in costs at the paper, but instead sided with the newsroom and lost his job for it.
Will the newsroom folks actually do anything? Who knows: with the Writers Guild Strike going on like the Justice For Janitors strikes used to, L.A. is again becoming a labor town. Maybe it's really dawning on people that they've been screwed.

Krugman had a good piece today about the failure of Reaganomics and the need to get this story out. Amen Mr. Krugman. Middle-classes I hope you're listening for a change.

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