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Death of the News


Final Edition from Matthew Roberts on Vimeo.

So the Rocky Mountain News is dead. Now that the important deaths are finally happening, I suppose we should keep a close eye on Seattle, San Francisco and Detroit.

I wonder if we’ll still have quality, long-form journalism a decade from now. Newspapers–and I’m talking about their content here, not their format–have long provided the bedrock upon which much of the rest of the media stands. While I’m sure at least some national news organizations commonly thought of as papers will survive, on a local level I’m worried that many cities and even some states will lose the kind of coverage upon which our democracy depends. While there are great independent media and citizen journalism-style operations out there, I doubt they’ll ever be able to match the depth and resources brought by many local newspaper organizations–even with those newspapers in severely weakened states.

My favorite newspaper in the Twin Cities isn’t the Pioneer Press or the StarTribune, but the Southwest Journal. These organizations live in an ecosystem, however, and to a large extent the Journal only makes sense in context of its larger brethren. The Journal would be incomplete without the presence of the Pioneer Press or the Strib, just as City Pages would lack an “edge” (if it still has any) without the dailies. If the big ones fail, they could take the small ones with them.

Even with the Strib in bankruptcy, we’re extremely lucky to have to major dailies, even if those dailies are complete rags compared to what they were just a decade ago. The merger of the Milwaukee Journal and Sentinel is still kind of fresh for me, and while the Journal Sentinel isn’t a bad paper, and has produced some excellent journalism, it has never come across as competitive or scrappy in the way the Sentinel or the Journal once did.

The business model is the problem, but I don’t think anyone has a tested idea of how to fix it. Sustained long-form journalism requires a lot in the way of resources, but the newspaper business draws an inordinate amount of its income through advertising that has more or less been replaced by cheaper (and often more effective) methods. I’m hoping the Detroit Free Press’ decision to cut back home delivery and focus on their online edition four days of the week works out, although the paper’s decision to wall off much of their archives behind a paid gateway suggests they’re not really ready to go all-in.

Ultimately, what may be needed is a major paper that’s willing to drop the burden of, well, paper, and become an online-only news source. If someone can make that work, there may still be hope. If not, don’t look to other forms of media to pick up the slack. If there’s no money in it, why would they?

Posted in News at 11:35 pm

MovieLog: Burn After Reading


Burn After Reading isn’t a great movie, especially by Cohen Brothers standards, but it’s not terrible, either, and is OK for what it is: An overly-complex relationship and espionage drama featuring a cast of characters who are, by any charitable estimation, rather dim. (Indeed, it’s a film where the two smartest characters never leave their offices, and basically sit back and scratch their heads trying to figure out what exactly the rest of the cast is doing.) Brad Pitt and his hair are hilarious, although they (spoiler!) leave the movie a bit too early for what they bring to it.

If I have a complaint, it’s that Burn After Reading feels like half a movie. The closing conversation is hilarious, but it seems like it’s there in place of an additional 20 or so more minutes of the film. Maybe the Cohen Brothers realized they didn’t have a home-run with this one, and just decided to get it over with. 5/10.

Posted in MovieLog at 8:13 pm

Journal for 23 Feb 2009: Back to Normal


Last week was quite a week, but thankfully things now look back to normal. Mathias’ stay at the hospital was shorter than expected—he was able to head home Monday evening—but he remained under close supervision at home for the rest of the week. (We knew he was back to normal when he started throwing toys at us.) Tomorrow, he’s back to daycare, which may be where this entire little virus saga began in the first place.

We’re still not sure what exactly it was that Mathias had last week. The doctors ruled out pneumonia and RSV, which left a few other viral infections that are somewhat difficult to identify. Whatever it was, I hope it helps his little immune system. I’d rather not see him in the hospital like that again.

Posted in BabyLog,Journal at 11:03 pm

Journal for 15 Feb 2009: Sick Mathias


Our Valentine’s Day was sponsored by Health Partners Urgent Care and Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis.

Mathias has been battling a cold since Tuesday evening.  He seemed to be getting over it by Friday afternoon, but Saturday we awoke to find our son to be extremely lethargic and breathing rapidly.  We headed to an urgent care center near our apartment, and after about an hour and a half there they referred us to Children’s Hospital, where we are now.  After a battery of tests, we now have a better idea about what Mathias doesn’t have than what he does have.  The best guess is that it’s something upper respiratory in nature, kind of like pneumonia, but without some of pneumonia’s effects.

Apparently there is a lot of this going around, whatever it is.  Mathias is on oxygen for now, and may have to stay on it for a day or so as his body fends off whatever its afflicted with.  If we’re lukcy he’ll be able to head home tomorrow, but Tuesday is sounding more likely.

Well, here’s the nurse for more tests.  More later.

Posted in BabyLog,Journal at 8:48 pm

Journal for 11 Feb 2009: Fire! Fire! Fire!


Well, I’m feeling like a bit of a dumbass this evening.  The fire department just left a few minutes ago, and they were here because I called them.

I’ve lived in apartment buildings for 10 straight years now, and until tonight have never once experienced a general fire alarm.  So, when I opened the back door of our unit to see what was going on–this was a few floors above the boiler room, incidentally–and saw smoke, I did what I thought was reasonable: Call 911, and get the family out of the building.

Um, yeah.  Turns out our upstairs neighbor burned some cookies.  (I hope there wasn’t some real emergency somewhere.)  He was embarrassed about it to begin with, and now I feel like a bit of a dick because I threw the Minneapolis Fire Department at him.

At least the hipsters across the street found it entertaining.

~ ~ ~

I have to admit to being a bit impressed at our neighbor setting off the building’s alarm by simply baking cookies, especially considering the number of times I’ve inadvertently produced flames in our oven, on the stove, and even in the microwave.  Rarely have I set off our ceiling units, much less the building’s system.

~ ~ ~

Fire is one of the few things that freaks me out a little.  I remember being a bit weirded out by the place Sarah and I lived in River Falls going up a few years after I’d moved out.  Then there was the house I delivered newspapers to as a kid that blew up after a gas leak.  And the time I watched a friend take out a curtain via poor placement of a candle.  Everyone knows someone who’s had these things happen, of course, so I don’t know I flip and pick up the phone when others just shrug and ignore it.

The reason for that may actually go back to the fact I was a bit of a pyro growing up.  (Actually, that may run in the family.  My brother and I both, on separate occasions, came close to burning down wooded areas near two of our homes.)  I liked to burn things, and for a couple of years became fascinated with making homemade fireworks (a habit that came to an end after accidental ignition of some of them in my parent’s basement).  As such, I have a pretty well-tuned idea about how quickly things can burn if given the chance. Dry kindling can ignite amazingly fast, and, well, a building of this age is basically dry kindling.

With my wife and son in it.

So, while I’m going to try not to fault myself for calling, if something like this happens again, I’ll wait until I see flames.  Which I really should’ve done tonight.

Posted in Journal at 9:34 pm

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