The Washington Canard
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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Eugene Robinson, persuasive for onceDon't look now, but for the first time I can recall, I found a Eugene Robinson column interesting. Robinson can mostly be counted on to regurgitate the latest CW, and while contrarianism is a not a virtue in of itself (sorry, Hitch -- you too, TNR) it certainly does make for better reading.

The subject of today's column was Rupert Murdoch's potential takeover of the Wall Street Journal; Robinson began:
Everybody knows the newspaper business is facing, shall we say, a few challenges. Make that a few calamities -- sliding circulation, anemic advertising, the rise of the Internet and the reluctance of Web surfers to attach monetary value to our deathless prose. So when a billionaire mogul with ink in his veins wants to purchase one of the nation's finest (and most perilously challenged) newspapers, bidding two-thirds more than Wall Street says the paper is worth, you'd think the whole industry would be delirious with joy.

But you'd be wrong. Rupert Murdoch tries to buy the Wall Street Journal, and the reaction is as if Lord Voldemort had made an above-market offer for Hogwarts.
Harry Potter, how timely! How cutting edge! But wait... anybody familiar with the syntax of op-ed columns knows that you start off by giving your opponents their due, and if I'm not mistaken, it almost sounds like he's about to stake out a position in support of Voldemort.

More than almost, actually:
This week, members of the Bancroft clan who hold a controlling stake in Dow Jones, the Journal's parent company, are deciding whether to accept Murdoch's money. It's a tough call, but I can tell them with confidence what not to do: The surest way to destroy the great newspaper their family has owned for more than a century would be to seek out some other billionaire, a "white knight" on a valiant steed, to buy the paper instead. If they're going to sell, they almost certainly should sell to Murdoch.
Why not sell to a Ron Burkle or Sam Zell? They aren't media people, and Murdoch is. Murdoch has said he wants to beef up the political coverage -- a reversal of recent trends -- and isn't likely to start cost-cutting, like a supermarket or real estate magnet.

What about Murdoch's tabloid sensibility, and reputation for meddling? This, especially, being the chief concern of professional scold ethics watchdog Jack Shafer?
Whatever else Rupert Murdoch is, he's not stupid. His tabloids may titillate, but the Times is still a great newspaper. He's an innovator, even if some people don't care for some of his innovations. And in Britain, he has just spent more than $1 billion on -- get this -- new printing presses.I don't see any realistic choice for the Bancrofts but to take the leap.
The Wall Street Journal is not the New York Post, and Murdoch knows that. In England, he owns both the News of the World and, of course, the Times of London. Both papers have their places, and it's not like the New York Post was the Washington Post before Murdoch snapped it up.

So, Eugene Robinson sealed the deal for me. And it's the first time I can say that, too.

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Friday, July 20, 2007

In an article today, Amy Schatz and Kevin Delaney at the Wall Street Journal quote my friend and former colleague Peter Greenberger:
Google's newly hired team leader for political sales, Peter Greenberger, explained how attendees could use online ads and other services from Google to help their candidates win. One Google product could provide details about people who visited a campaign's Web site, such as the approximate area where they lived, Mr. Greenberger explained. "Tremendously valuable info," he said, adding, "It's free. Did I mention it's free? It's free."
That's vintage Greenberger, I tells ya.

P.S. But what is "free" just another word for? I dunno. I guess I was thinking something like "all you need is a Google account." But if you have a better idea, you know where the comment section is.

P.P.S. This whole thing is pretty interesting, but this analysis from CNET makes no senses:
Once the company announces the wireless broadband to the nation, it will immediately announce that Google Phone everyone has been talking about. The Google Phone will work specifically with the Google system (kind of like Skype) and will be free of charge. The only fee to the consumer is the cost of buying the phone, which can be done over the Google checkout system from online retailers or at fine brick-and-mortar retailers nationwide.

As soon as the phone is released, people will be tossing their iPhones, Razrs and every other cell phone into the nearest river. Why pay all that money for a phone when you can have the same kind of service for free?
Sure, you can buy the Google Phone -- I'm sure it will be a good ones. But if the whole point is to offer access for any device, and that deal only lasts 5 years, why would I be chucking my fourth or fifth gen iPhone?

And this:
I'm sure you will see advertising when you start up the phone, but most of the benefits from this system will be earned on the Internet, where people will be lauding the company for all it has done to move the industry forward. In a matter of months, Google would practically control Internet advertising. And by giving people free Internet access on the phones, guess where the default home page will be pointing?
Yeah, I don't see ads on my iPhone. And despite Google's sometimes-moronic attempts to out-Microsoft Redmond, I'll bet you can change the home page.

P.P.P.S. Now that I use WordPress more than blogger, I keep forgetting that Save reverts the post to Draft mode, and only Publish republishes. Post now restored. That said, Blogger certainly has gotten better since I came to prefer WP -- and it only just occurred to me that this whole post has been composed using Google-owned software.

At least it was free!

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