The Seattle Times hasn’t shrunk much more lately, so we haven’t used our “Seattle Times Shrinkage Watch” meme much lately.
The same can’t be said for the monopoly daily in Portland, the Advance Publications (S.I. Newhouse family)-owned Oregonian.
Like Advance’s New Orleans Times-Picayune, the Oregonian has cut back on home delivery (to four days a week).
Like the T-P and other Advance papers, it’s been corporately reorganized as a “digital first” operation.
Its shrunken newsroom staff has faced a series of management dictates to post at least three online news items per day, to participate in (and start) comment threads for each item, and to eternally chase the Almighty Pageview Count. (As if standard “content site” target analytics from circa 2008 were still valid and could still lead to profits.)
And, as of last week, the print Oregonian is now a tabloid.
They officially call it a “compact” format, but it’s the same approximate page size as the Stranger. (That’s about three-quarters the current page size of the Seattle Times.)
It has (or is capable of having) color on every page. Each section is stapled (though management vows it’s all still fully recyclable).
The acres of national/international wire stories that used to dominate the front section have been slashed into a few stories and digests at the section’s back. Local coverage is still around (including, this week, a series on workplace sexual harassment), but is far more tightly edited.
However, the paper seems to have only dropped one comic strip (Rex Morgan M.D.).
These aren’t the final changes coming to the once-venerable “Big O.”
Like many shrunken daily papers, it’s moving out of its historic headquarters building, into smaller rented office quarters.
And management has told the remaining reporters they’ll soon be judged, and incentivized, for their stories’ online pageview counts and “engagement” statistics.
Expect a lot less boring but important local-paper-of-record stuff and a lot more cute cat pictures.
erika j. schultz via twitter
the fullbright company
The Penny Arcade Expo (PAX) is one of the video-game industry’s biggest conventions. Appealing to both fans and industry people, it often sells out its annual occurrence at the Washington State Convention Center.
One game company, with a major new product to promote, won’t be there.
The Portland-based Fullbright Company has a “story exploration” title Gone Home. Set in a large, mysterious Oregon house in 1995, it includes musical tracks by ’90s Riot Grrrl-era bands Bratmobile and Heavens to Betsy.
Fullbright got an invite to show off Gone Home at PAX’s “Indie Megabooth,” a portion of the Convention Center show floor dedicated to games from small developers.
Fullbright’s small staff turned the invite down.
They cite several reasons, but basically they’re offended by stances and “jokes” made by PAX founders Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik.
It’s a long story, but here’s the short version:
PAX, as anyone who’s even thought of going to it knows, is an offshoot of Penny Arcade, a web comic by Holkins and Krahulik. The strip is full of in-jokes about games and gamers.
In August 2010, PA ran a strip called “The Sixth Slave.”
The strip was a one-off gag about user challenges in multi-player games such as World of Warcraft, in which users challenge other users to “kill 10 bad guys” or “save five prisoners” in an allotted amount of time.
In the cartoon, a character pleads with another character to save him from slavery:
…The comic features a (white, male) slave begging for rescue from another character. “Hero!” he pleads. “Please take me with you! Release me from this hell unending! Every morning, we are roused by savage blows. Every night, we are raped to sleep by the dickwolves.” The hero tells him, “I only needed to save five slaves. Alright? Quest complete.” The prisoner protests, “But…” The hero interrupts him, “Hey, pal. Don’t make this weird.”
The above description comes from a post by guest blogger “Milli A”, at the feminist/political blog Shakesville. As you might expect, she didn’t like the gag at all.
She explained that she didn’t like any reference to rape in a context of attempted humor. Even in meta-fantasy situations; even with a male victim; even when it’s mentioned as a violent crime, within a list of other violent crimes.
Holkins and Krahulik’s attempted explanation in a subsequent strip merely further annoyed critics. Many of these critics interpreted the explanation as the product of game-geeks who didn’t “get” the experiences of real-life victims of violence.
Holkins and Krahulik’s subsequent responses to the increasing controversy seemed to depict their critics as outsiders who didn’t “get” gamer culture and the strip’s humor (which, admittedly, is sometimes morbid and often requires deep knowledge of gamer tropes).
Krahulik, in particular, seems to have gone “extreme” in condescending Twitter and email “jokes” about the critics. It’s as if he were consciously trying to affirm the common stereotypes of male game-geeks (and of male scifi/fantasy geeks in general) as socially-inept dweebs who can’t relate to anyone outside their own subculture, especially if that anyone is a female who’s not wearing spandex.
This is a shame for many reasons. One reason is that PA and PAX have been supportive of female gamers and game creators in the past.
Can they realize, and once-n’-for-all state, that there’s nothing daringly “politically incorrect” about their past statements?
Derek Thompson at the Atlantic has assembled a U.S. map containing what he claims to be “the most famous brands born in each state.”
Only he doesn’t consistently play this game by his own rules.
Some of Thompson’s picks are obvious: Nike for Oregon, Coca-Cola for Georgia, Hasbro for Rhode Island, DuPont for Delaware, L.L. Bean for Maine, Budweiser for Missouri, Tabasco for Louisiana.
Other choices are debatable but defensible: Apple for California, Hawaiian Airlines for Hawaii, Starbucks for Washington state.
But in some cases, Thompson lists parent companies rather than “brands.” (GM is a bigger company, but Ford is a bigger product name.)
In others, he places brands where corporate takeovers have placed them, not where they began. (Does anyone really associate Saks department stores with Alabama?)
Here are my alternate choices:
And for good ol’ Wash. state, arguments can be made for Amazon, Microsoft, and even Sub Pop, or such moved-away corporate HQs as Boeing and UPS.
1950 front page via portland.daveknows.com
Imagine a Portlandia sketch about people desperately seeking newspapers.
For dog training and bird cage lining. For papier-maché school crafts projects. For kinetic art pieces and retro fashion ensembles. For Wm. Burroughs-style “cut up” wordplay. For packing objets d’art and eBay shipments.
But there aren’t any newspapers to be had.
Not in the vending boxes. Not in the stores. Not in the attics.
Not even in the landfills—they’ve been picked clean of ‘em.
The citizens are outraged. They form support groups. They exchange tips on where the rare newsprint can still be had.
Of course, they do all of this online.
That’s the scenario I imagined when I heard of the Newhouse/Advance Media chain’s latest cost-cutting spree.
You remember how Advance’s newspapers in Ann Arbor MI, Birmingham AL, and (most famously) New Orleans cut back their print issues to two or three days a week.
The New Orleans operation backtracked. This week it launched a tabloid called T-P Street on the regular Times-Picayune‘s off days (Monday, Tuesday, Thursday). The Street papers will be sold in stores and vending boxes, but won’t be home-delivered.
That’s the tactic Advance is taking in Portland.
First, they registered a new corporate name, “Oregonian Media Group,” replacing “Oregonian Publishing Co.”
Then they immediately posted an announcement that claimed the new entity would “expand news and information products in Oregon and Southwest Washington.”
Of course, that “expansion” is really a contraction dressed up in corporate buzz-speak.
The print Oregonian is going newsstand-only three days a week this October, with home delivery offered four days a week. (Home-delivery subscribers will get full digital access to all editions.)
And at least 45 newsroom employees are losing their jobs. That’s about 22 percent of the paper’s current editorial workforce, which in turn is a little over half of its 1990s newsroom strength. Some 50 workers are being canned in other departments.
That reduction might not be the final total; at least a few new hires will replace high-senority people taking severance packages.
If you ask whether the Seattle Times could join the trend of papers only home-delivering part of the time, the answer is “maybe but it’s complicated.”
The Times took over the Everett Herald‘s home-delivery operation. If the now Sound Publishing-owned Herald wants to keep delivering every day, the Times is contractually obligated to do that delivering.
And if the Times has drivers and paperboys/girls in Snohomish and north King counties working every morning, it might as well have them in the rest of King County.
'every driver every time it ever rains ever'
seattle dept. of transportation
…historically the stingiest, most fiscally conservative, most technologically resistant and investment-averse people ever, with the highest percentage of luddites per capita.