Category Archives: Consumer issues

Newspapers losing their big advantage over bloggers

Here’s another sign post along the long, winding road towards the death of professional journalism.

Jim Romenesko’s blog reported on a memo from the managing editor/content of the Bay Area News Group: “‘WE WILL BE ELIMINATING A LAYER OF VALUABLE EDITING’.”

The bottom line: The company is laying off its copy editors.

I had to look up what newspapers are owned by BANG. According to Wikipedia, they include:

San Jose Mercury News — the flagship paper of the group

Contra Costa Times

Oakland Tribune

Santa Cruz Sentinel

The Argus (Fremont)

The Daily Review (Hayward)

Marin Independent Journal

The Reporter (Vacaville)

Times-Herald (Vallejo)

The memo describes the changes.

The bottom line is that we will be eliminating a layer of valuable editing across most of the copy desk — what is known in desk parlance as the rim. The result:

* Staff stories that go inside sections will not be copy-edited. The assigning editor will be the only read. (In sports, late stories that do not go through an assigning editor will continue to be read on the desk, once.) Stories for our East Bay weeklies will not be copy-edited./CONTINUES

* Staff stories for section covers will receive one read on the desk rather than the current two.

* Proofreading will be reduced.

This is going to place a new level of responsibility on reporters and, especially, assigning editors. Many of the ways in which the desk bails us out — often without us noticing — will disappear. That will mean:

* All assigning editors must run Tansa on stories before moving them to the desk, and all proper names will have to be cq’ed. Grammar mistakes that make it through an assigning editor are highly likely to appear in print.

What does this mean in practice? A lot less finished writing overall. Most likely bad for newspapers and for newspaper readers.

After all, much of what has separated bloggers and reporters has been the service of editors and copy editors that reporters copy would normally get before going public.

Now, if the Bay Area News Group is an indication, newspapers are losing that advantage.

Leftover night: Eating out of the refrigerator

Last night we were trying to eat up various leftovers, odds and ends had lingered long enough in the refrigerator.

Usually if we just have a few scraps of cooked meat, we will heat some refried beans and then use the meat to make a filling for soft tacos. But Meda likes to have an avocado on hand when we go that route, and it was lacking.

So back to the drawing boards. There were chicken scraps from the last cooked Costco chicken we had late last week, one leftover chicken thigh, and a couple of small bits of meat from Friday night’s dinner. And a good amount of watercress, after the previous night’s watercress salad.

So we cooked a little brown rice, and I threw together an informal stirfry. It was pretty plain. Onion, garlic, then the bits of meat, shoyu, a little sherry, two diced hot peppers, then the watercress. I forgot the little tomatoes I was supposed to add, which was a shame.

Meda made a few deviled eggs, using up hardboiled eggs she had made earlier. Oh, there was also the last part of an artichoke from a previous evening, just the heart, really.

The result, with a glass of shiraz, not too bad for a quickie meal.

Photo with my iPhone. Click to see a larger version.

Clearing the refrigerator

A good read–Living through a social media backlash

Here’s one for your Sunday reading: “The Weird Redemption of SF’s Most Reviled Tech Bro,” by Lauren Smiley, from Backchannel.com.

It’s long, the kind of length we don’t see that much of these days. And it’s well written. And it’s built around a complex mix of important issues.

It’s the tale of a dot com high flyer in the politically charged atmosphere of San Francisco, where the backlash against the elite high tech world has been fierce.

It a tale involving the downside of social media, of the dramatic measures needed to recover from a online faux pas, if recovery is possible. It’s the story of the seemingly intractable problem of homelessness in another large city.

And it’s great storytelling.

Find a comfy place to read and do it.

Website makes recycling used items easy

Here’s one to add to your browser’s bookmarks: trash nothing! (Found at trashnothing.com).

It’s a good way to keep used items out of the landfill. Your trash is someone else’s treasure, as they say.

How it Works

There are thousands of locally run, grassroots freecycling mailing groups around the world. Once you join your local group or start a group, you can create ‘Offer’ posts for items you want to give away, or ‘Wanted’ posts for items you need (as long as you follow some basic rules).

For example, here is how offering an item works:

You have a bike you don’t need and you want to dispose of it.

Instead of throwing it away, you join your local freecycling group.

You create a new ‘Offer’ post that is sent to the group and seen by all of the group members.

When I entered “Honolulu” as my location, the site provided these local groups that I could link to. Here’s an image of the groups that were found.

groups on Oahu

If you’re looking for something in particular, post a “wanted” notice. If you have something to give away, post an “offer.”

I didn’t check whether there are groups on the neighbor islands, but you can just go to trashnothing.com and check that out.

It’s simple and straightforward.

Former project architects speak out about rail design

Pacific Business News reporter Kathleen Gallagher came up with two critical stories on Honolulu’s rail project over the past two weeks.

On March 15, she reported on the departure of the project’s chief architect, who warned that attempts to cut costs and reduce the projected cost overruns could ““decrease the level of amenity for the stations and other patron facilities to reduce cost in the aesthetically sensitive, downtown section of the city.”

And she noted: “Since there are currently no plans to fill Caswell’s position at HART, the design criteria and standards for the remaining sections of the rail route will likely be left to the discretion of the firms holding the design-build contracts.”

[See “Honolulu rail project’s chief architect departs, warns of project’s future“]

Then, in a follow-up, she tracked down one of the project’s first chief architects, who quit after just a year on the job after his criticisms and recommendations were ignored (“One of rail’s first architects speaks out about elevated design“).

Douglas Tilden was chief architect for InfraConsult, the projects main consultant, in 2007.

Tilden advocated for ditching the all-elevated design and instead adopting less expensive light rail technology, emulating transit projects all around the world.

“It is nothing short of a crime to run it elevated downtown and I told them that,” Tilden said.

The architect also had harsh words for the city’s political decision to begin construction in Kapolei and work back into downtown Honolulu, calling it “sheer lunacy.”

“The key goal of any transit system is to get the people interested by having it downtown first. Honolulu has made a huge mistake.”

He concluded: “I think Honolulu will be a poster child for how not to put a transit system in the city…they couldn’t be doing it any worse, it’s mistake after mistake.”

So here’s how it looks. The city paid big bucks to consultants, presumably to get the best available advice on how to make this transit project work. But the best advice of the consultant’s chief architect was ignored in favor of a plan that supported what the city’s political leaders favored. So the money paid for the architectural consultant was squandered because the city ignored his advice and counsel, and instead pursued its own course for other reasons.

You have to wonder how many other consultants are ignored unless they toe a predetermined political line.