[ this post has updates ]
Hello Cranker Darlings,
We lead off this first full week of 2016 with an ode to journalism, one of my very favorite subjects. The way we tell and absorb stories is most definitely in the news lately, for weird and still unexplained reasons.
Let’s start with the Boston Globe, bless their hearts. The Globe, to me, is still one of the finest papers in the nation, and is often better than the for-profit—and sometimes radical—New York Times or Washington Post. But it’s actually profit that’s at issue: suits at The Globe elected to switch distribution companies knowing that a) it’d save them money and b) cause only moderate disruption in getting papers to its customers.
In this case, both turned out to be true. The Globe was due to save millions in the deal, inked with ACI Media Group, but caused a shit-storm in undelivered papers and irate calls from customers. From the CJR post:
But Globe management is being battered with accusations that the switch to a new carrier was more about saving money than saving subscribers. Sheehan says that wasn’t the primary motivator but he does say this: ‘There were also more costs savings overall because [ACI works] at a lower margin, enough for us to save a few million dollars overall.’
Well then. The drive for cost savings came at a price: lost revenue, apoplectic subscribers and staff reporters getting up at 4 a.m. to deliver the papers themselves. Seriously.
ACI’s Dollar Store routing software was about as accurate as earthquake predictions. Which led to an epic, first-person account from Globe columnist Kevin Cullen.
They gave us 273 papers and handed us a delivery route that appeared to have been prepared by someone under the influence of methamphetamine. The route wasn’t circuitous. It was circus. If you handed an Etch-a-Sketch to a really drunk guy and told him to turn the knobs, that’s what our route would look like.
There are many morals to this insane newspaper story. First, that columnists cared enough about the product that they took on delivery themselves. Also, and perhaps more importantly: print reporting is not only NOT dead, it’s thriving and wanted by old-school customers who prefer to smudge their fingertips as they sip their morning coffee.
Next week: a deeper dive in to the Las Vegas Review-Journal purchase fiasco.
[UPDATED] North Korea’s Kim Jong Un thrust himself back in the news this week using pops, whistles and an explosion. He shares the first name of a certain reality-famous Kardashian… and is equally desperate for attention. We’ll call the combination “Kim Jong-dashian.”
Despite the presenter’s stern spittle and assured shoulders—clad in a lovely pink jumper—North Korea didn’t actually test a Hydrogen Bomb as the country claimed, says Joe Cirincione of Ploughshares Fund. He spoke with clarity and authority last night:
“I believe they are exaggerating their capabilities, exaggerating their device,” Cirincione said. “Kim Jong-un is the Donald Trump of North Korea. He makes outlandish statements, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re true.”
The short write-up at Salon on the segment will catch you up. He invoked Trump in his comparison, but I think it’s way better to imagine Kim Jong Un gay married to Kayne West. I’m not the only one, trust me.
For-profit media hasn’t been following North Korea and its aggressive posturing, mainly because it isn’t a ratings getter. As soon as Kim Jong Un decides to marry Kanye (or better yet, Dennis Rodman), the media will start paying attention.
The all-girl pop band theory of North Korea's nuclear test https://t.co/ztCGtvldtf
— Vox (@voxdotcom) January 9, 2016
UPDATE: Vox has a post up today (which follows a story in the New York Times) that suggests North Korea’s bomb test has far less to do with aggression toward the West than originally thought. Turns out China and North Korea have been in a bit of a snit lately, and relations have soured. The NYT story speculates that the spat actually centers around “girl bye” shade cast toward a NK pop band:
Some American officials, declining to speak on the record, speculated that a dustup last month over the treatment of an all-female band that North Korea sent to Beijing might have so angered Mr. Kim that he ordered the test to go ahead.
Just before the band was supposed to perform, Mr. Kim declared that the North possessed hydrogen bomb technology. The Chinese, with no explanation, downgraded the level of officials scheduled to attend the performance, and the band then headed home without performing.
“I know this sounds like a crazy reason to set off a nuclear test,” one American intelligence official said. “But stranger things have provoked North Korean action.”
Kim Jong-dashian has gotten his panties wadded before, and has shown himself to be incredible insecure and reactionary. During the period when he went missing for six weeks, people speculated he was ill… which prompted this dead-on SNL cold open:
To review: this whole thing could be linked to a girl band receiving not-red-carpet treatment while in China. Lesson: North Korean hijinks are not always about us.
someone check on the Spice Girls and make sure they're ok. https://t.co/2oL4WX0gRF
— Will's 'Chuck Todd Epiphany' Warehouse & Speakeasy (@bywillpollock) January 9, 2016
I’ve been known to turn up on some Lip Syncs in the past, but holy mother of GOD does Channing Tatum kill Beyonce’s “Run the World.” There’s a surprise at the end that’s worth seeing. This is less a Crank it Up as it is Let the Video Roll:
It’s an all-SNL, all-video Throwback Thursday this week… after Saturday Night Live roundly fucked up a perfect show opportunity with Tina Fey and Amy Poehler—inexplicably using them for scant minutes in the show. Important to point out how critical recurring segments are to SNL’s success. Those skits make the performers, and vice versa.
We’ve had a few flashes of brilliance this season (“Right Side of the Bed” a send-up of an Atlanta wake-up program), but in general, SNL has become a series of luke-warm one-liners and terrible skit execution.
All this comes down to two things: writing and casting. and right now, both are seriously off. Once this recurrent SNL malaise is over, we’ll get back to creating regular features like Target Lady, or expanding Kate McKinnon’s brilliant portrayal of The Long Island Medium. Until then, we get headliners like Tina & Amy who barely made a supporting cast.
— Will's 'Chuck Todd Epiphany' Warehouse & Speakeasy (@bywillpollock) January 7, 2016
Clay Aiken is displeased with American Idol judging… Trump invited 20,000 attendees to a rally in Burlington, Vt.—6,500 of whom have confirmed they’ll be going—which will be super awkward since the Flynn Theatre only holds 1,400… Dinguses in Oregon continue their standoff with authorities… Twitter continues its “me, too!” march toward Facebook-esque irrelevance… Shorter Texas idiots: “Packin’ heat? Jump to the express lane!”
Apparently I’m “an ideologue filled with hate.” This dingus has me all. figured. out.
— SSG␟ECHO (Ret.) (@SSG_Echo) January 2, 2016
Remember, differing opinions do not equate to hatred. We yell in our silos and when we stumble across someone who thinkings differently, it can be, um, shocking. Or something. But that concept is sometimes too big for narrow minds.
That’s it from me this week, Cranker Darlings. See you right back here next Thursday at 2.
Will Pollock is a crabby New York City escapee living in Atlanta. He’s a freelance multimedia journalist and author of two books (Pizza for Good & Leaving Triscuit), with more on the way. Sign up for the mailing list, follow him on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram—and check out the book links below.
Don’t forget to comment below. Cranky loves company.