19 March 2009

Late Night Money Talking

President Barack Obama will be on the "Tonight Show" starting in just a couple of hours now. It's a landmark appearance for our history-making President: never before has a sitting President gone on a late night television talk show.
So I guess he wants to reassure the American people that he's got the right cards on the table in dealing with the economy.
But... are we, now that the Rocky Mountain News has closed its doors and the Seattle Post Intelligencer has gone all digital... are we really the generation of people that want to get our news from late night talk shows?
We all saw in the last election that sometimes, the fake news shows on Comedy Central seemed to have higher credibility (and their viewers tested higher in actual knowledge about issues and events) than regular newscasts. But is this really how we want to be approached?
I find it a little unsettling myself. I realize that the LA Times is all but dead. And that the Washington Post is remaking itself in a digitized flurry of news. And that maybe even the Grey Lady, the Grande Dame herself, the New York Times is reworking the business model.

But when you read the articles that are being hurriedly typed up and posted on the web, do you notice that sometimes the words seem jumbled? Sometimes the sentences don't make sense? Is it maybe because those the reporters we trusted for decades are shaking their heads and walking away with their pink slips. And the less expensive new help that is willing to work for less and understands the digital age is taking over, but... the fresh-out-of-college enthusiasm doesn't cover bad writing, poor spelling and sloppy sentence structure?

I recall a few years ago walking through a Washington local television newsroom and one of the producers saying to me, "Does the news director know you're in town and available? Hurry and go by his office to say hello." And a photographer watching the "newbie" reporter being mentored by the news director and muttering, "I don't want to be with her if a plane goes down at National."

I don't want to be reading some of these web-reporters when something big happens, like maybe the economy going down. And I realize that Leno isn't new to the business, but... he also isn't from news.

14 March 2009


You can hear the cry echoing all over the country. "AIG's top executives are getting bonuses???" The story is out there, churning up renewed anger against AIG, the insurance giant which got a multi-billion dollar bailout from the U.S. government, then continued to spend on lavish parties and weekend retreats for executives.
They spent their bailout (with zero federal oversight) and returned to Washington with their hand out for more. The government gave them billions of dollars in additional bailout funds, and now the truth: they are using the money to pay millions of dollars in bonuses to top executives.
As a taxpayer, I'm floored. I feel like I've been reasonable about the whole thing; believing that the cost of the company going under would be greater than the bailout given. But. No. More.
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner told AIG Chairman and chief executive Edward M. Liddy that "the (bonus) payments were unacceptable and needed to be renegotiated," according to an administration source quoted in the Washington Post today.
Liddy countered, saying that the payments have to be made otherwise the company will be sued for breach of contract. And without the bonuses, company talent pools suffer.
"We cannot attract and retain the best and brightest talent to lead and staff the AIG businesses -- which are now being operated principally on behalf of the American taxpayers -- if employees believe that their compensation is subject to continued and arbitrary adjustment by the U.S. treasury," Liddy wrote.
He sure knows how to twist a knife, doesn't he? AIG is paying the bonuses to protect our investment as taxpayers. The man knows his spin.
Are these the same great, top talented executives that got AIG into this mess? Can they really not be allowed to leave? Should their jobs be reserved for them, at such a high rate of pay, when there are other equally talented but now jobless executives who might be happy to have the work at a much lower rate of pay?

Liddy was one of a few top executives who didn't take his bonus. How very big of him. In the old seafaring tradition, the captain went down with the ship. Since the taxpayers are now helming the finances, perhaps its time we get a new captain... lest the ship takes us all under.