Don’t spend it all in one place.

This is how the people who bought the newspaper I used to work for in Fort Wayne are running things now:

On their birthday, Fort Wayne journalists get a little — and I do mean little — gift from Fort Wayne Newspapers CEO Mike Christman: It’s a $1.25 vending machine token.

This is offered via a three-sentence email, one of which is “Happy birthday!” The token isn’t even delivered to your mail slot; you have to come down to HR to pick it up.

I’ve worked with some cheapskates in my life, but this might be a cake-taker. People will cut your pay, trim staff, fire staff and basically squeeze until the people left fully understand the new reality, and then? Flip ’em a few quarters and wish them a happy birthday. You can almost admire it.

My prediction: The management is hot on the trail of who leaked their birthday letter to Romenesko.

I don’t have much today, alas. It’s shaping up to be one of those weeks. But I do have some bloggage:

I’ve gotten back into the habit of checking in with Gin & Tacos regularly, and was struck by this piece. The writer, a college professor, notes:

Post-1980 America is a land in which it is impossible to engage in a discussion about a System with college-aged people without inevitably and almost immediately devolving into mini-soliloquies on Good and Bad choices. Why have so many kids? Why did he start drinking? And they signed a contract without reading the whole thing! Everyone knows not to do that.

This is what I mean when I describe college students, when I’m forced to generalize, as extremely conservative. They aren’t necessarily hardcore political conservatives in the context of Washington politics, but they have thoroughly internalized the message that their parents and the media have been hammering them with since birth: everything that happens to you is your fault. There are no innocent victims of anything. This is a coping mechanism / cognitive bias called the Just World Phenomenon, wherein people victim-blame as a means of coping with the random cruelty of the world. Rather than accept that horrible things happen to good people – and, thus, that a horrible fate could befall them at any moment – people choose to retreat into the comforts of believing that everyone Had It Coming.

I always call this “the distancing,” everyone does it, and the best you can do is be self-aware enough to know when it’s happening. There’s an element in it of the dust-up over Emily Yoffe’s rape-prevention advice. You saw it during Hurricane Katrina, where everything bad that happened in the Gulf of Mexico was because a) it was stupid to build a city there; and b) those people should have left anyway.

Anyway, an interesting observation.

I read this story in the Sunday NYT magazine, but I should have read it online, as the bells-and-whistles presentation of this account of international conflict in the South China Sea is truly remarkable. (Not recommended for slow connections or anyone using Internet Explorer 6, heh.) I was pretty outspoken in the ’80s and ’90s about not letting the design tail wag the content dog, but every so often it all comes together, and it’s worth the effort. If you want to know what longform journalism will be in the 21st century, look here.

Here’s a story by me; the tea party at the local-local level.

OK, I have to be off. Sorry for the late arrival. We’ll try to do better tomorrow.

Posted at 8:40 am in Media, Same ol' same ol' |

29 responses to “Don’t spend it all in one place.”

  1. alex said on October 29, 2013 at 8:59 am

    So they reward birthdays with vending machine tokens. Big surprise. They reward dishonesty and willful ignorance with bylines and prominent placement. A case in point. And a second.

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  2. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on October 29, 2013 at 9:08 am

    Pretty peppy party pal. (Not that the proprietor gets to pick her headlines!)

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  3. coozledad said on October 29, 2013 at 9:18 am

    Alex: The Wall Street Journal is giving real estate to crosswalk-challenged plastic surgery victims. It’s officially a thing to let hopeless dumbasses do op-eds:

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  4. Julie Robinson said on October 29, 2013 at 9:21 am

    Alex, you forgot to link to one of the columns by our disgraced, adulterous, former Congressman. It’s unbelievable that they are giving him a forum. (Though, truth be told, in comparison to his replacement he’s looking like the voice of reason.)

    We discussed the birthday token last night, remembering that a birthday at FWN used to mean a personally signed card and a day off. Could anything be better than a paid day off for your birthday? I’m taking one today, unpaid, but no matter, I’ll be happy to spend the day playing. And I’ve already been taken out for lunch by my fellow workers, and am looking forward to another dinner tonight. Life is good.

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  5. Judybusy said on October 29, 2013 at 9:38 am

    I’ll have to read the links later. Because I know you’re all dying tot know how my mortgage story turned out: happily. We close on Thursday. Who knew I’d be so excited for a 2-car garage, new windows, siding and insulation?

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  6. alex said on October 29, 2013 at 10:29 am

    Congrats Judy!

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  7. Charlotte said on October 29, 2013 at 10:33 am

    Woo Woo JudyBusy! I feel the same about my: woodstove, infrared space heaters, door to the garden room upgrade. Will have to spend this years enforced Christmas-to-New Year holiday painting the one, last room — the pantry (which will now double as a hallway to the garden room/outdoors).

    For all you journalism types — here’s a story. Many many moons ago, Michael Burgi and I worked together as lowly editorial assistants on Gourmet’s Best Desserts (the project where I learned to write a CYA letter). His sister died this spring, and her widow is suing the state of Pennsylvania to treat their legal marriage like, well, a legal marriage. Link:

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  8. Jolene said on October 29, 2013 at 10:54 am

    Of all the serious problems I the world, this may be the worst: a coming wine shortage. Without wine, how will we cope with everything else?

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  9. Peter said on October 29, 2013 at 11:31 am

    That token story is so good – but the comments section was outstanding! Like this one:

    “The recipient’s response is filled with ingratitude and a lack of grace. Any gesture of giving should simply be received with a “thank you.” Nobody appears to suggest this small token is an attempt to measure the employee’s worth as a person or the value of their contributions. Hey, I grasp how tough it is to go years without a pay raise amid tight budgets, but there’s no use in cursing a kindness.”

    I know buddy, you toss someone a token to the vending machine on their birthday and is it too much to ask that they shuffle their feet and say a few “thank you massa publisher”? What is it with the help these days?

    Alex: Wow. That Leo Morris – why is he wasting his time writing when there’s a neo-Nazi cell that needs a leader?

    Jolene – Is this a scare like the bacon panic of a few months ago? Or has the time finally come when I can dump my cases of 1985 Saint Julian Michigan Merlot for a profit?

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  10. alex said on October 29, 2013 at 11:56 am

    Not to worry, Jolene. There are wineries opening up all over the damn place around here and doing a booming business. Viticulture is probably overtaking mobile homes as the leading industry in this part of the state. Just this past Sunday I accompanied a friend to one called Country Heritage Winery and it was mobbed with people tasting and buying, and it struck me as a sort of meat rack for the middle-class middle-aged. This is how people skirt the Sunday ban on carryout alcohol in backward Indiana. Now the wine wasn’t the greatest, I’ll admit, but beats the heck out of that crappy Oliver Meade cough syrup from downstate.

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  11. Deborah said on October 29, 2013 at 12:01 pm

    Wine shortage!? **panic**

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  12. beb said on October 29, 2013 at 12:19 pm

    A Wine shortage? That means people will have to switch to rye whiskey. There’s no shortage there.

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  13. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on October 29, 2013 at 12:55 pm

    Bulleit Rye. Mmmmmm.

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  14. Prospero said on October 29, 2013 at 1:10 pm

    Congratulations Judybusy. Could things somehow be returning to something resembling normality? I know a lot of people revere Harry Truman, but normalcy is simply not a word. Never was, never will be.

    Scathing review of The Counsellor. How could a cast this good get together with a direct as good as Ridley Scott and a writer as good as Cormac McCarthy and make a terrible movie?

    The BBC is going ahead with a miniseries production of Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. I love that book. Difficult to get right on video, I’d imagine.

    Best Lions game in a long time Sunday. It’s hard to believe Megatron’s 329 yds recweiving is not a record. That Uehara guy for the RedSox looks like a little kid.

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  15. Basset said on October 29, 2013 at 1:46 pm

    I like Oliver’s Mead and bring some back whenever I go to Bloomington, been drinking it since it was a dollar-69 a bottle and the cork was sealed with wax. It IS a little on the sweet side, though.
    Meanwhile… got an important letter yesterday, the final component of Mrs. B’s long-term disability has been approved and she is now an official non-productive entitled lib’rul drag on the economy.

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  16. Prospero said on October 29, 2013 at 1:48 pm

    A seriously intemperate rant from Driftglass. Somewhat amusing.

    Cool portrait of the female SC Justices.

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  17. Prospero said on October 29, 2013 at 2:12 pm

    Rrally strange news from the Regal Beagle. What lies beyond the simply surreal. Victoria Jackson Jr.? Anybody that thinks Obamacare has anything actually in common with the Canadian single payer system is not playing with a full deck.

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  18. brian stouder said on October 29, 2013 at 2:46 pm

    Pros – the portrait of the women who are/were Justices of the Supreme Court was indeed very cool!

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  19. Prospero said on October 29, 2013 at 3:04 pm

    Brian: They look more dignified and more judicial than their male counterparts. Scalia looks like a thug. Whenever I see a picture of Justice Sandy, I’m reminded of John Riggins’ indiscretions. I guess these days he could claim concussion damage.

    Selection of Lou Reed songs from Rolling Stone. If you’ve never heard Street Hassle or Dirty Blvd. do yourself a favor.

    I had a professor at Holy Cross that specialized in Chaucer and Mallory. He actually made his own mead. Bad hangovers from all that honey.

    Basset: That sounds like good news about your wife’s disability payments. I’ve always thought it was unconscionable that people are put through a modern version of the Inquisition over such decisions.

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  20. Charlotte said on October 29, 2013 at 3:15 pm

    Pros — my sweetie found a couple of 20 year old bottles of mead in his basement (made from a 5 gallon bucket of honey that someone needed to use up all those years ago). I’d had bad sticky-sweet mead in Ireland, so was skeptical. This stuff is great. Really dry, with nice champagne-yeast bubbles. We’re hoarding a couple of bottles for special occasions.

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  21. Dexter said on October 29, 2013 at 3:22 pm

    And now Lou Reed has passed, too …”through the fire to the light.”

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  22. MichaelG said on October 29, 2013 at 3:56 pm

    Good news, Judy. And it sounds like Julie has a ‘Happy Birthday!’ coming.

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  23. Hattie said on October 29, 2013 at 4:27 pm

    Good reporting from a real journalist! I guess what turns people around is realizing that tea partiers are out to wreck their communities, so they had better step up and defend amenities if they want to keep them.

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  24. Prospero said on October 29, 2013 at 4:33 pm

    Are there people in the United States Congress that actually believe Euro allies of the US don’t run espionage operations in this country? Everybody spies on everybody. There are probably more Mossad agents in the US than in Israel.

    When I have my Viking funeral someday, I’d like the accelerant to be mead, if the stuff will burn.

    If someone thinks it’s a good idea to get a blonde with Grand Tetons from 70s TeeVee to comment on Obamacare, why couldn’t it be Loni Anderson’s Jennifer Marlowe. She was always the smartest kid in the room. Considerably better show, too. One of the last great sitcoms, actually.Hell, Herb Tarleck was smarter than Chrissy. And if a newspaper can jump the shark, I’d say WSJ takes the cake with this asinine bit of stunt casting. Holy crap, how embarrassed are any real journos still working there? Oh the humanity. As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly.

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  25. Deborah said on October 29, 2013 at 5:20 pm

    Happy Birthday Julie, and I think I missed wishing Jolene a happy one too, a week or so ago. Judy Busy, I’ll be interested to hear how you got that loan situation to work out. Good for you.

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  26. mark said on October 29, 2013 at 6:02 pm

    I enjoyed your piece in Bridge. Not easy capturing the subtleties of the issues(s) in so few words.

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  27. Brandon said on October 29, 2013 at 6:27 pm

    …Loni Anderson’s Jennifer Marlowe. She was always the smartest kid in the room. Considerably better show, too. One of the last great sitcoms, actually.

    She was great in Easy Street too. It co-starred Jack Elam and James Cromwell.

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  28. Prospero said on October 29, 2013 at 7:44 pm

    Elizabeth Gilbert, perpetrator of the heinous Eat, Pray, Love has a novel out that sounds like it may make up for her previous literary offense.

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  29. basset said on October 29, 2013 at 10:12 pm

    Getting through the disability process took about nine months… we might have been able to make it a little quicker but not much. SSI actually went through in maybe seven, the private coverage was slower. Unsolicited advice for all who may go through that situation one day… find the person who is handling your account, be extremely nice to them, and check in at least weekly.

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