The Hightower Report

The Death of Journalism; and Who Pays for CEO Mismanagement?

The Death of Journalism

A Detroit newspaper executive has announced a startling breakthrough: "We think it's time to take a geometric leap forward in what we've known as newspapers," he informed the masses.

And, with that, he leapt right off the media cliff. His "breakthrough" is to cancel daily home deliveries of the Detroit papers, leaving customers to stumble out each day to find a news rack that will swallow a bunch of their quarters and (maybe) cough up a pared-down version of the real thing. Or, he says, people can read a virtual edition of the paper on the Web – even though many Detroiters don't use the Internet.

The printed media is shrinking itself in so many ways these days. Take the Cox Newspapers chain, which owns The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Austin American-Statesman, and 15 other dailies. It is abandoning its Washington bureau. Even with a new administration taking power and making big policy moves that will affect every reader of the Cox papers, the chain is taking its journalists off the national beat – and eliminating their investigative jobs. Other papers are making similar cutbacks, claiming that there's no need for multiple news organizations chasing the same stories when they can all get feeds from a couple of wire bureaus.

Yeah, that's the old dig-it-out American journalistic spirit, isn't it? Let someone feed us the news. Holy Mark Twain!

Some news executives want to move even further from the actual source of news. For example, the honcho of MediaNews Group, which controls 56 U.S. daily newspapers, says, "One thing we're exploring is having one news desk for all of our newspapers, maybe even offshore." So whether covering Congress or your city council, the breaking news will come to you from someone without a clue watching a webcast from a cubicle in India. These bean counters in charge of our newspapers are saving money – but they're killing journalism.

Who Pays for CEO Mismanagement?

Should you be well-paid for doing shoddy work? If you answered "yes," you might have a future as a Wall Street banker.

The Associated Press recently analyzed the 2007 compensation paid to top executives of 116 banks that have since received billions of dollars in taxpayer bailouts. The shoddy work done by these executives led the massive losses for the banks and a disastrous crash of our country's economy – yet, each of them walked away with multimillion-dollar rewards.

Take the golden example of Lloyd Blankfein, CEO of Goldman Sachs. He hauled in a $54 million paycheck for his work in 2007, plus another $233,000 for his limo and chauffeur. The investment bank asserts that such a swell sum was necessary in order to attract and motivate executives "whose efforts and judgments are vital to our continued success." Only ... Blankfein's efforts and judgments produced Goldman's first quarterly loss in a decade, required the firm to completely restructure its business, and cost taxpayers $10 billion in bailout money.

The AP report revealed another compensation detail that would be terribly amusing if it didn't make you want to scream in fury. It shows that one of the chief perks doled out to the bankers was extra pay to cover "personal financial advice" for them. These wizards were running shaky investment schemes that wrought financial ruin across our land, yet they were having their own hands held by financial counselors at company expense. Top executives at Wells Fargo, for example, drew up to $20,000 each in 2007 to get personal money guidance, even though their guidance of the bank led to a $25 billion bailout from us taxpayers.

Shouldn't Congress be requiring at least partial paybacks from these hotshots as a price of the public having to cover their banking mismanagement?

For more information on Jim Hightower's work – and to subscribe to his award-winning monthly newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown – visit You can hear his radio commentaries on KOOP Radio, 91.7FM, weekdays at 10:58am and 12:58pm.

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