The Times they are a changin’

I’m at a loss. For words. For empathy. For understanding. And, at moments, hope.

You know the headlines:

  • Illinois Gov. Blagojevich caught auctioning democracy after he blasts Bank of America for not supporting Republic Windows and Doors workers. (story here.)
  • U.S. unemployment rate surges to a 26-year high of 6.7 percent with some  4.4 million people out of work and collecting unemployment benefits. The U.S. economy has shed, outsourced or eliminated 1.9 million jobs so far this year, which is equivalent, in population terms, to  all of the residents of Dallas and San Francisco. (Story here.)
  • The recession, it’s officially a recession now, is forecast to hover over California into the third quarter of 2009; the current California 8.2 percent unemployment rate is expected to spike a 9 percent and level out there before things turn around. Expect the storm to last through 2010, at least. (Story here.)
  • California’s budget crisis reaches what California Gov. Schwarzenegger calls “financial Armageddon,” with the deficit spiking by $3.6 billion over a few weeks to a total shortfall of $14.8 billion. The state is on a $40 million-a-day credit spending spree and Schwarzenegger warns the state will hit a financial wall by February. (Story here.)
  • Republic Windows and Doors workers in Chicago resort to a six-day sit-in, which garners national attention, to get what is rightfully theirs — a 60-day severance package, vacation pay and benefits. Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase — bailed out with the workers’ tax dollars, your tax dollars and my tax dollars — initially tell the about-to-move-and-hire-cheaper-labor company no cash for you. After public pressure from politicians, picketers and enough “little people,” the profit-breathing corporations kick down nearly $2 million to the window firm so they can pay their employees. (Story here.)
  • Newspapers face — and try to stay afloat during — the worst financial downturn since the Depression (Story here. ) and Washington Post columnist, Harold Meyerson, zings Sam Zell (who had little financial skin in the Tribune game) for his Tribune debacle. (Story here.)
  • Home foreclosure rates in November were 28 percent higher than they were a year ago with 259,085 homeowners issued default or auction notices. Experts expect the year to end with some 1 million homes owned by banks. (Story here.)
  • And topping all of that grim news, I’m left scratching my head with the Record Searchlight’s choice to run photos of what is essentially kiddie porn, sans minors’ names in the captions or the stories, on Redding.com. Girls bathing in a Kentucky Fried Chickensink is newsworthy — and pretty sick and gross, too. So is the fact that the — minors — posted their pics on MySpace, where, eventually, their supervisors got wind. But where I’m shaking my head is in the publication of the photographs of minor girls. Photos that were, it seems, swiped from MySpace. KRCR, the Redding television news, showed a couple of the photos on their 11 p.m. show. But they fuzzed the minors’ faces along with leaving out their names.
    I can already hear the newsroom argument: More information, not less. It’s online. And the photos were online — and public — to begin with. Rah. Rah. But if newspapers are shifting from print to online, and are hoping to take their readers along with them, the community standards that apply to a printed newspaper also apply to an online one. The KFC bath is news. It matters. Readers deserve to know about what goes on where they eat and what happens after a moment of indiscretion gets broadcast across the ‘net. But a number of things, from fuzzing faces to choosing less revealing photos, would have been more apropos here. Expect a public backlash with oodles of letters to the editor. I hope  he listens. And you can find the story on Redding.com, if you haven’t seen it already.

All of it has Bob Dylan ringing in my ears. Here’s “The Times They Are A Changin'”  (Times and newspapers, too, methinks.)

-Christy

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