Newsweek No More

A few days ago, Newsweek announced that it will be ending its print edition, effective December 31, 2012.  The newsmagazine will go to an on-line format in early 2013.

I’m not surprised by Newsweek‘s demise, and I suspect I’m not alone.  When was the last time you subscribed to Newsweek or bought one at a newsstand?  We subscribed to Newsweek, as well as Time, Sports Illustrated, Sport, Life, Look, and other magazines when I was a kid, but Kish and I haven’t subscribed to any newsmagazine in years.  (The only periodicals we get these days are the New Yorker and the New York Review of Books, and by Kish’s edict we’ll get them until the 12th of Never.)  I can’t remember the last time I bought, or even read, Newsweek.

When I pass newsstands in airports and give a quick glance to the magazine rack, Newsweek always seems to feature some bold, intentionally controversial headline about some social or political issue.  It’s as if the magazine is consciously designed to try to entice passersby into plunking down their money to see whether the article is really as provocative as the cover indicates.  It’s somewhat pathetic, and it is a far cry from the sober, objective, we-cover-the-important-issues-of-the-world-in-depth approach that newsmagazines took during the ’60s and ’70s.

The print media is dying; the internet is killing it.  Weekly magazines can’t compete with on-line content that is delivered immediately and without the costs of paper, delivery postage, and so forth.  Even if you subscribe to on-line content providers — and I typically don’t — you are paying less and getting more, more quickly, than magazines or newspapers can provide.  There’s no way print can compete unless it moves into a niche that the web doesn’t provide.  General reporting on national and world affairs, such as Newsweek used to provide, isn’t such a niche.

A Taste Of Battleground Ohio

Those of you loyal Webner House readers who don’t live in battleground states are being deprived of the opportunity to enjoy endless campaign ads.  As a public service, we hereby offer those who don’t live in the Buckeye State the opportunity to watch two new campaign ads — one from each campaign, with the Obama campaign ad above and the Romney campaign ad below — that will be played, over and over and over again, at every commercial break, from now until Election Day.

Welcome to the world of Battleground Ohio!

How Are Those Ohio Casinos Doing?

Earlier this month, the Hollywood Casino opened on the outskirts of Columbus.  About 25,000 gamblers showed up for the opening day festivities.

In 2009, Ohio voters approved a constitutional amendment authorizing the construction of four casinos — one each in Cleveland, Toledo, Columbus, and Cincinnati.  When the constitutional amendment was considered in 2009, state officials estimated that the 33 percent tax on gross casino revenues from the four casinos, plus approved video lottery terminals, would produce $470 million annually in tax revenue.  The promise of that kind of tax contribution, plus the jobs the casinos would create, caused Ohio voters to end their long-standing opposition to casino gambling in the state.

The Columbus casino is the third to open, following casinos in Cleveland and Toledo.  It’s early yet, but the trend lines in Cleveland and Toledo aren’t knocking anyone’s socks off.  For both of those casinos, June was the first full month of operation — and also was the high point for revenue, which has declined every month since June.  In Cleveland, revenue has declined from $26.1 million in June to $21.1 million in September; in Toledo, revenue has dropped from $20.4 million in June to $15.9 million in September.  The casino operators and experts say that the novelty of a new casino wears off and it takes a while for standard gambling patterns to get settled, and that the Ohio casinos might not follow the patterns seen in other locations.  The casinos also are tweaking their operations as they learn their markets; in Cleveland, for example, the Horseshoe Casino is now formally welcoming bus tours and providing some slots credits to entice bus visitors.

A few months won’t tell the tale, of course, but you have to wonder if we’ve reached the casino saturation point in this country, and there just isn’t that large of a market for more casino gambling.

Please, No “October Surprises”

Today, two of the biggest publicity-seekers in American life are supposed to unveil “October surprises” about the two presidential candidates.  Gloria Allred claims to have some new revelation about Mitt Romney, and Donald Trump has announced that he has some information about President Obama.

I loathe media hounds, and I groan whenever there is a suggestion of an “October surprise” that is supposed to change the direction of the presidential race.  The “surprises” are never about anything recent or anything substantive; that fact is not surprising, because the meaningful records and activities of modern presidential candidates are closely scrutinized and and highly publicized.  Instead, the “surprises” typically involve a claim about matters that happened years or even decades ago, often about a personal matter that has nothing to do with the issues of the day.  The disclosures of such antique personal matters are always justified on the ground that they purportedly reveal something about the candidate’s character — but we all know, really, that the person making the disclosure just craves the spotlight and yearns for the public attention that apparently is the only thing that can give their pathetic lives meaning.

I think most Americans despise our modern electoral politics, where the prevailing approach seems to be a divisive, scorched earth strategy designed primarily to tear down and demonize the opponent.  When you mix in media hounds who are motivated by their lust for a few moments of air time, the process becomes intolerable.  Whatever this year’s “October surprises” might be, I hope they are ignored by the media and voters alike.  The best result for our country would be if Allred, Trump, and their ilk gave press conferences that no one attended.