A little story about my local newspaper

So, the other day I was in the convenience store near my house.  I had not picked up a copy of the local newspaper in quite some time, so I looked around for one.  I couldn’t find it anywhere so I asked the checkout clerk, who looked at me rather dead pan and said “they went under about a year ago.”

What? I hadn’t even noticed my own local paper was gone, for a year?

A quick Google search and I found a notice on their website saying that the newspaper was no longer published and a blog entry from a former reporter summing up the end of the newspaper.

Sadly, the Millbrook Round Table was just one of scores of local newspapers forced to close down, because the holding company of many of them, Journal Register Co., defaulted on loans and was de-listed from the New York Stock Exchange. However, despite the sympathy I feel for all of those reporters, editors, photographers, graphic designers, proofreaders, ad salespeople and delivery people, no one can say we didn’t see this coming. The truth is, newspapers have been an antiquated technology, and try as they might, they haven’t been able to find a new business model that would enable them to be profitable in the post-paper world of instant, online publishing.

Sound even vaguely familiar?  All of the small local newspapers bought up by a big consolidator, who then defaults and cuts costs.  Caught behind the technology curve, unable to make up the lost ground, local institutions that have been in place for more than a century fold and disappear in the wink of an eye, sometimes completely un-noticed.

Sadly, I will say that the radio business seems to be on the same trajectory.

And so it begins

Citadel is prepping for chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings, according to this inside radio article.  The jem that I most like is this:

Lenders have until Tuesday to sign the deal, which would cut its $2 billion debt to $760 million. Shareholders would see their ownership stake wiped out.

So lets see, if you kept your Citadel Broadcasting stock (CTDB: trading at $0.041 per share) because you though it might go above a $1.00 per share again, you are screwed.  Notice, 60% of the debt is just going away.  Amazing!  How do they do that?  If I decided that I didn’t want to pay my mortage, would the bank entice me to start paying again by reducing it by 60%?  No they would not.  They would simply send me a foreclosure notice and eventually some guy would stand on the county courthouse steps and read my foreclosure warrant out loud to the passers by.  If I am lucky, it will be lunch time and somebody might actually hear it.

No, what happens when a lender writes down $1.24 billion in debt is it gets passed on to all the other bank customers in higher interest rates, larger fees, etc.  After all, the CEO needs to make his margins to earn that end of year bonus.

To recap, shareholders are loosing everything and we all are going to pay more because Citadel Broadcasting Corporation over paid for a group of radio stations, then ran them into the ground.  Fuck us all.

Fifteen signs you work for a dysfunctional company

Posted without further comment:

Sign No. 1: Conspicuously posted vision or value statements are filled with vague but important-sounding words like “excellence” and “quality”

These words are seldom defined and the concepts they allude to are never measured.

Sign No. 2: Bringing up a problem is considered more as evidence of a personality defect rather than as an actual observation of reality

In a dysfunctional company, what it looks like is not only more important than what it is, it is what it is. If you don’t believe that, you are the problem. A surprising amount of information is classified. Dysfunctional companies have more state secrets than the CIA. Anything that might embarrass the boss turns out to be a national security issue.

Sign No. 3: If by chance there are problems, the usual solution is a motivational seminar

Attitude is everything, especially in places where facts are embarrassing or inconvenient. In a dysfunctional family, there’s an elephant — usually a drunken abusive parent — in the parlor, but no one ever mentions him. To appear sane, you have to pretend that the elephant is invisible, and that drives you crazy. Businesses are full of invisible elephants, too. Usually they are things that might cause difficulties for people with enough clout to prevent their discussion. The emperor may be naked, but if you have a good attitude, you won’t mention it.

Sign No. 4: Double messages are delivered with a straight face

Quality and quantity are both job one. You can do it both cheaper and better, just don’t ask how. If you’re motivated enough you should know already.

Sign No. 5: History is regularly edited to make executive decisions more correct, and correct decisions more executive than they actually were

Those huge salaries require some justification.

Sign No. 6: People are discouraged from putting things in writing

What is written, especially financial records, is purposely confusing. You can never tell when you might need a little deniability.

Sign No. 7: Directions are ambiguous and often vaguely threatening

Before you respond to a vague threat, remember this: Virtually every corporate scandal begins with someone saying, “Do it; I don’t care how.” That person is seldom the one who gets indicted.

Sign No. 8: Internal competition is encouraged and rewarded

The word “teamwork” may be batted around like a softball at a company picnic, but in a dysfunctional company the star players are the only ones who get recognition and big bucks.

Sign No. 9: Decisions are made at the highest level possible

Regardless of what it is, you have to check with your boss before doing it. She also has to check with her boss.

Sign No. 10: Delegating means telling somebody to do something, not giving them the power to do it

According to Webster’s Dictionary, you delegate authority, not tasks. In dysfunctional companies you may have responsibility, but the authority lives in the office upstairs.

Sign No. 11: Management approaches from the latest bestseller are regularly misunderstood to mean what we’re doing already is right on the mark

“Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” “Good to Great” and “Who Moved My Cheese?” all seem to boil down to, “quit griping and do more with less.”

Sign No. 12: Resources are tightly controlled

Your department may need upgraded software, but there’s been a spending freeze since 2006. Cost control is entry-level management, but in a dysfunctional company anything more sophisticated is considered too touchy-feely. Whatever you propose, the first question you will be asked is if it can be done cheaper.

Sign No. 13: You are expected to feel lucky to have a job and know you could lose it if you don’t toe the line

Dysfunctional companies maintain control using the threat of punishment. Most will maintain that they also use positive rewards … like your paycheck. A few people are actually fired, but most of those who go are driven to quit.

Sign No. 14: Rules are enforced based on who you are rather than what you do

In a dysfunctional company, there are clearly insiders and outsiders and everyone knows who belongs in each group. Accountability has different meanings depending on which group you’re in.

Sign No. 15: The company fails the Dilbert Test

Dysfunctional organizations have no sense of humor. People who post unflattering cartoons risk joining the ranks of the disappeared. When an organization loses the ability to laugh at itself, it is headed for big trouble. If you’d get in trouble for printing this article and posting it on the bulletin board at work, maybe it’s time to look for another job before this one drives you crazy.

About community radio

Because of this post, I have received some e-mail asking why I am against community radio.  I am not.  In fact, I support community radio.  I think that community radio done well is a wonderful tool in our democracy, giving a voice to those that are watching government.  It also promotes other locals interests, events, music, etc.    I would like to see more failing stations bought by community broadcasters and turned into something that is a public trust and responsive to the local population.

What I was trying to get at in the previous post was that over crowding the FM band with more and more small signals will degrade it.  There is no ifs, ands or buts, removing third adjacent protections on the FM band will increase the noise floor.  This will lead to more interference on the average FM radio, which will lead to more people getting fed up and tuning out.

Here is why:  You cannot change the laws of physics.  FM transmitters have output filters that attenuate side band energy, that is to say, energy transmitted on 1st, 2nd and 3rd adjacent channels.  A 50,000 watt FM station on 100.3 MHz will have side band energy on 100.1, 99.9 and 99.7 MHz as well as 100.5, 100.7 and 100.9 MHz.  Due to the limitations on the components used to construct those filters, they can only be designed with the accuracy of the components used.  In other words, most electrical components have a tolerance given in percent, example +/- 10%.  That means that the value of the component will change, usually because of heating.  Therefore, output filters cannot be constructed to limit emissions to only the main channel and say one adjacent channel, they would drift off frequency.

Also, creating a brick wall filter that cuts everything off at the second adjacent channel will cause distortion of the RF signal on the main channel.  With analog AM and FM transmitters it cannot be done.  Digital transmissions are another story, but that is not what we are talking about here.

That is an engineer’s point of view.

One other thing about adding hundreds more LP FM signals.  There should be something that stipulates most (say >50%) of the programming be locally originated.  Recorded for later playback is fine.  Having thousands of LP stations broadcasting the same syndicated shows or running voice tracked automation 24/7 would be a recreation of the AM band as it currently exists.  If you want to listen to that, then it already exists, help your self.  I, on the other hand, would like to avoid the AMization of the FM band.

That is all.