Opinion » Shredder

Counting change


The McClatchy-owned San Luis Obispo Tribune has a new publisher. Chip Visci has left the building, with a letter to acquaintances emphasizing both that it has always been his intention to retire at 55, his current age, and that he hopes to apply the skills he’s learned in newspapers to “other endeavors.”

In other words, it sounds as if he’s both happy to retire and looking for work. I could be mistaken. Anyway, I wish him good luck.

Visci’s replacement is a man named Bruce Ray.

The Tribune’s story announcing the switch reports that Ray is 38-years-old and has worked for a little more than a year as the paper’s chief financial officer. According to his online C.V., none of the previous eight posts he’s held since graduating with an MBA in accounting in 1995 were in the news business.

I also wish him good luck.

His background is relevant because newspapers tend to be a clash of cultures. People who work on the news side of newspapers often see themselves as if they work for nonprofits—they think they’re suffering for the greater good.

They like to imagine they could leave the newspaper at any moment and go do public relations or advertising or something easier and better paying. But, alas, they lament, they’ve got too much damn integrity to sell out. For most of them, it’s a fantasy, because after years in newspapers, they’re constitutionally unsuited for any other work.

Nonetheless, reporters don’t like to be reminded that they’re working within an actual for-profit business.

That attitude doesn’t infect the people who work on the other side of newspapers. The people who make and sell the ads and print and distribute the newspaper know they’re working for a business. They know that if nobody sells the ads, nobody gets paid, and the newspaper ceases to exist.

Straddling an organization like this isn’t easy, and based on what little information I have, I’ll predict that Ray will be seen as a bean counter who doesn’t understand news culture. If he hopes to be seen differently, he’ll have to make a show of things.

It’s not unusual for a publisher to come from the business side of news these days, but it is unusual for them to have only just barely dipped their toes in the media business before taking the helm.

I also wish the paper’s readers good luck.


Something I saw

I was at a mini-market the other day and the young mom in front of me, the one with the tired face and the cute kid at her side, was paying for her lettuce, beans, and milk with a couple of dollar coins, a two-dollar bill, and a bunch of tarnished nickels.

The clueless clerk went for a joke and she uneasily laughed along, but the story I imagine is that she was raiding a coin collection for the nightly meal.

Try to remember that lady when you’re bitching about the stock market and how many billions we should give the Manhattan back-waxing set.


The secrets of the Kaiyote

Enough already. Bleary-eyed strangers keep asking us whatever happened to Kai Beech, that profane local bartender who daylighted as a New Times staff writer. Here’s the scoop: Kai left New Times to play rugby abroad, ended up in Aspen, won a national championship, and now has closely replicated his former SLO life, tending bar in a precious moneyed town while writing for the local paper.

Here’s his latest report to one of our crew: “What’s crappening, brotha? I’m just chilling in the Rocky Mnts, drinking some Coors and dirty dancing with a tranny to old John Denver records. Just kidding, I wasn’t listening to John Denver ;”

Ah, memories. Now if the Tribune had really wanted some more lively copy, they should have named Kai publisher. He’s actually worked in news longer than Ray.


An ex-cop and a murder

The SLO Sheriff’s Department screwed up a call in 1998. They called the death of Andrea Hug an accidental fall, when in hindsight it was clearly a homicide. They reopened the case in 2003 with some good leads. They’re working hard to fix things and are looking for a guy who, we’re told, is a former Grover Beach cop. Hopefully it’s not too late.

Regardless, it’s a hell of a story on this week’s cover. The quick version of the story—their botched call let a cop go free—makes you wonder how accidental the mistake was. But nobody seriously doubts their motives, since they apparently didn’t have the main suspect’s name until they reopened the case.

The real lesson here is to do it right the first time so you don’t open yourself up to those kinds of assumptions.



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