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THE BIG NEWS
Media Riven By Layoffs and Labor Strife
It's been a bad couple of decades for the media industry and a really bad couple of weeks. Yesterday, the Los Angeles Times announced it was letting go around 115 people, or about 20 percent of the editorial staff. Times owner Patrick Soon-Shiong, a medical doctor and billionaire biotech entrepreneur, bought the Times in 2018 with optimistic talk about investing in a public good. Now, five years later, Soon-Shiong is facing a $10 billion paper loss on declining stock holdings, and he's ordered managers to cut his prized newspaper to the bone. Whole sections are being gutted, from Business to the Dodgers beat writer.
The tumult at the Los Angeles Times follows a walkout at Conde Nast; the layoff of almost all of the staff of Sports Illustrated (which previously tinkered with AI-generated articles); a walkout and buyouts at the Washington Post; the folding of Pitchfork into GQ; job cuts at Time Magazine; and other markers of media collapse. The reasons given are evergreen, focusing on the lack of a sustainable business model for digital media as long as Google and Facebook have gobbled up the industry's ad revenue. But just as much of a problem seems to be having to rely on the good faith and credit of billionaires who invariably decide, after a few years in the red, that losing money on a depreciating cultural commodity is not so fun.
Here is where I'm supposed to exhort you to support your local newspaper and to plunk down a few bucks for newsletters like this one. (Did I mention how much I like being paid to write it?) But there's no savior coming for digital media. The newspaper industry employs less than a third of the people it did 25 years ago, as it heads toward what feels like terminal decline. The institutional structures of old – or simply the newsrooms – can't be replicated by all of us shaking our cups for $5 per month. At some point, the urgency of finding a solution to the larger crisis in media will demand more drastic societal or governmental action. It doesn't seem like we're there quite yet.
MORE STORIES TO WATCH
Donald Trump Wins New Hampshire Primary
As expected, Donald Trump coasted to victory in the New Hampshire Republican presidential primary with a margin of victory of around 19 percent. Media organizations began to call the race for Trump pretty much as soon as polls closed. Flanked by his son Eric Trump and former candidates (and VP aspirants) Vivek Ramaswamy and Tim Scott, Trump gave a typically hostile speech about the country going to hell and the apparent inadequacies of Nikki Haley, who he described as an "impostor."
Haley said she would remain in the race, which she called "far from over." There's little to indicate that's the case. She did exceedingly well with independents and Democrats, but most Republican voters clearly prefer Trump. The next test will be the February 3 primary in Haley's home state of South Carolina. According to recent polling, Trump is beating Haley there by about 30 percent.
Israel and Hamas Continue to Negotiate Possible Truce
The humanitarian situation in Gaza remains catastrophic as reporting has emerged in recent days of Israel and Hamas fumbling their way toward a truce that could last weeks or months. Any ceasefire will be tenuous from the get-go and dependent on prisoner exchanges and allowing more aid trucks into Gaza. According to Reuters, the two sides agreed "in principle" to a month-long truce, possibly to be followed by a more "permanent ceasefire," but the agreement hasn't been finalized. It's also long been clear that, beyond any immediate wartime concerns he may have, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu depends on the conflict continuing to keep him in office, rather than in court facing corruption charges.
As Palestinians struggle to find food and basic necessities, Israel has been blowing up buildings in controlled mass demolitions that some soldiers have broadcast (with disturbing levity) on TikTok. One aim of the demolitions apparently has been to create a buffer zone on the Palestinian side of the Gaza border. Yesterday, while preparing some buildings for destruction, Israeli forces were attacked by Hamas militants, resulting in the deaths of 24 Israeli soldiers. For Israel, it represents its worst combat loss so far in this conflict. For Palestinians, it doesn't compare to the catastrophe they continue to suffer – more than 25,000 dead, with thousands more missing, some of them disappeared and tortured by Israeli forces. Yet despite the violence inflicted, Israel seems far from reaching its strategic goals.
- Cal State Faculty Union Strikes a Deal Having reached a deal with management, more than 29,000 staff at California State University are ending their strike, which had been the biggest labor action in the history of US higher education. via New York Times.
- Alaska Airlines Found "Many" Loose Bolts on 737 Max Planes In a crisis-management-style TV interview, the CEO of Alaska Airlines praised his staff, apologized to customers, and announced that inspectors had found loose bolts throughout their Boeing 737 Max fleet. Eek. via NBC News.
- Houthi Attacks Costing Global Shipping The effects of the attacks on commercial shipping by Yemeni Houthi militants in response to Israel's military campaign in Gaza have reverberated through the global economy. Hundreds of container ships are being redirected while insurance costs skyrocket. via Bloomberg.
- Republican Politicos Starting to Like This Fetterman Guy Republican senators are coming around on John Fetterman, who's loudly trumpeted himself as not a progressive and seems to think that Israel can do no wrong. Republicans hope Democrats might have saddled themselves with another Manchin or Sinema, an unreliable caucus-member who occasionally causes chaos for the Democratic machine. via Politico.
That's how much money the National Rifle Association was paying per month to a law firm, according to former NRA president Oliver North. The legendary Iran-Contra villain testified yesterday in a civil corruption trial centered on the gun organization's messy finances and CEO Wayne LaPierre's self-enrichment. Amazingly, North, who's now 80, has emerged almost as a whistleblower, claiming that he was forced out of the NRA after asking questions about its expenses.
ON THE SHOW TODAY
1/24: It's Hump Day! Sam and Emma speak with KJ Boyle, research assistant with The Revolving Door Project, to discuss his recent piece in The New Republic entitled "Donald Trump Is No Friend to the Working Class." Then, they speak with Prem Thakker, politics reporter at The Intercept, to discuss his recent reporting on the use of chemical weapons on pro-Palestine demonstrators at Columbia University. And THEN, they are joined by David Bedar, history teacher and member of the Newton Teacher's Association (NTA), to discuss the teacher's union ongoing strike efforts.
DON'T MISS MR CLIPS
Rarely do you get to see someone be so wrong in so many ways.
Bombing the Houthis may not accomplish anything, but that doesn't mean we won't do more of it.
"We want a general strike. We want everybody walking out just like they do in other countries."
-- UAW President Shawn Fain speaking over the weekend in a speech to union rank and file. Fain, who's emerged as one of America's most effective and powerful labor leaders, said that the UAW arranged for its contract to expire on May 1, 2028 – May Day. He hopes that that day will see a general strike for workers across the country.
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