Move fast and break (other people’s) things

Editor's Desk

Posted

I know which side of history I want to be on and it is that of family-owned newspapers and local businesses, not the Silicon Baronies.

When our history is told, the fecklessness and greed of monopolists like Sergey Brin, Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos, and Craig Newmark will make John D. Rockefeller and WalMart’s Walton Family shine like saints.

Even if you worship at Clayton Christensen’s altar of “creative disruption” where the Barons go for absolution, we cannot ignore this fact: the vitality of small communities requires us to hold hands with those who make the Olympic Peninsula home. Whether it’s the grocer, the shoe store or the ink-stained wretches who produce the paper you are holding, it is emphatically us against those who move fast and break other people’s things.

In the last decade, newsroom employment in the U.S. dropped from about 114,000 reporters, editors, photographers and videographers to fewer than 85,000. The result of that is that fewer and fewer watch dogs are keeping an eye on Congress, on state government, county courthouses and city hall. That down-trend matches the  startling down-trend in newspaper revenues: more than 50% since 200, according to a Pew study.

This did not happen by accident. Craigslist was created to demolish newsrooms nationwide with a loss-leader business to make one guy, Craig Newmark, fabulously wealthy. In every zip code across the country, he makes a steady drip of income from the few ad categories for which he does charge. It’s not a triumph of engineering. It’s a triumph of accounting: unburden classified ads of those pesky news staffers and you’ll end up, as he has, with millions to donate to conscience-salving organizations ... in the nation’s major cities. Ever seen a local donation from Craigslist?

At the same time Craigslist was scraping 40% of annual revenue (what classified ads used to generate) out of local newspapers, Brin and Zuckerberg began the greatest fence operation in history, stealing the products of every newsroom and selling targeted advertising around it as though it were their own.

Their “free” products built a huge audience, which is great for Zuckerberg and Brin. Through deeply intrusive surveillance and automation that yielded temptingly low ad rates, they gutted the other significant underpinnings of newsrooms: display ads and subscription fees. Local papers shrank with the local retailers that sustained them.

I challenge you to find one charity in Jefferson County that has collected more than $200 in any given year from Amazon Smile. Ask the Jefferson County Treasurer what is collected from Amazon or Google, which drift-net money from every zip code in the U.S. but only “do philanthropy” in New York and other cities where national media coverage makes them look beneficent.

I have asked both Amazon and the Bezos Family Foundation to share with me by-zip-code data on their giving. The Foundation declined and the corporation ignored the request. Even Wal-Mart, long a target of liberal activists, is more transparent than that, posting in every store the dozens of $100 donations it makes to Little Leagues and charity fund drives in most every zip code in the country.

That’s not window-dressing. In 2015, the last year for which I could find public data, Amazon Smile donated less than $13million while Wal-Mart donated $67million in cash to local organizations and $320million worldwide. Add in donations of goods and employee time and WalMart reported $1.4Billion (with a B) in global charitable giving.

I know...Bezos promises he’s going to give away $2billion...In Seattle, where the city sought to tax him to finance a campaign against homelessness. What about all of the little zip codes where Amazon does business every day, wiping out furniture stores, clothiers and book shops? What about Quilcene and Chimacum and Port Townsend?

We all participated, shopping on Amazon and networking on Facebook, but we can now all see the extent to which those companies knew more than we did about the problems they were creating and did not solve them.

Yes, technology makes anti-social Baronies inevitable, but must we reward them?

The dollars we spend with the Barons are never circulating in our community again, while our neighbors’ businesses doggedly go on paying wages, paying taxes and paying attention to the ways they can pitch in to help out when somebody needs help.

So, when we can, maybe we should side with local communities and local newspapers and not those who are amassing enormous personal wealth by moving fast and breaking other people’s things.

Dean Miller is the new editor of The Leader.

Comments

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Tom Camfield

Nice to see you aboard at the Leader, Dean! As a former ink-stained wretch, I'm also particularly happy to see our hometown Leader newspaper hanging in there despite the economic factors conspiring against it (and the same for the larger Seattle Times ).

I've been here 90 years, and when i arrived, the Leader already had been serving the local public about 39 1/2 years. I hope some of my grandchildren can see it mark its 200th anniversary.

Wednesday, April 3
Dan Näsman

Convenience is such an attractive temptress. Thanks for challenging me to do better with local shopping. I do make one mitigating contrition: When I order books on Amazon Kindle, I keep a log of the price difference between a hard-bound book and the Kindle price and spend the accumulated difference with local book vendors--primarily Copper Canyon Press.

Wednesday, April 3
T T

According to the note I received from Amazon on March 25:

"Thanks to customers like you, AmazonSmile has donated a total of $124,651,081.04 to all charities"

One problem is that too few people know about this no-cost way to support the charitable organization of their choosing.

Thursday, April 4
Tom Camfield

I'm a voluntary regular poll respondent for Survey Monkey. For every poll response from me, they donate $.50 to a charity of my choice. My choice is Doctors without Borders and the total has added up nicely over recent years. As it costs me nothing, I also contribute personally and directly to Doctors without Borders now and then.

Meanwhile, I find it difficult to believe that Amazon has contributed $124 million to charity that is totally "no cost" to its customers. Everything they do is adjusted to a desirable "bottom line," and that would include fees assessed its patrons.

Thursday, April 4
Justin Hale

Right on Comrade "From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs"

Seattle government leaders turn what used to be a halfway decent town into a S-Hole infested with "homeless druggies" and then they expect Amazon to fix the problem. We saw what the Workers of Seattle thought of that scheme when they shouted down that moron Kashama Sawant.

Sunday, April 7
Tom Camfield

Not sure I follow you here, Justin. Where's the "Comrade" bit come from? No one's talking Russian communism

here. That would get us into more of a plutocratic dictatorship—sort of in the direction Donald is trying to steer us. Sawant in Seattle is an admitted socialist, which is her right, and the voting public apparently saw a need for her sort. She helped get the minimum wage up to $15 an hour in Seattle, and I'm certainly with her that far. She also turns thinking in the direction of altruism rather than individual greed.

Turn that word "altruism" over to Republican propagandists and they'll try to convince the public that it's a social disease. It merely means "selfless"—which itself probably is a regarded as profanity in the Oval Office. And how about that Donald, trying to plant in the public mind that wind=power farms cause cancer—like the one he considers unsightly near his fancy golf course in Scotland (or is it Ireland?).

I also take offense on behalf of the homeless who don't have access to this forum, for your typifying them all as "druggies." There are a lot of innocent victims of circumstance, children among them, without a decent roof over their heads . Insults is the last thing they need. I see you also insulted Seattle with one of Donald Trump's favorite insults. Seattle's growing at break-neck speed and attracting many hopeful migrants (including—gasp!—whites) despite high living costs. I think city government there, led by a woman mayor, will be taking a shot a humanitarianism in whatever direction may present itself.

The type of people being elected to office these days is an indication of what our public is looking for in the way of social equality. Chicago just elected a lesbian Black as mayor. I happen to think that's great. I believe a revolution of the common man/woman is entering the scene stage left and will prevail in the 2020 election.

Sunday, April 7
Justin Hale

" No one's talking Russian communism here."..... That's right Tom, it's a Socialist slogan.

"Chicago just elected a lesbian Black as mayor. I happen to think that's great."..... Why?, because she shares/represents your ideologies, or because she is a black lesbian.

Say what you want, I lived in Seattle from 1965 till 2000, I've seen the city go downhill every year. And the way the "homeless" pollute their camps is disgraceful...... Who's in charge here?.

Sunday, April 7
`Tom Camfield

Let's not resurrect the likes of Joe Mccarthy here by creating an ugly label with which to demonize anyone with a social conscience. Republicans have been trying to puff up "liberal" in that way for a long, long time, and it's now beginning to backfire on them.

Monday, April 8
Justin Hale

I don't care what label you want to slap on it Tom, slapping Amazon with additional taxes as that nutjob Sawant proposed is a stupid idea. And the "capital gains tax" that Inslee proposes is not only stupid but illegal.

Tom here's a link regarding the homeless and drug abuse you might want to do some reading.(https://www.google.com/search?client=firefox-b-1-d&q=percentage+of+homeless+on+drugs), or you might want to go over to Seattle some day and visit the homeless camps. And I did not say that ALL homeless people are druggies, I said that the homeless camps are infested with druggies. The liberal Democrats have done a steller job of turning what used to be a great city into a S-hole. Tolerance of the homeless lawbreakers is a recipe for more homeless lawbreakers. Another great idea from those in charge is to have "safe houses" where heroin addicts can shoot-up under government supervision. In my mind this isn't about Liberal vs. Conservative, it's about ideas that work and build a safer society verses those that don't. You want to stand-up for the homeless, the druggies, and the illegals?, go ahead, but that sure as hell isn't the kind of society I want for my Children.

Tuesday, April 9