Notices Trumpeting the Demise of Borders Are Premature
Some can remember the headline: “Dewey Beats Truman.” Then, there were two announcements that political writer and novelist Mark Twain had died. The second notice, published in the New York Times, prompted Twain to quip, “The report of my death was an exaggeration.” As it turns out newspapers across Michigan, including AnnArbor.com, have done the same thing to Borders. AnnArbor.com put together a package of stories about the bookseller’s demise—from the number of jobs lost, to misty-eyed memories provided by former employees, the local press were throwing a wake to be remembered.
Borders isn’t dead yet. On Monday afternoon, President Obama announced that the United States government is going to provide $500 million dollars in bailout money to the Ann Arbor-based book company. The President was joined at a press conference at which he announced the federal bailout by “Book Czar” Steve Rattner, head of the White House Books Task Force, who said that a “quick-rinse” bankruptcy under an unusual interpretation of Chapter 363 of the bankruptcy code wouldn’t last more than a month.
At least this is what Detroit News blogger/cartoonist Henry Payne posted to the MichiganView.com on Monday at 11:47 p.m. Payne writes:
Obama conceded that Borders – which operates nearly 700 stores worldwide — had failed to modernize against competition from green eBook sellers like Amazon.com, and he pledged federal Energy Dept. loans so that the bookseller could develop the battery-powered books of the future….The president attacked Wall Street bondholders for wanting to liquidate the company to benefit the wealthy — and vowed to give 50 percent of the company to Borders’ 10,700 employees….
“Obama backs book bailout” was posted to the MichiganView.com at 11:47 p.m. Monday evening. Obama’s reason for backing the federal bailout, according to Payne, is simple:
President Barack Obama on Monday afternoon announced a $500 million federal bailout for Borders Group Inc., the Ann Arbor-based national superstore book chain, on fears that bankruptcy could destroy American reading and leave millions of children illiterate.
“If Republicans allow this American icon to go out of business,” warned Obama, “American literacy will plummet and our children will not be able to compete internationally for the jobs of tomorrow.”
If you haven’t clued in yet, Henry Payne was just “pulling your leg.”
If Henry Payne hasn’t clued in yet, his tasteless, thoughtless, cold-hearted jest at the expense of 400 Michigan people in Ann Arbor (and hundreds more across the state) who just lost their jobs, is right up there with AnnArbor.com writer Nathan Bomey’s use of the recent killing spree in Grand Rapids as a springboard to write about social media. Bomey, of course, has the excuse that, prior to the online self-immolation of his own journalistic credibility, he was allowed to post his pieces without the benefit of rigorous scrutiny. In the news business, the other name for rigorous scrutiny is called editing. Bomey wasn’t caught until after he’d attempted to “explain” and “justify” his piece.
Henry Payne’s excuse is, one imagines, lack of empathy and perspective. The MichiganView.com is a new online venture launched by The Detroit News under the tagline, “The home for conservative thought in the Great Lakes State.”
“Thought,” is the operative word. I can deal with thought, analysis, fact and even conservative opinions that differ from mine. Henry Payne’s piece, however, was devoid of any of those redeeming qualities. It was a guy with a cushy job making fun of 10,700 people who, yesterday, got an email from their boss informing them they were without jobs. For those among the 10,700 former Borders employees who work in Michigan, they got the news in a state that now offers just 20 weeks of unemployment benefits.
The editor of The Detroit News owes an apology for the incredibly poor editorial judgement that allowed Payne’s “humor” piece to see the light of day. Henry Payne owes an apology, as well. “Just pulling your leg” implies a harmless joke, something everyone involved can laugh about. I doubt that the people facing the prospect of a jobless summer in Michigan, a state with one of the highest unemployment rates in the country, will find Payne’s joke harmless or even funny.
Ha! Ha! 10,700 people lost their jobs. Hysterical. Right? Henry Payne and The Detroit News editor who oversees his work think it’s a regular comedy sketch.
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