Private Eye | Cheaters Cheat: The daily newspaper biz isn’t going to hell, just the content | Private Eye | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly
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Private Eye | Cheaters Cheat: The daily newspaper biz isn’t going to hell, just the content


The chelada weather challenge enters another week. I recently wrote about cheladas and how in different parts of Mexico you can get different chelada concoctions. Some people call beer mixed with Clamato the basis for a chelada, and others deem a chelada to be beer with lime juice. Complicating that is the fact that two competing U.S. brewers each have entered the market with their own versions of cheladas, Budweiser with a Clamato version and Miller Brands with a lime version. Since this is chelada 101 and not pure science, there’s no point in mentioning the spicy michelada. Besides, as I said, it isn’t even chelada weather.

My friend Mick Huerta sent us a letter to the editor this week laying out there are even more chelada versions and other south-of-the-border concoctions to be had. Alas, he must not have read the first column since I wasn’t saying the chelada was a weather phenomenon, but rather that it hadn’t yet become warm enough to drink a refreshing chelada. I always welcome Mick’s views, but I gotta say, this is getting quite complex. All I want is for the weather to warm, to watch a Little League baseball game sans mittens, for the mountain snow melt to enter our valley without flooding basements, and for the sun to shine to such a degree that the best defense against its killer rays be found inside a cold mug of beer, ice and lime juice. I also want fresh limes that yield more than three drops of lime juice, but that may be asking for too much.

I totally agree with Mick on this point—a chelada or michelada should be made with a Mexican variety of beer. We’ll try this again next week. Once it gets warm, I’ll have a chelada party somewhere. You can come if you’re not a jackass. That’s the only rule. Patrick and Clyde can come. Everyone at City Weekly can come. Christa and Steve can come. I’d even welcome the people who shadow punch me on our Website. I won’t go Dr. Phil on them—I’m sure their parents loved them and dogs seldom pee on their legs—but I don’t think they’ve ever had a chelada. If so, they wouldn’t be such assys. Hayduke, Bill, Tibbs and Amy can come. Rocky can’t come.

This city needs a rite of passage ceremony to welcome the warm weather. The groundhog ain’t cutting it. Montreal celebrates for a month once the ice melts. Salt Lake City can hold the Chelada Festival. Even if it’s limited to one night in one bar (or on a large patio), it could be an annual signal that all is right in our little world. If you’re in the bar biz and want to become the host site of the First Ever City Weekly Chelada Festival, just send me an e-mail. Assuming the cost of fresh limes doesn’t keep going up, it could be a lucrative evening.

That’s just how it is. The newspaper business is lucrative and we want to share. Actually, though, if you listen to all the whiney people in the newspaper business, things are going to hell in a handbasket. They aren’t. It’s true that newspaper profits are falling off the cliff all over the country, but that negates the fact that those profits were artificially high for so long. Newspapers—specifically the spoiled brats at daily newspapers—were formerly accustomed to annual profits of around 30 percent for decades. Then along came the niche publications like alternative newspapers (where even the best, after years of accumulating huge sums of debt, barely beat 20 percent margins and most are under 10), deregulated radio, cable television, the Internet and now mobile devices.

Daily newspapers had near monopolies across the country, not just on information but on advertising channels as well. They got so cocky about it they even went one better and struck deals with competing papers in their own markets (as in Salt Lake City with the merged efforts of the Deseret News and The Salt Lake Tribune, now operating as MediaOne) and all but eliminated the competition. Such papers, operating basically as unfettered monopolies ruled the roost when it came to advertising revenue. They fatally erred, though. Instead of sinking some of those profit dollars into better products, they turned their papers into media mush.

They cut costs, especially in their editorial departments. Readers noticed. If they hadn’t, we wouldn’t be here. Papers like this one only exist because the dailies value profit and circulation over editorial content. This paper has had its ups and downs, big successes and big letdowns, but we never figured our readers were stupid. The latest daily crybaby canard appeared today in a story by Paul Beebe in the The Salt Lake Tribune.

Beebe correctly notes that daily circulation is falling from coast to coast and that our own dailies are not immune, decreasing a cumulative 4 percent or so since last year. The head of MediaOne, Brent Low, attributes that decline simply to pulling circulation out of most area hotels. Yeah. Last year, circulation numbers at both papers rose over the previous year. You might not recall MediaOne ever talking about the dubious motel circulation back then. That’s because they didn’t.

Daily papers all over the country have since been found to be artificially boosting their circulation numbers by handing out free papers in hotels and schools. I’ve met cheaters before. They can’t quit. Higher circulation means higher ad rates—even if Joe Tourist doesn’t need a Tuff Shed and Suzie Student isn’t ready to drive a Larry H. Miller Toyota. MediaOne produces chopped liver but peddles it as Kobe beef. Liver doesn’t mix well with cheladas. So Singleton can’t come, either. Beebe can.