Why the Internet isn't friendly to newspapers

For many years, I always thought that newspapers would successfully make the transition from a paper product to the Internet -- though the process would be painful. I'm not so sure anymore. Here's why.

The majority of Internet readers aren't looking for a comprehensive news report that is incredibly expensive to produce. Need evidence? Just look at the top-viewed stories on two different Southern California newspaper sites. At this moment, the top stories on latimes.com are these:

The majority of the stories are commentaries on the news or crime briefs. The top-viewed stories don't reflect the work of 600-plus journalists busting their asses around the world. That's just not valued by Internet readers. Sad, but true. Okay, now take a looked at the Orange County Register's top-viewed stories:

Okay, what do we have? A dog photo contest. The Lakers. A weather story. And a crime story.

Both The Times and Register devote tremendous resources to provide readers with in-depth reporting from around California, Southern California and the world. But do today's readers care? I would argue that they would rather read commentary (the reason why the Huffington Post has been so successful) and celebrity and crime news.

Compounding the problem is the fact that Internet advertising provides only a faction of the income as old-school print advertising revenue. So newspapers have to face two stubborn facts: the majority of readers don't want their in-depth, quality news coverage and (even if they did) advertising revenues won't support that kind of editorial heft.

Now we can argue what this means for our democracy or, more pointedly, to websites and bloggers when their free source of news dries up, but the facts remain. Readers and the business model won't support the expensive journalism newspaper operations produce.

In this case, it's two strikes and newspapers are out.

The hypocrisy of Bishop Soto

Mi amigo, Gustavo Arellano, wrote another insightful commentary about the Diocese of Orange and, in particular, one of its former rising stars, Bishop Jaime Soto (who now heads the diocese of Sacramento). Gustavo couldn't be more correct in his analysis.

Soto is one of the Catholic Church's rising stars because he's -- how to put this delicately? -- an ass-kisser. He delivers to his bosses what they want: silence on most of his sexually abusive brothers, a passionate defense of the fellow priest convicted of 46 counts of child molestation, and now a stinging rebuke for those who engaging in same-sex sex.

Among those commenting on Gustavo's post was Richard Sipe, a former monk who's an clergy sexual abuse expert and has long been ahead of the curve on the scandal. He writes:

You are absolutely right. Priests do not speak up about the abuse they know about. The reason: Most, I repeat most, have had or are having some kind of sexual contact, experience, relationship, or habit. They run the risk of exposing themselves, or in some cases superiors or bishops with whom they have had sex-play, experience, or a relationship. Even temporary involvement of priests in sexual relationships with other priests or sexual experimentation puts them in a fearful state. Celibacy is not a common or persistent practice among the clergy. Homosexual contact, and slips (or what the Vatican has labeled "transitional homosexuality") are so common—especially in seminaries and religious orders that many clergy who subsequently or eventually strive to establish a celibate practice are caught in the circle of secrecy that covers even sexual abuse of minors (often indulged by newly ordained priests with only a few victims) or by other priests who continue the practice. This is a "scarlet bond" of secrecy that is inculcated from the top down (Vatican) and preserved by bishops and superiors for fear of exposure; The system in which all clergy are caught demands cover up at any cost to save themselves (the Church) from scandal. Truth, honesty, transparency, accountability, and people (non-clerics) be damned. I am working on a study of the "genealogy of sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic priesthood." Clergy are taught the dynamic of abuse and secrecy from their first days in training. And their teachers are often promoted to the ranks of bishop and superior.

Soto, bilingual and well-regarded with his superiors, is rumored to be in line to be the next archbishop of Los Angeles. Before he gains the post, this question should be answered: What prevented Soto for acting more courageously (or just with common decency) to protect child from being raped by priests in Orange County -- or at least to make sure his criminal brothers were punished? Does Soto, like so many priests, have a sexual "scandal" in his past (even masturbation is a scandal in the priesthood, not to mention relationships with fellow priests, parishioners or prostitutes)? I'd love for him -- and his fellow bishops -- to take a lie detector test to clear the air. (BTW, I'd be more empathic to a personal scandal; it would be more disgusting if he was just a career man who didn't want to rock the boat.)

Until then, it's really between the Lord and the career bishops. And if they truly believe in God, most should be on their knees begging for forgiveness and the courage to do the right thing.

Change of address

Hey, folks. I've decided to stop posting for the moment at Lobdell's OC. But you can find the full wisdom of William Lobdell here.

I'm obsessed with OC Mom

She's a frequent contributor to comments on the OC Register's website. Here is her latest about a story about crime in Santa Ana:

bestocmom wrote:
If we build a wall around Santa Ana, no one goes in, no one comes out the problem will die off in a few months. it's just gross there. They are nasty people that do nothing but look for a hand out, and if they don't get the hand out how they want it, then they think committing crime is okay.

Blind faith in the pews

One of the contributing factors to my loss of faith was the unwavering devotion of Catholics to their molesting priests.

For example, in 1986, Father Andrew Christian Andersen faced up to 56 years in state prison after being convicted of 26 felony counts of child molestation.

Letters from parishioners and brother priests flooded into the courthouse, pleading for leniency.

George Niederauer, Andersen's spiritual director at St. John's Seminary in Camarillo and now archbishop of San Francisco, wrote to Luis A. Cardenas, an Orange County Superior Court judge at the time:

Andersen "might well have misjudged what was appropriate physical expression especially given the atmosphere of adult-child contacts in our society at present," wrote Niederauer, adding that the boys might have misconstrued "wrestling" or "horse play" as sexual abuse. [Yeah, it's an easily mixed up: getting sodomized and a game of grab-ass."]

Jaime Soto, now bishop of Fresno, also wrote to the judge, downplaying Andersen's crimes.

"Our work brings us into intimate contact with people's lives," he wrote. "In a time when the exchange of simple affection within the most intimate of circles has become a rare commodity, our associations with others run the grave risk of being misunderstood by all parties including perhaps the priest himself." [Misunderstood: anal sex versus a hug. Happens all the time.]

The judge gave Andersen no prison time and instead ordered him to enter a Catholic rehabilitation center in New Mexico. Four years later, in 1990, Andersen was arrested in Albuquerque on suspicion of trying to sodomize a 14-year-old boy, and was ordered to serve six years in prison for violating his probation in the California case. You can read the sorted details here.

This week, an Orange County judge received 2,000 letters from parishioners of Our Lady of the Pillar in Anaheim, asking for leniency after their priest, Father Luis Eduardo Ramirez, plead guilty to attempting to molest a boy in a hotel room.

Orange County Register reporter Rachanee Srisavasdi captured the scene:

Parishioners packed the room. When the judge announced his decision, two burst out sobbing. One supporter had to be dragged outside, his face red with anger.

"He's a good man," said another parishioner, Leonardo Cortez. "These are lies.''

Ramirez, who plead guilty to two misdemeanors, received 180 days in jail. He got off easy. Let's hope there aren't any more victims out there. But we may never know since the Diocese of Orange has kept this as secret as it possibly can in this day and age.

Niederauer and Soto, despite trying to defend a serial molester and assigning some of the blame to his victims, continue their rise in the Catholic Church hierarchy. And parishioners continue to devoting themselves to the men behind the altar and NOT on the man on the cross.

A new reformation is needed, but where's Martin Luther?

Dangers of a godly presidency

Mega-Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest told the world Monday on CNN’s “Larry King Live” that the President of the United States should believe in God.

Polls show that Americans would rather vote for a Catholic, Jew, Mormon or Muslim than an atheist. But how wise it that?

I wouldn’t feel comfortable with a Pentecostal president who believed he was getting his instructions directly from God and talked in tongues and had the ability to heal.

I wouldn’t feel comfortable with a Mormon president who believed his/her religious leader — the church’s prophet — can receive direct revelations from God.

I wouldn’t feel comfortable with a Catholic president who believed it was his duty to promote the teachings of his church above all else (which is what a good Catholic should do).

I wouldn’t feel comfortable with an Orthodox Jewish president who believed women on their periods were “unclean” and that men and women have to be divided during services at the synagogue.

I wouldn’t feel comfortable with a Muslim president who believed in Sharia, the Islamic system of law that requires that convicted adulterers be stoned to death and thieves get a hand and foot chopped off.

I’d feel more more comfortable with an intelligent atheist who based his decisions strictly on facts and reason. Even if I was super-religious, I’d feel that way — unless miraculously the president held the exact religious views I did. And what’s the chances of that?

The unchanging Catholic Church

If you're Catholic and think the clergy sexual abuse scandal is behind you, think again.

Here's a "post"-scandal story of Father Luis Eduardo Ramirez, who was arrested in January in Anaheim for suspicion of child annoyance or molestation and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. The city of Anaheim didn't publicize the case, and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange -- which fancies itself as being "open and transparent" when it comes to priests who mess around with children -- only placed an item in the church bulletin of the accused priest's church, Our Lady of the Pillar.

As a sexual abuse expert will tell you, the vast majority of molesters have many victims. The idea of being open and transparent is so a) the community is warned and b) other victims can come forward. A single article in a parish bulletin doesn't cut it. What if another victim left the church? Or didn't go to church that Sunday? Or wasn't a member of that parish?

I also love that the priest's religious order bailed him out of jail and allowed him to continue his holy work in a monastery. Actually, putting molesting priests in monasteries is a perfect spot for them -- if they are never allowed to be around children or given leave without a chaperon. But that's not usually the program. If only Catholic leaders who listen to the advice of St. Basil of Caesarea. The fourth (4th!) century priest got so fed up with sexual abuse that he set up a detailed system of punishment to deal with clerics at his monastery who molested boys. Among other punishments, perpetrators were to be flogged and put in chains for six months; they were never again allowed unsupervised interaction with minors.

But the church's reaction to Father Ramirez's arrest tells it all. The church still has two priorities: to protect the institution and to help its brother priests. Nothing else matters. You can't change 2,000 years of culture is a five-year period. The Catholic Church -- and its high-priced PR consultants -- can speak of openness, transparency and caring for the victim first, but that's not how the priest, bishops, cardinals and pope have been trained. Not even more than $1 billion in payouts can change that.