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A (mostly) weekly look at the magazines laying around Beachwood HQ.

That's Mitt!
Ryan Lizza's profile of Mitt Romney in the latest New Yorker examines the management consulting theories that inform his approach to governing. It's a lot more interesting than that sounds.

Agent of Fortune
In the same issue, Ben McGrath profiles superagent and scourge of baseball Scott Boras, in a piece called "The Extortionist."

Boras has a couple Chicago connections. First, he was actually in the Chicago Cubs organization at one point. Second, he joined the Chicago law firm of Rooks, Pitts & Poust after getting his law degree in 1982, focusing on medical malpractice work. Third, Boras represents White Sox third baseman Joe Crede, who spent most of last season on the disabled list. Why is this important? "The White Sox have historically tended to avoid doing business with Scott Boras," McGrath writes. "[Dennis] Gilbert [a special assistant to Jerry Reinsdorf] also pointed out that Joe Crede, a a Boras client on Chicago's roster, spent most of this season on the disabled list."

I think McGrath - and Gilbert - are telling us Crede was shelved in part as payback to Crede.

Deli Counter
"Right after Labor Day, I sat down with Jack Lebewohl and Steve Cohen to talk about the [new incarnation of the famed Second Avenue Deli]. Cohen, 59, its general manager, was a fixture there for 24 years. We met at the apartment of Josh Lebewohl, Jack's 27-year-old son. Josh is a real estate lawyer who is the co-owner - and silent partner - of the deli with his younger brother, an echo of Jack and Abe. Though Josh stayed at his office, his apartment was a sane place to talk, away from the construction site that would be the deli's new home," Alex Witchel writes in The New York Times Magazine.

"Cohen said that most of the same cooks will return. Just in case anyone thinks that means a crew of Jewish grandmothers, he elaborated: ''They are Puerto Rican, Chinese, Haitian, Indian and from Central America. It's the U.N. back there.''

"Lebewohl, who is also 59, said he won't make the same mistake he made after Abe was shot. ''I put a section on the menu called "healthy alternatives,''' he recalled. 'Roast chicken, broiled salmon, fillet of sole. I stopped selling all of it.' He shrugged. 'People come to the deli because they want to eat a certain type of food.' Or as the New York Times reporter and deli aficionado Richard F. Shepard used to say, 'I love Jewish food, but when you eat it, 72 hours later you're hungry again.'

"Lebewohl says he expects the clientele at the new deli to be a mixed bag, as always. 'The current cardinal, Egan, before he became cardinal, he ate in the deli,' he said. 'Cardinal O'Connor ate our food. We had a black chef who made delicious p'tcha, which is jellied calves' feet, a real old-time Jewish recipe. And I said to him: "Eddie, it's delicious. Where did you learn how to make p'tcha?" He says, "Jack, I've been making this since I was a little boy, just with pigs' feet.'''"

Profit Motive
"Most newspaper executives now are banking on a successful transfer of their business online to ensure future profitability," newspaper industry analyst John Morton writes in American Journalism Review. "Unfortunately, they came late to the realization of how important this is and did not invest enough capital in the early years of the Internet.

"Instead, most newspaper companies concentrated on shoring up the profitability of their traditional newsprint-oriented business, chiefly through laying off employees, downsizing their newspapers and cutting back on circulation in distant areas of little interest to advertisers in their core markets. It was a classic defensive strategy that undermined the very things - standing, reputation, influence -that are crucial to success on the Internet."

Yet, like pro-war pundits who have lost none of their standing, reputation and influence, those same executives - and their highly-paid consultants - remain in their cushy jobs wreaking havoc on the rest of us while they try to catch up. Maybe newspapers need new executives.

"The newspaper industry remains highly profitable by comparison with most other businesses. Bad as 2007 has been, the publicly reporting companies still produced an average operating-profit margin of nearly 16 percent in the first half of the year - a level many businesses can never hope to achieve. Still, the average profit margin has been in steady decline since 2002, when it was 22.3 percent."

In other words, action must be taken, but an awful lot of folks are still lining their pockets at the expense of reporters, photographers, copy editors etc. - and the public.

"That newspapers have been able to maintain such high margins has not been due to improving business but to cost-cutting and, recently, a decline in newsprint costs. But no industry can cut its way to future success. At some point, the business must improve."

No industry can cut its way to success, but individuals making those cuts sure can. And that's the story that hasn't been told.


"I will give the last word to [Warren] Buffett, who writes in his shareholders' letter of his company's Buffalo News: ' . . . the days of lush profits from our newspapers are over forever.'"

Good. Now let's get on to the business of newspapering.

Chicago Blues
"The Windy City's police department has an ugly history," The Economist said last week.

Just so you know how Chicago is perceived worldwide; it's not for the wonders of Millennium Park.

"In its most infamous chapter, officers tortured suspects in the 1970s and 1980s."

Not some distant time. Now. This era.

"But even with such a past, this year has been particularly fraught for America's second-biggest police force."

Just to review: Richard M. Daley was the Cook County State's Attorney from 1980 to 1989. While torture was taking place.

He has been mayor ever since. Two of this last three police chiefs have resigned due to scandal.

"Between 2002 and 2004 civilians filed more than 10,000 reports of serious abuse, such as excessive force and false arrests. Only 19 of these complaints led to an officer's suspension for a week or more."

Nineteen of 10,000. Resulting in at least a week's suspension. Remember that the next time the mayor whines that the media is piling on the police.

"Ilana Rosenzweig, the new head of the OPS, is trying to recruit investigators, but her office is understaffed and is dealing with almost 1,300 open cases.

"A broader problem is how to change the police department's culture. It is common for police officers to shield each other from punishment, but the phenomenon reaches an extreme in Chicago."

Our flowers sure look nice, though.

Democratic Movement
Lawrence Wright had a bold idea for Iraq in last week's New Yorker: Put democracy in action and ask Iraqis what they want America to do.

"We didn't ask the Iraqis if we could invade their country; we didn't ask them if we could occupy it; and now we are not asking them if we should leave. Whatever we end up doing, we need to remember that eventually the only people who are going to occupy Iraq are the Iraqis, and that the decision of when we leave, as inevitably we will, should be as much theirs as ours."


Posted on October 31, 2007

MUSIC - Chief Keef Changed The Industry.
TV - Vizio's Best Product Is You.
POLITICS - UIC: Soda Taxes Work.
SPORTS - More McCaskey Malpractice.

BOOKS - All About Poop.


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