From the pages of
The Sublette County Journal
Volume 5, Number 25 - 2/15/01
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Monopoly, Anyone?

On page 28 of my cowboy book of wisdom (Don't Squat With Yer Spurs On! A Cowboy's Guide to Life. 1992; Bender, T. B., Salt Lake City; Peregrine Smith Books) is the following point of advice: "Don't worry about biting off more than you can chew- your mouth's probably a lot bigger than you think". He makes a lot of other good points, such as "It don't take a genius to spot a goat in a flock of sheep" (p16), "Never ask a barber if he thinks you need a haircut" (p21) and "Always drink upstream from the herd" (p30). This one, however, popped into my mind when I was thinking about all the work Rob was going to be getting himself in for now that he bought the other Newspaper in town, the Roundup. In this era of corporate takeovers on the colossal scale of multinational multilingual companies, remember it isn't always a foreign affair. Free market competition is happening, "right here in River City", as the Music Man said. It's amoebic: engulf and devour. Anyway, it's going to be busy: I call in to ask a question on a Wednesday morning now and again, and nobody has much time to chat. So, I foresee a good deal of work ahead, but, c'est la vie, arbeit macht frei.

Opinions vary, from the perspective of "Consolidation is good"- the alternative approach to diversity- to "It's the end of free speech in Sublette County"- a.k.a. the "there goes the neighborhood" view. There are exquisite ironies involved here, only beginning with the young upstart running the 'competition' paper, who becomes successful enough, in a few short years, to simply buy the previously established organ of news and information. Newspapers are not nonprofit organizations, as I discovered in my ill-fated bid for public office as Sublette County Coroner. In order to buy a "Please Elect Me" ad, taking up the same amount of space I fill with this column, I paid almost exactly an order of magnitude more than I make. This is simple economics- bring more in than you shell out, and you're making money: the Journal's not going broke paying writers.

Now, Rob has been a vocal proponent of consolidation - I recall some recent editorials written during my wife's (Dr. Boyle) move from Marbleton to Pinedale regarding the centralization of medical care, recordkeeping and especially physician contracts in the county. So I admire the man for putting his money where his mouth is, and doing his fair share to stick with a philosophy he believes in, even though he's told me he wishes he could be a teacher and have all the bennies plus summers off. It is inspiring to see someone successfully following a consistent philosophy, maybe because it is uncommon. As the old priest-turned-shepherd said to Tom Conte in "Saving Grace", "You have to excuse my sheep, they see so few popes".

Consolidation begets efficiency, and efficiency is generally accomplished by what we euphemistically refer to as "downsizing". Reminds me of the rolling heads scene in "Caligula", but I think in this case, I would illustrate the point with a Gary Larson cartoon of a farmer, axe in hand, going through the chicken coop mumbling to himself, "now, who's it going to be?" Again, my cowboy guide provides a couple of appropriate points. "Remain independent of any source of income that deprives you of your personal liberties" (p36). On the other hand, "just because a man takes off his boots to go wading, doesn't mean he plans to swim the Atlantic" (p67). Time will tell. "If you're riding ahead of the herd, take a look back every now and then to make sure it's still there" (p41).

The one legitimate criticism I heard was the "end of free speech and diversity of opinion" view, and that one may indeed be valid, but if you are reading this right now, the day after Valentine's, that fear, so far, is completely unfounded.

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