Some things to keep you busy if you’re not quite ready to start working this glorious Monday:

  • First, a bird’s eye view of the chemical spill off the coast in Encinitas courtesy, I believe, of the U.S. Coast Guard (and YouTube, of course):

Staff Writer Will Carless had to be forcibly restrained (OK, just told) to not surf in that muck Friday.

  • Second, a Nerd’s Eye View: Our own Rich Toscano is back from his European jaunt. Thank God. The problem with good blogs and good bloggers like him is that you get accustomed to their insights and want more all the time. His return post provides some interesting perspective in his traditionally succinct way. How could the housing market actually have been losing ground during a time when many leading indexes showed it clawing its way up a bit? The indexes could have been going up precisely because a significant portion of the housing market was (and is) collapsing. Rich explains it much better.

Speaking of housing, though, I have to also highlight a column this weekend by the Union-Tribune’s Dean Calbreath. We’ve been pummeled with information about the implosion of the subprime mortgage market. And if you’ve read Toscano or some of the great work that Kelly Bennett has done on the issue, you know the implications.

But Calbreath did a good job breaking it down for someone who hasn’t been marinating in the issue for a while.

I don’t usually read Calbreath’s weekly column because it gets buried deep in the U-T’s sometimes sprawling website and I don’t buy the actual physical paper. But I bought a paper Sunday while gorging myself on pancakes.

Now, my experience, I think, helps illustrate one of the problems newspapers will struggle with for years: The web, while limitless, is also rather constrained. Newspapers used to be able to trust that their readers would spend a Sunday idly flipping through every page of the paper, like I did this week. Eventually, the readers would run into a column like Calbreath’s that’s worth the read. But readers who only use the web to get their news, as many people like me are becoming, don’t do that. Obviously, I read the U-T completely because it’s part of my job, but there’s not a single thing on the front page of the U-T’s website that would have led a random visitor, today, to Calbreath’s column. Even the “more columnists” link (as of Sunday night) doesn’t lead to a page with Calbreath’s columns. There’s a link to “Crosswords” and another for “Sudoku” and one for a “Casino Guide.” Not even the link to the Business section gets you to page with even a link to Calbreath’s column. Not a single link on the U-T’s home page went to Calbreath’s column and his column couldn’t even be found on the pages to which all the other hundreds of links on the home page took readers. You had to go to “Today’s Paper,” click on “Business” and then you’d see it.

I don’t mean to pick on them, really. They could probably have a field day examining the oddities of our own site. I only do this because it helps describe a fundamental problem with the way newspapers are handling this wrenching transition all media companies and journalists are experiencing.

Consumers are increasingly getting their news online. Newspaper circulation is going down, but those newspaper’s websites are getting tons of visitors. Newspapers have boatloads of content, and determined readers used to sit down every day and flip through page after page to make sure they don’t miss anything.

Now, newspapers are trying to put everything they used to do online and only a few have figured out how to get it all there without turning their websites’ home pages and index pages into giant, unintelligible landfills of information. There might be valuable things in the piles of junk, but you have to be resourceful to find it. That’s why people like blogs so much: They help sift through all the junk to find the truly valuable items.

Wow, that was a bit of a rant. Take it for what it’s worth.

This will be a busy week. Stay tuned.


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