Monday, January 22, 2018

a gift in the mail

About a week ago, I received a free copy of the Reader’s Digest in the mail, which was sent to me courtesy of their marketing development division. Since the magazine business is a tough business, it is not unusual to receive free copies of various publications that have been sent out in order to entice folks to sign up.

It works.

I now have new subscriptions to the Mayo Clinic newsletter and Time magazine because I got free copies sometime in the last year. My subscription to Time was only $25 a year, significantly less than $263.56 it would cost me if I paid full price at the grocery store every week.

A year’s subscription to the Reader’s Digest would only cost $10, a steep discount from the full sticker price of $39.90 – but I’m not buying.

When I was a kid, my parents subscribed to the Reader’s Digest, and they also often received a variety of the Reader’s Digest condensed books.

The Reader’s Digest has been around for a LONG TIME. It was originally founded in 1920 in Chappagua, New York, the same town that Bill and Hillary now call home, but it later moved to Manhattan.

For many years, it was the best-selling consumer magazine in the country, but was finally surpassed by Better Homes and Gardens in 2009. In addition to Braille, it is published in 21 other languages, and is read by 40 million people in more than 70 countries.

Since its inception, the magazine has maintained a conservative and anti-Communist perspective on political and social issues, which may help to explain why it has more readers with household incomes in excess of $100,000 than Fortune, the Wall Street Journal, Business Week, and Inc. COMBINED. It also explains why I am not buying.

The 1950’s were conservative times in America, so I was pretty conservative as a kid. The decade of the 1960’s, of course, changed me into a liberal, and the economic boom of the 1990’s changed me back to a more conservative outlook on life (I even voted for George W. Bush in 2000).

An unplanned career change in my 50’s caused me to take another look at my priorities, and I came to the realization that the progressive views that I read every day made more sense than conservative views.

In 1990, the magazine’s parent company went public in order to raise money. Unfortunately, the company lost money every year from 2005 through 2010, which caused it to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2009. On February 13, 2013, the company filed for bankruptcy for the second time.

A large part of the company’s financial problems stem from the sweepstakes that they used to promote in the 1990’s, which tricked elderly people into buying products because they were “guaranteed winners”. After 32 attorneys general filed suit in 2001, the magazines circulation swiftly declined, and it is now a long ways short of its 1970’s peak circulation of 17,000,000.

Since its inception, the Reader’s Digest has had 11 editors-in-chief, but Kenneth Tomlinson, the man who served from 1990 through 1996, was the person who is most responsible for the magazine’s decline. In addition to his responsibilities with the Reader’s Digest, he was also Chairman of the Board of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which manages funds appropriated by Congress in support of public television and radio. His misdeeds in that position forced his resignation in 2005.

In November of 2005, investigators uncovered evidence that that he had repeatedly broken federal laws and the organization’s own regulations in a campaign to combat what he saw as LIBERAL NEWS. If you have been paying attention lately, liberal news is now called “fake news” by a man who gets his “information” from the National Enquirer, FOX “news”, Breitbart, and Alex Jones.

Donald Trump celebrated the first anniversary of his inauguration by causing the government to shut down, a fitting capstone to a year of utter insanity. As one senator put it, negotiating with Trump is like negotiating with Jello.

Some of the folks involved in the protest march last year are STILL facing charges from the government for exercising their right of free speech, which had very little effect on the marches that were equally large this year.

We recently saw “The Post”, which is an excellent movie. Since I was a new voter at the time of the release of the Pentagon Papers by the Washington Post, the story was very familiar to me, and the underlying story bears a very strong resemblance to what it happening today.

Two of the newspapers I read every day are the New York Times and the Washington Post. Since its founding in 1851, the New York Times has won 122 Pulitzer Prizes, more than any other newspaper. The Washington Post was started in 1877, and it has earned 47 Pulitzer Prizes. Its current owner is Jeff Bezos, who is now considered to be the richest man in the world. He bought the newspaper from Catherine Graham’s family for $250 million in 2013.  

(If you don't think that America is a land of opportunity, consider this fact:

Jeff's mother was 17 and still in high school when her son was born. Not surprisingly, her marriage only lasted about a year. Her second husband, Miguel Bezos, emigrated from Cuba alone when he was 15 years old. Even today, some of our "leaders" would consider Cuba to be a "shithole" country.)

Since many newspapers are struggling today, you might not think that owning a newspaper would be a good idea – but you would be wrong. William Randolph Hearst bought his first newspaper when he was 24 years old. Today, the Hearst family is worth $28 billion.

Both the New York Times and the Washington Post would be considered to be “liberal” publications, as would Time magazine. Time has won numerous awards over the years, including the Top Award for Magazine Excellence (the industry’s most prestigious honor) in 2006, and the Magazine of the Year in 2012 at the National Magazine Awards ceremony in New York.  

When the hypocrites that champion “family values” overwhelmingly support a thrice married failed business man as a man chosen by God, you know that their thinking is seriously out of whack. As a result, now is NOT the right time to start reading the Readers Digest again.

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