He Writes a Book, He Broadcasts Games, He Raises Money for Charity, He Changes Lyrics

That Bob Costas guy really gets around

READERS? WHO NEEDS READERS? At a portentously titled panel discussion a few weeks ago, "Can Newspapers Survive the 21st Century?" held at the St. Louis University School of Law, Gerald Boyd, deputy managing editor of the New York Times, suggested that the Times' increased circulation is a sign of its improving quality. Is the converse true? Does declining circulation mean declining quality? Well, Post-Dispatch editor Cole Campbell, who sat on the panel, pointed to continuing delivery and pricing problems as keys reason for the P-D's eroding circulation figures. Perhaps he needn't have bothered. Despite declining circulation, profits for Pulitzer Inc. and ad linage for the P-D were up for the year ending Dec. 31. Including a $25 million payment in 1999 to Newhouse newspapers (part of the annual profit-splitting that continues despite Newhouse's sale of the old St. Louis Globe-Democrat in 1984) and a $26.7 million payout of stock options and bonuses, Pulitzer was still able to report a net operating income of $19 million in 1999. Before the payment of tribute to S.I. Newhouse Jr. and last year's largesse to the higher-ups, Pulitzer's operating margin -- operating income as a percentage of operating revenues -- was a respectable 19.8 percent, up from 14.1 percent in 1995. So will the P-D survive? As a disgruntled staffer once said, it will, as long as Famous-Barr doesn't figure out how to advertise online. As to the question posed by the title of the panel discussion, one attendee in the back of the room summarized his answer to the question thusly: "The future of newspapers is fucked." Well, at least some newspapers.

FLOTSAM AND JETSAM: Who will guard the guardians? Who will advise the advisors? At the University of Missouri-St. Louis, Don Driemeier got into hot water for taking the early-retirement package and then getting rehired in his administrative post as assistant to UM-St. Louis Chancellor Blanche Touhill. UM President Manuel Pacheco had said that top officials could not keep their jobs and receive pensions. The maneuver by Driemeier and two other administrators triggered an audit by state Auditor Claire McCaskill. Some faculty members are groaning that when they sought advice on what they could or couldn't do about early retirement, administration referred them to, you guessed it, Driemeyer for advice.... Radio veteran Frank Absher has hung up his mike at KDHX (88.1 FM), where he conducted a weekly interview session with local journalists. Phone problems beset the show, particularly a few weeks back during one program, when the main guest for the show, Selwyn Pepper, couldn't get patched through to talk on the air for about 15 minutes. That's a lot of airtime to fill, particularly because Pepper, a former Post-Dispatch editor, was going to talk about the P-D's decision not to run a Kansas City Star series about priests with AIDS. Unlike other KDHX shows, you couldn't just pop in an obscure CD to kill time.... Here's the best lawyer joke told during Sunday's annual joke show on A Prairie Home Companion: It's 90 percent of the lawyers who give the other 10 percent a bad name.... With the Houston Astros' Jeff Bagwell growing a long, scraggly goatee, fans in Houston have taken to wearing fake beards that resemble a shorter version of ZZ Top's facial hair. With Mark McGwire's chin whiskers, how long before some profiteer starts peddling fake red goatees for fans to wear at Busch?

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