Until I read Wednesday evening's dispatch from the Associated Press by Deb Riechmann and Richard Lardner, I had no idea that the secretaries of state and boards of election throughout the land had surrendered their roles in compiling election results to the Associated Press. Now I know better. In a report which primarily concerned former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson's appearance earlier that day before the House Intelligence Committee, the AP buried news that the Democratic National Committee had refused DHS's help after its systems were allegedly hacked, but also told readers that prior to Election Day, Johnson "contacted The Associated Press, which counts votes."

One measure of how far newspapers in general and McClatchy newspapers in particular have fallen is a mock newspaper front page (image below the fold) created by workers at the Raleigh News & Oberver making fun of their McClatchy CEO Gary Pruitt (photo). Pruitt, who went on a disastrous spending spree a few years ago buying up doomed newspapers, including the Miami Herald, is widely credited for bringing McClatchy newspapers to the brink of financial collapse.

This issue of the mock News & Observer  front page was published in honor of the 31 employees who were released from their jobs yesterday. The publication was professionally produced and features a photo of many of the released employees waving goodbye from the roof of the News & Obrserver.

The headline of the mock front page states:  "We'll get off at this next port, please."

Below, the subhead continues the thought: "But Do Enjoy The Rest Of The Voyage---Mind The Icebergs."

The McClatchy publishing company is more and more beginning to resemble an isolated bunker in the final stages of Götterdämmerung as ugly reality, such as their 99% stock price plunge, closes in on both fronts. Inside the bunker a leader is screaming madly, conjuring up phantom armies to ward off the unpleasant facts facing his company. However, in this case their ranting leader in the bunker isn't McClatchy CEO Gary Pruitt who is probably already quietly contemplating his permanent exile with his surfboard off the coast of Satellite Beach but Howard Weaver (photo), the outgoing VP of News at that company. So what set off this latest outburst in the closing act of the Twilight of the Clods? According to McClatchy Watch, it was a Web post by Jeff Jarvis at the Buzz Machine commenting on the fiscal woes of the newspaper industry including McClatchy:

Employees of McClatchy publishing in Iraq were in an unusually good mood recently. The occasion was the aftermath of the Iraqi journalist who tossed his shoes at President Bush at a press conference in Baghdad as you can see in these quotes from Inside Iraq, a blog for McClatchy journalists working in that country. The first quote was from McClatchy employee, "Laith," who was talking about his colleagues and the rest of the quotes were from commentors who may or may not be employed by McClatchy:

Some of the guys were happy and they were talking about the bravery of the journalist who threw his shoes at the American president. When I tried to explain my opinion, I was trying to tell the guys that I don't agree with the way the journalist behaved, but I was attacked by them. One of them said "come on Laith, Bush destroyed Iraq". Another said "he deserves more" while a third one said "he is an occupier." I tried to tell to tell they guys that this is an inslut for Maliki.

The "Shoe heard round the world" was an important symbolic event. I felt his action was appropriate and restrained considering the circumstances.

I applauded this act. I don't care that it is rude. Why are we concerned about etiquette when a country was destroyed? Did Bush ever apologize to the Iraqis for the hundreds of thousands of dead? Bush is an occupier, a clown pretending to be a hero, so enclosed in his own little self-certain world he probably was surprised an Iraqi could be that angry. I am not surprised. I am only surprised such a thing did not happen earlier. 

Remember Baghdad Bob? He was the Iraqi press spokesmen who caused much amusement in the West because of his unrealistically upbeat pronouncements when Iraq was invaded by the United States and its allies in 2003. Among Baghdad Bob's funnier announcements was his declaration that no Americans were in Baghdad at the same moment when American troops were patrolling the streets of that city just a few hundred yards from where he was holding that press conference. Well, the newspaper industry has its own Baghdad Bob in the form of McClatchy CEO, Gary Pruitt, who in early 2007 gave his own unrealistically upbeat reports to his company's employees on the purchase of Knight-Ridder in 2006. That purchase quickly turned into an utter disaster as evidenced that the former Knight-Ridder flagship newspaper, the Miami Herald, is now being put up for sale by McClatchy. Below are a few excerpts from the 2007 video of Pruitt performing his Baghdad Bob routine including a bizarre invocation of that great "philosopher," Lenny Kravitz:

Hi. I'm Gary Pruitt, CEO of McClatchy. This has been a busy year for all of us and I haven't been able to meet  with as many of you as I'd like. I hope to start changing that. But for now I would want to spend a few minutes here talking to you about our company. Where we've been and where we're headed. Let's start with last year. Conventional wisdom is that 2006 was a catastrophe for the newspaper industry. That's just not the case. 

"In Umm Qasr, the fighting is fierce and we have inflicted many damages. The stupid enemy, the Americans and British, failed completely. They're not making any penetration."