October 27, 2017 Last Updated 1:55 pm

Spanish prime minister calls for end of self-rule in Catalunya, while Catalan parliament debates independence declaration

Morning Brief: The Economist begins three part series on the future of journalism with report on the rise of paid digital subscriptions at the NYT and The Washington Post

Today in Spain the prime minister asked the Spanish parliament to apply Article 155 which would end Catalunya’s autonomy, and likely remove its government officials and representatives.

In a half hour speech, Mariano Rajoy said “we are facing a challenge of unprecedented dimensions in our recent history” and called the Catalan separatists “hooligans” and said the implementation of Article 155 would insure the rule of law.

The Socialists, who in the minority, asked that Rajoy insert an amendment that would suspend Article 155 should the Catalan president call for new elections. But that is highly unlikely as it was already something that the Catalan president had proposed and been rejected.

In Barcelona, the Catalan parliament is also to meet, and hundreds of Catalan town mayors have come to Barcelona to watch the assembly debate independence.

Already there are signs that while the separatist parties have a majority, and the Catalan president Carles Puigdemont is set to present the declaration to parliament, the minority is vocally opposed to a declaration of independence.

“You are being irresponsible, many are afraid and worried” “How many workers will you condemn to povertry?” said Eva Granados, a Socialist Deputy. “Today you are destroying everything”

Carlos Carrizosa, leader of Ciudadanos, said “Today is a sad, dramatic day in Catalonia. It’s the day when a coup against our democracy will be perpetrated” and described the October 1 referendum as “an absolute disgrace.”

Still, separatist parties have a majority, and as there have been virtually no negotiations between Rajoy and Puigdemont, all that is left to do is to go the final mile towards disaster.

Update (8:30CDT): The Catalan parliament has voted: 70 in favor of independence, 10 against and 2 abstentions. The lopsided vote came after the PP, the party of Spain’s prime minister Mariano Rajoy, but a minority party in Catalunya, walked out, placing Spanish flags on their seats.

Update 9:10CDT: Spain’s parliament has formally invoked Article 155 ending autonomy for Catalunya. 214 in favor, 47 against and 1 abstention.

Update 10:40CDT: I suppose this shouldn’t be a surprise, though I still find it is: the US State Dept has come out for Rajoy in his fight with the new republic. That the Trump administration would prefer to deal with strongmen isn’t a surprise, but what is surprising is that the State Dept isn’t smart enough to stay the hell out of the fray. It is a sign that the department reflect Trump and Rex Tillerson and not the diplomatic veterans that would surely have advised caution.

Update 13:30CDT: Rajoy has just finished announcing that, in accordance with Article 155, he is dissolving the Catalan parliament, firing the president and vice president, and calling for new regional elections to be held on Dec. 21. The odd part is that had he agreed to new elections yesterday the Catalan parliament would not have voted for the declaration. Of course, if Rajoy does not want the separatist parties to participate than the whole notion of new elections is a farce. This weekend might give everyone a clue how far he is willing to go to enforce his decrees.

El País, Editorial:

Chaos and confusion

In another grotesque day that demonstrates the extent to which sovereignty has bottomed, President Puigdemont yesterday submitted to citizenship to another exercise of political tightrope walking.

Summoned the media in three different schedules with contradictory messages about the content of the ads that would be transferred to public opinion, Puigdemont opted, once again, to flood us with empty rhetoric, half-truths and manifest falsehoods. But, above all, again, he sought to gain time and transfer responsibility to another institution – the Parliament.

ARA, Salvador Cardús:

The day we lived dangerously

I am one of those who are convinced that, speaking of independence, Spain will never give any room for maneuver for frank dialogue. I am one of those who believe that the confrontation will be so hard that any decision that charges us right, inside and outside the country, is justifiable. I am also one of those who fear that a purely democratic process will be insufficient in the face of such authoritarian state as Spanish. But I am also one of those who understand that political dignity will only give us the final victory, not a heroic defeat. That is why, finally, we only have the strength of the peaceful, non-violent, constant and exemplary resistance of many Catalans. And that is why we must watch over its emotional well-being, closely linked to a good communication strategy.

The Economist has started a three part series on the future of journalism with part one titled “How leading American newspapers got people to pay for news.”

I have to say that I disagree with much of what the article claims.

“It is like old times in another way: both newspapers are getting readers to pay, offsetting advertising revenue relinquished to the internet.”

Actually, when you look at the vast majority of newspapers in America you find that only a very small percentage have had any luck with getting readers to pay for new subscriptions. First, print subscriptions continue to fall for all newspapers, so let’s get real and admit we are talking only about digital subscriptions. Second, only the NYT, WaPo, WSJ and a few others have recorded any significant gains in reader revenue. In fact, the article only mentions the NYT and Post.

The Economist article mentions The Star Tribune in Minnesota, saying that it now sells nearly 50,000 digital subscriptions (its last audit says the number was 31,700 as of March of this year. That’s great, but its print circulation on weekdays is down over 70,000 from where it was a decade ago, which is pretty much in line with what is happening at other papers (actually, many papers have seen their circulation halved in the last decade).

This is not to be negative regarding reader revenue. As a publisher, I am all for a diversified revenue base, but the strategy being pushed by journalists and their paid content advocates is not showing results, despite the claims that it is, in fact, the solution to what ails newspapers. Already this week one major newspaper chain has reported earnings and said its revenue was up only slightly, despite a series of acquisitions. Worse, the chain reported it lost money in the quarter, versus a small profit in the same quarter a year ago.

By the way, love this week’s cover of The Economist. If you look closely, one of Putin’s medals is actually a Trump doll.

The Economist:

How leading American newspapers got people to pay for news

Sometimes it feels like the 1970s in the New York Times and Washington Post newsrooms: reporters battling each other to break news about scandals that threaten to envelop the White House and the presidency of Donald Trump. Only now their scoops come not in the morning edition but in a tweet or iPhone alert near the end of the day.

It is like old times in another way: both newspapers are getting readers to pay, offsetting advertising revenue relinquished to the internet. After years of giving away scoops for nothing online, and cutting staff, the Times and Post are focusing on subscriptions—mostly digital ones—which now rake in more money than ads do.

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