Dog Bites

Fangxaminer Watch continues; dot-com failures and the economy

I Left My Heart in ... Uh, How Do You Spell That Again?

For a while there we thought it might be kindest to avoid mentioning the Fangxaminer at all. One prefers not to acquire a reputation for cruelty to the truly pathetic.

But that was before Wednesday's paper, which Dog Bites chanced to pick up on the way to the nail salon. Under the stupefying influence of acetone we sat reading the same sentence over and over until it gradually sank in that the paper had managed to misspell San Francisco in its masthead. "Keeping San Francsico a two newspaper town," read the F-Ex's motto; we were so stunned we practically dropped the entire eight-page news section into the little pedicure foot bath thingy. Then again, it isthe Fangxaminer, and to more or less paraphrase Dorothy Parker, if it slips into the foot bath -- well, it slips into the foot bath.

Polished, happy, and back at the office, we received e-mail from a person named Toby: "Hey Dog Bites, we were wondering: Why don't you apply for a position with Fang-Ex? Maybe you can get a big-wig position and help turn it into a coherent and legible paper."

Well, Toby, thanks for thinking of us, but if we went to work for the Fangxaminer we'd be terrified someone would push us down the stairs or poison our tea or ... oh, God. Of course, the Fangxaminer's staff box has been looking decidedly empty of late. With the departure of Editorial Page Editor Susan Herbert, the firing of Executive Editor Marty Steffens, and the apparent (see below) firing of Managing Editor Robert Porterfield, it had begun to seem that everyone was just kind of ... evaporating, with the notable exception of Warren Hinckle.

But on Thursday, Porterfield's name inexplicably returned to the staff box. Oddly enough, Dog Bites has a certain amount of trouble actually getting anyone at the F-Ex to speak with us; after hitting various dead ends in the voice-mail system -- which still insists that there is no David Burgin at the paper, even though he was quite publicly hired as the paper's top editor a couple of weeks ago -- we finally reached Operations Manager Chiron Alston, who, when asked about published evidence of Porterfield's return, replied with venomous sarcasm, "Jeez, you know, I have no idea about any of that."

Don't shoot -- we're only the messenger.

So by popular demand Dog Bites is reinstating Fangxaminer Watch, except this version of the Watch only extends through last Friday because we went away for a few days over Christmas to eat panforte and sunbathe, and someone who thinks he is an editor or something made us turn the column in early in consequence. (Damn Mecklin! Damn him!)

Monday, December 18

Paper misspells Secretary of State appointee Condoleezza Rice's name in front-page banner head: "A Day for Jerry and Condaleezza"

Sports section deck that surprised us: "Chiefs suprise Broncos, brighten playoff picture"

Lifestyle section head: "Italian Kennedys: Candidate's wife visible as he"

Tuesday, December 19

Front section head: "Wrestler uses braun to save truck driver." Gosh, you'd think the jaws of life would have worked better than an electric shaver.

Front section head: "Relgious agreement"

Wednesday, December 20

New high point: Paper spells San Francisco "San Francsico" in masthead.

Paper misspells Mario Lemieux's name in sports section head: "The "natural' talent of Lemiux will need training this time around"

Oddball front-page head: "Internet accused of art theft." Damn the Internet! Damn it!

Thursday, December 21

Cliffhanger arts section head: "Guitarist for 10,000 Maniacs dies from"

Mysterious reappearance of former Managing Editor Robert Porterfield's name in both staff boxes.

Front section head: "Court withdraws Perot's indictment" -- runs over story about former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet. Dog Bites was unable to reach Ross Perot, though his executive assistant commented, "Oh my go-osh."

Friday, December 22

Front section head: "Berkeley convicts restuarant owner before trial"

Brand-new sports section columns: "College Asketball Eo Gacgb" and "Bortf Brapff." C'mon, kids, get out those pencils -- it's word jumble time!

The Post- Christmas Letdown

Waiting for a friend outside Infusion one night last week Dog Bites contemplated the gentle skies of midwinter San Francisco and the subdued bar scene of the SOMA block; only two or three months ago both our rendezvous point and the adjacent 21st Amendment were usually jammed and raucous. As a few patrons drifted outside to make cell phone calls and wait for cabs, one guy approached us to ask if our date were late. (N.B.: We've heard this one before, but by all means, go with it -- it's pleasantly low-key.)

Anyway, the conversation turned from dates to dot-coms, and our interlocutor nodded toward the lit windows of the restaurant. "There aren't many dot-commers left," he observed. "At least, not very many employed dot-commers."

In the past couple of weeks, of course, local companies including Organic Online, Bigstep.com, and Salon.com have laid off a total of about 600 workers; the pessimist in Dog Bites must wonder how the first quarter of 2001 is going to look.

Received wisdom -- as featured in the pages of the still-moderately-bullish Fast Company, et al. -- has it that the laid-off dot-com workers will be snatched up by other, more successful companies, that what appears to the non-tech-savvy to be the beginnings of a full-on sector collapse is merely economic Darwinism at work, culling the weak and sickly. The big fish eat the little fish. Don't panic, ignorant laypeople; it's just the marketplace asserting that consumers only need one site at which to buy Science Diet online -- but that site will be so monstrously successful that it will employ everyone anyway.

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