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(506) 2223-1327         Published Wednesday, Oct. 6, 2010,  in Vol. 10, No. 197            E-mail us
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Struggling print papers consider charging on Web
By Jay Brodell
editor of A.M. Costa Rica

Printed newspapers are under increasing pressure to begin charging for content. In some cases, the decision is made shortly before executives of a printed newspaper move it completely to Web publishing.

This is one of the hot topics in the journalism world today as existing newspapers seek to regain the monopoly position they held before the Internet arrived. Consumers could be faced with subscription fees upwards of $100 a year.

The newspaper monopoly was a de facto one rather than legislative. The equipment necessary to put ink on newsprint was costly, and the company owning the expensive presses was not likely to be challenged by startup enterprises. In the United States these monopolies were geographical.

Through the early 1960s smaller U.S. newspapers maintained their own print shop. Often the company also did general printing for the community. The operation and maintenance of a Linotype machine was even a course at university journalism programs. Each weekly or small daily newspaper would have one or more Linotype machines to cast lines of lead type. And there would be a flatbed or small cylinder press to produce the newspaper.

The first change in the 1960s was the use of centralized printing. That came with offset composition because it was easier to carry a stack of pages to a bigger printing location than to truck hundreds of pounds of steel frames full of lead type. The initial offset composer was a special typewriter that could make lines of type with equal left and right margins, the result of the process known as justification.

A few years later Compugraphic Corp. revolutionized the industry with an optical system connected to a keyboard that produced columns of type on photosensitive paper. When developed, the columns could be trimmed and placed on paper layout forms with wax.

The centralized printing concept put new life into local journalism. The editors could spend more time taking photographs, doing interviews and writing news stories than doing mechanical overhauls of Linotype machines. Local journalism flourished, and rural towns that had an eight-page letterpress newspaper suddenly started seeing mostly tabloid-sized modern newspapers written locally but printed miles away.

As the suburbs grew in the 1960s little towns suddenly became cities with their own local newspaper. Cities like Chicago quickly were ringed by small daily newspapers catering to the needs of the local community. There also was the economic advantage of printing the legal advertising for the municipality.

Other firms challenged Compugraphic and used the new computer technology to make typesetting even easier and quicker. Some newspapers began using Commodore 64 computers to set type and save news stories and ad text to floppy disk. By the mid-1980s Macintosh had captured the newspaper world due to its graphic capabilities and the QuarkXpress software allowed editors to create electronic versions of newspages the same way they had done with knife and wax.

Employment and the cost of producing a newspaper plummeted. Laser technology allowed a desktop printer to produce a full-size newspaper page. Publishers raked in the money, and some large newspapers were showing a 20 percent net profit. Local competition developed in the form of shoppers and alternative newspapers because the price of admission was lower.

Some new arrivals adopted a free newspaper strategy in which advertisers paid the entire cost. This was a popular and successful model at ski resorts and other tourist destinations where printing and distribution costs were moderate.

At the same time newspaper chains went public and got an infusion of money from Wall Street that they used to purchase locally owned newspapers and printing businesses. The local daily was not local any more. It was owned by some faraway corporation and produced by cheap labor, thanks to some distant journalism school.

With distant ownership, local managers were under pressure to raise rates, reduce staff and find other ways to increase the bottom line. One company that owned local newspapers all over the United States had this management rule:

A third of the income is for production and other costs. A third of the income is for salaries. A third of the gross income is to be shipped off to  the corporate headquarters. For smaller
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Complex Linotype machine was a staple at newspapers from the 1880s to the 1970s.

communities this meant that a third of the income for the paper was being sucked out of the local economy.

The final product began to reflect the ravages of corporate ownership.

About 2000 Internet penetration and browser software created the opportunity to publish directly to the Web, but printed newspapers were slow to see the future. Many sought to protect their printed product by producing a token Web report.

Some 10 years later newspapers are wrestling with the same problem: How to protect the profitable printed product from those interlopers on the Web. Competition has grown. Not only are some local newspapers Web-only, but Craigslist and other online advertising and shopping sites are eating into traditional newspaper income. Google and other online advertising programs give a boost to technologically savvy startups and provide a non-newspaper advertising option.

Some newspapers are experimenting with charging for content on the Web. Some major newspapers, including The Wall Street Journal, now have a paid site where readers get headlines and a summary but must be subscribers to read more. Other major newspapers are considering the same policy.

Even a 26,000 circulation newspaper, The Daily Sentinel in Grand Junction, Colorado, said last week it would begin charging for content.

One weekly, the Guadalupe County Communicator in Santa Rosa, New Mexico, abandoned a Web version all together and promised to produce a quality printed newspaper that community residents would read and pay for.

The paid approach online seems to be a hard sell for general news publications. So much news is available for free on the Web and on television. Headlines and short summaries are not copyright protected, which is why online sites, including A.M. Costa Rica, can run legally news feeds gathered from all over.

Advertisers, too, are not likely to appreciate paid sites where the readership drops precipitously. Advertisers, unless they are targeting a specific, easily identifiable market, generally prefer that more rather than fewer individuals view their ads.

But the alternative for many printed publications is not attractive either. Circulation is dropping as whole generations prefer other forms of communication to newspapers. Printing costs are increasing. The waste and petroleum-based inks require special disposal.

Paper mills are closing, and the price of newsprint is sure to rise. Printed publications fear that advertisers will no longer support the expensive ink-on-paper technology, particularly since Web advertising is so inexpensive and perhaps more effective because of embedded links. Web advertising can be tracked more closely than the circulation of printed papers where the best figures that are available are press run totals from the printer and mumbo jumbo about how each newspaper is read by 4.5 persons.

The management of A.M. Costa Rica chose from the start in 2001 a business model that mimics the free newspapers of Colorado's ski resorts. The choice proved to be profitable and a boon to advertisers who have their message transmitted to at least 90 countries instantly every morning.

The management also recognizes that Costa Rica and the target market of those interested in Costa Rica represent a special case. The model may not be suitable for general circulation dailies in the United States or elsewhere. But this newspaper is not going to change, editors say.

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Sarapiquí student shot
handing in found gun

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A young student found a homemade firearm at a Sarapiquí school Tuesday and suffered an accidental stomach wound when he tried to turn the weapon over to a teacher, said the Judicial Investigating Organization.

The young victim was identified by the family name of Ramírez. Judicial agents said he was 11.

Somehow the child and some companions found the weapon under an unused desk, agents said. They are looking into the case.

The boy was reported in stable condition in the Hospital de Guápiles.

Popular retirement author
has two new editions out

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Christopher Howard, the retirement tour guide and author, reports that two of his books relating to Costa Rica are out in new editions.

The first is the well-known "The New Golden Door to Retirement and Living in Costa Rica," which is now in its 16th edition. The book “Christopher Howard’s Official Guide to Costa Rican Spanish” is now out in a second edition.

Howard is bullish on Costa Rican retirement. "Confronted with the spiraling cost of living in the United States and the current financial downturn, baby boomers can now retire for less, hang on to what they have left and have the time and freedom to do what they really want by moving to Costa Rica,: he said. "For many Costa Rica offers a lifestyle they could never enjoy in North America."

The 680-page 16th edition (ISBN 1-881233-66-4) is $29.95 and available from, in bookstores through Baker & Taylor or by calling Costa Rica Books toll free 800-365-2342

Howard said the language book is prompted by his realization that Spanish is spoken differently here.

Despite having an advanced degree in Spanish, having studied and lived in Mexico and having traveled to every country in Latin America Howard said he quickly realized this.  First, he said he noticed that there were a lot of local expressions and vocabulary with which he was not familiar.  So he set out to learn all the nuances of the local lingo. The new edition of his guidebook is the result of almost 35 years of research in the field of Spanish as a second language, he said.

“Christopher Howard’s Official Guide to Costa Rican Spanish” (ISBN 1-881233-87-1) is $10.95 and available in Costa Rica through 7th Street Books, Librería Lehmann, Librería Universal and in some gift shops. Online it can be obtained through or  It can also be purchased in U.S. and Canadian bookstores. Worldwide distribution is through Book Surge. Howard also has a Web site filled with tips and shortcuts for learning the language.

Howard also announced that his tour for potential expats would include a visit to Arenal starting next month. "We will see the best features of the lake which is close to the town of Tilarán, 20 minutes from the new hospital in Cañas, an hour and one half away from Guanacaste’s sun-drenched beaches and just a little over an hour from the city of Liberia," said Howard. The latter is one of the fastest growing cities in Costa Rica and the hub of activity in the region. It also has all of the services you’ll need including an international airport." There is a growing expat community around the lake.

Cell phones to have sticker
showing they work here

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

All cellular devices authorized by the telecommunications regulator will have a sticker to indicate approval by an independent laboratory. Any model sold in the country must have an all-clear to indicate it can operate freely on the country’s network as it expands.

So far 57 models of cell phones, four tracking devices, and three credit card readers are authorized, said the Superintendencia de Telecomunicaciones. The phones cover all the major brands including smart phones, though 3G is not catching on quickly due to low-quality service and lack of interest.

The authorized centers will check that the phone is compatible with the network, its displays are in Spanish and that it offers the range of functions expected of that sort of phone.

Heredia road closed today

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Utility employees will be relocating poles along the south side of Universidad Nacional in Heredia today from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. So traffic police will be closing the road.

The work involves cutting down a tree. The work is in response to damage to an adjacent bridge over the Río Pirro caused by recent rains.

Find out what the papers
said today in Spanish

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Here is the section where you can scan short summaries from the Spanish-language press. If you want to know more, just click on a link and you will see and longer summary and have the opportunity to read the entire news story on the page of the Spanish-language newspaper but translated into English.

Translations may be a bit rough, but software is improving every day.

When you see the Summary in English of news stories not covered today by A.M. Costa Rica, you will have a chance to comment.

This is a new service of A.M. Costa Rica called Costa Rica Report. Editor is Daniel Woodall, and you can contact him HERE!

From the Costa Rican press
News items posted Monday through Friday by 8 a.m.
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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Oct. 6, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 197

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Family pushes for British police action in Dixon search
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The family of Michael Dixon are getting support from a British member of Parliament in efforts to involve British police in the search for the missing man. The family and Syed Kamall, a Conservative Party parliamentary representative for London, plan a press conference there Friday to publicize their inability to get the London Metropolitan Police Service involved in the case, said a family representative.

Dixon, now 34, vanished Oct. 18, 2009, in Tamarindo, and police initially said he drowned in the sea. The family rejects that solution, and no body ever was found.

The family said they also were upset with Costa Rican authorities who have refused to ask for help from British experts. Such a request is considered an international courtesy. The family also wants to involve the International Police Agency in the search.

A statement by the family representative, the Web site, said that Costa Rican police will not continue the investigation unless there is new evidence.

"I hope that the Costa Rican government will cooperate with the family of Michael Dixon to try and find some answers. It has been a year since the last sighting of Michael. We must not let time go by and allow people to forget Michael," Kamall, the British politician, was quoted as saying.

The family has put up a Facebook page and David Dixon, the missing man's brother, traveled to Costa Rica and spent a month here trying to coordinate the search.

He brought in experts from the United States and hired private investigators. There also is a Web site:

The family said that Michael Dixon is a British citizen who grew up in Haute Savoie, France. He studied journalism at Leeds University and went on to work at Bloomberg News and Euromoney Plc in London. He moved to Brussels in 2002 to work for RISI, a United Business Media company, they said. David Dixon lives in London. His mother and father are retired World Health

Michael Dixon
Michael Dixon

Organization employees who currently live in France. David Dixon has said he doubted his brother's disappearance had  anything to do with his journalistic work.

The family said that the British Metropolitan Police Service initially refused to help saying Michael Dixon was not a British resident.  Belgian police said he was not a Belgian citizen. Interpol has not responded to family enquiries for the past eight months, the family said.

Costa Rican police searched Michael Dixon's room at the  Villas Macondo in Tamarindo and found it to be undisturbed. His wallet and other personal papers were there.

The family representative said that evidence indicates Michael Dixon is the victim of serious crime but efforts by the Costa Rican police and Michael's family, involving air, land and sea searches, have uncovered no real clue as to what happened. The Lucie Blackman Trust is assisting the family and

Search on for frog species still thought to be extinct
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Research teams have fanned out across the globe in search of frogs that haven't been seen for at least a decade.

The coordinated hunt into remote forests, swampy fields and dark caves underscores the rapid decline of amphibians and the urgent need to protect them. Robin Moore heads the Search for the Lost Frogs Campaign, sponsored by Conservation International and the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

He says among the most curious on the list is the once abundant golden toad, which lived in Monteverde, Costa Rica, and disappeared in a little over a year.

"In 1989, one individual male turned up at a pool waiting for mates to breed. And that was the last individual ever seen," he said.

Teams are also looking for the Gastric brooding frog, last spotted in 1985. Moore says what's unique about this Australian amphibian is its way of breeding.

"The females actually swallow the eggs and they develop in her stomach into small frogs which then hatch out through her mouth."

Other amphibians with colorful names like the scarlet frog from Venezuela, the hula painted frog from Israel and the Rio Pescado stubfoot toad from Ecuador have been given their own search teams. But the outlook is not bright.

One-third of the world's more than 6,000 amphibian species are threatened with extinction, due to disease, habitat loss, pollution and climate change, scientists estimate.

Despite the odds, Moore says some teams have confirmed rediscoveries including the small brown Ivory Coast Mt. Nimba reed frog, last seen in 1967.

"It's a huge discovery from a scientific and conservation perspective for the team and for us."
golden toad
A.M. Costa Rica file photo
Golden toad

But Ivory Coast scientist N'Goran Kouama, who found
the frog in a swampy field, worries that if people continue to destroy its habitat the frog will truly vanish. He says its rediscovery promotes a sense of pride over unique African resources.

The Mt. Nimba reed frog was one of three species rediscovered in recent weeks, along with the pink-footed cave splayfoot salamander in Mexico and the florescent spotted Omaniundu reed frog in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Moore says the amphibians provide important clues about why some species have survived and others have not.

More importantly, he adds their survival also draws attention to the benefits that a healthy ecosystem provides, not only for frogs, but for people. He said they regulate things such as fresh water, rainfall. "It's really our support system and we need to take care of it, not just for its good, but for our good as well."

Amphibians also help control insects that spread disease and damage crops. The chemicals in their skins have been important in helping to create new drugs. Although the global campaign ends soon, it has spawned country specific projects that will continue the search.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Oct. 6, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 197

parade of trucks
A.M. Costa Rica/Dennis Rogers
Child has the perfect seat as truckers converge on San Isidro de Heredia.

Truckers gather for benefit, thanks to their own radio show

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

A parade of trucks is an annual feature of the fiestas at San Josecito de San Isidro. Loud horns and air brakes let neighbors know about the local activities.

This is San Isidro de Heredia. There are at least eight San Isidros in Costa Rica. Local organizer Alfredo Zúñiga said sales of food at the festival raised 1.6 million colons to buy construction materials for the San Josecito church.

This year 150 cabezales took part, as in the tractor part of a tractor-trailer. They came from San Pablo de Heredia through San Isidro to San Josecito Sunday.

Truck drivers are alerted to the chance to join the parade  by a program specifically for drivers “El Club de los
Traileros” now on Radio Centro 96.3 FM,

The show is hosted by Warner Cordero.

The show is at 5 p.m. Tuesday night’s traffic details included a report that the bailey bridge on the Interamericana Norte at Cambronero was starting to tilt to one side.

This has been one of the biggest headaches as transport officials try to keep open access to the western and northern parts of the country.

Also the radio station reported that some traffic cops are apparently charging 15,000 colons for truckers to use the Aguacate highway between Atenas and Orotina, which is permanently closed to articulated vehicles.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Oct. 6, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 197

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Correa may be getting image
of leader who cried 'Wolf!'

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Ecuador's government is moving ahead with an investigation into what it claims was an attempted coup by dissident police officers against President Rafael Correa last week.  Analysts say both the president and police bear some responsibility for the standoff.

Correa was taken to the police hospital after being hit by tear gas during a protest by officers Thursday.  He later said dissident officers confined him in his room for several hours, prompting military soldiers to storm the building and free him.  Five people were dead following the operation, and scores more were injured.

For Ecuadorians, there are many unanswered questions about what happened between Correa and police that day.  But analysts say questions are growing about whether the events amounted to a coup.

Andres Ochoa is a researcher with the Latin American Center for Political Studies in Quito:

"There are some investigations right now, finger-pointing at the police mainly," said Ochoa. "The government came out strong saying there were political actors behind it, but they have not named a single name yet.  The figure of the coup d'etat as they portrayed it is slowly eroding."

Opposition politicians have rejected claims they took part in any plan to remove the president from office.  They also point out the military remained loyal to the president, and no political rivals stepped forward to claim his post.

The conflict between Correa and police was sparked by reforms aimed at cutting bonuses and other benefits for police and military personnel.  Officials had agreed to raise wages for security forces this year to balance out the cuts, but now lawmakers say they may revise the austerity measure altogether because of the response from police officers.

Raul Madrid, University of Texas at Austin political scientist, says Correa has sparred with other state employees over similar reform proposals.  But the clash with police turned into something bigger.

"Correa is a hard-liner in many respects, and when he makes up his mind about something, he will push it very hard," said Madrid. "I think for a lot of presidents, the police would be the last people you would want to offend.  But Correa is not like that."

Since taking office in 2007, Correa's leadership style has helped him win broad support in the Andean nation.  He has fought for native people's rights, halted foreign debt payments and rejected a new lease for a U.S. military air base for anti-drug operations.

Madrid says Thursday's events may further burnish Correa's image as someone willing to challenge powerful interests.

"So I think he might emerge strengthened from all this," he said. "Of course a lot of people argue it was a big mistake for him to negotiate directly with the police himself.  But to other people it looks tough, he comes off looking like a tough guy."

The president's critics say he bears some responsibility for Thursday's events, because he chose to confront police officers during a street protest.  They say too often he takes an aggressive stance with opposition groups and has repeatedly threatened to dissolve congress.

Ochoa of the Latin American Center for Political Studies says the public may pressure Correa to reconsider his leadership style in the wake of the clash.  He says, without the president's intervention Thursday, the police protests may have been a small event.

"It would have another minor news story in the Ecuadorian news cycle, and it would not have been the dramatic scenes that took place Thursday night," he said.

President Correa has vowed to find those responsible for the violence last week.  Friday, the chief of the national police force resigned because of the incident.  
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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Oct. 6, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 197

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Tourism operators to hear
of changes in travel trends

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Carlos Vogeler, regional director for the World Tourism Organization will discuss the changing tastes of tourism consumers at the annual Congreso Nacional de Turismo at the Radisson Europa Hotel & Conference Center today. The two-day conference, sponsored by the Cámera Nacional de Turismo, runs through Thursday.

The tourism chamber said that the thrust of Vogeler's message will be the tourism trends that have developed after the world financial crisis. Some 200 tourism operators are attending the conference.

Quepos baker no longer among the missing

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A Quepos baker, once feared to be another missing expat, has turned up in Panamá.

There was no immediate explanation or details, but friends in the central Pacific beach community said that  Micke Joquine Franke, 48, one of the operators of the La Roca Caliente bakery, no longer was among the missing. The Judicial Investigating Organization had been called in after the man dropped from sight Sept. 19.

There was no word if the man planned to return to Quepos where his pastry skills were highly valued, according to reader reports.

Some freed Cuban dissidents
might be going to U.S.

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Cuba's Roman Catholic Church announced last week that three more political prisoners are set to be released into exile in Spain, bringing to 39 the number freed.

The U.S. State Department said it is arranging to accept a majority of political prisoners recently released from Cuba.

State Department spokesman Charles Luoma-Overstreet said in a statement the U.S. Embassy in Madrid is reaching out to the released political prisoners and their families to inform them of the plan and discuss their eligibility.

Last week, the Roman Catholic Church announced that three more prisoners are scheduled to be freed and sent to Spain, which would bring to 39 the number released under an agreement with the government of President Raúl Castro, the church and Madrid.

Cuba has promised to release a total of 52 prisoners under the agreement, in what would be the largest mass liberation of political prisoners in recent years.

The 52 were among 75 dissidents arrested and sentenced to lengthy prison terms following a government crackdown in 2003.

Cuba has long maintained that it does not hold political prisoners, only mercenaries that Havana claims were working with the United States to undermine Cuban communism.

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