✔ The Chronicle -- hurting for cash -- is going to spend more than $13,000 to buy a coach seat on the charter plane taking the Duke basketball team and supporters on an exhibition tour of China and Dubai.
This news came not in the newspaper's pages or website - but in an appeal to Chronicle alumni for donations to help meet the extravagant cost.
We have fished out the name of the reporter, but being fair, we're holding up his/her name to allow the paper to make that part of the announcement itself. The reporter will have the first on-the-scene look by a local journalist at the folly of Duke's new campus in Kunshan.
There's validity in that; as President Brodhead has noted Kunshan is the greatest thing for Duke since the invention of air conditioning and James B. Duke's forking over the loot in 1924 to get Trinity College to change its name to his.
But FC feels a trip tied to a silly basketball promotion -- with the promotion governing the timetable -- has to be questioned. After a grueling overnight flight from the US, the plane is scheduled to arrive in Shanghai at 11 PM local time. Buses will immediately take the team and fans to Kunshan -- a three hour trip according to FC calculation.
Then there only be limited time in the city; if the reporter wants to dig for more than 3 days, he or she will be out of luck since the Duke entourage will be moving on to Shanghai, Beijing and then Dubai.
The way-overpriced $13,460 charter fee includes hotels and some meals, as well as a ticket to four basketball games, limited sightseeing and transportation. But it would have been far cheaper to buy a ticket for someone to fly on a commercial airline -- Delta for example, which, according to ITAsoftware.com, currently has coach seats for $1,031 round-trip. Even a business seat would be only $3,864.
Delta requires a connection in Atlanta, but the charter is not non-stop either.
The charter is in an out-of-date narrow-body jet from some company we never heard of; the coach seats are three and three, meaning you have a 33 percent chance of being in the middle. The plane is so dinky that it will have to stop on both of its long flights before refueling.
Hotels.com is offering rooms at Swissotel, the only hotel in the city itself with any stars, for $83 a night. Even the luxury Fairmont Hotel -- on Yangcheng Lake far outside the city but appearing in searches for Kunshan-- is only $160 a night. This is the hotel that so wooed Brodhead during his most recent visit.
The newspaper -- having eaten through much of its substantial nest egg in the past few years -- has a new accounting firm and hopefully will be revealing its operating results for the past academic year in the coming weeks, which is a far earlier schedule than in the past.
Loyal Readers, we're going to find that the Chronicle is not immune to the forces that are whacking print journalism.
Footnote: historically the Athletic Department footed the bill for a Chronicle reporter and photographer to travel with any team. No more. The newspaper's staff makes its own travel arrangements and the Chronicle picks up the bills.