Urge to Merge

Will Belo be bought? Yes. Or no. Either way, you won't be able to tell.

How it will be: Since AOL Time Warner has a stake in just about every entertainment company in North America, pop-culture and fine-arts critics will not be allowed to disparage corporate product.

How it is: TV critic Ed Bark is free to rip or praise the news product of the Belo-owned local station WFAA Channel 8. And by "is free to" we mean "was once allowed to." Semantics.

How it will be: Focus group- and market research-driven conglomerate AOL Time Warner will change the entire look of the paper to make it snappier and punchier, not trusting readers to finish stories longer than coffee-quality blurbs found on Starbucks cups. Section names will be changed to reflect current pop-culture trends, attractive to the young consumer so desired by marketing experts. Example: Lifestyle and arts section will be changed to "Britney Spears & Friends."

How it is: Recent redesign and word-count limits were sensible responses to changing reading habits. Section about Britney Spears and friends logically called "Texas Living."

How it will be: Despite obvious lessons from 9-11 tragedy and lip service to the contrary, AOL Time Warner bosses sense that people don't want news about foreign affairs and instead concentrate on mindless diversions.

How it is: Important issues like the beginning of the football season receive as much in-depth coverage as eight sections and nearly 100 pages of broadsheet newsprint allow.

Note to self: Self, I crack me up! Making point that nothing would really change under AOL is so sly. And if Belo ends up buying properties instead of being bought, this leaves me "just joking" wiggle room. Always leave a loophole. Consider application for law school.

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