Saturday, November 05, 2005
SIDEBAR: McChesney, page 245, and Tomlinson
A good example of the accuracy of Bob McChesney's analysis about public
broadcasting (see page 245), is the news from the Corporation for Public
CPB SHAKEUP - TOMLINSON RESIGNS
1) CPB BOARD MEMBER QUITS AHEAD OF VOTE
Kenneth Tomlinson, whose controversial leadership of the CPB's board of
directors sparked an internal investigation into
his tenure, resigned from the board in advance of the release of the
report, which is expected to be critical of his
By Matea Gold, Los Angeles Times
2) TOMLINSON SLINKS AWAY
While Ken Tomlinson's has reluctantly agreed to depart the CPB, his former
colleagues on the board and within the CPB's
offices are continuing a partisan crusade to remake public broadcasting
into another White House mouthpiece.
By Timothy Karr, MediaCitizen
3) STATEMENT OF THE CPB BOARD ON TOMLINSON'S RESIGNATION
The Corporation for Public Broadcasting Board of Directors announced that
its former chairman Kenneth Y. Tomlinson has
resigned from the CPB board -- this is their official statement.
-From Corporation for Public Broadcasting
| Bill Densmore DENSMORE ASSOCIATES |
| 75 Water St. / P.O. Box 367 email@example.com |
| Williamstown MA 01267 USA http://www.newshare.com/ |
| VOICE: 413-458-8001 FAX: 413-458-8009 |
| media / marketing / management consulting |
ASSIGNMENT: Read Murrow RTND speech for Thurs., Nov. 10
The movie, "Good Night, and Good Luck," begins and ends with excerpts from
a speech given by Edward R. Morrow in 1958 to the Radio and Television
News Directors Association in Chicago. The full speech is available online
Please read the speech and be prepared to discuss it briefly for our class
of Thurs., Nov. 10. Also, please email me by 9 p.m. on Wed., Nov. 9, an
up-to-150 word answer to the following question:
What is the relevance of Murrow's 1958 speech to the current state of
television, of American media, and of the American political system?
Please be as specific as possible.
I will compile your emails and hand them out.
QUOTE: No time to be silent -- Edward R. Murrow
Edward R. Murrow
See it Now (CBS-TV, March 9, 1954)
"A Report on Joseph R. McCarthy"
"This is no time for men who oppose Senator McCarthy's methods to keep
silent, or for those who approve. We can deny our heritage and our
history, but we cannot escape responsibility for the result. There is no
way for a citizen of a republic to abdicate his responsibilities. As a
nation we have come into our full inheritance at a tender age. We proclaim
ourselves, as indeed we are, the defenders of freedom, wherever it
continues to exist in the world, but we cannot defend freedom abroad by
deserting it at home."
OPTIONAL READING: Links to quotes by Edward R. Murrow, and his bio
WikiQuotes and WikiPedia:
Many quotes you will hear in the film are reproduced at:
Here's his bio:
Also here is the bio of Fred W. Friendly, played by George Clooney:
OPINION: Initial Densmore thoughts on "Good Night, and Good Luck"
There's a point where Murrow is talking to Bill Paley, who says to Murrow words
to the effect: "You self-censor yourself, don't you?" And Murrow doesn't
answer, because he knows it is true. But Paley backed Murrow.
In 1954, Murrow could go talk to "the man" -- Bill Paley -- and judgements
would be made by that one man which would allow the network to take on
power -- McCarthy. You see Paley's ambivalence, his own fight within
himself to check his business desire not to offend, with his -- unstated
-- willingness to defend Murrow and democracy against demoagogery. But
this is a personal decision by a man operating in an era where he
essentially controlled CBS by himself.
Paley could make a risky decision which might cost him, personally,
millions of dollars, out of moral compunction. There is virtually no
person in our media world today who can do that -- with the possible
exception of Rupert Murdoch, unfortunately, and he is being now gradually
reigned in by investors.
That, for me, is the key message of Good Night, and Good Luck. It is that we
have lost something vital to a free press -- the diversity of ownership. It has
been replaced by a structure in which the only justifiable decision for the
manager is "what will improve the bottom line" and minimize risk.
The other change is that in 1954, the networks had already become an
oligopy. And this was a good thing, in a sense, because it meant a person
with liberal views could survive. The advertisers couldn't do without CBS.
Now, the television market is so competitive that if you don't have
mainstream views, mass-market advertisers will walk. And so that means
other voices are relegated to depend only upon marginal, niche or
politically supportive advertisers, sponsors and donors.
I have reached the conclusion that we really were -- in one sense -- in a
"golden age" of media from about 1955 through about 1980 -- an era where
there was so much advertising driven by our post-war consumer economy that
if you owned a MSM TV, radio or newspaper outlet you could say almost
anything you wanted, spend almost anything you wanted on reporting, and
still be financially OK. Simple supply and demand -- tons of advertising,
limited outlets (by government regulatory policies and market forces).
Now things are different.
More advertiser choices:
-- More radio stations (FM)
-- More print (weeklies, magazines)
-- Much more TV (cable)
-- Internet / web
More concentrated advertisers
-- Big boxes do inserts, not display ads
-- National buys, market leverage
-- Far fewer local retail (mom and pop)
Poaching billions of advertising by non-journalism businesses:
-- Craig's List
-- Google and Yahoo
All of this has made media an industry which stil returns great profits, but is
nonetheless more competitive. And so journalism at the margins, which
challenges authority, is viewed as a threat to profits.
And that was Ed Fouhy's point in the essay he wrote and permitted us to
distribute in class -- independent journalism at the mainstream level is
probably an extinct species.
So . . . what's next? Good Night doesn't address that at all, but we have to
and that's what I hope the June MGP conference will tackle. We'll need help
conceptualizing how to approach that.
Thursday, November 03, 2005
ASSIGNMENT: iBrattleboro founders on panel at Online News Assocation convention
Lise's version of their panel discussion at the ONA conference.
Oneline News Association:
FYI ONLY / LINKS: To Bush/Kerry cartoon and Cronkite on advertising
Here's a link to the page from which you can run the RipRap cartoon about
Bush and Kerry which Joe Trippi referred to in his Williams College
Here is a link to the page from which you can run the Alliance for Better
Campaigns promotion video by Walter Cronkite:
Bill Densmore, Visiting Lecturer
Berkshire Towers Room A71-L /
Tue/Thu 9:20-9:50 a.m. / and by appt.
Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts
North Adams MA 01247
413-663-5483 / CELL: 413-458-8001
ASSIGNMENT: Read iBrattleboro profile at Media Giraffe
Also read Chapter 6 of McChesney, and see "Good Night, Good Luck," by
-- bill densmore
LINKS to audio and reviews of Good Night, Good Luck
Link to Dukakis speech MP3
Click on MP3 link at bottom of blurb.
Wednesday, November 02, 2005
ASSIGNMENT: Read story about iBrattleboro for Tuesday
On Tuesday, Nov. 8, we will be visited by the husband-wife team which
founded "iBrattleboro.COM", a community "citizen journalism" website
serving Brattleboro, Vt. Chris Grotke and Lise PePage should arrive about
8:30 a.m. This will be an opportunity to learn about the sort of
community, part-time journalism which can flourish via the web.
For background, see:
Please come prepared for class with at least one question to ask. Try to
come up with questions which related to some of the things we've discussed
in the last seven weeks.
Bill Densmore, director/editor
The Media Giraffe Project
Journalism Program / Communication Studies
108 Bartlett Hall / Univ. of Mass.
Amherst MA 01003
OFF: 413-577-4370 / CELL: 413-458-8001
ATTEND: "Democracy and Independence: Sharing News in a Connected World"
Conference: June 29-July 2, 2006 / www.mediagiraffe.org/conference.html
Citizen Journalism Finds A Niche: iBrattleboro at the ONA
Wednesday, November 02 2005 @ 09:06 PM EST
Contributed by: Lise LePage
Who could have known, less than three short years ago, that
little iBrattleboro would find itself at the center of a new media
phenomenon worthy of panel discussion at a professional journalism
conference? And yet, it has happened. This weekend, Chris and I were
panelists in the Participatory Journalism discussion at the Online News
Association conference in New York City, representing iBrattleboro.com and
citizen journalism to a sophisticated audience of real journalists.
I must say, it was almost intimidating. There we were amongst reporters and
editors from places like USA Today, ABC News, and Reuters, and for some
reason, they all wanted to know about us. But apparently, participatory
journalism is a media buzzword right now, and everyone is trying to figure
out how to incorporate it into their online news operations. In any event,
the room was packed.
Our panel consisted of Will Femia, manager of MSNBC blogs, Robert Niles,
editor of Online Journalism Review, and yours truly, as founders of
iBrattleboro. The dapper Kinsey Wilson, VP and Editor-In-Chief of
USAToday.com, was the moderator. The focus of the discussion was on citizen
journalism, and the problems and rewards of using it in the context of
Pretty quickly, it emerged that scale was a big issue. Chris remarked that
our site gets about 3-5,000 unique visitors a week on average. Will Femia
replied that MSNBC.com gets a million unique visitors a day. iBrattleboro
gets 10 stories on a high volume day MSNBC gets thousands. Clearly
incorporating participatory journalism into a national news site is a whole
different kettle of fish than running a community news site in a town of
Femia, who works in a somewhat understaffed department of two people
(including himself), underscored the problems of implementing participatory
journalism on a large scale. High on his list of issues were volume, low
quality of submissions, stories that were reaction rather than reporting,
and plagiarism, especially of photos. MSNBC.com keeps its citizen
participation in one section, and directs submission content by assigning
specific story topics.
Although his remarks tended to highlight the difficulties, Femia said he
liked the authenticity of some of the better stories and the sense of
realism they conveyed. He also cited the Katrina missing persons list that
the site put up as an example of a participatory effort that worked the
names were published directly to the site and only a small number of obvious
fakes (Mike Brown, George W. Bush, and the like) had to be deleted.
Up next was Robert Niles, who had the added distinction (at least for us) of
being the publisher of Theme Park Insider. He manages somewhat lower volume
sites, but had good advice for citizen journalist wannabes all the same.
First off, he suggested that no matter how big or small the site, that you
hire a good developer to implement it. He also recommended requiring
registration under real names in order to post. Finally, he made it clear
that for large sites especially, citizen journalism works best when topics
are assigned or when the site focuses on a single niche topic rather than
trying to host a free-for-all (like iBrattleboro).
Nevertheless, Niles, whose assigned topic was wikis, was strongly supportive
of participatory journalism in all its forms. Trust your audience, he said,
sometimes, they know more than you do. (Wikis are information sites, such as
wikipedia.com, that get their content directly from users.)
Chris and I came up last, without a prepared presentation, but luck was on
our side and we managed to remember almost everything we wanted to say.
Chris described the not-so-glorious beginnings of iBrattleboro the open
source software, the $5 advertising effort (remember the i-word flyers?),
the first hundred registered users. He talked about how great it is to be
able to get up in the morning and read what our neighbors have to say about
things on our own local news site.
We talked about how iBrattleboro was able to take on issues that might not
make it into our Media News-owned newspaper things like the union drive at
the Reformer or the Wilder Fire which happened on a weekend, after the
weekend Reformer had already hit the newstands. We talked at length about
how different it is to run a community news site in a small market.
Countering Femias claim that real news stories are few and far between in
citizen journalism, we stressed that despite the chaotic nature of this
medium, a lot of valuable information does come out. It may not be
grammatically perfect, spelled right, or formulated in the form of a news
story, but its useful information all the same.
We received quite a few questions from members of the audience both during
and after the discussion. Most of their questions dealt with revenue (do we
make any money off this), libel and liability, how much time we spend on the
site, what stories weve refused to publish, what software we use, and the
like. Our moderator asked an excellent question about citizen journalism and
community, which I dont think we really answered (the answer is Yes, citizen
journalism fosters community). And one savvy intern even asked about the
democracy angle which we were delighted to expound upon.
We closed our bit with a summation of our philosophy on citizen journalism
and major media dont try it. It wont work, not on a national scale, not with
millions of unique site visitors a day. But we did (after a timely reminder)
remember to trot out a few suggestions for how a big media outlet can do
participatory journalism. They were, to wit: celebrity chats like the
Washington Post does and selective commenting on major stories. Weve since,
of course, thought up more suggestions, but thats always the way of things
your best ideas come too late.
For me, the best part was realizing how legitimizing this event was for
citizen journalists in general, both ourselves and others at the conference
who, like us, had probably been feeling a little small. It made us realize
that we have a place in the media world, and that we havent gone unnoticed.
In fact, just this evening, on Jim Lehrers News Hour, we heard the term
citizen journalist three times, by various commentators on the role of media
in the Valerie Plame leak case. In short, it seems as if citizen journalism
has come into its own. In that regard, all of us at iBrattleboro should feel
really proud of the role weve played in making that happen. Real journalists
have had to acknowledge that sometimes, citizens have something to say too,
and it behooves them to listen. Even if we bury the lead or screw up our
By way of a footnote, we have to tell you that at the cocktail party that
evening (open bar! sponsored by Reuters and the NY Times), a photographer
went around taking our pictures. We smiled and thought nothing of it. Later,
someone from Reuters grabbed the mic and announced that from 10 to midnight
that evening, our pictures would be shown on the 22-story Reuters sign in
Times Square. For the citizen journalists in the room, this was surely the
icing on the cake of a very unusual day.
Citizen Journalism Finds A Niche: iBrattleboro at the ONA 1 comments
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MOVIE ASSIGNMENT: A thought from retired CBS News chief
I was talking today ot Ed Fouhy, retired executive producer of CBS News,
who also formerly ran the Washington bureau of ABC (during the Watergate
era). He just saw the "Good night, Good Luck," movie you have been
assigned to see and had this thought:
He said the question raised in the film: "Can a commercial network
survive in an ideologically divided nation and can journalists maintain
their independence?" He said he was impressed with the thoroughness
with which George Clooney produced the movie. He doubled-sourced
everything, brought in advisors. "The atmosphere when I came to CBS six or
seven yeras later was very much what he portrayed."
Says Fouhy: The film is probably doing more to focus the conversation on a
profound question for journalism than any of the handwrigers or do-gooders
or conferences of the last 10 years. "It's a terrific piece of
-- bill densmore
Tuesday, November 01, 2005
Sandy Close is one of our Media Giraffe prospects.
Review the winners of this year's Online News Association awards. For those of you pursuing a career in pure journalism, these are some of the organizations -- with major web components -- that you'll want to look at.
QUESTION: What is the future of journalism in "wisdom of crowds"
QUESTION TO PONDER (posted to our website):
What happens to the power of traditional journalism -- as a force for
watching government and fostering positive change in the status quo -- in
an era of instant "wisdom of crowds" as Trippi is discussing? What new
role should journalism play? What, then, is journalism? Is it relevant?
BACKGROUND: What is Tivo?
What is TiVo?
To put it simply, TiVo is like a VCR on steroids. Also called a personal
video recorder (or PVR) or digital video recorder (DVR), TiVo is a
electronic filled box you connect to your cable TV. Inside is a hard
drive, just like in a computer, that stores dozens or hundreds of hours of
TV programming. But instead of complicated VCR programming that no one
actually uses, Tivo comes with a spectacularly simple software interface
you control through a handy remote control.
So how does it all work? You plug your incoming cable signal (whether
regular cable or DirecTV or Dish Network or satellite) into the Tivo, then
plug your Tivo into your TV. From then on, everything you see is coming
from the Tivo hard drive - even live TV, enabling you to "pause" TV. Live
TV is buffered onto the hard drive and temporarily stored there, allowing
you to rewind what you just saw, or pause live TV while you get a snack or
put the kids to bed. Un-pause, and you are back where you left off, while
everything you missed has been recorded to the hard drive. In this strange
way, you may be several minutes "behind" live TV, since you are actually
now watching it off the Tivo box and not off any live broadcast.
Monday, October 31, 2005
MORE CLASS NOTES: Tues. Oct. 25
We discussed the Bush administration's effort to control the use of the
White House seal. Who owns the seal? Bush? The public? The government? But
who is the government? Can the seal be copyrighted? Absent a copyright,
how can its use by controlled or censored?
Blackboard notes of McChesney discussion:
Media inadequacies -- control, coverage decisions
McChesney design -- like bloggers -- no governent control
profit vs. news -- gossip vs. news -- people want to have fun
volume of news an issue vs. profit, too
is forcing issues "unprofessional?" or is stiring the post the obligation
of a journalist?
Bill Densmore, Visiting Lecturer
Berkshire Towers Room A71-L /
Tue/Thu 9:20-9:50 a.m. / and by appt.
Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts
North Adams MA 01247
413-663-5483 / CELL: 413-458-8001
ADVERTISING: FAIR's report on ad influence over news, April 2005
Fear & Favor 2004 . FAIR's Fifth Annual Report
How power shapes the news
Extra! March/April 2005
By Peter Hart and Julie Hollar
Peter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine
Extra, and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show
Julie Hollar is the communications director for FAIR. A graduate of Rice
University, she has written for the Texas Observer and coordinated
communications and activism at the Lesbian/Gay Rights Lobby of Texas. Hollar
has also been active in the Paper Tiger Television collective.
.We can get five reporters a month to do news stories about your product. If
you want to be interviewed by 10 to 20 reporters per month, we can arrange
that, too. . . . Media Relations, Inc. has placed tens of thousands of news
stories on behalf of more than 1,000 clients.
.Media Relations, Inc. solicitation
The PR agency.s promises are a stark reminder that the news is, in many ways, a
collision of different interests. The traditional tenets of journalism are
challenged and undermined by other factors: Advertisers demand .friendly copy,.
while other commercial interests work to place news items that serve the same
function as advertising. Media owners exert pressure to promote the parent
company.s self-interest. Powerful local and national interests demand softball
treatment. And government power is exerted to craft stories, influence
content.and even to make up phony .news. that can be passed off as the real
Journalists, on the whole, understand these pressures all too well. A survey of
media workers by four industry labor unions (Media Professionals and Their
Industry, 7/20/04) found respondents concerned about .pressure from advertisers
trying to shape coverage. as well as .outside control of editorial policy.. In
May, the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press released a survey of
media professionals that found reporters concerned about how bottom-line
pressures were affecting news quality and integrity. In their summary of the
report, Bill Kovach, Tom Rosensteil and Amy Mitchell wrote that journalists
.report more cases of advertisers and owners breaching the independence of the
The Fear & Favor report is an attempt to illustrate this growing encroachment
on journalism with real examples that have been made public.not an exhaustive
list by any means, but a reminder that such pressures exist, and that reporters
serve the best interests of citizens and the journalistic profession by coming
forward with their own accounts.
In Advertisers We Trust
USA Today (5/18/04) served notice that corporate advertisers have a remarkable
influence over what we see on the TV screen. As the paper noted, in the media
world .there is worry that the flood of grisly images flowing into living rooms
from Iraq and elsewhere will discourage advertisers.
A General Motors spokesperson explained that her company .would not advertise
on a TV program [just] about atrocities in Iraq,. while an ad exec explained
that .you don.t want to run a humorous commercial next to horrific images and
stories.. A Ford representative said the company keeps a close eye on news
images that accompany its ads, saying, .We.re monitoring the content and will
make decisions based on the nature of the content. But we don.t have a lot of
But they do, of course. Commercial media wouldn.t exist without, well, the
commercials. And in order to keep the revenue flowing, media outlets
increasingly blur the lines between their advertising and editorial divisions.
. When a super-sized corporation comes to town, it brings along an ad budget to
match, and newspapers sometimes seem more than willing to suspend the rules of
critical journalism to ingratiate themselves with the wealthy new arrival. When
furniture giant Ikea opened a new store in New Haven, Connecticut, the New
Haven Register cranked out 12 Ikea stories in eight straight days.accompanied
by at least 17 photographs and a sidebar on product information.with headlines
such as .Ikea.s Focus on Child Labor Issues Reflects Ethic of Social
Responsibility. (7/25/04) and .Ikea Employees Take Pride in Level of
Responsibility Company Affords Them. (7/27/04). The Register.s Ikea reporter
was even sent to Sweden to visit the company.s headquarters.on Ikea.s dime,
according to Columbia Journalism Review (11.12/04), a little detail the
Register failed to disclose.
The back-scratching reached its apex the day of the grand opening, when the
Register (7/28/04) heralded the arrival of Ikea and fellow super-store Wal-Mart
and remarked upon Ikea.s .astonishingly low prices.a coffee table for $99, a
flowing watering can for $1.99, a woven rocking chair, $59.. Sound like an ad?
It was the Register.s lead editorial.
. While Register readers could have mistaken the paper.s news for advertising,
Boston Herald readers on January 7 could easily have mistaken the paper.s
front-page ad for news. When discount airline JetBlue launched several new
flight services out of Boston.s Logan Airport, Bostonians who picked up a free
promotional Herald that day found that every item on the front page was devoted
exclusively to the airline, including the lead headline, .JetBlue Arrives,
Promises a Free TV to All Who Fly,. and teasers like .Flight Attendant Gives
Passenger Entire Can of Soda.. After the front page, the paper resumed its
actual news content.but nowhere did the Herald indicate that its front page was
in fact a paid advertisement, and the 20,000 recipients of the promo paper
missed out on the actual front-page news of the day (BostonPhoenix.com,
When asked about the stunt, a Herald spokesperson said the paper had produced
the .mock. front page .to commemorate JetBlue.s launch into the Boston market.
(WBUR.org, 1/9/04). She did acknowledge that .We probably should have said
something . . . that indicated it wasn.t our real front page,. but wouldn.t
rule out future front-page promos.
. When Kirksville, Missouri.s KTVO-TV ran a news report that quoted a company
that didn.t advertise on the station rather than a competitor that did, the
angry advertiser pulled its ads from the station. KTVO vice president and
general manager Crystal Amini-Rad quickly apologized to the sales staff in a
memo that also required news reporters to .have access to an active advertiser
list . . . of sources which you can tap into. for expert opinion and industry
comment.and told reporters that they .should always go. to station advertisers
first on any story (Columbia Journalism Review, 9.10/04).
. When Silver City, New Mexico.s KNFT brought on progressive host Kyle Johnson
as an alternative to the seven hours of Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage and Bill
O.Reilly the station aired every weekday, KNFT.s advertisers boycotted the
show. The station made Johnson raise the cash to pay for his airtime, and his
listeners anted up. But the advertisers threatened to boycott the entire
station if Johnson stayed on; faced with the prospect of a nearly
$10,000-a-month loss, the station manager reluctantly gave the progressive host
the boot (Silver City Sun-News, 7/21/04).
Powerful Players & PR
It.s not just advertisers who have the clout to bend the rules of journalism.
People in powerful positions have long pulled strings to influence news
coverage, with journalists sometimes acting as witting accomplices.
. When a journalist at Bloomberg News filed a report about a civil suit against
Deutsche Bank (12/5/04), it didn.t seem like a particularly remarkable story; a
former female employee was accusing the company of firing her for complaining
about, among other things, sexual harassment by Damian Kissane, a former
Deutsche Bank exec. But to the surprise of the newsroom staff, editor-in-chief
Matthew Winkler had it purged from the Bloomberg website and replaced six days
later with a bowdlerized version that deleted the names of all parties
involved. Shortly afterwards, he issued a memo to the staff, admonishing that
Bloomberg News .must never be a mouthpiece for litigants who want to publish
court filings to embarrass or gain an advantage over their opponents..
Winkler claimed the story .lacked context. and a sense of .why do we care about
this. (Washington Post, 1/5/05). The New York Post (12/24/04) reported that
Kissane, now Chief Operating Officer of the financial markets branch of the
Royal Bank of Scotland, was said to have complained to Winkler. Bloomberg
insiders cited by the New York Post suggested that Winkler rewrote the story in
response to Kissane.s complaint.perhaps unsurprisingly, since Bloomberg.s main
business is selling market information to the financial industry.
. When St. Paul, Minnesota.s KSTP-TV needed a new lead anchor, it picked
someone with years of experience.in PR. Cyndy Brucato had started at KSTP in
the early .80s, but then moved on to communications work for Republican
politicians, and for the previous eight years ran a PR firm, Halliday &
Brucato, with her husband. There her clients ranged from the Minnesota House
Republican Caucus to big pharmaceutical and tobacco companies. Brucato also
held a state government position on the Minnesota Board on Judicial Standards,
which she didn.t give up when she started her journalism job.
Brucato argued that she had quit seeing clients at the firm and said she would
disclose any conflicts of interest as they arose. Of course, ceasing to see
clients hardly removes the financial interest involved; the firm is still run
by her husband, and she noted that it .is something I have some equity in.
(City Pages, 8/4/04).
. Courts have consistently ruled that university administrations have to keep
their noses out of college papers. business, but that didn.t deter Arizona
State University president Michael Crow. When ASU.s State Press (10/7/04) ran a
picture of a female breast with a pierced nipple on the cover of its weekly
magazine supplement, Ira Fulton, who had given ASU $58 million in the previous
year and a half, called Crow.s office to complain. Crow immediately dispatched
the student affairs president to warn the paper that .funding will be suspended
ASAP if not corrected..
Virgil Renzulli, ASU.s vice president for public affairs, claimed the real
issue was that the State Press didn.t have a clearly defined content policy; to
the students. response that they follow the Society for Professional
Journalists. code of ethics, he replied, .We think that there may be guidelines
more appropriate for student journalists than the ones for other news
organizations. (AP, 11/26/04).
Though the administration insisted Fulton.s complaint had nothing to do with
the crackdown, Crow wrote him an October 16 letter assuring him that .the
Office of Student Affairs will be monitoring the newspaper.s forthcoming
editorial decisions very closely and working with its management to ensure that
the University.s standards are clearly understood. I appreciate your direct
engagement on this matter. (Phoenix New Times, 11/18/04).
As Crow told the Arizona Republic (11/20/04), .I don.t think we want [the State
Press] off campus. I think as an investor in the business, we want some say in
how it.s run.. Now there.s an education in how the media really works.
The Boss. Business
When conservatives complained that CBS was promoting Bush critic Richard Clarke
on 60 Minutes without disclosing that his book Against All Enemies was
published by Free Press, another Viacom subsidiary, CBS responded (Hollywood
Reporter, 3/23/04) by saying that the show .has interviewed authors from
virtually all the book publishing companies over its 36 seasons and is beholden
to none of them. Publishers seek out 60 Minutes because it is television.s No.
1 newsmagazine.. But the question is not whether authors wouldn.t want to get
on 60 Minutes if they didn.t work for the same company; the question is, are we
really supposed to believe they don.t get preferential consideration when they
As a report in the American Journalism Review noted (11.12/04), comments filed
with the FCC regarding its ownership regulations provided some concrete
examples that such mutual back-scratching does go on. AJR quoted a newspaper
reporter whose bosses also owned a TV station:
When the Nielsen TV ratings come out, I know I am expected to write a big story
if the co-owned station.s ratings are good and to bury the story if the
co-owned station.s ratings are down. Or another example. A few years ago, I ran
a survey asking readers what they thought of local television news programs. My
general manager told me the next time I do something that might affect our
sister station, I better check with him first. I got the message. I haven.t
done a similar project since then.
. The violation of the boundary between news and entertainment is perhaps
nowhere as flagrant as on network .newsmagazine. shows. As a May 14 Los Angeles
Times story explained, the NBC News program Dateline found plenty of news value
in the entertainment offerings of NBC. .Despite criticism that NBC.s news
programs have been turned into brazen marketing tools for several of the
network.s prime-time series finales,. the Times reported, .the management of
the combined company seems delighted with the promotional firepower of its
enterprise.. The Times cited, among other things, the two-hour Dateline
(5/5/04) devoted to the final episode of the sitcom Friends, as well as
generous coverage of the NBC sitcom Frasier and the Donald Trump .reality. show
Thanks to NBC.s recent acquisition of Universal, network news president Neal
Shapiro looks forward to NBC news programs getting first crack at interviewing
movie stars affiliated with Universal films. He dismissed criticisms of this
blurring of the lines between news and entertainment as .asinine. (L.A. Times,
NBC Today anchor Katie Couric, interviewing Trump, remarked that he .seems to
be the fifth member of the show these days . . . I have confidence you.re going
to be here a lot in the fall.. To which Trump replied, .Jeff Zucker will not
allow it to be any other way, will he?. Zucker is, as Newsday.s Verne Gay noted
(4/21/04), .president of NBC.s Entertainment, News and Cable Group and a
leading proponent of a practice known in TV parlance as .cross-promotion...
. During the May .sweeps. period (when advertising rates are set based on
audience share), TV Guide (6/11/04) counted over 117 minutes of NBC promotions
on the Today show. CBS.s Early Show, which runs an hour less than Today,
finished second with just over 107 minutes. ABC.s Good Morning America came in
last with just under 36 minutes of self-promotion. Former morning show producer
Steve Friedman told the magazine that .it.s inevitable that a morning show or a
magazine show will do these segments,. adding: .You.d be a fool not to do it.
It.s a business..
. Washington Post TV reporter Lisa de Moraes (8/6/04) catalogued the
self-promotion she found in just that day.s listings. ABC.s 20/20 profiled
reality TV star Victoria Gotti, whose Growing Up Gotti program just happened to
be airing on the A&E cable channel.owned by ABC parent Disney. Over at CBS, the
48 Hours newsmagazine profiled Yoanna House, who lost 60 pounds to try out for
America.s Next Top Model, a reality show airing on the UPN network.which, like
CBS, is owned by Viacom. De Moraes pointedly remarked: .Remember how the
broadcast networks explained that they would cover only three hours of each of
the four-day Democratic and Republican conventions because they are nothing
more than infomercials out of which no real news comes?. _
. The network that pays for the rights to broadcast the Olympic Games always
happens to find the Olympics far more newsworthy than its network competitors.
In 2004, according to the Tyndall Report.s tally of network newscast coverage
(8/28/04), NBC Nightly News devoted 106 minutes of news time to the Athens
events; by comparison, ABC dedicated 34 minutes of news time, and CBS only 15.
NBC executive producer Tom Touchet, who works on the Today show, felt no
conflict, telling the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (8/14/04) that .his bosses
haven.t asked him to do anything he wasn.t comfortable with..
. On July 9, ABC.s 20/20 presented a segment on the legend of King Arthur.
While that might be an odd topic for a newsmagazine show, even more unusual was
one of the guest .experts. chosen to share his views on the subject: Hollywood
bigwig Jerry Bruckheimer, whose .expertise. consisted in being the producer of
the new Disney film King Arthur. As the Christian Science Monitor (8/27/04)
noted, .If the weakness of Bruckheimer.s grasp of Arthurian lore was obvious,
the connection between his movie and ABC television wasn.t. Only at the end of
the segment did the reporter mention that Disney owns ABC..
As the Monitor explained, Disney/ABC felt no need to even conjure up a good
explanation for the decision: .The movie producer was included in the show for
business reasons, not because he was the most knowledgeable source,
acknowledges David Westin, president of ABC News. .It made good sense for us,
frankly,. he says, .to take advantage of all the marketing and publicity for
Government and Other .Official. Pressure
The relationship between the press and government should, in theory, be a
somewhat confrontational one. When stories surface that local governments are
refusing to speak to certain reporters or media outlets, one can only hope that
in some way this means the media in question are doing their job, and
politicians are angry about it.
Government officials also know that applying a little pressure to the media can
go a long way. It.s worth remembering that these same media companies are often
engaged in high-stakes lobbying, trying to extract favors from federal or state
regulators they.re also obligated to cover.so even if they don.t cave in to
pressure, they.re not often eager to embarrass the officials who applied it.
Occasionally, though, some examples of government pressure attempts are made
public. When celebrity reporter Kitty Kelley was promoting her critical book
about the Bush family, a White House official called NBC News president Neal
Shapiro to discourage the network from doing interviews with her (New York
Even some of the most celebrated journalism is affected by government pressure:
CBS.s April 28 investigation of the abuse and torture at Abu Ghraib prison in
Iraq, for example, was held for two weeks at the request of the Pentagon.
It.s not just that press-state relations are often uncontentious; sometimes
they.re downright cozy. When California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger traveled to
New York for the Republican National Convention, the tab wasn.t picked up by
the GOP, or even the state he serves; instead, a handful of the largest media
companies in the country.including Fox, NBC Universal, TimeWarner, Disney and
Viacom.paid the bill (New York Times, 8/26/04).
. At the Austin American-Statesman, editorial page editor Arnold Garcia Jr. got
what other reporters might have considered a scoop: Local business
Temple-Inland Inc. was planning a major.and potentially controversial.expansion
of its corporate headquarters. But instead of reporting the news, he suppressed
Garcia got the tip while playing golf with Austin Mayor Will Wynn. Later, when
Garcia e-mailed Wynn for more information, the mayor told the editor that he.d
rather the information not appear in print, since he wanted time to line up
political support for the company.s decision, which was likely to encounter
stiff environmental opposition.
News of the company.s plans leaked out two months after Garcia first learned of
them, thanks to an investigation by a local environmental group. Their digging
yielded more bad news; as Garcia explained in a column to the paper.s readers
(1/29/04): .Worse, in an incredible lapse of judgment, I offered to send a
draft [to Wynn] of whatever editorial resulted..
. New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson no doubt appreciated the effusive speech that
welcomed him to the Border Governors Conference. Richardson, attendees learned,
.has done more for New Mexico in two legislative sessions than any previous
governor accomplished in decades.. No small praise, especially considering the
source: Monica Armenta, an anchor at New Mexico TV station KOB. To make matters
worse, Armenta didn.t even write the words herself.that was left to the
governor.s staff. Armenta told the American Journalism Review (10. 11/04) that
she.d learned her lesson, though she added, .I.ve done hundreds of these over
the years, and so have many other people in this market..
. Upsetting the political applecart is part of a journalist.s job.but it might
cost them that job.
Rep. Nick Smith.s (R.- Mich.) intention to vote against George W. Bush.s 2003
Medicare drug plan didn.t sit well with powerful GOP lawmakers, who Smith said
made him an offer: If he changed his vote, his son Brad, who wanted to run for
his father.s congressional seat, would receive $100,000 in campaign support.
Smith not only stuck to his .no. vote, he told people about the alleged bribe,
with the story eventually making its way into the news, including a Robert
Novak syndicated column (11/27/03).
Soon afterward, Smith tried to revise his tale, issuing a press release
(12/4/03) that denied the $100,000 offer. But reporter Kevin Vandenbroek of
radio station WKZO (12/1/03) came forward with evidence that made Smith.s new
denial hard to swallow: a tape of an interview where Smith discussed the
.$100,000-plus. offered to his son.s campaign.
Vandenbroek.s scoop, however, didn.t please everyone at his station; according
to Slate (3/24/04), while some station officials were proud of his work, .there
were others that might have been uncomfortable that it was focusing on a member
of the Republican Party.. A few weeks later, Vandenbroek reported that George
W. Bush made several dubious claims in an interview with NBC, which prompted a
phone call to the station from local Republican officials. Vandenbroek told
Slate that after that incident, .I got called in and told to stay away from
politics.. The station eventually dismissed Vandenbroek for violating company
e-mail policy following an exchange with a far-right author who refused to
appear on the station.
As Slate.s Timothy Noah put it, .Vandenbroek.s prominence in reporting a major
political story ought to make WKZO proud. Instead, it apparently made the
Kalamazoo radio station nervous..
Op-Ed.s Odd Ethics
. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch had some regrets after running an op-ed (5/18/04)
by syndicated columnist James Glassman, in which Glassman slammed the new
documentary Super Size Me, which takes a critical look at McDonald.s. The paper
identified Glassman, who called the film an .outrageously dishonest and
dangerous piece of self-promotion,. as a fellow at the conservative American
Enterprise Institute and as the host of a website called
TechCentralStation.com. But as a May 20 editor.s note acknowledged, had the
Post-Dispatch actually looked at TechCentralStation.com, it would have
discovered that McDonald.s is prominently listed as a sponsor, and perhaps also
noticed .the lavish spinoff website that TechCentralStation.com has devoted
solely to discrediting Super Size Me.. Readers, the paper noted, likely would
have appreciated knowing of this affiliation.
Less than a month later, Glassman struck again: In a June 6 Los Angeles Times
op-ed co-authored by a TCS colleague, he attacked .left-wing activists. for
trying to force Abbott Laboratories to give up its patent on Norvir, an
important AIDS drug, after the company jacked the drug.s price up by 400
percent. But once again, left unmentioned was the connection between TCS and
the company it was defending: Abbott is a member of PhRMA, the pharmaceutical
trade association, which, like McDonald.s, is a TCS funder (Center for American
Glassman.s particularly popular in the Washington Times: Three times in as many
months, the paper published op-eds by Glassman that pushed views and policies
that would directly favor TCS sponsors. Glassman praised Bush policies that
have been a financial boon to tech companies like TCS backers Intel, Microsoft
and Qualcomm (10/27/04); blasted the use of generic anti-AIDS drugs in
developing countries, another threat to PhRMA (11/17/04); and trashed global
warming science and the Kyoto Protocol (12/16/04), which are both anathema to
TCS sponsor ExxonMobil. Not once was his TCS affiliation or relationship to the
. When the Austin Chronicle.s William M. Adler read a pro-nuclear-industry
op-ed in the Austin American-Statesman by University of Texas professor Sheldon
Landsberger (3/4/04), he thought it sounded strangely familiar. After some
enterprising digging, Adler confirmed his hunch: Landsberger.s piece contained
phrases nearly identical to those in an op-ed by another academic, both of whom
had agreed to sign their names to pro-industry columns written entirely by
nuclear industry propagandists.
Landsberger.s column argued that the public was being burned by the federal
government because the feds were failing to provide sufficient funds for
developing the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump in Nevada. In the op-ed, the
nuclear industry lobbyist who actually wrote the column remarked: .This is
stealing money from taxpayers who were required to support the waste management
According to the Chronicle (4/16/04), Landsberger, a nuclear engineering
professor, admits that he.s been allowing his name and university position to
be used like this by the nuclear industry two or three times a year for the
past four or five years. And as Adler documents, the industry has been placing
ghost-written columns for decades under various names.
The Statesman ran a letter of apology from Landsberger in its letters to the
editor section on April 14. While that.s a welcome correction, it.s hardly a
solution to the problem. As Bill Perkins, a founding partner of the PR firm
responsible for Landsberger.s op-eds, said (Washington Post, 4/25/04): .I doubt
that there is a public affairs campaign by any advocacy group in the country
that doesn.t have some version of this. . . . This is fairly
PBS: Bowing Under Pressure
Public broadcasters have a more explicit reliance on government than commercial
broadcasters: They survive in part on federal and state funding. With that
relationship comes the danger that public broadcasters, who have an explicit
obligation to present divergent and underrepresented views, will bow to
After South Carolina Educational Television aired a documentary on gays in the
South, a state lawmaker threatened to cut the agency.s funding. Though the
program in question was not funded by SCETV, state Rep. John Graham Altman was
incensed that the .militant homosexual agenda. found a home on public TV
(Associated Press, 11/28/04). AP noted that the agency.s funding had already
declined as of late.from $20.3 million to $12.7 million in the past four years.
No action has been taken as of early 2005.
But consider the rightward drift of PBS, and you see how political pressure
works. In 2004, PBS scaled back Now With Bill Moyers from one hour to 30
minutes.even as Moyers retired and was replaced by a less political host.and
added two shows from a distinctly conservative perspective: Tucker Carlson
Unfiltered and the Wall Street Journal Editorial Report.
According to reports in the public broadcasting newspaper Current (1/19/04,
6/7/04) and the New Yorker (6/7/04), conservative lawmakers. complaints about
the alleged liberal bias of Now led PBS officials to strive to .balance. their
lineup. At the center of this controversy is the Corporation for Public
Broadcasting (CPB), the organization through which federal funding is
distributed to public broadcasting.
During confirmation hearings for CPB appointee Cheryl Halpern, Sen. Trent Lott
(R.-Miss.) criticized a commentary by Moyers as .the most blatantly partisan,
irresponsible thing I.ve ever heard in my life,. adding that .the CPB has not
seemed to be willing to deal with Bill Moyers and that type of programming..
Halpern responded: .The fact of the matter is, I agree,. though she said at the
time there was little the CPB could do about it.
But there was something the CPB could do. According to Ken Auletta.s
investigation in the New Yorker, PBS president Pat Mitchell was meeting with
Lynne Cheney and conservative television producer Michael Pack to discuss a
possible series about Cheney.s children.s books. And after former House Speaker
Newt Gingrich told Mitchell that there weren.t enough conservatives on PBS, the
New Yorker reported that Mitchell .proposed to Gingrich that he co-host a PBS
town-hall program,. an idea that was frustrated by Gingrich.s contract with Fox
When the committee reconvened in late July, Lott .noted progress. on the
subject of liberal bias (Public Broadcasting Report, 7/23/04). That senators
like Lott hold public broadcasting.s purse strings tells you all you need to
know about PBS.s public affairs programming..P.H.
CLASS NOTES: McChesney's "Problem of the Media", Pages 1-139
KEY CONCLUSION (PG. 97): .The solution to the problem of the media is to
change the nature of the system so that it is no longer rational to
produce what passes for journalism today.. OK, but how to do?
Pg. 11: Core problems: hypercommercialism and inadequate journalism.
Pg. 7: How do you get public involved in media policymaking? Do you think
media have little or no social effect? .. Pg 8 . modern policy of
maximizing profit not what Founding Fathers supported. .. Pg 9 . What
about .left wing. bias. Do you see it? .. Pg 17: Is the media system a
democractic force? (parse all those words). . pg 17: profit vs. news .
does media contribute to democratic society? . ppgs. 24-25, media not
What did Jefferson mean (read page 29)? . . . the AP and .objective
journalism. (bottom of pg. 25) . . . media.s power to shape ownership
debate . pg. 48 . is his rhetoric defensible here? . . . and also the
media hides behind the First Amendment (pg. 50). He claims this shrinks
democracy but does not explain why. . . . pg. 52, only 30% of Americans
understand the Communications Act of 1933 (explain concept) . . . FCC.s
Kennard and a propsal for free airtime for political candidates, backed by
Walter Cronkite . . . pg 55 /
MANUFACTURING NEWS: Pg. 69: .Journalists who raise issues no official
source is talking about area accused of unprofessional conduct and of
attempting to introduce bias into the news.. DISCUSS.
PRESS-RELEEASE NEWS 40% TO 60% OF STORIES. Pg. 71 discuss providing
context and background. Social issues such as racism and environment
disappear from headlines . no squeaky wheel.
Pg. 72 . quote about journalism becoming unprofessional . read and
Pg. 74 . most wars the result of journalistic lies.
Pg 88: 33 million Americans below poverty line . most thought 1-5
Aug 26, 1:10 PM (ET)
By Andrea Hopkins
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Some 1.3 million Americans slid into poverty in
2003 as the ranks of the poor rose 4 percent to 35.9 million, with
children and blacks worse off than most, the U.S. government said on
Thursday in a report sure to fuel Democratic criticism of President Bush.
Despite the economic recovery, the percentage of the U.S. population
living in poverty rose for the third straight year to 12.5 percent -- the
highest since 1998 -- from 12.1 percent in 2002, the Census Bureau said in
its annual poverty report. The widely cited scorecard on the nation's
economy showed one-third of those in poverty were children.
The number of U.S. residents without health care coverage also rose by 1.4
million last year to 45 million, the highest level since 1999, and incomes
were essentially stagnant, the Census Bureau said.
The poverty line is set at an annual income of $9,573 or less for an
individual, or $18,660 for a family of four with two children. Under that
measure, a family would spend about a third of its income on food.
Pg. 93 . corporate media is part of the corporate world . does it matter?
Pg. 103: Noam Chomsky ignored.
Pg. 126-129 . Discussion of paucity of election coverage. What do you
think about guaranteeing free airtime for politicians. Walter Cronkite
Major McChesney points/rhetoric
1. Media system not .natural.
2. Subsidies maintained by .corrupt special interests.
-- FCC regulation of airwaves . what else
-- Behind closed doors
-- Get seat at the table and .throw out bums.
-- .Corruptly behind closed doors.
-- One newsroom serving a city
3. More competitive local media and more diverse, vibrant non-profit
4. Social justice and equity in addition to changing media; need
5. DISCUSSION: Why does McChesney talk this way? Is it effective?
COMMENTS ON MCCHESNEY BY EMILY MCSWEENEY
After reading the first few chapters I have come to a few conclusions
regarding the media, and where it is headed in the next few months. Media
is rapidly growing in the vast economy that we are in the middle of right
now. Daily there are new, and improving ideas of what should/should not
be shown on the news. This book, along with the talk by Dan Harris gave
me a great idea of what I should be looking for through the media. Over
the past few years we have seen something change in media [and the news] -
the news has become less focused on historical accurasies, and more
focused on the people that are involved in the news. The presidential
election of 2000 has shown us a vast amount of what television can show
you through the eyes of the people. We, the people watching the election
saw a completely different view of what was happening at the polls. Has
America become so "jaded" that they can no longer fathom a world without
the mess of drama in the news, must we always see a problem facing us to
be able to tune into what is being shown on the daily news.
The news is something that I have an occasion to turn on, this book has
began to show me exactly what I will be seeing as I grow older. I read
things in this book that I know is happening; however, before reading this
book I was so blinded that I did not realize it was happening.
COMMONS ON MCCHESNEY BY MATT NOLAN
In McChesney.s first three chapters he covers a great deal of ground. He
explains that there are many different problems facing media today. He
explains that the public perception of the .problems., fall into the
category of content, and how this content might effect our culture
negatively. He then explains that this is not the main problem with
media. McChesney explains that the first big problem with the media stems
from who is controlling it. He goes on to explain that as the years have
progressed more and more limitations have been restricting media, in all
aspects, and this has created a media that is not democratic. He explains
that if the media is controlled by a few extremely rich members of
society, the news that will filter down to the common man will be only
what the people in charge want these people to receive, and that is not
In the second chapter McChesney delves into journalism. He
that journalism and all other types of media have 3 duties: .To act as a
watchdog, to ferret out truth from lies and to present a wide range of
informed positions on key issues.. He goes on in the chapter to explain
that where owners are more concerned with making a profit, the news that
is broadcasted will suffer. He goes on to give many examples on how
certain stories where not covered properly and in some cases not at all.
The third chapter goes over much of the same ideas. It is a
shows how a democratic media system is necessary, but is not fuctioning
as it should be today. I like the quote at the end of the chapter that
says, .the reform of journalism will only occur when news organizations
are disengaged from the global entertainment and information industries
that increasingly contain them..
CLASS NOTES: Thurs., Oct. 20, 2005
CLASS NOTES: Thurs., Oct. 20
1. For Tuesday, Oct. 25, review Gore speech, on blog, and email
before Tuesday five issues on journalism and democracy . a few words for
each issue about significance. Also, continue discussing McChesney and
any journalism .breaking news..
2. On Thurs., Oct. 27, Densmore will hand out 10 questions; on
Thursday you will write on two of your choosing; Densmore will give you a
third one. One page of .cheat sheet. notes is OK.
3. For Tues., Nov. 2, read McChesney, Chap. 4, .The Age of
Hypercommercialism, handout (will hand out on Tuesday, Oct. 25), and
website postings marked .ADVERTISING.. (Mark Miller invited)
4. For Thurs., Nov. 4, read McChesney, Chap. 6 .Media Policies and
Media Reform,. and website postings marked MEDIA REFORM. Play some audio
from the St. Louis conference
HAND OUT .The Reporter.s Refusal to Testify,. by Phil Meyers as an
optional supplement to Miller case.
DISCUSS MILLER CASE:
Audio: Democracy Now: Oct. 19, 2005: 5:05-7:02 mins.
Mon., Oct. 17, 2005: 21:03-22:50-42:35
Open Source; Jay Rosen, Kevin Drumm
.Getting Judith Miller. 12 minutes
1) Does conduct of source matter in decision to protect source.s
2) Who is being protected? Why?
3) Should bloggers be extended immunity from testifying about
DISCUSS OBJECTIVITY BRIEFLY -- Mention status quo story
ASSIGNMENT? See the movie, "Good Night, and Good Luck"; discuss Nov. 10
The movie, Good Night, and Good Luck should be a must see for anyone
interested in journalism. It's been running at the mall cinemas and is now
starting up a two-week run at Images Cinema in Williamstown.
I hope that by our class of Nov. 10, everyone will have seen it and we'll
spend about 15 minutes discussing it.
I urge all of you to see it. Starts
Friday, 11/4: GOOD NIGHT, AND GOODLUCK
TWO WEEKS: Friday, 11/4 through Thursday, 11/17
Fri 11/4: 7 & 9pm
Sat 11/5: 5:15, 7 & 9pm
Sun 11/6: 4:30 & 7pm
Mon 11/7: 7pm
Tue 11/8: 7 & 9pm
Wed 11/9: 4:30 7 & 9pm
Thur 11/10: 7 & 9pm
Director: George Clooney
Starring: David Strathairn, Patricia Clarkson
Rating: PG * 1 hour 33 minutes * Drama
Broadcast news pioneer Edward R. Murrow dared to be critical of Senator McCarthy in the midst of 1950s cold war hysteria. His coverage led to a backlash against the senator. Winner of 5 awards at the
Venice Film Festival, including Best Screenplay, Best Actor (Strathairn), and the Human Rights Film Network Award - Special Mention.
"A period piece so intensely relevant to our current state of affairs that it takes your breath away."-BOSTON GLOBE
<a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/10-07-2005/entertainment/col/story/353343p-301106c.html">Read a review</a>
Sunday, October 30, 2005
NEWSPAPERS: Columnist's reporting finds newspapers not ready for information age
ORIGINAL LINK posted Oct. 30, 2005:
EXTRACT: This report by a columnist for the St. Petersburg, Fla., Times, is a thorough roundup of thinking about the challenge U.S. daily newspapers faces in adapting to the changing information needs of their customers. It quotes key thinkers and cites recent data on layoffs, profits and revenues in the industry. The messages seems to be that newspapers are struggling to adapt as their readers migrate away from paper and toward online.
Information Age finds newspapers unready
By ERIC DEGGANS, Times Op/Ed Columnist
Published October 30, 2005
This is something my bosses and colleagues may not want me to say. But newspapers are in some serious trouble these days,
and not just for the reasons we usually cite.
Yes, we have suffered from shrinking circulation figures for some time. The latest dip was an average of 1.9 percent for
the six-month period ending in March, according to data from the Audit Bureau of Circulations.
And, yes, there are the disappointing revenue figures - thanks to expenses from hurricanes and rising newsprint costs -
which have spurred job reductions and bureau closings at the Boston Globe, the Baltimore Sun, the Hartford Courant, the
San Jose Mercury News, the Philadelphia Daily News, the Philadelphia Inquirer and the New York Times.
But the most discouraging piece of this decline may be its cause: newspapers have a tough time satisfying readers who
live in an on-demand media world.
And while evidence grows that potential readers want their news delivered a different way, newspaper companies are
spending millions to redesign and shrink a product fewer customers want.
"People under 30, under 35, want their news online ... delivered in a way so they can search it and be in control of the
agenda-setting," said Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism. "What's disappearing is the
7-day-a-week reader. And (newspapers) need to make the case (to advertisers and stockholders) that this is not a problem,
it's a transition."
Brian Toolan, editor of the Hartford Courant, saw the economic climate spur elimination of 14 positions at his company
this month, including six people in the newsroom. And he's increasingly concerned that the expansive,
something-for-everyone quality of newspapers - usually considered the form's greatest advantage - may now be its biggest
stumbling block in cultivating new readers.
"The thing that keeps me up at night is, the younger readers we're not getting just don't want the mainstream quality of
newspapers," said Toolan, who nevertheless unveiled an ambitious redesign of the Courant's Sunday magazine Oct. 16.
"They're looking for alternative venues because they like them more, they trust them more or they have cutting-edge
qualities that a newspaper which lands (at) a home with (parents, grandparents and kids) ... couldn't risk giving them,"
And why should you care about this, unless you work for a newspaper or are related to someone who does?
Because the information gatherers in a major metropolitan daily fuel the news process for nearly every other strain of
news media - from online to TV and radio.
Every newspaper fields dozens of staffers who reach into the community and dig up original, often unknown information. TV
and radio stations, already working with slimmed-down staffs, use print reports as important signposts; many bloggers and
news Web sites, which never had large reporting staffs, often link to or build on reports developed by major newspapers.
"A newspaper's core product isn't news or information. It's community influence," said Philip Meyer, a professor at the
University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill and author of The Vanishing Newspaper: Saving Journalism in the Information
Age. "That's created with high-quality editorial product ... (In cutting staffers), newspapers aren't just eating their
seed corn, they're burning down the barn."
Some experts have suggested newspapers develop story ideas thinking of the Internet first, with expansive, multilayered
content online that is truncated for the print paper. Meyer expects newspapers eventually will publish less frequently,
with breaking news handled by well-read Web sites.
"The newspaper business needs a lot of crazy ideas," he added, citing the success of USA Today, which journalists once
derided as "McPaper" for its short stories and colorful layout.
Worsening economics aren't making that task easy. Last month, after announcing a projected 20 percent drop in
third-quarter earnings, Knight Ridder Inc. revealed cutbacks of 75 newsroom jobs at its Philadelphia Inquirer, 25
editorial jobs at its Philadelphia Daily News and 52 newsroom jobs at its Mercury News in San Jose.
Similarly, the New York Times Co. outlined a cut of 500 positions company-wide, including 45 jobs in the New York Times
newsroom and 35 editorial jobs at its Boston Globe newspaper (the Globe has already announced plans to close its national
For journalists and readers, the job reductions may come as a shock, especially because newspapers - unlike the
near-bankrupt airline industry - still make significant profits.
The New York Times Co. last week announced a third-quarter revenue increase of 2.2 percent, with profits of $23.1-million
(it was, however, a near-50 percent decline from the $48.3-million profit in third quarter 2004). In 2004, profit margins
stood at 19.4 percent for Knight Ridder and 16.4 percent for the New York Times Co., according to industry analysts
Morton Research, Inc.
But with advertising revenue rising slower than newsprint costs, those numbers are not good enough for Wall Street.
"The revenue growth is slower than the expenses growth; Business 101 tells you (these companies) ... need to run leaner,"
said Mike Kupinsky, an industry analyst for A.G. Edwards and Sons. "If the revenues were there based on the quality of
the newspaper, why would revenues be going down?"
In response, some newspaper companies have decided to renovate their core product.
The Wall Street Journal, which has already debuted a new Saturday edition and tabloid format for its overseas editions,
will save a projected $18-million annually starting in 2007 by shrinking its page width. The St. Petersburg Times hopes
to save $3.5-million with a similar (but smaller) reduction next year.
The Star-Tribune in Minneapolis will join The Mercury News and Baltimore Sun in launching redesigns this year. Others
(including the St. Petersburg Times' 2004 debut of the weekly tabloid *tbt), have created products aimed at building
newspaper reading habits with smaller niches of consumers, such as young people or Spanish speakers.
But the Newspaper Association of America cites statistics showing that many more people read newspapers than pay for
them: 77 percent of adults in the top 50 markets, and 60 percent of adults nationwide on Sundays. The trade group is
urging members to sell advertising based on who uses the product (including free weekly editions and online).
And though millions of users access newspaper Web sites, online ads bring a fraction of the revenue they earn in print,
partly because advertisers assume those who pay for the product pay the most attention to it, said Morton Research
president John Morton.
So why aren't newspapers trying harder to make money on those online readers?
"Newspapers have never taken (spending on developing new products) seriously, because it has always been very easy to
make money," said Morton, who resisted the idea that newspapers may be stuck in a permanent death spiral of declining
circulation and staff cuts. "Now ... readers are dying off faster than they are being replaced."
And though it may be difficult for newspaper companies to find dollars for innovation, such effort is crucial to
newspapers' future, said Rosenstiel at the Project for Excellence in Journalism.
"You cannot expect business school graduates who work for stock market firms to understand where the media business is
going," he added. "History shows, when an elusive audience congregates somewhere, advertisers eventually will pay to
Ball State University professor Bob Papper, who has co-authored a study analyzing 5,000 hours of media use among 400
subjects, said his numbers show newspapers should work harder to develop online environments.
In his survey, just 27 percent of those ages 25 to 34 looked at a newspaper daily, compared to 71 percent ages 65 and up.
Those same 25- to 34-year-olds spent an average 3.6 minutes with a newspaper each day; from age 35 to 44, the figure
jumped to 8.2 minutes, with both groups spending more than 10 times that duration online.
"(Newspapers) must stop defining (their) business as ink on dead trees," Papper said. "You need to define your business
as providing information to people. Ink on dead trees is just one way of delivering that information to people."
Times researchers Angie Holan and Carolyn Edds contributed to this report. Eric Deggans can be reached at 727 893-8521 or
firstname.lastname@example.org See his blog at www.sptimesphotos.com/blogs/media/
[Last modified October 28, 2005, 18:13:02]
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