Saturday, November 12, 2005
FIRST AMENDMENT: Lecture by Patrick Butler, Washington Post
On Oct. 27, 2005, Patrick Butler, vice president of The Washington Post,
lectured at the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University on "The
First Amendment in the 21st Century." Here the one hour and 15-minute
lecture from here:
NYTimes Nocera column: Trying to Wean Internet Users from Free
Today 27 percent of The Times's revenue comes from circulation, and 66 percent
from advertising. Six percent of all newspaper ads are now online -- and for
many, the website only gets paid when a readers "clicksthrough" the ad.
Does it make sense for newspapers to start charging for content online?
Columnist Joseph Nocera says yes -- although it is painful.
November 12, 2005
Trying to Wean Internet Users From Free
A COLUMN BY:
By JOSEPH NOCERA
The New York Times
PEOPLE hate, hate, hate to subscribe to things on the Internet," Microsoft's
chairman, Bill Gates, said a few weeks ago.
Mr. Gates was sitting in the 14th-floor boardroom of The New York Times,
speaking to a small gathering of executives, editors, editorial board members
and reporters. Rather painfully for us, while he was making a broad point about
consumers and the Web, the specific example under discussion was TimesSelect.
That, of course, is this company's nearly two-month experiment to, well, see if
people will subscribe to things on the Internet.
Or at least to see if they'll pay a subscription fee to read New York Times
columnists online. For years now, The Times has largely posted its content
free, relying on advertising to generate revenue. With the TimesSelect program,
however, the columnists have been put behind a wall.
Newspaper subscribers can still read the columnists online free - though they
have to sign up for TimesSelect to do so. But those who read The Times only
online must now pay $49.95 a year (or $7.95 a month) to get their fix of
Maureen Dowd, Thomas L. Friedman, Frank Rich and the newspaper's other
columnists, myself included. (TimesSelect subscribers also gain access to the
newspaper's archives and some other online-only goodies.)
From the start, TimesSelect has been controversial. Part of the opposition
comes from that segment of the digerati who tend to believe that information on
the Internet should be free as a matter of principle. Others simply don't want
to pay for something they're used to getting free. Twice in the last month or
so, I've had the odd experience of having wealthy Wall Street guys I've
interviewed for this column ask me to e-mail it to them because they refuse to
subscribe to TimesSelect.
There are other, more philosophical, objections as well. Mickey Kaus, an
unrelenting critic of TimesSelect who writes the popular kausfiles blog for the
Slate online magazine, told me recently that he had no particular objection to
paying for Internet content. "What I object to," he said, "is the idea that The
New York Times is essentially saying that its columnists' opinions are so much
superior to everyone else's that they are going to charge for it."
Jay Rosen, a New York University journalism professor who writes a blog called
PressThink, said he believed that the move would wind up hurting the
columnists. "What is the product?" he said. "It's influence." With so much of
the political conversation now taking place online, he said, Times columnists
would inevitably be less influential if only paying subscribers could read
them. This view is shared by some of the columnists themselves.
SO it was a bit of a surprise, after all the sturm und drang, to see the early
results of The Times's online subscription experiment. They're not half bad. In
a news release issued Wednesday morning, the company reported that since it
began in mid-September, TimesSelect has generated 270,000 subscribers, half of
whom already subscribed to the newspaper (and hence get the new service free)
and half of whom were plunking down cold, hard cash.
To be sure, that is a far cry from the million-plus people who spend as much as
$600 a year to buy the dead-tree version of The Times, and it's not even
remotely close to the 20 million-plus "unique visitors" who come to the Times
Web site each month. But it's something. Martin Nisenholtz, who is in charge of
digital operations for The New York Times Company, told me that the numbers
were "at the high end" of expectations.
It is far too early, of course, to predict whether TimesSelect will ultimately
succeed. The roughly 135,000 online-only subscribers could represent a new
willingness on the part of consumers to pay for newspaper content online - or
not. But what I've wound up wondering is whether, even if it is a roaring
success, TimesSelect - and other online subscription models that are bound to
follow - will be enough to stop the erosion of the economics that underlie
newspaper journalism. I'm not terribly sanguine.
Mr. Nisenholtz said that The Times had always assumed that it would eventually
find a second revenue stream. "Advertising is always going to be cyclical," he
said. "And businesses that have only one revenue stream tend not to be as
healthy as those with multiple revenue streams."
It is hardly a surprise that a newspaper company executive would want to
generate subscription revenue as well as advertising revenue: that's the way it
has always worked in the business. Today, for instance, 27 percent of The
Times's revenue comes from circulation, and 66 percent from advertising. (The
other 7 percent come from things like syndication.) Indeed, in the world of
paper and print, a healthy paid circulation helps generate ad revenue, because
advertisers like to see that readers care enough about a publication to pay for
But on the Internet, general interest publications charge for content at their
peril. The Wall Street Journal has largely pulled it off - it has 764,000
subscribers to its Web site, and it even charges people who subscribe to the
actual newspaper (though at a reduced rate).
But The Journal is the exception to the rule. In 1998, Slate magazine put its
site behind a paid wall. It was a dismal failure - "the worst year in Slate's
history," recalls the editor, Jacob Weisberg, who was then a writer for the
site. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution tried to get readers to pay for some of
its online sports content; it gave up after a year. For two years, The Los
Angeles Times charged readers for its online Calendarlive section; it threw in
the towel in May.
These efforts didn't work because they generated too few subscribers to
interest advertisers. Calendarlive was particularly misguided because the movie
and other entertainment listings it produced were exactly the kind of content
Which also helps explain the series of choices The New York Times has made.
Like many newspapers, including The Washington Post, The Times focused on
generating large numbers of viewers that it could deliver to advertisers. To do
that, it needed to keep its content free, even if it meant that some readers
were bound to give up their newspaper subscription and go to the free Web site
And then, when the company decided that its Web operation was strong enough
that it could experiment with a second revenue stream, it chose to use its
columnists as the guinea pigs for basic economic reasons.
For starters, the Op-Ed columnists in particular are popular with readers, so
there was a decent chance that consumers might be willing to pay to read them.
In addition, though, moving the columnists from free to paid brought the least
risk of cutting into advertising revenue. You'll notice that the company hasn't
put New York Times movie reviewers, who are also quite popular, into
TimesSelect. Movie and entertainment pages are as important to New York Times
advertisers as they are to Los Angeles Times advertisers.
From a purely business point of view, this all makes a reasonable amount of
sense. TimesSelect strikes me as a worthy experiment, even with the obvious
downside for the paper's columnists, who don't have the readership they had
before going behind the paid wall.
Besides, at a time when newspapers are struggling - with circulation down at
many newspapers, and readers and advertisers increasingly moving to the
Internet - The Times has to do everything it can to find ways to maximize the
amount of money it generates from its Web site. So does any newspaper that
wants to continue doing ambitious journalism. When journalists criticize
TimesSelect, Mr. Nisenholtz said, they seem to forget that the primary goal is
to find a business model that will make it possible to continue paying for
serious journalism, which at The Times costs over $200 million a year.
This, though, is precisely where I become discouraged. Look at what happened to
the music industry, which tried - and has largely failed - to sustain its
pre-Internet revenue as the Web destroyed its business model. It has
ham-handedly tried to beat back technology with litigation, but no matter how
many courtroom victories it reaps, the technology keeps winning in the
Or look at what is happening to telephony, or film, or all sorts of businesses
that are undergoing wrenching change thanks to the rise of the Internet.
Margins shrink. Revenue drops. Profits dwindle.
From where I'm sitting, it sure looks as if the same is happening in the
newspaper business. The ruthless efficiency of the Internet, for instance, is
changing the way ads are paid for. In print, an advertiser places an ad and
pays for it - end of story. Online, most ads generate revenue only when readers
click on them. And the rates are much lower.
William G. Bird, a Citigroup analyst who covers the newspaper business, says
that 6 percent of all newspaper ads are now online. He compared it to taking
money out of one pocket and putting it in another. But here's the painful
twist: "For every dollar coming out of the dead-tree pocket," he said, "only 33
cents is going back into the online pocket."
Doesn't TimesSelect - which, remember, costs $49.95 a year - suggest that down
the line, there will be a similar contraction in circulation revenue? And
that's if the experiment succeeds! Yes, as more readers gravitate to the Web,
distribution and paper costs will surely be reduced. But it's highly unlikely
that those savings will offset the hit to revenues.
Esther Dyson, who edits the influential technology newsletter Release 1.0,
compared the Internet's effect on newspapers to the effect of the open source
movement on the software industry: "It doesn't steal your business," she said.
"It erodes it."
As a business journalist, I've tended not to worry a lot about music executives
trying to salvage their broken business model. My general view has been that if
they can't adapt to disruptive technologies, then they probably deserve their
fate. But in the six months I've been in the newspaper business, I've learned
to have some sympathy for those who are staring down the barrel of the
It's not fun.
Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company
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specifically authorized by the copyright owner. The material is made available
in an effort to advance understanding of political, economic, democracy, First
Amendment, technology, journalism, community and justice issues, etc. We
believe this constitutes a 'fair use' as provided by Section 107 of U.S.
Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Chapter 1, Section 107, the
material above is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a
prior interest in receiving the included information for research and
educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this blog
for purposes beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright
Ex-Post editor describes failure of press-government relationship
FROM THE NATION MAGAZINE:
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
William Greider, a prominent political journalist and author, has been a
reporter for more than 35 years for newspapers, magazines and television.
Over the past two decades, he has persistently challenged mainstream
thinking on economics.
For 17 years Greider was the National Affairs Editor at Rolling Stone
magazine, where his investigation of the defense establishment began. He
is a former assistant managing editor at the Washington Post, where he
worked for 15 years as a national correspondent, editor and
columnist. While at the Post, he broke the story of how David Stockman,
Ronald Reagan's budget director, grew disillusioned with supply-side
economics and the budget deficits that policy caused, which still burden
the American economy.
He is the author of the national bestsellers One World, Ready or Not,
Secrets of the Temple and Who Will Tell The People. In the award-winning
Secrets of the Temple, he offered a critique of the Federal Reserve
system. Greider has also served as a correspondent for six Frontline
documentaries on PBS, including "Return to Beirut," which won an Emmy in
Greider's next book will be The Soul of Capitalism: Opening Paths to A
Moral Economy. In it, he untangles the systemic mysteries of American
capitalism, details its destructive collisions with society and
demonstrates how people can achieve decisive influence to reform the
system's structure and operating values. Raised in Wyoming, Ohio, a suburb
of Cincinnati, he graduated from Princeton University in 1958. He
currently lives in Washington, DC.
All the King's Media
By WILLIAM GREIDER
[from the November 21, 2005 issue]
Amid the smoke and stench of burning careers, Washington feels a bit like
the last days of the ancien régime. As the world's finest democracy, we do
not do guillotines. But there are other less bloody rituals of
humiliation, designed to reassure the populace that order is restored, the
Republic cleansed. Let the perp walks begin. Whether the public feels
reassured is another matter.
George W. Bush's plight leads me to thoughts of Louis XV and his royal
court in the eighteenth century. Politics may not have changed as much as
modern pretensions assume. Like Bush, the French king was quite popular
until he was scorned, stubbornly self-certain in his exercise of power yet
strangely submissive to manipulation by his courtiers. Like Louis Quinze,
our American magistrate (whose own position was secured through court
intrigues, not elections) has lost the "royal touch." Certain influential
cliques openly jeer the leader they not so long ago extolled; others
gossip about royal tantrums and other symptoms of lost direction. The
accusations stalking his important counselors and assembly leaders might
even send some of them to jail. These political upsets might matter less
if the government were not so inept at fulfilling its routine obligations,
like storm relief. The king's sorry war drags on without resolution, with
people still arguing over why exactly he started it. The staff of
life--oil, not bread--has become punishingly expensive. The government is
broke, borrowing formidable sums from rival nations. The king pretends
nothing has changed.
The burnt odor in Washington is from the disintegrating authority of the
governing classes. The public's darkest suspicions seem confirmed.
Flagrant money corruption, deceitful communication of public plans and
purposes, shocking incompetence--take your pick, all are involved. None
are new to American politics, but they are potently fused in the present
circumstances. A recent survey in Wisconsin found that only 6 percent of
citizens believe their elected representatives serve the public interest.
If they think that of state and local officials, what must they think of
We are witnessing, I suspect, something more momentous than the disgrace
of another American President. Watergate was red hot, but always about
Richard Nixon, Richard Nixon. This convergence of scandal and failure
seems more systemic, less personal. The new political force for change is
not the squeamish opposition party called the Democrats but a common
disgust and anger at the sordidness embedded in our dysfunctional
democracy. The wake from that disgust may prove broader than Watergate's
(when democracy was supposedly restored by Nixon's exit), because the
anger is also splashing over once-trusted elements of the establishment.
Heroic truth-tellers in the Watergate saga, the established media are now
in disrepute, scandalized by unreliable "news" and over-intimate
attachments to powerful court insiders. The major media stood too close to
the throne, deferred too eagerly to the king's twisted version of reality
and his lust for war. The institutions of "news" failed democracy on
monumental matters. In fact, the contemporary system looks a lot more like
the ancien régime than its practitioners realize. Control is top-down and
centralized. Information is shaped (and tainted) by the proximity of
leading news-gatherers to the royal court and by their great distance from
people and ordinary experience.
People do find ways to inform themselves, as best they can, when the
regular "news" is not reliable. In prerevolutionary France, independent
newspapers were illegal--forbidden by the king--and books and pamphlets,
rigorously censored by the government. Yet people developed a complex
shadow system by which they learned what was really going on--the news
that did not appear in official court pronouncements and privileged
publications. Cultural historian Robert Darnton, in brilliantly original
works like The Literary Underground of the Old Regime, has mapped the
informal but politically potent news system by which Parisians of high and
low status circulated court secrets or consumed the scandalous books known
as libelles, along with subversive songs, poems and gossip, often leaked
from within the king's own circle. News traveled in widening circles.
Parisians gathered in favored cafes, designated park benches or exclusive
salons, where the forbidden information was read aloud and copied by
others to pass along. Parisians could choose for themselves which reality
they believed. The power of the French throne was effectively finished,
one might say, once the king lost control of the news. (It was his
successor, Louis XVI, who lost his head.)
Something similar, as Darnton noted, is occurring now in American society.
The centralized institutions of press and broadcasting are being
challenged and steadily eroded by widening circles of unlicensed "news"
agents--from talk-radio hosts to Internet bloggers and others--who compete
with the official press to be believed. These interlopers speak in a
different language and from many different angles of vision. Less
authoritative, but more democratic. The upheaval has only just begun, but
already even the best newspapers are hemorrhaging circulation. Dan
Gillmor, an influential pioneer and author of We the Media, thinks
tomorrow's news, the reporting and production, will be "more of a
conversation, or a seminar"--less top-down, and closer to how people
really speak about their lives.
Which brings us to the sappy operetta of the reporter and her influential
source: Scooter Libby, the Vice President's now-indicted war wonk, and
Judith Miller, the New York Times's intrepid reporter and First Amendment
martyr. What seems most shocking about their relationship is the intimacy.
"Come back to work--and life," Scooter pleaded in a letter to Judy, doing
her eighty-five days in jail. "Out west, where you vacation, the aspens
will already be turning. They turn in clusters, because their roots
connect them." Miller responded in her bizarre first-person Times account
by telling a cherished memory of Scooter. Out West, she said, a man in
sunglasses, dressed like a cowboy, approached and spoke to her: "Judy,
it's Scooter Libby."
Are Washington reporters really that close to their sources? For her part,
Miller has a "tropism toward powerful men," as Times columnist Maureen
Dowd delicately put it. This is well-known gossip in court circles, but
let's not go there. Boy reporters also suck up to powerful men with
shameful deference, wanting to be loved by the insiders so they can be
inside too (shades of the French courtiers). The price of intimacy is
collected in various coins, but older hands in the news business
understand what is being sold. The media, Christopher Dickey of Newsweek
observed in a web essay, "long ago concluded having access to power is
more important than speaking truth to it."
The elite press, like any narcissistic politician, tells a heart-warming
myth about itself. Reporters, it is said, dig out the hard facts to share
with the people by locating anonymous truth-tellers inside government.
They then protect these sources from retaliation by refusing to name them,
even at the cost of going to prison. That story line was utterly smashed
by this scandal. Reporters were prepared to go to jail to protect sources
who were not exactly whistleblowers cowering in anonymity. They were Libby
and Karl Rove--the king's own counselors at the pinnacle of government.
They were the same guys who collaborated on the bloodiest political
deception of the Bush presidency: the lies that took the country into war.
So, in a sense, the press was also protecting itself from further
embarrassment. The major media, including the best newspapers, all got the
war wrong, and for roughly the same reason--their compliant proximity to
power. With a few honorable exceptions, they bought into the lies and led
cheers for war. They ignored or downplayed the dissent from some military
leaders and declined to explore tough questions posed by anyone outside
the charmed circle. The nation may not soon forget this abuse of
privileged status, nor should it.
Leaks and whispers are a daily routine of news-gathering in Washington.
The sweet irony of President Bush's predicament is that it was partly
self-induced. His White House deputies enforced discipline on reporters
and insiders, essentially shutting down the stream of nonofficial
communications and closing the informal portals for dissent and dispute
within government. This was new in the Bush era, and it's ultimately been
debilitating. It has made reporters still more dependent on the official
spin, as the Administration wanted, but it has also sealed off the king
from the flow of high-level leaks and informative background noises that
help vet developing policies and steer reporters to the deeper news.
The paradox of our predicament is that, unlike the ancien régime, US
citizens do enjoy free speech, free press and other rights to disturb the
powerful. In this country you can say aloud or publish just about anything
you like. But will anyone hear you? The audible range of diverse and
rebellious voices has been visibly shrunk in the last generation. The
corporate concentration of media ownership has put a deadening blanket
over the usual cacophony of democracy, with dissenting voices screened for
acceptability by young and often witless TV producers. Corporate owners
have a strong stake in what gets said on their stations. Why piss off the
President when you will need his good regard for so many things? Viewers
have a zillion things to watch, but if you jump around the dial, with luck
you will always be watching a General Electric channel.
How did it happen that the multiplication of outlets made possible by
technology led to a concentration of views and opinions--ones usually
anchored by the conventional wisdom of center-right sensibilities? Where
did the "freedom" go? Where are the people's ideas and observations? Al
Gore, who found his voice after he lost the presidency, recently expressed
his sense of alarm: "I believe that American democracy is in grave danger.
It is no longer possible to ignore the strangeness of our public
discourse." The bread-and-circuses format that monopolizes the public's
airwaves is driven by a condescending commercial calculation that
Americans are too stupid to want anything more. But that assumption
becomes fragile as other voices find other venues for expression. This is
an industry crisis that will be very healthy for the society, a political
opening to rearrange access and licensing for democratic purposes.
For the faltering press, the bloggers will keep sharpening their swords,
slicing away at the established order. This is good, but the pressure will
lead to meaningful change only if the Internet artisans innovate further,
organizing new formats and techniques for networking among more diverse
people and interests. The daily feed of facts and bile from bloggers has
been wondrously effective in unmasking the pretensions of the big boys,
but the broader society needs more--something closer to the democratic
"conversations and seminars" that Gillmor envisions, and less dependent on
partisan fury and accusation.
As an ex-Luddite, I came to the web with the skepticism of an old print
guy. Against expectations, I am experiencing sustained exchanges with many
far-flung people I've never met--dialogues that inform both of us and are
utterly voluntary experiences. This is a promising new form of consent.
Democracy, I once wrote, begins not at election time but in human
Establishment newspapers like the New York Times face a special dilemma,
one they may not easily resolve. Under assault, do editors and reporters
align still more closely with the establishment interests to maintain an
air of "authority," or do they get down with folks and dish it out to the
powerful? Scandal and crisis compelled the Times to lower its veil of
authority a bit and acknowledge error (a shocking development itself). But
while the Times is in my view the best, most interesting newspaper, it
always will be establishment. For instance, it could be more honest about
its longstanding newsroom tensions between "liberals" and "neocons." What
the editors might re-examine is their own defensive concept of what's
authoritative. It is not just Bush's war that blinded sober judgment and
led to narrow coverage. In many other important areas--political decay and
global economics, among others--the Times (like other elite papers) seems
afraid to acknowledge that wider, more fundamental debate exists. It
chooses to report only one side--the side of received elite opinion.
Readers do understand--surprise!--that the Times is not infallible. A
newspaper comes out every day and gets something wrong. Tomorrow, it comes
out again and can try to get it right. In essence, that is what people and
critics already know. They are more likely to be forgiving if the
newspaper loosens up a bit and makes room for more divergent
understandings of what's happening. But as more irreverent voices elbow
their way into the "news" system, the big media are likely to lose still
more audience if they cannot get more distance from throne and power.
What will come of all this? Possibly, not much. The cluster of scandals
and breakdown may simply feed the people's alienation and resignation. The
governing elites, including major media, are in denial, unwilling to speak
honestly about the perilous economic circumstances ahead, the burgeoning
debt from global trade, the sinking of the working class and other
threatening conditions. When those realities surface, many American lives
will be upended with no available recourse and no one in authority they
can trust, since the denial and evasion are bipartisan. That's a very
dangerous situation for a society--an invitation to irrational angers and
scapegoating. It will require a new, more encompassing politics to avert
an ugly political contagion. We need more reliable "news" to recover
This article above is copyrighted material, the use of which may not have specifically authorized by the copyright owner. The material is made available in an effort to advance understanding of political, economic, democracy, First Amendment, technology, journalism, community and justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' as provided by Section 107 of U.S. Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Chapter 1, Section 107, the material above is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this blog for purposes beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.
Thursday, November 10, 2005
After 40 years as a reporter for the St. Petersburg Times, this reporter retires with a farewell ddescription of the important role journalism plays in "shining light" on public officials.
News outlets need to explain how stories are put together
News outlets need to explain how stories are put together
Sydney Schanberg says journalism's most serious failure, probably, is its
reluctance to explain how reporters go about putting together a news
story. "This lack of openness about our tradecraft -- this
non-transparency -- is really the mother of most of the press's troubles,"
he writes. ALSO: "There are a lot of ways for reporters to professionalize
their craft. Admit your goofs quickly. When writing a complex story where
a lot of information is still missing, put a paragraph high up in the
piece telling the reader all the things that are still unknown to you.
That way, you avoid the 'voice of God' syndrome we are so often
justifiably criticized for."
Read this post by ex-daily and magazine editor Amy Gahran, of Boulder, Colo., who talks about a future in which millions of children around the world may be able "blog" with each other. Will they be doing "journalism" or something else?
By Richard S. Dunham
The Patriot Act: Business Balks
It's joining critics who seek to curb the law's wide-ranging investigative powers. And Capitol Hill is listening
Las Vegas Mayor Oscar B. Goodman loves to remind visitors of Sin City's oh-so-discreet tagline: "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas." But since the New Year's celebrations ringing in 2004, he has had to modify the motto. Fearing a terrorist attack, the FBI descended on casinos, car rental agencies, storage warehouses, and other Las Vegas businesses with sheaves of "national security letters" demanding financial records covering about 1 million revelers. Startled business owners who questioned the action were told they had one choice: cough up their documents or wind up in court.
Now, a somber Mayor Goodman acknowledges, what happens in Vegas may end up staying in an FBI computer. "It's Kafkaesque," he says. "The central component to our economy is privacy protection. People are here to have a good time and don't want to worry about the government knowing their business."
STRANGE COALITION. The FBI carried out its document hunt under the Patriot Act, the anti-terrorism law passed hurriedly in the aftermath of September 11. The act allows investigators to demand that businesses turn over sensitive financial records, without specifying the investigation's target or why the files are needed. The outfit receiving a letter is permanently gagged, prohibited by law from ever disclosing that the feds came calling.
Indeed, the statute is silent on whether company officials who receive an order can call a lawyer or appeal to a judge -- although the Justice Dept. says it always allows businesses to seek legal recourse, behind closed doors and without the person appealing present. "Businesses want to cooperate in the war on terrorism, but this type of unchecked government power goes a little over the line," says Bob Shepler, director of corporate finance at the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM).
With most provisions of the Patriot Act due to expire at yearend, the Administration has been urging Congress to make its temporary police powers permanent. But an odd coalition is trying to scale back the government's reach -- and it may be making headway. On Nov. 9, word came from Capitol Hill that the rising chorus of civil liberties complaints could produce a deal to temper some of the law's more intrusive features.
THOUSANDS OF LETTERS. If that happens, corporate interests can notch up part of the victory to savvy lobbying. Concerned about the circumvention of due process guarantees -- and about hefty compliance costs -- a half-dozen prominent business groups have joined with the American Civil Liberties Union to push Congress to narrow the law's scope. What's surprising in today's with-me-or-against-me Washington is that the coalition includes such Bush allies as NAM, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the National Association of Realtors.
"These are not groups that normally take on this Administration," says Susan Hackett, general counsel of the Association of Corporate Counsel, a coalition member that represents companies' in-house lawyers. "People in the business community clearly are worried."
Administration officials insist they haven't overreached. "The Patriot Act allows us to get a very limited set of records," contends one Justice official. "We are not inclined to ask courts to endorse fishing expeditions, and courts are loath to do so." Department officials say that judges have granted them access to business records under Section 215 of the Patriot Act just 35 times in the first 3 1/2 years of the law, adding that those orders involved only data on driver's licenses, public accommodations, apartment leases, credit cards, and telephone use.
DATA LEAKS? But Justice also enjoys broader clout under the Act's Section 505 -- an expansion of national security letters, issued without a court order. Since 2001 the feds have served as many as 30,000 letters a year, according to Administration sources and civil libertarians. Despite the volume of requests, one Justice official says: "There has not been a single verified abuse of any Patriot Act authority."
Still, corporate lobbyists and business groups are increasingly concerned about the law's cost and potential for abuse. The business alliance spelled out its reform agenda in an Oct. 4 letter to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (R-Pa.). The groups argue that the Patriot Act's Sections 215 and 505 "allow the federal government to require voluminous and often sensitive records...without [public] judicial oversight or other meaningful checks on the government's power."
They say that compliance with the demands puts confidential financial data, trade secrets, and other proprietary information at risk. Another concern: the fear that multinationals could land in legal trouble abroad -- particularly in Europe -- for violating stringent privacy laws there if they comply with U.S. government demands for financial records.
"EXTREMELY BROAD." The businesses with the most at risk are real estate agents, car dealers, casinos, jewelers, boat dealers, travel agencies, insurance brokers, Internet service providers, and pawnbrokers -- all deemed to be financial institutions under a broad definition approved by Congress in 2003. "Our customers must be comfortable that sensitive financial information will remain confidential," says Tom Heinemann, a policy analyst at the Realtors' association. "Our industry wants to make sure that there are appropriate checks and balances in place to protect access to those kinds of records."
What's more, the business groups contend that the Patriot Act, as written, gives the feds carte blanche to rifle through corporate records. One worry: Like police searching a car trunk after a traffic stop, the feds could discover evidence of unrelated crimes or securities law breaches when they rummage through business records. "The sweep of government power is extremely broad," says Lisa Graves, senior counsel at the ACLU. "When you've got a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail."
Business groups say they already are getting pounded. They argue in their Oct. 4 letter that the law "does not impose any limit on the breadth of records" demanded by federal agents, and they are seeking "a meaningful right to challenge the order when the order is unreasonable, oppressive, or seeks privileged [business] information." The coalition has urged Congress to give companies the right to seek court permission to lift the act's lifetime gag orders, an idea that may be taking hold.
DEAF EARS. Few of these complaints are registering with the usually business-friendly Bush Administration. The Justice Dept. says that business has all the protections it needs. "There are sufficient safeguards that many choose to ignore," Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales told the Senate Judiciary Committee at an April hearing. Among those: a right to appeal to a secret court and a limited right to counsel to comply with or challenge an order. Gonzales now favors including those guarantees in the rewritten Patriot Act, which will be finalized by House and Senate negotiators scheduled to meet for the first time on Nov. 10.
But Gonzales is likely to be disappointed by many of the other provisions negotiators are now hammering out. Both the Senate and House versions of the measure would allow a judge to modify an FBI order that was deemed unreasonably burdensome on a business. And on Nov. 9, the House directed its team to accept Senate-passed provisions setting a four-year sunset clause on many of the Patriot Act's key provisions, despite Administration opposition.
In final negotiations, the Senate is pushing its House counterparts to incorporate most of the safeguards sought by commercial interests. One big victory for the corporate coalition came on Nov. 9 when House negotiators agreed to permit businesses or individuals to seek judicial review of national security letters. Senate leaders believe they have an agreement on another top business concern: limiting the power of law enforcement to keep company records on file forever. A tentative deal would require investigators to return or destroy lists they've obtained, such as those covering airline passengers or casino customers, if the terror tip turns out to be a dud.
FRAYED TIES. Less certain is the fate of a Senate-passed requirement that the FBI link the specific records that it's seeking to a specific suspect. The Administration is fighting to maintain its current power. The changes sought by business "are overly complex and will lead to litigation difficulties [in pursuing terrorist suspects] because it will require the courts to engage in a more complicated legal review," one senior Administration official argues. As BusinessWeek went to press on Nov. 9, congressional leadership sources said that no final deal had been cut on the sensitive issue.
In one area, business appears to be losing: Neither version addresses corporate concerns about exposing trade secrets or breaching customer privacy.
Corporate reps in Washington acknowledge that they had qualms about the Patriot Act from the start but say they didn't want to speak out against the key legislative underpinning of the war on terrorism immediately after September 11. But with George W. Bush's approval rating now hovering below 40%, Hill Republicans may have decided that it's wiser to stand up for their corporate donors than to stick with their embattled President. READER COMMENTS
Copyright 2000-2004, by The McGraw-Hill Companies Inc. All rights reserved.
SCHEDULE: v2.0 Issues in Journalism running assignments, agenda
Thurs., Nov. 10 -- Minutes by Jose Vergara
-- DISCUSS: What is status of giraffe profiles? Please email me
-- ADVICE: Get started reading your optional book now
-- Go over emails about visit of iBrattleboro couple
-- Discuss ppgs. 9-32 of Kovach and Rosenstiel: "Elements of Journalism"
-- Visit by Eesha Williams, "grassroots journalist."
-- Discussion: What is journalism? What is "grassroots" journalism?
ASSIGNMENT FOR TUESDAY: Use Williams visit and McChesney discussion in
Chap. 6 to write a 200-word essay describing the U.S. media system you
would put in place if you had complete control to re-design government
policies and regulation and media ownership. What values or objectives
would you try to achieve? Email by 6 p.m., Monday, Nov. 14.
SECOND ASSIGNMENT FOR TUESDAY: Read Kovach/Rosenstiel Ch. 2/3 ppgs. 36-68
Tues., Nov. 15 -- Minutes by Nicole Conte
-- 8 a.m. -- Discuss media-system essays
-- 8:15 a.m. -- Discuss Kovach/Rosenstiel ppgs. 36-68
-- 8:30 a.m. -- Guest discussion leader: Fred Daley, editor and co-owner,
Hill Country Observer, on issues of small-newspaper
ownership and editing. Is this the future of journalism?
ASSIGNMENT FOR THURSDAY -- Read ppgs. 70-90 of Kovach Rosenstiel
Thurs., Nov. 17 -- Minutes by Steve Beverly
-- 8:00 a.m. -- There will be a 15-minute, in-class quiz with three
questions about the first 90 pages of Kovach/Rosenstiel. We'll then
exchange and discuss each other's answers for 15 minutes.
-- 8:30 a.m. -- Begin film, "Orwell Rolls in his Grave."
ASSIGNMENT FOR TUESDAY -- Read ppgs. 94-129 of Kovach/Rosenstiel
Tues., Nov. 22 -- Minutes by Kara Tajima
-- 8 a.m. -- DISCUSS: Kovach-Rosenstiel
-- 8:15 a.m. -- Watch the rest of Orwell Rolls in his Grave."
ASSIGNMENT FOR NOV 29: Email by Monday, Nov. 28, 6 p.m. a 200-word review
of Orwell Rolls in His Grave."
ASSIGNMENT FOR NOV. 29: Read the rest of Kovach-Rosenstiel
over Thanksgiving break -- ppgs. 131-198.
Tues., Nov. 29 -- Minutes by Matt Nolan
ASSIGNMENT: Finish Kovack / Rosenstiel, pages 131-198 (over break)
Thurs., Dec. 1 -- Minutes by Sarah Smith
ASSIGMENT: Begin reading from Dan Gillmor's "We Media." Exact pages to be
assignment. Work on Giraffe interviews.
Tues., Dec. 6 -- Minutes by Emily McSweeney
ASSIGNMENT: Read Dan Gillor's book, "We Media."
Work on giraffe interviews
Thurs., Dec. 8 -- Minutes by Jose Vergara
ASSIGNMENT: Read Dan Gillor's book, "We Media."
work on giraffe interviews
Tues., Dec. 13 -- Minutes by Nicole Conte
ASSIGNMENT: Finish Dan Gillmor's book, "We Media."
work on giraffe interviews
Thurs., Dec. 15 --
ASSIGNMENT: 500-700 word book report due on your alternate book
Tuned Out, Mindich -- Steve Beverly, Emily McSweeny
Smart Mobs, Rheingold -- Matt Nolan, Kara Tajima
Revolution, Trippi -- Sarah Smith, Jose Vergara
America's Right Turn , Viguerie -- Bill Densmore, Nichole Conte
Tues., Dec. 20 --
ASSIGNMENT: Present giraffe interviews
Thurs., Dec. 22--
FINAL EXAM: 8 a.m.-10 a.m. Bowman 203
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
Wednesday, November 09, 2005
Last week, the giant Internet search company Google made available online thousands of works of literature and history, ranging from Shakespeare plays to obscure Civil War documents. This was just the first batch of many to come. As part of a $150-million collaboration with five major libraries, Google plans to scan millions more books and make them accessible in whole or in part (depending on whether they are still under copyright) from personal computers. (Related: Opposing view)
This project has excited scholars, librarians and other dedicated bookworms, who see Google's program as a revolutionary research tool and a way to promote reading. It has also prompted lawsuits from publishers and authors, who see it as a colossal copyright infringement.
The publishers are not without reasonable arguments, but Google's are better. Copyright law specifically allows limited copying of protected material for purposes that serve the public — such as commentary, news reporting, teaching and scholarship — and Google's plan has broad public benefits. It will greatly expand the universe of knowledge online and could renew interest in out-of-print books.
What's more, a ruling that Google needs the specific permission from publishers to index a minimum of information could call into question the very notion of search engines. The fight seems unnecessary. Compared with the film and music industries, which have lobbied Congress extensively for punitive and unworkable anti-copying legislation, book publishers have a more practical and positive outlook on the digital age. When not fighting with Google over its library program, several publishers are collaborating with the company to index the books they have for sale.
The publishers' reaction to Google's library program is reminiscent of that of moviemakers to the VCR.
In 1984, the film industry came within a single vote on the U.S. Supreme Court of a virtual ban on VCRs, an outcome that would look foolish today from almost any perspective.
Just as videocassettes soon became a major revenue source for the movie studios, Google's library program will stimulate interest in books that will help publishers profit.
In Google's book search engine, a keyword query that leads to a copyrighted work would produce only a few lines of text responsive to the search. These snippets can be useful research tools — and powerful inducements to buy whole books.
The publishers argue that the mere act of copying requires permission, even if Google does not plan to make more than snippets available. That is an extreme argument that rejects key copyright principles. Google's limited use of the material and the broad public interest it serves fall under a legal principle known as "fair use."
Publishers also argue that it should not be up to Google to determine how big the excerpts are. That argument is hardly new to the Google project. Copyright owners and institutions that invoke fair-use privileges have fought for decades about how much appropriation of others' works is reasonable.
Security is also an issue. Because Google and the participating libraries would have complete copyrighted works in their files, they have a responsibility to protect them from hackers.
These are not trivial concerns, but they are not reasons to quash the whole program. The ability to browse millions of books from anywhere is a world-altering tool. It would be a shame if it's stunted in its infancy.
PUBLISHED RESPONSE FROM PAT SCHROEDER, CEO OF THE AMERICAN ASSOCIATION OF PUBLISHERS (book publishers):
Lack of sense and sensibility
By Pat Schroeder
Publishers and authors embrace emerging technologies. We do not think that innovation should have stopped with Gutenberg and moveable type. We recognize the benefits of the Internet to people everywhere and to us, as creators and as sellers of books. (Related: Our view)
We part ways with Google because of its cavalier attitude toward the legal rights of others. All that publishers and authors want from the Google Print Library is to get our permission before they scan and make available our work to the world for free.
Some publishers and authors may jump at the chance. Others may not. What is often lost in the battle of words is the fact that it should be incumbent on Google to ask, not incumbent on publishers and authors to figure out the Byzantine "opt-out" option Google purports to present.
This would seem to be a fairly simple and straightforward concept. You want something from someone that he legally owns, you ask permission. Just taking something because you want it is commonly called stealing.
Google wants us to believe this is all part of a utopian vision where the world's written works (and indeed all information) are available for free.
Google did not become the multi-billion dollar giant it is by giving away anything for free. What Google executives continually neglect to say is they will charge advertisers plenty of money to put ads on their site as you navigate your way to the Print Library. So Google gets even wealthier by illegally using the copyrighted works of people who get nothing in return. At best, this is intellectual embezzlement. At worst, it is a violation of rights grounded in the Constitution, in which the Framers saw fit to specifically protect our nation's creators.
Google jealously guards its own intellectual property rights for its search-engine software. Surely, the world would benefit ifeveryone had access to how Google works for free so anyone could search without having to read all those advertisements Google sells. How about that, Google? Fair is fair.
Former Democratic congresswoman Pat Schroeder is president and chief executive officer of the Association of American Publishers.
QUOTE: Robert Fisk on American journalism's failure to challenge authority
On November 9, 2005, Amy Goodman, the host of the weekday U.S. news program "Democracy Now!" interviewed Robert Fisk, author of "The Great War for Civilization," and a veteran war correspondent. Fisk has written for the London Independent, and is based in Beirut, Lebanon. Goodman asked Fisk for his views on the American press, and in particular a decision by the editors of The Washington Post not to give the names of two nation's where it is alleged the United States takes political prisoners for torture. Here is a transcript of that portion of the interview, as provided by Democracy Now!.
AMY GOODMAN: What do you make of the Washington Post exposing a secret C.I.A. prison in Eastern Europe, and yet complying with the Pentagon's request?
ROBERT FISK: Yes, but they wouldn't say where they were, would they? In fact, the prisons are about 100 miles from Warsaw in Poland and also quite a considerable way from Bucharest, but in Romania. It was very amusing to find that the Washington Post would not say that Poland and Romania were the two countries involved, and most American journalists have fought shy of saying that. But Poland and Romania are the two democracies where these people are taken for torture by the C.I.A.
AMY GOODMAN: And what do you make of them complying with the Pentagon request not to name the countries?
ROBERT FISK: Well, this is the same problem that's existed all along with American journalism. And that is this osmotic, parasitic relationship between the press or journalists, in general, and power, where to criticize your country's foreign policy, especially when it's war, is seen as a form of unpatriotic behavior and thus of potential subversion. Add to this the sort of American school of journalism, where everyone has to have 50% of each story, each side, which is ridiculous. The victims should be the subject of the story if we have any kind of compassion at all as human beings. When we reach this stage, I think, you know, journalism ceases to perform its function.
What we should be doing is challenging authority, which is what Helen [Thomas] was trying to do in that clip we just saw from the White House press conference. But if you want to see the normal White House press conference, you'll quickly see the relationship between the journalist and the President. It will be "Mr. President! Mr. President! Mr. President!". And then George W. Bush will say, "John," "Amy," "Bob," whoever it might be, right? That is the relationship that exists now, and it should be much more combative. You know, Amira Hass, the very fine Israeli journalist, a friend of mine, we were discussing the purpose of being a foreign correspondent about two years or so ago, and I was going on about, you know, "We write the first pages of history," in my Brit way. And she said, "No, Robert, our job is to monitor the centers of power." And we don't do that.
Tuesday, November 08, 2005
NOTES: McChesney Chapter 6: Media Policies and Media Reform
Government policies determine media systems in three ways:
-- The setting of technical standards (example, banking industry in the
current news; recently example rules for high-definition digital television)
-- Open access to cable: -- pg 217 -- an activists download
quality articles in their community if nobody is uploading it? Can
big-media reshape regulation of the net in ways which make it hard for
local media to flourish -- example, bill that would eliminate ability of
local communities to regulate public-access cable.
-- Laws about media ownership (anti-trust / FCC rules) affects value of
-- Telecom Act of 1996 -- more spectrum for incumbents --
especially radio -- see page 215
-- Laws that control copyright affect the amount of profit that copyright
owners can receive and how they control their assets (example: Mickey Mouse)
LOCAL BLOGS: Website provides links to U.S. local-news blogs
BLOGS: Blogs defined -- will they ever become vessels for journalism?
POSTED: Sat Nov 5 2005
Are blogs just web journals or a new form of journalism?
By ALEJANDRO SALINAS
FLAT HAT VARIETY EDITOR
Kevin Federline, Britneys dancing ape of a husband, has once again become a
public laughing stock granting Tara Reid a nice sabbatical from the full-time job. The latest from K-ed: a couple of music tracks recorded by the dancer that,
apparently, not even Brit herself could digest with a straight face. The
album was leaked on the internet and, Stereogum,
a gossipy and savagely humorous music blog, had the skinny: a sample of Yall
aint ready, K-Feds first single.
Stereogum, with its sharp commentary, witty banter and exclusive (and often
illegal) content, is just one of the many
examples illustrating the rapid expansion and emerging influence of blogs.
According to Forbes online edition which,
incidentally, selected Stereogum as one of the best music blogs there are
currently over 14 million blogs online, and the
growth rate is that of about 1,200 per day.
Started as personal online journals think livejournal, xanga, myspace, xuqa,
etc. blogs (short for weblogs) have become
an influential medium, seeping into every aspect of society. There are blogs
dedicated to sophisticated albeit partisan
political discussions (www.tpmcafe.com). There are blogs dedicated
exclusively to puppetry (puppetvision.blogspot.com).
There are blogs for the literary-inclined (www.mediabistro.com/galleycat),
and there are blogs for those who just really
like kites (steadywinds.com). In fact, the blogospheres presence is such,
that the word blog officially made it to the
Oxford English Dictionary in 2003.
Though its defined as a frequently updated website or online journal
typically run by a single person, this is becoming
less and less the case as more blogs continue to cement their presence and
begin to rival other established forms of
media. While countless online blogs are essentially rubbish, a select number
have cultivated large followings and are
accomplishing the unexpected: generating revenue through advertising. Many
of these sites, like magazines and newspapers,
are currently run by a staff and even attract special contributors such as
Senator and former vice-presidential candidate
John Edwards. The latest example of the growing economic clout of the
blogosphere? America Online Inc.s recent purchase
of 85 blogging sites owned by Weblogs Inc. The deal, meant to boost AOLs
blog presence on the internet, is estimated at
Realizing the power of expression blogs offer to the public, large
newspapers and magazines across the country have and
continue to develop sections on their websites dedicated exclusively to this
feature. The Stranger, Seattles alternative
newspaper, has a specific forum, the SLOG, on which its staff members and
columnists post entries on a regular basis. The
Washington Post does something similar: though the papers website does not
have a blog section of its own, almost every
article is accompanied by links to numerous outside blogs discussing similar
or related topics.
The Stranger and The Posts move for integration reflects the growing
concern most traditional forms of media are
experiencing as blogs begin to compete for market share.
A blogs immediate nature, alongside the possibility of interactivity, make
it an attractive medium for those interested
in finding reactions to happenings of the day. Additionally, a blogs forum
style far less restrictive than most print
journals and newspapers can also play a significant role in attracting
Yet, while the lack of stylistic restrictions might make blogs attractive to
some people, their general lack of any sort
of regulation or set of guidelines brings up an important issue:
credibility. Unlike magazines, newspapers and other
sorts of media, blogs can present (in this case, post) any kind of
information, regardless of its veracity. With no ones
reputation on the line, bogus stories can easily emerge.
Distinguishing between the real and the concocted in blogs becomes almost
impossible, as Paul Ford, an editor for Harpers
Magazine, recently demonstrated. In an article in The New York Times, Ford
revealed himself to be the creator of Gary
Benchley, a fictitious character whose blog about a passionate desire to
join an indie rock band had attracted a large
number of readers. Many of these readers, including a Times editor who had
invited Benchley to consider writing for the
paper, had no idea Benchley was a fabrication of Ford.
In addition to issues of accuracy, blogs can and have easily become forums
for flagrant personal attacks and political
For better or worse, blogging functions in democratic fashion, allowing
everyone to voice their opinion and placing power
and authority once exclusive to the press into the hands of the general
public. Still in its infancy, it remains to be
seen whether blogging will develop into a new, more engaging form of
journalism with an immediate and (hopefully)
accurate feedback loop, or if it will just end up as another vehicle for
people to (justifiably) mock poor, dumb K-Fed.
Copyright © 2005-2006, The Flat Hat
Monday, November 07, 2005
ASSIGNMENT: Viewing schedule for "Good Night, and Good Luck"
Kara Tajima provides this information:
I just wanted to let you know that the movie plays at Images on Spring
St. Willimastown, MA, until 11/17/05 it shows twice a night at 7PM and
9PM, except tonight they only have the 7PM show (I am attending). It also
shows on Sat./Sun./Wed. at 4:30 matinee show.
Sunday, November 06, 2005
He writes at:
"Here are some of the ways in which blogs stand out from other journalistic media:
One, a blogger has flexibility of space. In a magazine or a newspaper, a journalist is constrained by length – he can’t write too much and, in instances where he might want to share a vignette or a telling observation, he can’t write too little. On a blog, that isn’t an issue.
Two, a blog can contain multitudes. Whenever I write about something or someone, I can insert hyperlinks in my text that allow the reader to go deeper into whatever it is I’m talking about. For example, an obituary of MS Subbulakshmi in print allows you to read just what one writer has written, but an obituary on a blog can link the reader to pieces that expand upon different strands of her life. It can link you to audio clips of her singing, to pictures of her online, to profiles written on her, all without breaking the narrative flow of the text. As a reader, I feel empowered by that. A print journalist can tell you about a journey, but a blogger can take you on one.
Three, a blog has immediacy. When I reported on things that I saw in Tamil Nadu, I did not have to file a despatch to some editor somewhere with a time-lag of hours before it appeared. I could post it on my blog as soon as I finished writing it, from where other bloggers linked to it, and quoted from it, around the world, well before the next news cycle began. Even television reporters do not have such freedom – and video-blogs might well be the next wave.
Four, a blogger has the option to adopt a much more personal tone than a journalist can. Most print publications have a house style which journalists have to adhere to, but on a blog, he can express himself as he wishes, which, in turn, increases the degree of familiarity that readers feel towards him.
Five, blogs are often interactive. An article in print is a journalist talking to a reader. A post on a blog, on the other hand, can be the starting point of a discussion. Discussions on sites that have comments enabled, like AnarCapLib and The Examined Life, are often intelligent, informative and enlightening, with the readers adding enormous value to what the blogger has to say. Everybody learns, and grows, in the process."
November 6, 2005
The Public Editor
Cracks in the Wall Between Advertising and News
By BYRON CALAME
WEAK advertising demand and higher costs are squeezing most newspapers these days. The New York Times Company's sharp drop in third-quarter earnings and its plan to eliminate hundreds of jobs provide ample evidence of the revenue-cost pinch at this paper's corporate parent.
The search for revenue, not surprisingly, means the advertising staff of The Times is scrambling ever harder to come up with attractive new options for advertisers. Sometimes that can lead to pressures to let advertisers tie their pitches more closely to the credibility of the news columns. And that can blur the distinction between advertising and articles - risking erosion of the readers' right to assume that the news columns are pure journalism, both in print and online.
Why is the line between news and advertising so important? I hold to the traditional view, that readers trust a paper more when there's a clear separation. Advertisers are attracted to readers who trust what's in the news columns. And the resulting revenue enables the newspaper to keep providing high-quality journalism.
Advertising, of course, is the major source of revenue for newspapers. Although The Times doesn't break out the numbers, advertising appears to account for about twice as much revenue as circulation does.
The sky isn't falling at The Times. But I see a few worrisome indications that advertisers are being allowed to tap into the credibility of the news columns in ways that slip over the line.
It would be difficult to find a clearer example of the mingling of real news and advertising than the "watermark" ads The Times started offering in late September. Advertising images are printed faintly underneath a full page of stock-price quotations, with a conventional ad stripped across the bottom. There is little distinction left between news and advertising in the ads, which many editors refer to as "shadow" ads.
Prudential Financial's well-known rock logo showed up underneath a full page of stock and mutual fund quotations in one of the early watermark ads in The Times on Oct. 6. It was especially hard to miss for any reader seeking information on that page. And if you happened to be a Citigroup shareholder checking the price of your stock, you would have found it buried in the middle of a competitor's logo.
"Our new branded watermark unit reflects The Times's ongoing commitment to deliver high impact advertising opportunities and value to our customers," Jyll F. Holzman, the senior vice president of advertising, said in announcing the offering last month. Three of the ads - priced at $41,850 each on the paper's rate card - have appeared so far, and several are already scheduled to run each month through January. A comparable regular full-page ad in the Business Day section costs about $119,000.
The Times's limits on the use of the watermark ads ease my mind a bit. Among them: only one ad per day, and only on a page in the Business Day section devoted entirely to tabular information. But I worry about the proverbial camel's nose as I read in the American Society of Newspaper Editors magazine that The Philadelphia Inquirer has decided to accept shadow ads behind sports statistics and movie directories as well as financial tables. And The Times's move seems likely to embolden more newspapers to decide it must be O.K.
Before The Times takes watermark ad reservations beyond next year's first quarter, I hope senior editors and advertising executives review the effect on both readers and advertisers. If any signs emerge that reader perceptions of the independence of the news columns are being eroded, I hope alarms would go off in the newsroom at least. And I certainly intend to be watching.
In the online world, the relationship between journalism and advertising deserves special scrutiny because the foundation is being laid for the way news will be delivered far into the future. That's one reason I'm concerned by ads on nytimes.com that are built around or include "A Sponsored Archive" of articles from The Times. I fear readers accustomed to seeing lists of related articles on the news pages of nytimes.com will think these sponsored archives also reflect the newsroom's judgment.
One of the key features of nytimes.com is the editors' ability to offer readers easy links to earlier articles that can provide valuable perspective with just a couple of clicks. Typically, these have been carefully chosen to round out the current day's articles.
But the sponsored archives of Times articles in the online ads haven't been selected by anyone in the newsroom. Rather, the articles in sponsored archives are chosen by the advertiser or someone it hires to handle the task. And that is not always made clear enough.
One such ad for a pharmaceutical company earlier this year, for example, offered an archive of Times articles related to health and cholesterol. While I couldn't see that discontinued ad's archive, I think there's little chance that readers using it would have found any unfavorable articles about the advertiser or its products.
In at least one recent ad, I found the disclaimer about the selection of the sponsored archive so tiny as to be barely readable on the screen: "The editorial staff of The New York Times was not involved in the production of this feature." Responding to my query about the readability of the disclaimer, a spokeswoman for nytimes.com assured me in an e-mail message Wednesday that changes would be made. "We will highlight the disclosure further to avoid any confusion by users," she wrote.
Finally, there's the cat-and-mouse routine that has been going on between news and advertising staffs at newspapers as long as I can remember. There are almost always some advertisers interested in buying an ad designed to look like a news page, and their clout increases when demand is slow. The basic idea is to lure readers to an ad that seems at first glance to be just another news article.
The Times has detailed rules for such potentially confusing ads that are enforced by the two-person office of advertising acceptability, often in consultation with the paper's standards editor, Allan M. Siegal. To help alert readers to an ad that looks too much like a news presentation, for instance, the word "Advertisement" must run at the top.
But there was no such label on a full-page ad in a September issue of the Book Review section that was made to look like a review of a book of poetry. And when I looked back over 2005, I found other text-laden full-page ads from a different advertiser in the Book Review section that also lacked the label.
It turns out the poetry-book ad had slipped past the office of advertising acceptability. But Mr. Siegal had spotted the ad in the paper and reminded those involved of the rules by the time I queried him about it. The most recent text-laden Book Review ad I checked had the word "Advertisement" twice at the top.
That heartening development in the effort to maintain the bright line between news and ads is quickly overtaken, however, by a disheartening one: half of the advertising acceptability staff will likely disappear in the current round of job cuts.
The public editor serves as the readers' representative. His opinions and conclusions are his own. His column appears at least twice monthly in this section.
Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company
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CLASS NOTES: Thurs., Nov. 3 -- visit of Mark Miller
Notes by Sara Smith and Bill Densmore
Former Berkshire Eagle co-owner Mark Miller visited the class on Thursday,
ostensibly to talk about the influence of advertising on the media. This
was to be in conjunction with the reading of Chapter 4 of Robert
McChesney's book, on hypercommercialization.
As Mark arrived, we were listening to an interview from "Fresh Air" with
George Clooney, producer and co-star of the movie "Good Night, and Good
Luck," about Edward R. Murrow. Mark mentioned that Fred W. Friendly,
portrayed in the film by Clooney, formerly lived in Stockbridge.
Miller suggested two books for reading:
"Scoop," by Evelyn Waugh.
A NOVEL ABOUT JOURNALISTS written in 1938
Evelyn Waugh - Author
224 pages | ISBN 0141187492
'The funniest novel ever written about journalism ... a romping comedy of
errors' -- The Observer
Lord Copper, newspaper magnate and proprietor of the Daily Beast, has
always prided himself on his intuitive flair for spotting ace reporters.
That is not to say he has not made the odd blunder, however, and may in a
moment of weakness make another. Acting on a dinner-party tip from Mrs
Algernon Stitch, he feels convinced that he has hit on just the chap to
cover a promising little war in the African Republic of Ishmaelia. One of
Waugh's most exuberant comedies, Scoop is a brilliantly irreverent satire
of Fleet Street and its hectic pursuit of hot news.
He also mentioned, "The Powers that Be," by David Halberstam
Paperback: 771 pages
Publisher: University of Illinois Press; Reprint edition (October, 2000)
Miller told the story of Lillian Marcantil (spelling?) of the Berkshire
Consumer Advocates, about whom the Eagle wrote a profile in the mid-1980s.
Two weeks later the ad director of the newspaper said local car dealers
were planning to reduce their advertising in the paper to "space saver"
contract levels. This went for a period, then the advertising came back.
Miller said his family chose not to write about the incident, and the move
had no influence on the newsroom. Car dealers were saying they didn't
want to be covered in a critical way. When it comes to covering business,
American newsrooms tend to be on a tight leash, so as not to upset
advertisers. Miller is not saying this is right, but that this is just the
way it is.
Advertisers and corporations have enormous clout with coverage. Newspapers
own their own prsses, but not coverage.
On Global Warming (see earlier post), Miller says it is the most uncovered
critical story today; he things the influence of the automobile industry
is a big reason for this.
Miller referenced a Nov. 2, 2005 special report on PBS:
Newspapers are private businesses, their first obligation is to stay in
business and revenue comes almost entirely from advertising. If
newspapers were funded by an endowed trust they might be more likely to
cover business more critically, less afraid to make critical statements
about business, but not much less afraid. But they would still be inclined
to be generally supportive of private enterprise as that's what makes a
community turn. It's a challenge to cover business because information
access is not mandated by law.
With ownership concentration, ad agencies are making corporate-level
deals. The agencies will look at the coverage a paper provide on their
clients' business and may withhold advertising because of it. There is an
insittutional requirement for papers to take a hands-off approach when
dealing with big-business for fear of losing ads. To what extent should
newsrooms be held accountable to the ad department for their stories? At
the Eagle, the accountability was quite informal -- personal relationships
between the editor and advertising and publishing executives.
The media's credibility and legitimacy is now at stake. One fact that
exists now is bloggers. This is freedom of the press in a different form,
without the press. But Miller does not view blogging as journalism. He
says a 100-watt radio station formerly limited to a tiny broadcast area
can now be streamed to the world on the Internet. This bypasses main
On the future of journalism, Miller distinguishes between public supported
programs and commercially supported programs.
it may be that to break a story or indulge in "change the world" work,
future journalists will have to do it on their own time, making their
livelihood elsewhere. Miller sees news as something that reaches the
point where it touches the powers that be and they can no longer ignore
-- notes by Sara Smith and Bill Densmore
POSSIBLE DISCUSSION TOPIC: Obligation to report need vs. want
In his mid-term, Matt Nolan raised the question: Should reporters cover
what people need to know or want to know. Can they be made to be the same?
COMMENTS: Mid-term exam answers; grading complete
I have reviewed and graded your mid-term exam efforts, and written brief
comments, and will hand them out on Tuesday. Here are some observations:
-- In general, I thought some of the responses were shallow, and I would
like your feedback, as a group in class, on whether the questions were too
broad, or our preparation inaequately for you to write thorough essays.
-- A couple of you raised in different contexts the question of how one
judges the quality of news. This is a topic which I would like to set for
a class discussion. I would like your help figuring out useful resources
to guide the discussion.
-- Both of you who addressed the question of the nuclear-reactor facility
visit distinguished between the ethical obligation of the journalist when
talking one-on-one with a person, from a site visit available to the
public of the sort the question involves. I think this raises an important
point, and that is the journalist's moral or ethical obligation to his or
her source -- how strong is it, when does it attach and what are its
characteristics. This is also a subject we'll discuss in class; I am going
to see if I can find a reading on it.
-- Regarding Project Censored. A portion of the question was how PC might
create more impact about what it is doing. I was struct that both
respondents said they were shocked and dismayed that they didn't know
about the stories which PC details. How do we make sure EVERYONE knows
about these uncovered stories? Let's discuss.
-- What does Bob McChesney want? When one of you took question No. 9, you
didn't answer. Based on our readings, how about this? He wants more
effective government regulation which curbs the power of big media, levels
market playing fields and creates a pool of money to support public media.
ABOUT BLOGS AND JOURNALISTS
-- Two of you took question No. 3 about blogs and what makes a journalist.
And your answers were insightful.
"I say that a journalist is someone that has a great knowledge in their
field, reports news without bias, carries years of training, and provides
the public with a better understanding of the present world. A blogger is
just not a journalist. I have seen blogs that can report the news just
like any newspaper can. But what bloggers seem to care for is not the
recognition but the title. Wanting this should not be a priority. First,
blogs need to be an established news source for us to even consider their
producers journalist. The creation of a web site should not entitle
someone to a privilege. Blogs should be given more time to become more
reliable. The way the media are covering and reporting the news now,
becoming a reliable news source shouldn't take too long."
"If a journalist is anyone with an opinion that writes it down, then all
bloggers would be journalists. My definition ofa journalist is someone
that reports on events in order to provide public knowledge. With this
definition, I would be forced to inclde all bloggers as real journalists.
I feel hesitant to include bloggers in the same category as someone who
writes for a newspaper or reports on television. there needs to be some
separation between bloggers and other journalists. I guess this is because
bloggers seem to be a little less professional than other forms of media.
it's really up to the people to decide which of their news is credible and
which is not. I definitely feel that "citizen journalists" at OhMyNews are
ON THE NEED FOR RATING SYSTEM
-- Sara commented in answering one question said that Wikipedia "is manned
by multiple people, [so] readers can rest assured they are not getting one
organization's agenda thrown at them." But she failed to note that we
don't know who writes WikiPedia articles, and so there is little ability
to judge the accuracy of what they are writing, except to assume that if
it were wrong, someone else would edit the Wiki page and fix it.
-- Steve commented it would be great if there were a system to decided
which journalist [or bloggers] are more credible than others, "but until
then I suppose that decision will be put on the shoulders of the viewers."
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
FYI ONLY / LINKS: To Elizabeth Kolbert and global warming
When Mark Miller visited us on Thursday, he mentioned his view that global
warming is the most important single news story facing the planet.
Elizabeth Kolbert, a former New York Times journalist who now free-lances
for The New Yorker magazine and other publications, lives in Williamstown.
I am going to try to get her to come visit our class and talk about why
global warming is not covered on front pages daily.
Meanwhile, here are some links.
Here is a Sept. 19, 2005, update by Kolbert, from the New Yorker, on what
less Katrina teaches about global warming:
An interview on the New Yorker site with Kolbert about her series:
Link to a PDF download of the entire three-part series:
Story about scientific opposition to global-warming research:
An excellent blog report on the series:
Here is a very critical letter about Betsy's series, claiming she wrote "a long
editorial on behalf of government intervention to stamp out carbon dioxide."
It's written by Jude Wanniski, who died in August, and was a Wall Street
Journal op/ed columnist and "supply side economy" advisor to Reagan:
Here is a link to a teaching/curriculum resource site which does a nice job of
extracting Kolbert's series key points:
Elizabeth Kolbert's fall, 2004, interview with New York Attorney General Eliot
Tom's Dispatch column about Kolbert's piece:
-- bill densmore