Saturday, December 10, 2005

BOOK REVIEW: Do McChesney-Nichols blame government for media crisis?

Or search "Book blames government for media crisis" at
Posted on Fri, Dec. 09, 2005

The Associated Press

NEW YORK - As with lots of pressing issues people grapple with, complaints about the media invite a partisan clash: liberal vs. conservative; Democrat vs. Republican. Or some other "us" against a readily targeted "them."

But maybe there's a more useful, even unifying mind-set: to see the media delivery system for news, entertainment and other programming as being skewed in a cross-the-board, nondoctrinaire way. The media industry is catered to by government policies that ill serve all media consumers, "us" and "them" alike, a new book charges.

"The media crisis is not due to incompetent or corrupt journalists or owners, but rather to a highly concentrated profit-driven media system that makes it rational to gut journalism and irrational to provide the content a free society so desperately requires."

So says "Tragedy & Farce: How the American Media Sell Wars, Spin Elections and Destroy Democracy," written by media activists John Nichols and Robert W. McChesney.

The book takes its title from Founding Father James Madison's observation that "a popular Government without popular information or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy or perhaps both."

Still good advice. As the book points out, much of the "popular information" dispensed by the media today routinely dwells on celebrity fluff and tawdry crime. Coverage of last year's presidential race paid short shrift to the current war while obsessing on the candidates' military service in a war that ended 30 years earlier.

Meanwhile, thanks to scapegoating as well as self-inflicted wounds, the media too often becomes the story - while other, more important stories go untold.

Make way for tragedy and farce!

"Let's be careful about saying 'Oh, it's right-wing media' or 'It's left-wing media,'" Nichols cautions. "This media system creates results in and of itself, which tend to favor the desire of the status quo, of those in power, and tend to undermine the ability of dissenters to be heard - whether they're on the left or the right."

Squabbling over which outlet is more biased - Fox News Channel or the New York Times - may be good sport, but it ignores the underlying cause.

"Media is the way it is because of decisions made by Congress and the FCC that are not particularly healthy for a democracy," declares Nichols, who is the Washington correspondent for The Nation magazine. "Our media has become more concentrated and more national in its ownership, and less connected at the local level to the people."

Adds McChesney, a communications professor at the University of Illinois, "You have to understand what created this system: a series of government policies and subsidies enacted behind closed doors without public involvement."

Much of it falls under the rubric of "media deregulation." But more often than not, McChesney argues, so-called deregulation advances the interests of the dominant corporate players, further ensuring their dominance while imposing upon them few if any civic obligations (even for government-licensed broadcasters using public airwaves).

The media is more concerned with "filling time and entertaining the audience," says Nichols, "than informing them and getting to the truth. Knowing what's going on with Michael Jackson or the Laci Petersen trial does not provide you with sufficient information to act as a citizen."

But as dire as the situation may be, it is not hopeless. A "take back the media" movement is gathering steam. The public was roused in 2003 when the five-member Federal Communications Commission, discounting widespread opposition, voted to relax existing limits on how much of the U.S. audience a single media company can reach with its TV stations, and how many broadcast outlets one company may own in any market.

The FCC's deregulation package ultimately was thrown out by a federal court, which in its ruling cited that unprecedented citizen uproar.It's a good start on the road "to changing the institutional climate," says McChesney. "We have to change the policies, regulations and subsidies upon which our current media system is built."

One forum for reform is Free Press, the Web site founded by McChesney and Nichols (along with campaign finance activist Josh Silver) to boost public participation in media policy debates.

"Just as the environment is treated as an issue, media - not liberal or conservative media - ought to be the issue," says Nichols. "When citizens get involved, we think they will find a great deal of common ground."

EDITOR'S NOTE - Frazier Moore can be reached at


© 2005 AP Wire and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.


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, December 08, 2005 opens campaign to curb news-industry layoffs; group says it is rebuffed by Tribune Co.

Dec. 7, 2005, 2:01 p.m.

The following is a news release from MoveOn.ORG, a political advocacy
group. Their reporting of Tribune Co.'s response has not been verified
with the company.

CONTACT:, Trevor Fitzgibbon or Alex Howe,Fenton Communications, 202.822.5200

Readers Confront Tribune Execs. Over Newspaper Cutbacks
Tribune CEO Refuses to Meet With Readers Or Accept Petitions Signed By 45,000
Over 650 Jobs Cut Despite $595.9 Million Profit For Companyÿÿs Publishing Division

WASHINGTON - December 7 - MoveOn media Action confronted Dennis FitzSimmons, CEO of the Tribune Company, one of the nations largest newspapers chains, at a conference in New York City attended by top executives of media outlets and media beat reporters.

Noah Winer, Media Action Director for Civic Action and spokesman for the 3.4 million member organization, opened with a statement calling on the Tribune Co. to reverse its decision to cut 650 jobs at papers including the LA Times, Chicago Tribune, Newsday, and Orlando Sentinel, and then attempted to present petitions carrying 45,000 reader signatures to Mr. FitzSimmons. The CEO refused to accept the petitions and responded to Winer that he would not meet with readers about his decision.

The action was organized by Civic Action, whose members believe such cutbacks would weaken journalists ability to perform their public watchdog responsibilities.

Over 650 staff positions were cut at these papers this year, despite a $595.9 million profit at the Tribune Companys publishing division through September a $93.6 million increase from the same time last year, said Adam Green, Civic Communications Director for Civic Action.

In the last week, MoveOn Media Action launched local petition drives in eight Tribune Company readership areas: Newsday, Los Angeles Times, Orlando Sentinel, Chicago Tribune, Baltimore Sun, Hartford Courant, Daily Press (VA) and Morning Call (PA).

These staff cuts mean watered-down coverage of local, state, and national news, said Winer. Politicians and corporations who should be held accountable by vigilant watchdog journalism will instead be covered by a staff that is stretched too thin.

Online petitions are the first step in a consistent campaign aimed at the Tribune Company, and potentially other corporate media owners. Other actions may include person-to-person petition drives in local communities, local petition deliveries, phone calls to the Tribune Company, and actions aimed at influencing stockholders.

Our big goal is to raise public awareness of this issue and give regular people a way to fight for good journalism, said Green. Todays action is merely the opening salvo of a growing public backlash corporate media owners will face if they continue to abandon quality journalism.

MoveOn Media Action is a new project of Civic Action a 501(c)(4) distinct from MoveOn.orgs political action committee. MoveOn Media Action empowers regular people to reform the media and fight back when news organizations abandon their duty to practice strong watchdog journalism. It was formed because members felt this was an important priority for the organization.



The 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.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

AP: WikiPedia tightens submission rules after Seigenthaler incident

[December 05, 2005]

Online Encyclopedia Tightens Rules

(AP) Online Encyclopedia Tightens Rules

Associated Press Writer

SAN FRANCISCO -- Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia that allows anyone to contribute
articles, is tightening its rules for submitting entries following the
disclosure that it ran a piece falsely implicating a man in the Kennedy
Wikipedia will now require users to register before they can create
articles, Jimmy Wales, founder of the St. Petersburg, Fla.-based Web site,
said Monday.
The change comes less than a week after John Seigenthaler Sr., who was
Robert Kennedy's administrative assistant in the early 1960s, wrote an op-ed
article revealing that Wikipedia had run a biography claiming Seigenthaler
had been suspected in the assassinations of the former Attorney General and
his brother, President John F. Kennedy.

Wikipedia, which on Monday offered more than 850,000 articles in English,
has grown into a storehouse of pieces on topics ranging from medieval art to
nano technology. The volume of content is possible because the site relies
on volunteers, including many experts in their fields, to submit entries and
edit previously submitted articles.
The Web site hopes that the registration requirement will limit the number
of stories being created, Wales said.
"What we're hopeful to see is that by slowing that down to 1,500 a day from
several thousand, the people who are monitoring this will have more ability
to improve the quality," Wales said Monday. "In many cases the types of
things we see going on are impulse vandalism."
Wikipedia visitors will still be able to edit content already posted without
registering. It takes 15 to 20 seconds to create an account on the Web site,
and an e-mail address is not required.
Seigenthaler, a former newspaper editor at the Tennessean in Nashville,
Tenn., and founder of the Freedom Forum First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt
University, said that following his op-ed piece in USA Today the biography
of him was changed to remove the false accusations.
But Seigenthaler said the current entry on Monday still got some facts
wrong, apparently because volunteers are confusing him with his son, John
Seigenthaler Jr., a journalist with NBC News.
Also disturbing is a section of his biography that tracks changes made to
the article, Seigenthaler, Sr. said. Entries in that history section label
him a "Nazi" and say other "really vicious, venomous, salacious homophobic
things about me," he said.
Wales said those comments would be removed.
For 132 days, Seigenthaler said the biography of him falsely claimed that
"for a brief time, he was thought to have been directly involved in the
Kennedy assassinations of both John, and his brother, Bobby."
The biography also falsely stated that he had lived in the Soviet Union from
1971 to 1984.
Seigenthaler said he wasn't convinced the new registration requirement would
stop the practice of vandals posting content that is slanderous or knowingly
incorrect. Wikipedia will either have to fix the problem or will lose
whatever credibility it still has, he said.
"The marketplace of ideas ultimately will take care of the problem,"
Seigenthaler said. "In the meantime, what happens to people like me?"
On the Net:


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.

BUSINESS MODELS: American Journalism Review story considers: Is paying for content inevitable?


from the American Journalism Review
From AJR, December/January 2006

The New York Times joins the ranks of news organizations charging for some of their online content. Is paying for Internet news inevitable, or will the Webs information wants to be free culture prevail?

By Lori Robertson
Lori Robertson is a former AJR managing editor.

On September 1, 2004, the Spokesman-Review in Spokane, Washington, dared to defy a Web-born dogma few want to cross: It started charging people to read the paper online. Seven whole dollars every month. Unless you were a faithful print subscriber then you got everything free.

Ken Sands, online publisher for the Spokesman-Review, was quickly branded a "greedy bastard" in many of the 300 e-mails he received "really nasty e-mails," he notes from people who proclaimed that all they wanted to do was check their hometown news, and they weren't going to pay seven bucks to do it. Online audience growth ground to a screeching halt. "Our site traffic in the first eight months of 2004 was up 42 percent year over year," Sands says. "The minute September 1 rolls around, our growth rate went to zero."

But the bad news only lasted about a quarter. A year later, the August 2005 traffic was 50 percent more than the August 2004 numbers. The 100,160-circulation paper has about 1,000 online subscribers (Sands' goal was 1,000 to 1,500), a revenue stream it didn't have before and happier advertisers. "One unanticipated consequence is that our local online advertisers are getting more bang for their buck," Sands says. Before the paid model, about a third of's visitors didn't live in the area; the subscription fee drove those readers away. The local advertisers, he says, aren't wasting a third of their Web ad budgets any longer.

It's been an online subscription success story, and the impetus behind it was the same worry facing most print outlets today: Readers were giving up their print subscriptions to get the news free online. Even newspapers that say they aren't seeing much of this cannibalism from the freebie Web site face the dilemma of how to maximize revenues as we move toward a more-electronic news world or possibly, one day in the future, a digital-only one. Sure, maybe the baby boomers psychologically can't let go of a paper product when nifty new devices come on the market, but each subsequent generation can: They're not even getting into the ink-on-paper habit to begin with. Newspapers in the coming decades could still be a primary source of news albeit not so much in "paper" form but can they stay in business if they give their work away? Is paying for it inevitable?

This is one aspect of the media about which few want to make definitive declarations. "If I knew the answer, I'd be making a million dollars instead of talking to you," says Rick Edmonds, a researcher and writer at the Poynter Institute who has written about the business of online news. "Content is very expensive to produce..and the notion that you're just going to go on forever giving it away is pretty problematic. So to some extent, at least, my reaction is, it makes a lot of sense to try something."

The "something" that Edmonds refers to is the New York Times' launch of TimesSelect, a $49.95 per year Web deal that makes the paper's op-ed and other columnists off-limits to non-print subscribers who won't hand over their credit card numbers, and gives the Select folks extra services, such as the ability to download up to 100 articles a month from the Times' archives free of charge.

Martin Nisenholtz, senior vice president of digital operations at the New York Times Co., has heard plenty of criticism of the Times' decision to put the columnists behind a paid wall and plenty of predictions that this move is going to fail miserably. But Nisenholtz is of the mind that paying for something is going to have to be a part of online news eventually. The question of whether newspaper sites have to charge to survive, he says, "has been debated from the moment that all of us started out putting our products online. I would say that ultimately the answer to that question is yes."

The early results for the Times were encouraging: In mid-November, two months after TimesSelect's launch, about 270,000 people had signed up for it. About half of them not being print subscribers paid the 50 bucks for the service.

Nisenholtz says making money from more than one source is simply good business and other online executives agree. "You do need some form of a mixed revenue model in order to have healthy economics," he says, adding that that's what the Times is doing. "How [paying for content] happens and in what markets and for what newspapers and in what time frame..and how it relates to the AP and what the role of blogging is and independent content, I mean, all of that has to be factored in... The ultimate judge is the consumer. They're either going to pay or they're not going to pay."

Some of the journalists interviewed for this story worry that the industry has devalued news by bandying it about gratis for so long while others aren't sure news had much monetary value to begin with. Whatever media sites offer for sale has to be unique enough, or special enough "differentiated" is the business term of choice to prompt people to open their pocketbooks. And whether it is or isn't, can online advertising revenues grow enough to keep news organizations afloat?

For Ken Sands, putting a price tag on the Web site paid off. only charges for the content that's in the print edition; Web extras, such as breaking news and 25 staff-written blogs, are free. (In fact, such unpaid offerings helped win the general excellence award for medium sites from the Online News Association this year. garnered the prize for large sites.) But Sands wouldn't recommend his model to everyone. His paper offers local news in a noncompetitive market. Readers pay for it because "it" can't be had anywhere else. For papers the size of the New York Times or the Washington Post, competing with CNN and USA Today, Sands asks, "how could any one of those charge for its content without just chasing people to the other sites?"

Requiring online subscriptions isn't something that Caroline Little, CEO and publisher of Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive, wants to try right now "every number that we run, it just doesn't make sense," she says. But the Times' move has sparked lots of interest. "They're sort of the first to go," Little says, "and people are watching very, very carefully."

L. Gordon Crovitz, senior vice president of Dow Jones & Co. and president of its electronic publishing group, says there was never doubt in anyone's mind at the company that the Wall Street Journal's Web site would require users to pay. Part of the thinking could be attributed to the company's long history of delivering news electronically for a fee through the Dow Jones Newswires. But also, Crovitz says, the company thought "it was untenable over the long term to have a paid subscription model for a newspaper while giving away the content for the newspaper and much more on a Web site."

The Wall Street Journal Online's subscribers number 764,000 (up 9 percent from the third quarter last year), paying $99 per year, or $49 if they also get the print edition. But the Journal is unique differentiated, if you will. Crovitz lists the advantages the site has over other newspapers' online offerings: the brand and its unique business and financial news; more than a thousand articles available daily from the Dow Jones Newswires; and the ability to charge more for advertising, an advantage that's really the result of having a subscription model that gives advertisers lots of information about a loyal audience.

Other online executives point out that it doesn't hurt that some of the Online Journal's readers are businesspeople whose employers pick up the tab. Still, Crovitz says publishers are changing their thinking about the Web, believing it's important to have subscription revenues. "I'm certain that more and more newspapers and magazines and traditional news publishers will look for ways to generate subscription revenues," he says. "I think many have discovered that it is untenable to charge in print and give away content online."

Vin Crosbie, managing partner of Digital Deliverance LLC, a new-media consulting firm, says of newspaper sites: "They're finally waking up to the fact that they've got to get a business model here." But Crosbie doesn't think paying for online news is inevitable. Some people aren't willing to pay for news at all anymore, he says, citing the "avalanche" of information the average consumer can access. "That's driven the value of news down."

It's not just the evil free Web sites; there are plenty of free print products these days, like those ever-popular minipapers that big metro dailies, among others, are pushing (see "Hip and Happening," April/May).

Crosbie does believe the industry will see micropayments (tiny amounts charged per story) in the future, once the software and credit card companies come up with an easy way for consumers to use them. But the problem, he says, is in producing something that can bring in the money. "The issue is not whether we can find a payment technology, but more a case of whether we can come up with a product people are willing to pay for."

Rob Runett, director of electronic media communications at the Newspaper Association of America, maintains a list of newspapers that charge for content there are 44 that he knows of whether it's the Dallas Morning News' or the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette's main content. Runett has not seen a big move in the paid-model direction. The industry's thinking is more, "we have audiences coming to our site now, what can we do to keep them as loyal as possible?" he says.

As Runett notes, "When you do put up a wall in front of people, there is a very harsh reaction." Consumers aren't accustomed to paying much for news, period. Paid circulation is a small percentage of the print paper's overall revenue as well. "In that sense, people's expectations of media [have] been pretty low cost," Runett says.

Historically in the print newspaper world, says Crovitz, "we've said it's very odd that for the price of a cup of coffee, you could get a newspaper." But today it's difficult to do that, even if you eschew Starbucks for 7-Eleven. The coffee industry has figured out a way to charge more, he says, and the newspaper industry hasn't. "But the Internet has been the greatest offender of a common-sense business model."

If publishers have highly differentiated content, it's still a significant challenge to suddenly ask for money after spending years "devaluing the brand" by making it available free, Crovitz says.

While the New York Times used to give away the words of such big-name brands as Maureen Dowd, Thomas L. Friedman and Frank Rich, the paper may have gained immeasurable value by getting its columnists in the hands and inboxes of people around the world, people who won't necessarily spend money for that access.

Plus, there's the exposure bloggers give to op-ed pieces and traffic they drive to the site. But Martin Nisenholtz says he doesn't "see that as a huge issue at this point." He and Scott Heekin-Canedy, president and general manager of the New York Times, point out that while the columns are part of TimesSelect, scant attention has been paid to the services the company has packaged in this deal. Most valuable among them: access to the archives.

Nisenholtz says the Times' online users have been asking for more seamless access to the archives for 10 years. Some wanted it to be free, of course. "But that's just not realistic." TimesSelect also gives subscribers advance access to weekend features; use of the News Tracker, an e-mail alert system matched to readers' interests; and Times File, a tool to save articles and pages from the Times' and other Web sites.

Kinsey Wilson, vice president and editor in chief at, says he thinks that offering services that people value, rather than content, will be the key to prompting them to pay. "As audience behavior changes and with that as ad dollars shift and as the Web allows others to get into businesses that were once the dominant preserve of newspapers..we may find that newsgathering as a discrete isolated function is not by itself a sustainable business. On the other hand, it never was," Wilson says, adding that television networks depend on entertainment programs and newspapers use classifieds and consumer services to attract audiences.

"But I think all that means is we need to find some combination of news and other services that come together to support the newsgathering function," he says. Wilson elaborated in an e-mail to AJR: "It's evident people will make substantial outlays for certain services, given the appeals of things like dial-up Internet access (AOL), cable, enhanced phone services, mobile offerings, broadband, VOIP [Voice over Internet Protocol] and so on."

Wilson, however, sees online content moving away from the paid model. "I think both within the realm of news, and if you look at what's going on with music and other forms of information that are being shared on the Internet, the tendency is toward cheaper or altogether free offerings," he says. The business model of choice, Wilson says, is an advertising-supported one.

Newspaper companies have been thrilled with the recent online advertising growth, touting the double-digit numbers. Poynter's Rick Edmonds wrote in a column that Web advertising spending has grown 30 percent to 40 percent in the past few years at mid-size and larger papers. (But remember, online ad budgets started at zero not that long ago.) Edmonds used recent newspaper industry statistics to project that online revenues wouldn't equal or surpass print revenues at such papers until 2018 if the online ad growth continued at this rate.

In an October report, Morgan Stanley calculated that online advertising spending in 2004 averaged $145 per U.S. household with Internet access, while spending on newspaper ads was $674 per newspaper home. If readers do make more of a shift from print products to online or digital news, the Internet ad dollars would need to multiply at a much faster pace.

Despite the current disparity in spending, Doug Feaver, former executive editor of, says "it's certainly feasible" that advertising alone could support the online news business. "Television has survived that way forever. Everyone likes to have a little diversification in terms of where the revenue streams are," says Feaver, who teaches online journalism at Ithaca College. "As you go forward into this new world of electronics, I think [not having subscription revenues] worries the traditionalists," who are accustomed to that additional flow of income. The question is, "if you're giving something away that you used to charge for, are you destroying your business?... There's less concern over that than there was."

Even Dow Jones doesn't believe solely in a paid subscription approach. Beyond, which gives away Wall Street Journal editorial page content, the company offers free sites such as and, and it got a big boost in online traffic by acquiring MarketWatch in January 2005 (see "Dotcom Bloom," June/July). Internet acquisitions are certainly becoming part of big media companies' business models: Recent ones include the New York Times Co.'s purchase of and Gannett/Knight Ridder/Tribune Co.'s stake in

While the Journal offers business news, Crovitz says Dow Jones bought MarketWatch to get into the personal investor news market. But the purchase also gives the company a larger online audience across its collection of Web sites, which leads to higher advertising rates. "We have subscription," Crovitz says, but we "also have as much scale as anyone" serving this audience. (Translation for the non-online-executives out there: An awful lot of people visit their Web sites.)

Dow Jones Online's sites attract 9 million unique visitors a month, he says, and that level of audience is very important in "interests-based targeting." That's the Big-Brother-like and highly lucrative way of knowing that someone's reading a car review and then popping an ad for a Lexus on his or her screen, not right that minute in a too-obvious way, but a few page views later.

Caroline Little at Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive says her company is starting to use that kind of ad targeting technology on its sites, too. Little says that while classified and certain types of display advertising are doing very well, it's still a challenge to explain the benefits of Internet advertising to local businesses. "Radio's still very strong in communities. We haven't seen the kind of migration [to the Web] that we've seen with other advertising," she says, noting that about 4 percent of all ad spending goes to the Internet right now.

The ad market may be a challenge, but Little doesn't see a subscription model saving the day. "Advertising is very strong and has been very successful in helping us move forward," she says. "What is so critical to us right now is growing our audience.", which attracts about 80 percent of its visitors from outside the Washington, D.C., area, launched registration in the spring of 2004. In order to read articles on the site, users create passwords and enter their names, addresses, birth dates and job titles. (NAA's Runett maintains a list of about 100 newspaper sites that require registration.) Those tiny pieces of demographic information are very valuable for the advertisers, says Little, who views registration as the price of admission. There are liars, of course the Post has readers who claim to live in Antarctica but Little believes there'll be less of that as people get more and more used to registration. Advertisers need to get more used to the online world as well. Runett points out that the ad rates online are very low, "unnecessarily low I would say in some cases." And Edmonds recalls the wary comments of a woman from Best Buy, talking to newspaper folks at an NAA event. Research shows mos!
t of the people who come into the store are familiar with the company's Sunday newspaper inserts, she said.

Such advertisers are interested in newspapers continuing to be successful, Edmonds says. "They're not real gung ho on trying to implement that online." As far back as 1981, Roger F. Fidler was talking about ways newspapers could be distributed digitally. In the early '90s, he was carrying out his work in a lab in Colorado funded by Knight Ridder, developing an electronic newspaper to be read on a tablet-like device. He called it a "personal information appliance." Fidler predicted that this device would begin replacing newspapers by 2001 and be in the hands of half of the nation's newspaper readers by 2010.

The industry was skeptical, and it didn't happen at least not the first part of his forecast. "I had expected the display technology would develop faster than it did," Fidler says. But the 2010 prediction is "still a possibility."

Fidler who jokes that his tombstone will probably contain something that says "the tablet guy" has continued to work on a format for a digital newspaper that would present news and ads in the same serendipitous way as the print product, something that looks like the paper but with hyperlinks, video and sound. The concept now has a much cooler name eMprint, short for Electronic Media Print and Fidler is testing it as director of technology initiatives for the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute at the Missouri School of Journalism.

Like most of those interviewed for this story, Fidler doesn't believe print will completely vanish, but he doesn't think it will be the dominant delivery mechanism, either. "Over the next 10 or 20 years, digital products will be the major source of revenue and profit for the industry," he says. His experiments at Missouri provide some hopeful signs for the digital newspaper industry. In the spring the Columbia Missourian, a community newspaper that's affiliated with the journalism school, offered a Sunday eMprint edition to about 5,000 people for 10 weeks. Not only did readers find it an enjoyable way to read the paper (and most were reading it on laptops), Fidler says, but "we sold out all the advertising in the eMprint edition during the field test... It was actually a profitable product right out of the door."

On the Web, Fidler explains, advertisers feel their ads get lost easily, or are ignored by readers. eMprint is more like a magazine. "People are more receptive to whatever they encounter as they turn the page," he says, be it an ad or a collection of stories. The Columbia Missourian relaunched eMprint in September, producing a free Wednesday and Sunday electronic edition, available at Fidler believes digital editions of newspapers would need to be sold at much lower prices than the paper products people know there are no newsprint or distribution costs, after all but he sees some subscription fees on the horizon. "I don't have any magic solutions to the problem," he says. "But I think the days of giving away all of the content of the newspapers on the Web are numbered."

Another futurist, Russ Wilcox, chief executive of E Ink Corp., predicts an auspicious outcome for newspapers as well. E Ink has developed a paper-like video screen, and in a chat in October, Wilcox said newspapers would give their subscribers this device free, a new-world scenario that could spring up by 2015. He touted one clear advantage to this type of delivery system: "[B]ecause space is infinite there will hopefully be more room for thoughtful pieces, longer pieces, the kind that a journalist wishes he or she could do but doesn't have the space."

That is, if the news company has a robust business model to support it.

Contents Copyright 2004, American Journalism Review. All rights reserved.


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.

CLASS NOTES: Nov. 29, 2005 -- Martin Langeveld, NAT publisher

Date: Mon, 5 Dec 2005 18:55:10 -0500 (EST)
From: Matt Nolan

Martin Langeveld, publisher of the North Adams Transcript, visited today.

Class began a discussion of the Orwell Film which brings together the
serious critics of mainstream media today.
We found that 90% of the media that is discussed is television.
It is important to reach the right people.
Online people don’t spend as much time as print readers, so it is a
challenge to find ways to get through to the online readers.
What do you feel what the importance of music in the Orwell film?
The guest speaker stated that the film interviewed 10 people, and if the
watcher simply let themselves be dragged through the film it makes good
sense. It when the watcher raises questions about what is being said
that the movie can come crashing down. If you tell a lie enough times
does it become truth? He feels that in many circles that is true.
The discussion then changed to the 2000 election and how it became
disengaged with the coverage of the hanging chad and counting problem.
The issues that were raised by the media were thought to be legitimate.
The discussion then turned to who makes the decisions on what to cover.
Big stories are covered by the AP, and local newspapers take these
stories to keep their readers informed. An important site was given,
ABC News The Note. That site gives the reader a chance to look up the
read about the developments in Washington.
The discussion once again shifted gears to talk about when the
Transcript was sold from Miller to a large Corporation where were the
changes. It was said that the paper kept many of the good aspects of
before, but added more money to take a lot of the pressure off.
Then the discussion continued about owners of newspapers. What is
better a owner with an opinion, or without? The answer came that
content is the bottom line.
The class ended with some advice. If you want to get hired from a
newspaper, know how to write coherently, interestingly, compellingly and
accurately. If you are able to do this you will be ahead of 99% of the
people looking for jobs. Also, have a global set of interest and read
about current issues. If you do these things you will be able to get a
job for any paper.

Matt Nolan

Sunday, December 04, 2005

CLASS NOTES: Nov. 22, 2005: Orwell Rolls in his Grave

Posted for kft56

NOTES from watching the film: "Orwell Rolls in his Grave."

Conflict of Interest

- Mainstream media has changed political powers, from a democratic standpoint. One view is that not many people are aware of the enormous conflicts of interests, (GE, NBC, ABC, Disney, etc.)
- GE takes advantage of corporate welfare, as a result there are certain issues talked about, certain issue systems as a whole are off limits
- Conspiracy theory - unofficial sources, secrecy
- Ken Lay, CEO of Enron and George W. Busch cashed out their Enron stock the same way, Busch served on the board and made a profit of $848,000 from selling his stock.
- Why do mainstream media continue to choose not to cover serious allegations? (A-wall and inside trading) "See no evil news coverage"
- Why did Busch allow 140 Iraqi's flown out of the U.S just days after 9/11 with little or no questioning?
- "October Surprise" Delay of hostage release in Iran, until after the presidential election
- Neo conservative movement to influence the media, billions of dollars are being spent
- Small companies are out
- Fairness doctrine eliminated by Regan, no longer required to air both sides
- Clear channel bought Texas Rangers, made Busch a multi-billionaire
- Clear Channel banned Dixie Chicks for speaking out against Busch
- Everyone is looking for truth, the problem is the gate keepers of the truth are not the journalists but the editors
- At GE the wall between politics and journalism is broken
- Some stories disappear (CEO Fox, Enron Scandal), some are redundant (Monica Lewinsky)
- News media troubled election 2004 - NORC had 170,000 uncounted votes, but were not allowed to categorize their findings
- 12/24/00 - "Florida, Florida, Florida is over"
- Voter News service (ABC, AP, CBS) welcome to computer voting
- "Drive this democracy like you stole it"
- Michael Copps, FCC commissioner and democrat - vote to loosen media ownership rules, is voted on and passed along partisan lines 2 to 3
- 55 to 40 appealed the FCC
- Something is wrong here, were talking about a free world were living in
- If it's not reported, did it happen?
- Lies turn into truth

QUOTES: from Columbia Journalism School event

Here are some excerpts from comments at a Columbia Journalism School one-day
conferenc Oct. 5, 2005, called: "The Changing Media Landscape, 2005."


Hosted by Sree Sreenivasan
Columbia Dean of Students & Poynter Visiting Prof
Sreenath Sreenivasan <>


Len Apcar, editor in chief,
Andrea Panciera, editor,
Jeff Gralnick, NBC News special consultant
James Taranto, editor of
Craig Newmark, CSR/founder Craig's List


"Maybe we've accelerated this unintentionally. My gut tells me that is good.
Maybe we see some investigative reporters being laid off. And this is really
serious because the news business is a community service and we need a lot of
people digging into and speaking truth to power.

And if you don't have something like that happening, sometimes bad things
happen, like you get into vanity wars for a served up purpose and a lot of
people dying because of the president's vision that hasn't happened in a long
time. This is a really big, important issue."

"Journalism really is the first draft of history and the biggest thing we're
seeing right now is the news business is becoming very decentralized. I don't
think citizen journalism is going to replace professional journalism. There is
no substitute for fact-checkers, for people who do copyediting, proofing, just
figuring out what the news. But I do think we're going to see professional and
citizen or even amateur journalism merged and that is going to change things a
lot and that is going to be the environment that you are dealing with. That's
something that maybe everyone here has to get used to . . . .

"I'm getting interested in what I can actually do myself. Not Craig's List, but
myself becuase the only way the good guys win is when good people try to do the
right thing. I am getting involved in some non-profits, trying to figure out
what's going on in journalism; trying to accelerate that. Because if you get
through an economic dislocation faster, you preserve jobs. And that seems to be
the history of the industrial revolution. That's a big deal. Because I feel a
very personal responsibility along those lines. Even if I may not have a moral
responsibility. There are people and venture capitalists who are funding
efforts involved in sight switch, figuring out what the big stories, the
important stories, and what are the most trustworthy versions of them? And I'm
actually involved in one such startup which is still in stealth mode."

He says he's talking to the Center for Public Integrity and the Center for
Investigative Reporting.

"You may have to deal with sources that are purposely disinformation. Now
journalists have to deal with PR flaks, but you guys may have to deal with this
on a routine basis -- dis-information campaigns with a fictional kind of thing.
Someone named Carl may send you a fake memo regarding someone named George
intending to embarass you. That may become a way of life."


"No plans right now. Honestly. We're not even discussing that kind of thing.
Maybe the best thing we can do is help other people do the job right and stick
with what we do well."


In the month after Lady Diana died, Aug. 31, 1997, ABC.COM did 5 million pages.
In Sept., 2005, it did 750 million pages around Katrina, including 26 million
unique users in one month.

"That's the future, that something could grow that fast in that short a period
of time. ... those are the numbers publishers hate. Are newspapers dead? I
don't know, but maybe. If we don't adapt, if we don't evolve, we're going to

"What we need to do as we develop this space is figure out what's crap and
figure out what's a business model. Are blogs the flavor of the month? Maybe?
Are iPods the flavor of the month? Maybe. But the most important word there is

Apcar, about decison to charge:

"This is the kind of internal debate that permeates every media company. I was
shocked as I went around today -- I've had two visitors this week . . .
"EVeryone's watching us." "Who knows, maybe there's a moment here where
people will say, will only recognize not only a source of information but they
are willing to pay for quality information."

"Rates on the rest of the site have not gone down. Which allows us do something
which nobody thought we would be able to do -- which is to have our cake and
eat it, too."

Pancierra: Under what circumstances would they charge?

"It bothers her that people think they might get it for free, especially with
all the customer service. "I think there should be some kind of financial
return for all of this work. Whether they are ready to cough it up, I don't
know. But I tell you, if you can pay a buck or two bucks or three bucks for
ring tones to personalize your cell phone, I think you can pay a buck or two or
three bucks to visit my website."

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