Friday, March 30, 2007

Onion expands fake news franchise

The Onion is notorious -- celebrated -- for its on-the-mark print parodies of AP Stylebook newswriting -- apart from the ridiculous, hilarious substance of its newspapers, books and web site.

Now the brains and breath behind the Onion are launching the Onion News Network, which rips cable news more than "The Daily Show" and "The Colbert Report" satirize both cable news AND newsmakers.

Before you starting enjoying ONN, read the Associated Press's advance story on the newest phoney-baloney news outlet --

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Campaign bus, citizen journalism style

There's been an interesting development in how the Internet will figure into the presidential campaign process.

Arianna Huffington, editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post, and Jay Rosen, New York University professor and citizen journalism advocate, have announced a new joint venture in campaign journalism.

“It’s campaign reporting by a great many more people than would ever fit on the bus that the boys (and girls) of the press have famously gotten on and off every four years, as they try to cover the race for president,” Rosen writes in his blog Pressthink.

Huffington’s announcement yesterday said: “We’ll have a Clinton blog, an Obama blog, an Edwards blog, a McCain blog, a Giuliani blog, a Romney blog, a Biden blog, a Richardson blog, a Dodd blog, a Kucinich blog, a Brownback blog, a Huckabee blog. The larger campaigns could have 50 to 100 or more people following them.”

Details of the plan, along with information about how to become a contributor to the project, are posted at each Web site: The Huffington Post and Pressthink.

Audiences splinter across ever more platforms

Project for Excellence in Journalism's Annual Report, "The state of the news media 2007," is somber but necessary reading.

The pace of change has accelerated. In the last year, the trends reshaping journalism didn’t just quicken, they seemed to be nearing a pivot point.

On Madison Avenue, talk has turned to whether the business model that has financed the news for more than a century — product advertising — still fits the way people consume media.

With audiences splintering across ever more platforms, nearly every metric for measuring audience is now under challenge as either flawed or obsolete — from circulation in print, to ratings in TV, to page views and unique visitors online.

Every media sector except for two is now losing popularity. Even the number of people who go online for news — or anything else — has stopped growing. Only the ethnic press is up.

Want to find out more? Follow this link to the Project for Excellence in Journalism site.

L.A. reporters win $2.5 million in labor case

The issue of CWA News that came yesterday to its Printing, Publishing and Media Workers sector carried a story about employees at Los Angeles-based Chinese Daily News finally winning a lawsuit against their employer for violating state and federal wage and hour laws.

Since 2001, reporters and other Daily News employees have been trying to organize as a local of the 2001 Communications Workers of America/Newspaper Guild, but have met resistance -- which the court has now found illegal.

Here's the whole story --

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Radio audience still in the hundreds of millions

People who are drafting their epitaphs for radio ought to get their facts straight before they send out the death notices.

Radio reaches 232 million listeners weekly, according to a new study from Arbitron.

(If Microsoft had such numbers, Bill Gates would probably face more than anti-trust allegations.)

OK, if you suspect that Arbitron has a conflict of interest (since its main customers are radio stations), check out Gallup and other polls, which show that National Public Radio -- that's right, good ol' NPR -- in December of 2006 attracted 19 percent of American adults daily. That's just 1 percent lower that the highly touted talk radio phenomenon.

Local newspapers? Fifty-seven percent get their news daily or several times a week, Gallup reports.

The biggest losers? Nightly newscasts from the Big Three networks show up at 35 percent daily -- down from 62 percent in 1995.

Read the news brief from Radio Ink here --

Friday, March 23, 2007

Savvy Indiana HS students get around censorship

Northern Indiana high school students moved toward publishing online material their school is refusing to authorize in print form, according to Beth King, Communications Manager for the Society of Professional Journalists.

"A student wrote an op-ed for the Woodlan Junior-Senior High School newspaper that called for tolerance of gays and lesbians," King writes. "Since the article’s publishing in January, the school’s principal has begun exercising prior restraint and has been named official publisher. Students have been refused the right to petition the school board and have moved toward online publishing. The newspaper’s adviser has been suspended."

SPJ President Christine Tatum also offered support:

"Banning and censoring content and demanding prior restraint are easy and lazy ways for educators to handle student media," Tatum writes. "There is time for more levelheadedness to prevail ... all we've seen so far is just another power struggle where educators clamp down on student media just because they can. What a shame."

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Cutbacks sacrifice substance

Another voice echoing alarm with some newspapers cutting content and quality to cut costs came yesterday in theologian Martin E. Marty's e-newsletter "Sightings."

In it, the author and professor emeritus at the University of Chicago's Divinity School referred to a piece in the current Christianity Today bemoaning the loss of Religion or Faith & Values sections, pages or staff.

Such bad business decisions are sure to have unintended consequences: less substance could easily translate to fewer readers, which means fewer advertisers and a whole downward cycle.

Particularly at a time when faith is at the core of so much personal, political, social and even military issues worldwide, it's sad -- stupid -- to surrender that beat to bean-counters.

Read Marty's essay -
Read Sarah Pulliam's feature in the evangelical Christianity Today -

Monday, March 19, 2007

Editorials increasingly demand Iraq pullout

Many U.S. newspapers took the occasion of the fourth anniversary of the invasion and occupation of Iraq last weekend to editorialize against current policy, reports Editor & Publisher magazine, which plans to log some opinion pieces and reader reaction.

Unlike previous editorials that reluctantly supported maintaining troop levels, however, "more of them seem to have reached the end of their patience and are calling for a U.S. pullout."

See the entire story --

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Truth no longer libel defense?

A recent Iowa Supreme Court decision could mean that newspapers can be sued for "defamation by implication" even if the comments in question are true, the Associated Press reports.

Such a change could result in the end of provable truth as the "ultimate defense" to a libel charge, and by extension discourage journalism that some subjects of stories find objectionable.

The court on March 9 ordered a trial on one count of a lawsuit filed by former freelance contributor Todd Stevens against the Ames Tribune, ruling that statements the newspaper made about the columnist could be considered defamatory. Most striking, however, the court's decision said both private and public figures could be defamed if true statements are presented in a manner that carries false implications.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Conflict between courtrooms, newsrooms

The news media aren't investigators for the police, writes Gene Policinski at the First Amendment Center, but that's increasingly forgotten -- as well as the U.S. Supreme Court decision involving the Pentagon Papers.

Look out, he writes. Read it all here --

Friday, March 16, 2007

Jailed journalist's case shows federal shield law needed

The First Amendment guarantees a free press, radio newswoman Amy Goodman of the "Democracy Now!" program reminds us, and government that forces journalists to surrender notes and names, tapes and more is "abridging the freedom ... of the press."

In the case of San Francisco journalist Josh Wolf, it's more than academic. He's been in jail for almost six months, becoming the record-holder for reporters jailed for refusing to comply with a subpoena. His case also shows the extent to which the federal government is willing to go to get around states' shield laws protecting journalists from such fishing expeditions.

Background: A police officer was injured after his squad car drove into a demonstration protesting a G-8 Summit almost two years ago, but local prosecutors dropped charges. Wolf, a freelance videographer, says he wasn't taping either that incident or damages to the squad car (which had a taillight broken), but because the car was partly bought using federal anti-terrorism funds, the federal Joint Terrorism Task Force convened a grand jury to hear testimony about attempted arson. The grand jury demanded all of Wolf's raw video, he refused to comply, and federal prosecutors jailed him indefinitely.

U.S. Attorney Kevin Ryan even made light of Wolf's standing since he's a freelancer and blogger.
However, the Society of Professional Journalists isn't laughing.

"Josh's commitment to a free and unfettered press deserves profound respect," said SPJ president Christin Tatum.

Read Goodman's piece -- and why it points to a need for Congress to pass a nationwide shield law --

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Senate OKs college press freedom bill

Illinois state senators unanimously approved the bill Thursday that would protect student newspapers at Illinois public universities and community colleges and negate (at least in Illinois) the 2005 Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision in Hosty v. Carter. The bill, known as the College Campus Press Act, passed the senate 57-0 and will within the next several weeks move to the Illinois House of Representatives, beginning with the House Higher Education Committee.

Illinois Rep. Kevin McCarthy (D-Orland Park), chairman of the House Higher Education Committee, said that, while he was not familiar with the finer details of the bill, he believes it probably will receive a "good reception" from the committee. "I don't think censorship has that many supporters from the General Assembly," he said.

Illinois Sen. Susan Garrett (D-Lake Forest) introduced the bill in early February with assistance from the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois. The legislation designates all public college and community college publications in the state as public forums for student expression, effectively voiding Hosty, which applies in Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin.

(Story from the Student Press Law Center in Washington, D.C.)

Chain that owns Macomb paper buys Peoria daily

The media company that owns the Macomb Journal, dailies in Canton, Monmouth, Kewanee and Pekin and weeklies -- plus hundreds of newspapers across the country -- is buying the Peoria Journal Star, Galesburg Register-Mail and other publications from Copley Press.
GateHouse Media plans to finalize the purchase next month.
Here's the company's story, as it appeared in Monmouth's Daily Review Atlas -
Here's the Register-Mail's take on the transaction, written by John Pulliam -
And here's a second-day follow-up from the Journal Star, with reassurances from GateHouse -

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Libby defense tactic: attack journalism

Author Sidney Blumenthal on writes an insightful essay analyzing the peculiar defense used by Lewis "Scooter" Libby in his recent trial for perjury and obstruction of justice: attack journalism as false.
Libby was convicted.
His defense seems less peculiar in the context of the government's ongoing manipulation of and assault on the news media, but Blumenthal -- a former adviser to President Clinton -- succinctly summarizes closing arguments expressed by Libby's lawyers and the (Republican) prosecutor, U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald.
"This extraordinary defense -- that nothing in any newspaper can be considered true -- was the reductio ad absurdum of the Bush administration's use and abuse of the press corps," Blumenthal writes.
Read his entire piece:

Monday, March 12, 2007

AP leader discusses open government efforts

The Associated Press’ president and CEO, Tom Curley, has long been interested in freedom of information and open government issues. In question-and-answer form, he discussed this year's Sunshine Week initiative spearheaded by media organizations.
Issues covered in the article published Monday include (1) erosion of access to local governmental records, (2) the opportunity during campaign season to win commitments to public service, (3) prospects for a federal shield law, and (4) the chilling effect of subpoenaing high-profile journalists for trial testimony.
You can read the entire interview here:

Convergence touches PR, too

A few ongoing blogs regularly touch on the effect that the World Wide Web in general and blogs in particular can have on public relations, advertising and marketing as well as journalism.

Steve Rubels' Micro Persuasion is good < > and a "classic" from last spring is Rachel Solomon's essay on the blog "Thisisnotablog" --

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Print's not dead: ad exec

As a medium, print is not dead nor dying, says advertising executive Robin Steinberg of MediaVest. However, publishers, consumers and content providers all "need to think about print in radical new ways," she writes for MediaWorks in a March posting by Advertising Age.
Whether considering traditional print or broadcast presentation of material, or more innovative media ranging from low-budget 'zines to sophisticated podcasts, media people might do well to read her viewpoint --

Friday, March 9, 2007

Media take careful aim and shoot their own feet

Just as media companies' zeal for ever-increasing profits is being criticized, a recent study from the University of Missouri shows that some newspaper companies seem to be hurting themselves in a short-sighted business approach.
Research into 900 newspapers' budgeting over a decade shows that many invest more in their circulation and advertising departments than their newsrooms, according to "Uphill or Downhill: Locating Your Firm in a Profit Function," scheduled to be published in April's Journal of Marketing. (see ).
Apart from sacrificing journalism, that hurts news-media companies' own bottom lines (also see ).
"If you lower the amount of money spent in the newsroom, then pretty soon the news product becomes so bad that you begin to lose money," said Missouri's Esther Thorson, the study's co-author.
Her colleague, Murali Mantrala added, "Until recently, people have been doing it because the results looked good to investors on Wall Street, but it's ... ignoring the long-term aspects."
Their findings come on the heels of criticism by the likes of legendary journalist Walter Cronkite, who bemoaned media executives' stressing profits over journalism.
"In this information age and the very complicated world in which we live today, the need for high-quality reporting is greater than ever," Cronkite said at at Columbia University. "It's not just the journalist's job at risk here. It's American democracy. It is freedom." (see ).
Author Philip Meyer, the University of North Carolina professor who wrote "The Vanishing Newspaper," was cheered by the Missouri study.
“I am delighted to see them post proof that quality precedes profit,” he said.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Fight for Sunshine amid secrecy ongoing

Any of the dozens of students at Wednesday's noontime discussion in Simpkins Hall of government secrecy could tell you: The climate has changed for what information, action or access remains public -- regardless of the law.

Investigative reporter Elaine Hopkins (top, at right) and Illinois Press Association government-affairs lobbyist Beth Bennett (bottom, at right) talked about local, state and federal openness -- or its absence -- even as Capitol Hill saw the intrduction of what's been called "a backdoor approach to an official secrets act."

Arizona Republican Jon Kyl has proposed changing federal law to criminalize leaking or publishing any classified information in reports provided to Congress. This is dangerous on many levels, but here are two examples: Say the Quad Cities or Peoria airport is listed among places without adequate security, according to some secret Homeland Security study given to a Congressional subcommittee, and a worried aide slips that information to you so constituents would know -- and maybe ask their lawmakers to do something. If this measure passes, reporters who broadcast or print that could face jail time.
Another example: some federal administration is concerned that some of their actions are embarrassing, if not illegal, so the White House classifies that information as secret. That makes it literally unreportable, under Kyl's scheme -- even if it involves wrongdoing.

Read Society of Professional Journalists national president Christine Tatum's take on the issue -- again, happening NOW --

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

'Net' gain for content that journalists provide

News is a popular destination for wireless Internet users, according to survey results released on Monday by Pew. Go to < > for a bar charts and other graphics. Here's the text of their summary:

A new Pew survey may offer some good news to a journalism industry eagerly seeking new and younger customers. People in the rapidly growing ranks of wireless Internet users are more likely to retrieve news online than those who access the web in other ways.

The study—conducted by the Pew Internet & American Life Project in December 2006 and released last week—finds that a third (34%) of all online adults in the U.S. have now logged onto the Internet using a wireless connection, such as a laptop computer, cell phone, or a personal digital assistant (PDA) such as a Palm Pilot, BlackBerry or Treo.

Not only has that number grown by an impressive 36% in the past two years, but it also includes a sizeable segment of young people. According to the survey, almost a third of wireless online users are between the ages and 18 and 29.

The survey reported that the most popular wireless device is the laptop, with roughly four in ten (39%) online users owning one. Just 13% of online users have a PDA, and 25% say they have cell phones with wireless capacity

The report also found that nearly half (46%) of all wireless users go online for news on a typical day. This percentage surpasses those who go online for news using a broadband connection (38%). That appears to be a significant finding because previous research has generally found that broadband users were the heaviest online news consumers.

This data may offer some guidance for news organizations looking to reach more consumers, especially in the face of mounting evidence that more Americans are now going without news altogether. Polling data from the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press found that 19% of all Americans said they got no news at all on a typical day in 2006, up from nine percent in 1994. And that trend was most pronounced among young Americans aged 18 to 29.

John Horrigan, the author of the Pew report, is optimistic that the research could lead media companies to invest more in news content delivered over wireless devices. “Those who use mobile devices to get news are valuable customers to begin with, and it would make sense to provide content optimized for these devices,” he told PEJ. It might also suggest one way to capture some of the younger audience that the news industry is so eager to attract.

Source: Pew Internet & American Life Project

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Communications union offers sobering analysis of news biz

Maybe it's human nature to avert the eyes when facing a disturbing sight, but when the state of the news media is what's disturbing, it's unhealthy for citizens in a democracy to ignore it.

For journalists and journalism students, the disturbance is an eye-opener.

First, the bad news: "Small wonder if the charge to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted seems quaint," writes Andy Zipser, editor of The Guild Reporter, "or if rhetoric about a free press being essential to democracy sounds tinny."

The Guild Reporter is a monthly published by the Communications Workers of America/Newspaper Guild -- the labor union representing tens of thousands of employees at newsrooms, wire services, networks and other media outlets. In a recent issue Zipser blended statistics, observations, comments and insights from Bill Moyers and others in a sort of call to arms about the news media.

"Journalism's challenge," he says," is to see what's really important -- and then to report it."

Unfortunately, that doesn't matter to some people. Read Zipser's whole piece here --

Tomorrow's post: there's good news, too.

Monday, March 5, 2007

Where Are the Young Voices?

Here's a compelling piece from The Nation magazine worth sharing with college students and aspiring journalists alike--

Katha Pollitt has made the important point that women are grossly underrepresented on the op-ed pages of America's newspapers.

Here's another grossly underrepresented demographic in the media: young people. Millennials-- roughly defined as those 28 and under-- make up one-quarter of the population, yet we are nowhere to be found in the mainstream media.

Yesterday on TAPPED, Mark Schmitt acknowledged the phenomenon:

Here are the regular op-ed columnists for the New York Times and the Washington Post in ascending order of age:

Anne Applebaum, Washington Post, 42. (Does not live in the U.S.)

Sebastian Mallaby, Washington Post, early 40s, graduated Oxford 1986.

David Brooks, Times, 45

Nick Kristof, Times, 48

and up they go from there. And they wonder why young people don't read newspapers!

Young people don't follow the news for a variety of reasons-- but the fact that they don't see anyone from their generation reporting the news is a huge factor.

Especially on TV. I don't know about you, but as a young person, my stomach churns every time I hear Charles Gibson try to make a joke. And whenever people like the comparatively young Brian Williams do any sort of reporting on "what's going on with those crazy youngsters," I find it condescending and out of touch.

Is it so shocking that so many of us watch Jon Stewart instead of this crap?

Unfortunately, the problem actually goes beyond the mainstream media. Young people and the issues they face are also poorly represented in the blogosphere. Sure, you've got some great young writers like Matt Yglesias and Ezra Klein, but these guys generally aren't writing specifically about the issues facing young people today. The slightly older Matt Stoller, who is young and writes a fair amount about the importance of getting young people involved in politics, is an exception.

As Mike Connery at the Future Majority blog writes, mega-blogs like Daily Kos rarely discuss issues relevant to Millennials:

But what about the blogs? Kos wrote a (positive) short post about the youth impact on the elections, but the community is rarely receptive to the ideas and concerns of its younger members. In fact, from my experiences writing on the site and trying to drum up support for young voters and youth projects, I would say that the community opinion on young voters ranges from somewhere between non-committal to downright hostile.

Given this, is it so shocking that 81 percent of progressive blog readers are over 40 years old?

This is a real shame, because countless studies have shown that Millennials are poised to become an incredibly liberal generation. They've got, more or less, good political instincts, and yet they're not motivated to act on them and become engaged. I've spent years trying to figure out why young people aren't engaged and I'll tell you what: The lack of young voices in the media is a huge part of the problem.

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