Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Student, citizen join forces in rural news network

A small town in Montana since March has benefited from an innovative combination of a journalism student and a restaurant owner, in a project helped by the Institute for Interactive Journalism.

Check it out here --

Meanwhile, the affiliated Knight-Batten Innovation Awards invite new proposals for funding, and there's two weeks to apply. For details, check out the J-Flash newsletter here --

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Jon Stewart can teach un-funny journalists

American Journalism Review has a thorough critique of The Daily Shoe parody -- and finds a lot of journalism there as well as comedy.

"So-called fake news makes fun of that concept of balance," says Martin Kaplan, associate dean of Southern Cal's Annenberg School for Communication. "It's not afraid to have a bullshit meter and to call people spinners or liars when they deserve it. I think as a consequence some viewers find that helpful and refreshing and hilarious."

Read the whole piece here:

Rural areas benefit from Knight News Challenge grants

Al Cross's Rural Blog from the University of Kentucky has a nice summary of a few rural projects benefiting from the first few grants from the Knight Foundation.

Here's a few grafs from the May 23 piece:
"The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation announced today the first grants in its Knight News Challenge, a five-year contest offering $25 million in awards for ideas and projects that use digital news or information to build and bind community in specific geographic areas. As Eric Newton, the foundation’s vice president of journalism programs, describes it, the contest combines 'nerds, news and neighborhoods.” And Knight's 'neighborhoods' includes some rural places.
"The largest grant with rural impact is $885,000 to Richard Anderson, president and owner of VillageSoup Inc., a company that provides places for residents to learn, share and shop in their neighborhoods or towns. The grant will be used to create an open-source version of VillageSoup’s successful community news software, combining professional journalism, blogs, citizen journalism, online advertising and 'reverse publishing' from online to print. Anderson says his goal is 'Turning independent weekly newspaper companies and entrepreneurs into an imposing, lively, worldwide creative energy that is competitive with media company chains.'
"The next largest grant with rural impact is $244,000 to Ethan Zuckerman, a research fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School. With Rebecca MacKinnon, he is the cofounder of Global Voices (, an international community of bloggers and citizen journalists that has introduced readers around the world to the brilliant, funny, insightful and touching voices of bloggers from developing nations. The grant will be used to introduce thousands of new developing world bloggers to the world, helping students, journalists, activists and people from rural areas to the blogosphere. 'It’s becoming clear that the world is listening, so now we’re trying to get new groups of people talking.'
"The second round's application period begins July 1."

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Impeachment story being ignored, critic says

A college professor, author and director of the respected Project Censored reports that there's a growing grassroots movements of Americans supporting impeachment of President George W. Bush, but the mainstream media are ignoring the story.

Peter Phillips -- a sociology professor at Sonoma State University in California and co-author of the forthcoming book Impeach the President: The Case Against Bush and Cheney with Dennis Loo -- says there's ample evidence of widespread support for impeachment.

"City councils, boards of supervisors, and local- and state-level Democrat central committees have voted for impeachment," he writes. "Arcata, Calif., voted for impeachment on January 6. The City and County of San Francisco voted Yes on February 28. The Sonoma County (Calif.) Democrat Central Committee voted for Impeachment on March 16. The townships of Newfane, Brookfield, Dummerston, Marlboro and Putney in Vermont all voted for impeachment the first week of March. The New Mexico State Democrat party convention rallied on March 18 for the 'impeachment of George Bush and his lawful removal from office.'

"The national Green Party called for impeachment on January 3," Phillips continued, "Op-ed writers at the St. Petersburg Times, Newsday, Yale Daily News, Barrons, Detroit Free Press, and the Boston Globe have called for impeachment. The San Francisco Bay Guardian, the Nation [magazine] and Harpers [magazine] published cover articles calling for impeachment. As of March 16, 32 [members of the] U.S. House of Representatives have signed on as co-sponsors to House Resolution 635, which would create a Select Committee to look into the grounds for recommending President Bush’s impeachment."

To read his entire 631-word analysis, check here:

Friday, May 18, 2007

House committee OKs Campus Press Act

Illinois SB 0729, the College Campus Press Act, passed the House Higher Education Committee, 10-2, on Wednesday. It now goes to the full House for a vote. It now has six sponsors in the House, four Democrats and two Republicans. The bill passed the Senate, 57-0, March 15.

For additional information go to

First Amendment at stake in court, in general

The First Amendment and the enlightened citizens of a free democracy that it represents are under review if not under attack in various places, as reported by Ronald K.L. Collins of the First Amendment Center and author Naomi Wolf in a Guardian excerpt of her forthcoming book, The End of America: A Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot.

First, the Supreme Court's docket of First Amendment cases is full, Collins reports.Ten free-expression cases and one religion case have yet to be decided. In these cases that the court has agreed to hear, the subject matter includes student expression, campaign ads, voting rights, union free-speech rights, child pornography, and the First Amendment rights of a private school football coach. On the religion side of the First Amendment, there is an establishment-clause standing case. Another case raises a First Amendment-related issue concerning the scope of the speech-and-debate clause. For an overview of those cases, look here --

Elsewhere, in a key component of "Fascist America in 10 Easy Steps," Wolf explains her Number 8: "Control the Press," as something that goes beyond a Latin American military coup seizing a capital-city radio station. It extends to the coziness between Fox News, talk-radio voices such as Rush Limbaugh's and the Oval Office, the real dangers to journalists, as reported by the Committee to Protect Journalists, and the compliant White House press corps.

Drawing parallels between different decades and countries and the United States today, Wolf makes a case by using comparisons that are chilling. Read her complete piece here --,,2064157,00.html

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Cartoonists sacrificed, readers suffer

Tony Dokoupil in Columbia Journalism Review's blog CJR Daily recounts the observation that dropping editorial cartoonists is "the editorial equivalent of weight-loss through limb removal," but notes that the trend toward dropping staffers in favor of syndicated cartoons continues.

In 50 years, the number of U.S. cartoonists has fallen from 275 to 84. Chris Britt, who spoke at WIU's Journalism Day two years ago, is one of the few staff editorial cartoonists in the Midwest.

"Syndication tends to discourage controversial work and reward vanilla gags," Dokoupil writes.

Commercially, saving a cartoonist's pay and benefits to avoid offending advertisers or to buy syndicated material cheaply may be smart in the short term, but it's not in the long term.

It loses substance that readers want, and it erodes a paper's local identity, like relying on wire service instead of reporters on local streets, or running commentaries from time zones away at the expense of area voices speaking to their neighbors. Great cartoonists like Frank Miller of the Des Moines Register will only be in the past, undeveloped for future generations of readers.

"Also, at a time when the 'fake' news of The Daily Show and the false certainty of 'answer' shows like Lou Dobbs Tonight are ascendant, it's surprising that newspapers aren't expanding their investment in smart cartoons," writes Dokoupil, who recalls the comment from legendary writer adn editor H.L. Mencken, who wrote, "Give me a good cartoonist and I can throw out half the editorial staff."

Read the entire piece here --

Friday, May 11, 2007

Newsrooms become 'information centers'

Last week the country's largest newspaper chain got rid of all its newsrooms.

"Wha'?" some might say.

What happened on May 1 at Gannett -- which owns USA Today and about 90 U.S. dailies -- is transforming their newsrooms to "information centers" accommodating the needs of the audience with the (developing) skills of its staffers.

It could be a win-win -- if the chain figures out how to create revenue from the increased investment and workload.

For now, the move to 24-hour local and multimedia centers is filled with exciting possibilities.

For press critic John Burke's take on this, see

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Higher Ed Cmte. to consider Campus Press Act

From the Chicago Headline Club:

We just received word that the College Campus Press Act, Senate Bill 729, will be considered by the Illinois House Higher Education Committee on Thursday, May 10, at 8:30 a.m. in the Stratton Building, Room D-1, Springfield, IL.

If you haven't put in a word with the committee and want to, time is running short.
At last count, we know of four members who say they will vote for the bill. Committee chair Kevin McCarthy (D-Orland Park) has publicly supported the bill, saying "I don't think censorship has that many supporters from the General Assembly." Vice-chair Naomi Jakobsson (D-Champaign) and member Dan Brady (R-Bloomington) are sponsoring the bill; Robert Pritchard (R-Sycamore) has also pledged his support.

SB729 would bestow "public forum" status on student-produced campus media at state-supported institutions. Collegiate journalists have the opportunity, rare among their peers, to practice openly in their field of study before they begin their careers. This work teaches them the responsibility and good decision-making they will use later, as professionals, when they cover significant events at the local, state and federal levels. When college administrators rob collegiate journalists of these rights early in their training, they rob the public of the quality journalism that is so essential to a healthy democracy.

The 7th U.S. Court of Appeals ruling in Hosty v. Carter compromises this ability by permitting prior review and restraint of collegiate media and sets a dangerous precedent for future rulings. We believe Hosty is bad law, and we believe SB729 is a good remedy. It gives Illinois a chance to become a leader in collegiate student press rights and grants no protections to speech not protected by the U.S. Constitution. Neither would it place any legal responsibility on the shoulders of college administrators. Instead, it establishes all collegiate media as open forums and holds editors accountable for what they publish.

We encourage you to contact a committee member from your area, along with the committee chairman. For "Macombey-homeys," that means firing off a letter or phone call to state Rep. Rich Myers. His e-mail addresses are and

Chairperson :
Kevin A. McCarthy

Vice-Chairperson :
Naomi D. Jakobsson

Republican Spokesperson :
Mike Bost

Daniel V. Beiser

William B. Black

Dan Brady

James D. Brosnahan

John D'Amico

Roger L. Eddy

Mary E. Flowers

Constance A. Howard

David E. Miller

Richard P. Myers

Robert W. Pritchard

Jil Tracy

Good argument for not giving away the store

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette publisher Walter Hussman on Monday made a strong pitch for newspapers to make web sites into places of added-value contents complementing their print 'parents' instead of billboards that compete with the origin of the resources that create most Internet news content.

Some may view as extreme his suggestion that newspapers charge something for some of their material, but it's no more illogical than spending money to do the reporting, writing, editing, photography, design and so on, then presenting it at no charge to the world.

Surely there's a practical middle ground in journalism that blends storytelling through various media and commerce.

Those who argue that a new business model or revenue stream are imminent should recall Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Clarence Page's cautionary comment while visiting Western last month. He said that the Chicago Tribune and other newspapers generate $500-$900 in revenue per subscriber annually, but a newspaper's web site generates $5-$10 per unique visitor a year.

Hussman's newspaper, like the Wall Street Journal, offers free headlines and some free summaries (plus free classified ads), but charges for web subscriptions.

Read his whole piece here --

Monday, May 7, 2007

Another federal shield law proposed

Federal lawmakers once more are trying to pass a shield law protecting journalists.

Congressmen Rick Boucher (R-Va.) and Mike Pence (R-Ind.) last Wednesday (May 1) introduced the Free Flow of Information Act of 2007, reports John Eggerton in Broadcasting & Cable magazine.

"Similar bills have been introduced before," he writes. "but that was in a Republican-controlled Congress and with opposition from the Bush administration."

The new bill "sets criteria which must be met before information can be subpoenaed from reporters in any federal criminal or civil matter," say the Republican Representatives, adding that it "carefully balances the public interest in the free flow of information against the public interest in compelled testimony."

For the full article, check it out here --

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Journalists attacked, injured by cops in L.A. melee

The use of force by Los Angeles police against reporters and videographers covering the immigrants rights rally in Los Angeles this week came despite a 2002 legal settlement calling for the L.A. police and city officials to recognize journalists' right to cover public protests even if there is a declaration of unlawful assembly and an order to disperse.

Several journalists were attacked and injured at MacArthur Park, where police used batons and firearms against people doing their jobs.

Under the five-year-old settlement, the city is supposed to assign a press liaison to such events and to set up designated media areas. The pact resolved a lawsuit brought on behalf of seven journalists who said they were assaulted by police while covering the 2000 Democratic National Convention in L.A.

Peter Eliasberg, an ACLU lawyer who helped negotiate the settlement, said that based on broadcast news reports he has heard and viewed, "the police went way over the line," using force that "violates the law and the Constitution."Marc Cooper, associate director of the USC Annenberg Institute for Justice in Journalism, said the video he viewed of the clash led him to believe that the use of force by police was "unjustifiable and excessive.""From what I saw, it just seemed gratuitous to go after the reporters," Cooper said. "They weren't really in the way, they didn't really pose a threat and, of course, they were trying to do their job."

For the full Los Angeles Times report check out --,0,4971632,full.story?coll=la-home-headlines

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Dinner exposes press coziness Thomas blasts

New York Times columnist Frank Rich last weekend effectively linked the tragic death of Pulitzer Prize-winning newsman David Halberstam, the embarrassing White House Correspondents' Association dinner, and recent press criticism about the shameful inside-the-beltway coziness between the Washington press corps and the federal government.

Long-time White House journalist Helen Thomas two weeks ago at her WIU appearance spoke about that insider status and how it fails the American people.

Rich begins his April 29 piece, titled "All The President's Press"--
"Somehow it's hard to imagine David Halberstam yukking it up with Alberto Gonzales, Paul Wolfowitz and two discarded American Idol contestants at the annual White House Correspondents' Association dinner. Before there was a Woodward and Bernstein, there was Halberstam, still not yet 30 in the early 1960s, calling those in power to account for lying about our 'progress' in Vietnam. He did so even though J.F.K. told the publisher of The Times, 'I wish like hell that you'd get Halberstam out of there.' He did so despite public ridicule from the dean of that era's Georgetown punditocracy, the now forgotten columnist (and Vietnam War cheerleader) Joseph Alsop.
"It was Alsop's spirit, not Halberstam's, that could be seen in C-Span's live broadcast of the correspondents' dinner last Saturday, two days before Halberstam's death in a car crash in California. This fete is a crystallization of the press's failures in the post-9/11 era: it illustrates how easily a propaganda-driven White House can enlist the Washington news media in its shows. Such is literally the case at the annual dinner, where journalists serve as a supporting cast, but it has been figuratively true year-round. The press has enabled stunts from the manufactured threat of imminent 'mushroom clouds' to Saving Private Lynch to Mission Accomplished, whose fourth anniversary arrives on Tuesday. For all the recrimination, self-flagellation and reforms that followed these journalistic failures, it's far from clear that the entire profession yet understands why it has lost the public's faith."

For his complete and insightful column, via, go here:

Rich also mentions journalist Bill Moyers' PBS-TV special about the breakdown of most of the national press between 9/11 and the invasion and occupation of Iraq (for details on Moyers' sobering show, go here: ) and W. Lance Bennett's When the Press Fails (for details, go here: ).

Thomas' own incisive criticism also is exceptional. (For details, go here: ).

Maybe together with public demands for good journalism, the Washington press corps will improve. And do its job.