Friday, December 30, 2011

Local papers still dominate in rural areas

Local newspapers remain the dominant source of news in small towns and rural areas, according to the results of a new survey performed by the Reynolds Journalism Institute’s Center for Advanced Social Research and the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism on behalf of the National Newspaper Association.

Overall, 74% of residents of these areas said they read the local newspapers at least once a week, with 48% reading them once a week and 11% reading them every day.

Respondents said they spend almost 40 minutes a week reading newspapers; 83.2 percent said the read newspapers for their news content, and 92 percent said they pay for the newspapers.

Google, Facebook top digital views: Nielsen

Google was the most-visited U.S. Web brand, and Facebook held its lead among social networks and blogs in 2011, according to year-end ratings by the Nielsen company.

Also, smartphones became even more popular last year, making up most of new phone purchases, with Apple as the top smartphone manufacturer and Android as the leading Operating System.

Last year, Google attracted 153,441,000 unique visitors per month, Nielsen said, following by Facebook with 137,644,000 unique visitors per month.

The rest of the top-10 digital sites were, in order, Yahoo!, Bing, YouTube, Microsoft, AOL, Wikipedia, Apple and, according to Nielsen, which reviewed the top online destinations, social media sites, and smartphone devices.

Galesburg daily live-blogs from trial

Police reporter Jennifer Wheeler at the Galesburg Register-Mail may have become the first Illinois journalist to gain access to a state trial court as a blogger when she covered the Nicholas Sheley murder trial there in October.

Wheeler blogged constantly through the proceedings, about every 10 minutes, and attracted more than 1,200 reader/followers at one point, said her editor, Tom Martin, writing in "Presslines" from the Illinois Press Association.

Judge James Stewart granted permission for Wheeler's coverage via the newspaper's web site after the newswoman verbally requested the access.

How TV covers presidential candidates

Evening TV network newscasts about the presidential nominating contests have declined, according to a paper by George Mason University scholars, who found that news outlets often promise to focus on substantive issues and avoid polling numbers, but data show that “horse-race coverage has been dominant in the last three primary campaign cycles: 71 percent of the primary coverage in 2008 focused on the horse race, just slightly below the 78 percent we recorded in 2000 and 77 in 2004.”

Monday, December 19, 2011

No reason to keep ban on cameras in court

Springfield's State Journal Register last week ran this terrific editorial using the time peg of the recent sentencing of convicted ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich to revive the argument to stop excluding news photographers out of otherwise public proceedings in court.

The news peg is the bipartisan bill introduced by Illinois' U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin and Iowa's Charles Grassley, a Democrat and Republican, respectively.

Their measure "would break the federal court taboo at the top by requiring television coverage of all open sessions of the U.S. Supreme Court. This is the court that makes decisions with profound effects on the entire country, yet it remains the most mysterious body in the American judiciary," the SJR writes.

For his part, Durbin commented, "In a democratic society that values transparency and participation, there can be no valid justification for such a powerful element of government to operate largely outside the view of the American people."

Read the whole piece:

Friday, December 16, 2011

Murdoch seeks restricted Internet

Congress is trying to restrict the Internet, and global media baron Rupert Murdoch last week personally lobbied leaders on Capitol Hill for two measures that supporters say merely combat piracy.

The bills are misleadingly titled the Stop Online Piracy Act in the House, and the Protect IP Act in the Senate.

"Both measures would require Internet operators to police activity online," according top Ryan Grim and Michael McAuliff on The Huffington Post, "and would mandate Internet giants like Google and AOL, and credit card companies, to take down sites that have content deemed to be in violation of copyright rules."

Opponents, including Google, charge that the proposals would be censorship that would stifle innovation and impose higher costs on consumers.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The First Amendment

Monday, October 31, 2011

'Outrage' more common in broadcasting than blogs or print columns: study

Incidents of "outrage" rhetoric and behavior on radio and television opinion shows are about four times as frequent as blogs and newspaper columns, according to a study published in Political Communication: “From Incivility to Outrage: Political Discourse in Blogs, Talk Radio and Cable News.”

Tufts University social scientists analyzed an ideologically diverse group of news sources to better understand the use of what they call “outrage discourse” — political speech designed to provoke audiences' emotional responses such as fear or hate.

Researchers examined 10 weeks of content from talk radio, cable "news" programs, blogs and syndicated columnists and identified 13 common forms of “outrage discourse,” including insulting language, name calling, character assassination, misrepresentative exaggeration and mockery.

While the tactics used by liberal and conservative commentators are largely the same, incidents of outrage were 50 percent more common in right-leaning media than in left-leaning media: Right-leaning content providers "scored" a 15.47 outrage incidents per case; left-leaning providers scored a 10.32.

As far as type of media, the average frequency on radio was 24, TV 23, blogs 6 and columns 6.

Blogs are relatively new, of course, but newspapers today, compared to 35 or 55 years ago, also feature "outrage" discourse more often in their syndicated columns. Measuring about 6 now, in 1975 it was 0.1, and in 1955 0.06.

The phenomenon is not just harmless entertainment, say lead researchers Sarah Sobieraj and Jeffrey Berry.

“Partisanship, as measured by the voting behavior of legislators, is up quite sharply in the past few decades,” they write in their conclusion. “It strains credulity to believe that the new and expanded ideological media has had nothing to do with this trend.”

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Twin Cities settles with journalists arrested in 2008

As a result of the arrests of journalists as well as demonstrators at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minn., on Labor Day in 2008, local police and Secret Service must pay a six-figure settlement to "Democracy Now!" news anchor Amy Goodman and other plaintiffs.

"In addition to paying out $100,000, the St. Paul Police Department has agreed to implement a training program aimed at educating officers regarding the First Amendment rights of the press and public with respect to police operations — including police handling of media coverage of mass demonstrations — and to pursue implementation of the training program in Minneapolis and statewide," Goodman wrote."

The settlement "should be a warning to police departments around the country to stop arresting and intimidating journalists," she added

Local shared news means less for more communities

Peoria, Ill., television stations' news are mentioned in a study the University of Delaware’s Center for Community Research and Service that shows that local TV stations that share video, reporters, anchors or even complete newscasts mean less original content for audiences -- and possible violations of monopoly laws.

“Local television news still holds a pre-eminent position as a news source for the public,“ said Danilo Yanich, who wrote the study and filed his report with the Federal Communications Commission.

The research cited the Peoria market, which has five local news stations but broadcast identical stories on multiple channels.

The drift toward shared services agreements will continue, Yanich conceded, but stations still have public interest responsibilities.

Half of tablet users read news daily

Half of tablet owners consume news on their tablets every day, according to a study out this week from the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism, in collaboration with the Economist Group.

Further, 77 percent of American adult tablet owners use their tablets daily, 30 percent spend more time getting news than before they owned tablets, and 33 percent turn to new sources on their tablets.

Maybe most surprising, 42 percent read in-depth articles regularly on their tablets.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Americans rely on newspapers, study shows, yet don't appreciate their importance

Newspapers and their websites ranked first or tied for first as a reliable source of local information on 11 of 16 topics that more than 2,000 respondents were surveyed about in a recent study by Pew Research.

However, asked whether they'd be impacted in a big way by the demise of their local newspaper, 69% said no, that they'd still be able to keep up with information and news about their community.

Television is the main source for three popular topics: weather, traffic and breaking news, the study showed. Newspapers and their Web sites are the main source for most other topics, such as local government and crime reports. Also, word of mouth -- most likely including text messaging and Twitter posts -- is the second most common means of news distribution on the local level.

“There really is a nuanced ecosystem here with very old and very new sources blending,” said Tom Rosenstiel (above), the director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism, which collaborated with the Pew Internet & American Life Project on the study, speaking to the New York Times.

Elsewhere, another Pew study clarified people's attitude about the press, which remain negative despite their reliance on news media for information.

Of those surveyed, 80% said they thought the news media were often influenced by powerful people and groups; 77% said the media tend to favor one side; and 72% said reporters try to cover up their mistakes.

Kindle Fire could be game-changer, news sites could challenge book publishers

Katherine Travers on the editorsweblog writes that Amazon's new Kindle Fire tablet would upend content consumers' puchase and use of tablets.

There are three main reasons, she says: Amazon is a huge force in media (with 50% growth in quarterly revenues and the possibility of reaching %50 billion in sales this year, according to Businessweek), Amazon is considerably different than Apple, bringing its tablet into the mainstream with a price tag reflecting Amazon's low profit margins (especially compare to Apple's), and Amazon is here to stay, and Kindle Fire is a long-term investment.

Meanwhile, Amazon and its "digital imprints" are just one challenge to traditional print-only book publishers, according to the New York Times. Authors who print their own e-books, new online-only efforts and now news organizations spinning off into e-products.

The Boston Globe and Politico, the New Yorker and Vanity Fair magazines and ABC News and the Huffington Post all have e-books out or imminent about topics ranging from Rupert Murdoch and 9-11 to ending the Pentagon's "Don't ask, don't tell" policy and the crisis in the Catholic Church.

E-books are a new platform for material that's shorter than many books, cheaper to price, and quick to produce -- often outgrowths of magazine features or newspaper series.

A Kindle, Nook or tablet is an efficient way to read such contents, according to Eric Simonoff, a literary agent.

“These devices are uniquely suited for mid-length content that runs too long for shrinking magazines and are too pamphletlike to credibly be called a book” he told the New York Times.

Strict eavesdropping law ruled unconstitutional in Illinois case

Chicago colleague Bob Roberts of WBBM-AM 780 and the Illinois News Broadcasters Association shares this good news from the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press:

An Illinois judge ruled the state’s eavesdropping law unconstitutional
as applied to a man who faced up to to 75 years in prison for secretly
recording his encounters with police officers and a judge.

“A statute intended to prevent unwarranted intrusions into a citizen’s
privacy cannot be used as a shield for public officials who cannot
assert a comparable right of privacy in their public duties,” the judge
wrote in his decision dismissing the five counts of eavesdropping
charges against defendant Michael Allison.

“Such action impedes the free flow of information concerning public
officials and violates the First Amendment right to gather such
information,” he wrote.

The ruling is the most recent development raising questions about
Illinois’ strict eavesdropping statute, which makes it a felony to use
a device to audio record or overhear a conversation without the consent
of all parties involved, regardless of the circumstances of the

Allison’s legal troubles began when he recorded his conversations with
local police officers who he claimed were harassing him. The officers
were seizing old cars he was fixing on his front lawn in violation of a
city ordinance, which then forced him to pay a fee to have them

When Allison was brought into court for violating the ordinance, he
requested a court reporter so that he could have a record of his trial.
The court declined his request and Allison announced that he would
record the trial himself.

When he showed up to the courtroom for his trial, the judge immediately
asked Allison if he had a recording device and if it was on. He
answered yes and the judge had him arrested on the spot for violating
her privacy.

When police confiscated Allison's digital device, they found the other
recordings. Allison was then charged with five felony counts of
eavesdropping, each of which can carry a maximum 15-year prison

In Thursday’s ruling, Circuit Court Judge David Frankland said that
Allison had a First Amendment right to record the police officers and
court employees.

The judge also ruled that while it was reasonable to prohibit the
defendant from recording in the courtroom, making what Allison did a
felony offense was overreaching and irrational.

“The statute [as it is currently written] includes conduct that is
unrelated to the statute’s purpose and is not rationally related to the
evil the legislation sought to prohibit,” the judge wrote in his
opinion. “For example, a defendant recording his case in a courtroom
has nothing to do with an intrusion into a citizen’s privacy but with

Although some civil rights activists call the decision a small victory,
the Illinois eavesdropping law is still in effect.

Earlier this week, a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals in Chicago (7th
Cir.) heard another case challenging the Illinois eavesdropping law in
which the American Civil Liberties Union argued that the statute should
be changed to allow for the recording of public officials in public

One of the judges on the panel hearing the case, however, was quoted by
the Chicago Sun-Times questioning the ACLU's arguments.

“If you permit the audio recordings, they’ll (sic) be a lot more
eavesdropping. … There’s going to be a lot of this snooping around by
reporters and bloggers,” Circuit Judge Richard Posner said. “Yes, it’s
a bad thing. There is such a thing as privacy.”

The appeals court is expected to issue a formal ruling on the case in
the upcoming months, according to the Sun-Times.

In another case last month, a jury acquitted a Chicago woman who used
her cell phone to secretly record a conversation with police
investigators about a sexual harassment complaint she was filing
against the department. The recording was especially controversial
because the investigators allegedly discouraged her from filing the
report, saying on the recording “I think it’s something we can handle
without having to go through this process…”

The right to film police in the performance of their public duties has
also been the subject of debate across the U.S. as arrests for such
activities have been on the rise.

In August, the U.S. Court of Appeals in Boston (1st Cir.) ruled that
this kind of filming is a “basic and well-established liberty
safeguarded by the First Amendment,” in a case involving a complaint
filed by a Boston man who filmed the scene of an October 2007 arrest on
his cell phone, only to be arrested himself and charged with a
violation of Massachusetts wiretapping laws. The most recent ruling in
Illinois cited this decision as a “persuasive authority” for ruling on
similar cases.

Friday, September 30, 2011

DeKalb prosecutor targets journalists for subpoenas

Chicago Judge Robbin Stuckert expects to rule by November 8 a case that an attorney for press interests says would violate Illinois' Reporter's Privilege Act.

At issue is DeKalb County State's Attorney Clay Campbell's argument that journalists must turn over their notes from jailhouse interviews with suspects if subpoenaed.

Campbell conceded that journalists have "a competing interest" but he argued that State's Attorneys have an obligation to "prosecute cases as thoroughly as possible."

He did not explain why law enforcement or prosecutors have so little resources that independent information from reporters woould be needed to fully investigate criminal cases.

The Reporter's Privilege Act generally protects journalists from being required to divulge information they gather in the performance of their work.

American Public Media funded for 'citizen sources'

It's less 'citizen journalism" than growing sources, but a $4.1 million grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting announced this week could greatly expand the voices, tips and reportinig on local and regional levels.

CPB "officials said the grant will add 100,000 more people to the network to share information with 50 more newsrooms," reported Brett Zongker of the Associated Press. "It will fund mobile apps to share content and tools to vet information from participants."

It's unclear where the funding will originate to pay the reporters and editors required to verify sources' information or to use news judgment in determining what's verifiable news and what's not. However, any help to improve local and regional journalism is welcome, of course.

Curiously, the money, to be spent over two years, if going to American Public Media and neither PBS nor NPR.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Nielsen contradicts Pew on online news use

More than 13 times as many U.S. Internet surfers list pornography and other miscellaneous uses than news, according to a new Nielsen report on social media summarized by the Poynter Institute for Media Studies.

Further, Americans spend more than 22 percent of their web time on blogs and social networks.

Just 2.6 percent of the online audience noted "current events and global news."

This contradicts recent Pew research that shows that reading news online is becoming a regular American pastime. Internet news readership is increasing among consumers of all ages, Pew reports, and 75 percent of online Americans look for news on the web. Other figures suggest that up to 78 percent of Americans look for news online and 21 percent of social users are “News Junkies,” constantly looking for breaking information on the web.

Nielsen's report is being received with more than a little doubt.

"Skeptical readers may note that blogs could relate to news, and portals post news stories, so take that into account," writes Poynter's Steve Myers, who listed Nielsen's findings:

Activity % of Internet time spent on it
Other (including porn) 35.1%
Social networks & blogs 22.5
Online games 9.8
Email 7.6
Portals 4.5
Videos/movies 4.4
Search 4.0
Instant messaging 3.3
Software manufacturer 3.2
Classifieds/auctions 2.9
Current events & global news 2.6

Meanwhile, the New York Times this week noted the supposed drift away from mass-market news could be tied to a fragmentation of the Web.

David Carr writes, "Like newspapers, portals like AOL and Yahoo are confronting the cold fact that there is less general interest in general interest news. Readers have peeled off into verticals of information — TMZ for gossip, Politico for politics and Deadspin for sports, and so on."

SPJ's Quill offers good 'toolbox tips'

Jamie DeLoma's "Digital Media" column in a recent issue of Quill magazine, published by the Society of Professional Journalists, offers eight solid suggestions.

"The web offers journalists countless free opportunities to enhance their reporting," says DeLoma, a Hearst copy editor and Quinnipiac Unievrsity jorunalism professor. "The biggest hurdle facing them is knowing where to find the most relevant and timely information. Google should be part of every journalist's e-toolkit."

He outlines and explains Google highlights Reader, Uncle Sam, Squared, Patents, News Archive Search, Trends, Flu Trends and Labs.

"Journalists should also build the most popular social media entities, including Facebook, Foursquare and Twitter, into their own custom wire services with news coming in about the subjects they are most interested in," he continued. "New, more dynamic sites are developing by the day, and it is critical to stay connected with the latest sites and applications in the news-gathering arena. Don't fear the developments, but embrace them."

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Murdoch, news & democracy

Apart from the eventual outcome of investigations on multiple continents about News Corporation's alleged criminal invasions of privacy, media kingpin Rupert Murdoch has changed journalism, politics and governance, according to columnist John Buell, author of Politics, Religion, and Culture in an Anxious Age and a teacher at Cochise College in southeastern Arizona.

"Murdoch feeds but also reflects a politics of demonization not unique to the United States but exceptionally potent here," Buell writes. "Thus to a greater extent than in most modern democracies, such questions as whether one inhaled marijuana or had a mistress pass for informed and important political debate."

That's a general observation. A specific variation exists, too, Buell says.

"Fox has been an amplification machine for the notion that the U.S. is broke and government, just like today's families, must retrench," Buell writes. "This analysis is only half right. Middle- and working-class families are broke, but the federal Government can borrow money at historically low rates. If it does not borrow -- or tax corporate and wealthy savings -- and spend, we may be sunk.

"The notion that the U.S. is broke is absurd," he added. "If we are broke now, we were much more broke in the years following WWII. Yet in those years the U.S. growth rate topped that of the Reagan era and the fruits of growth were much more equitably distributed.

"The corporate culture of News Corp/ reflected Murdoch's broader political ideals and affected its journalistic practices," Buell continued.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Associated Press blasts Kentucky athletics for denying student journalists access to players

As the Western Courier recently published, the Associated Press Managing Editors (APME) and the Associated Press Sports Editors organizations both have blasted University of Kentucky athletics for revoking the student newspaper's access to players.

After Kentucky freshman forward Anthony Davis Tweeted a welcome to walk-ons Brian Long and Sam Malone, Aaron Smith, managing editor of the Kentucky Kernel student newspaper, sought confirmation of that news from the players themselves. So he looked up their phone numbers in the school directory and contacted them, said Kernel Editor-in-Chief Taylor Moak.

Then DaWayne Peevy, associate athletic director of Media Relations, contacted Smith to inform him that the newspaper was no longer invited to a special, one-on-one media interview with the players the next day because Smith had asked the players for interviews without first getting permission from Media Relations.

APME president Hollis Towns wrote Kentucky Director of Athletics Mitch Barnhart that the action “amounts to no less than an attempt to bully the newspaper into submission and to censor news concerning operations of the University of Kentucky athletic department.”

Meanwhile, Student Press Law Center attorney Adam Goldstein said the university's actions boil down to one.

“People seem to be struggling with the nuances of athletic regulations, but the simple question at the core is: Can the government punish someone for asking a question?” Goldstein said. “Any answer that defends Media Relations for what they did here requires you to answer in the affirmative. The idea that punishing people for asking questions should ever be OK is irreconcilable with any First Amendment precedent in history.”

Friday, September 2, 2011

Gov't not liable for TV station excluding Green Party from debates, court rules

Just because a broadcaster is licensed by the federal government -- and even when a significant amount of its funding comes from government -- doesn't mean the government is responsible for what shows -- or doesn't show, according to U.S. District Judge Robert Gettleman in Chicago.

On August 18, Gettleman dismissed a lawsuit brought by the Green Party in 2010 against WTTW-TV (Window to the World Communications, Inc.) for excluding Green gubernatorial candidate Rich Whitney (shown above during a campaign stop in Macomb) and U.S. Senate candidate LeAlan Jones from debates the PBS affiliate telecast.

The Green Party sued on the grounds that its First, Fifth and 14th Amendment rights were violated.

The Green Party has been recognized by the state of Illinois as an established political party since Whitney in 2006 received more than 11 percent of the votes for governor.

In a five-page opinion, Gettleman dismissed the case on the grounds that the defendant is neither owned by the government nor was it acting as an arm of the government. WTTW is a non-profit corporation.

A footnote in the decision says that the court would be disinclined to force Whitney or the Greens to pay attorneys’ fees to the defendants.

Meanwhile, it seems that earnest journalists must now shoulder a heavier burden in justifying to the public any editorial decisions to ignore or exclude "recognized," legitimate or long-shot candidates for political office, whether Whitney, Republican Ron Paul or Democrat Dennis Kucinich.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Readers, communities lose big when media execs shutter newsrooms

Northern California has a "news emergency," according to digital news observer and author Ken Doctor (Newsonomics) and radio listeners phoning in about the Bay Area News Group combining 10 of its 15 titles into two new ones: the Times and the East Bay Tribune.

The 137-year-old Oakland Tribune was one of the papers closed.

The business decision may result in gains in savings, but it'll also mean reader loss, Doctor says.

"It's a community loss and points to the wider impact of news cuts on the society in which we live," he writes, recalling a caller bemoaning fewer reporters.

"'The news is our last great hope for justice'," Doctor quotes a woman who advocates for the elderly and hasn't been able to get help from local government. "'We've been working with a reporter... and to see the newspapers get cut back is really hard'."

The corporate decision-makers are being short-sighted, Doctor says.

"Newspapers are all about community identity; they have both reflected it and provided rallying symbols for it," he says. "How many corruptions, large and small, [will be] unfound? We don't know what we don't know.

"How much of the reporting that does see the light of day will be 'local'?" he continues. "What's local to one reader [of the new regional papers] won't really be local to another."

Nevertheless, it's up to the reporters, photographers and editors to persevere --- and hopefully prosper individually in their careers.

"It's important for all the journalists to do what jouralists need to do: Forget the uncertain usiness around them and report the news as best they can," Doctor says.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Two sentenced for killing journalist

Two Bay Area men were found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment in connection with the murder of newspaperman Chauncey Bailey -- the first U.S. journalist killed in the United States for reporting a story in 19 years.

Bailey was shot to death in broad daylight on a busy street on Aug. 2, 2007, while walking to his newspaper, the Oakland Post. He'd been investigating the group called Your Black Muslim Bakery.

Convicted of shooting the reporter with a shotgun was Yusef Bey IV; convicted of murder for his part as Bey's getaway driver was Antoine Mackey.

"This sends a signal to those who would violently attack the press in the United States that they will not get away with it," said Frank Smyth, Journalist Security Coordinator fofr the Committee to protect Journalists (CPJ).

CPJ's web site is

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Advice for J students from OJR

Incoming journalism students should take a science lab course, learn about business and network, according to writer Robert Niles (at right), whose tips appear in Online Journalism Review.

The laboratory science course can implicitly teach the scientific method, which can help aspiring journalists appreciate the goal of being "objective" -- or at least complete, fair and accurate.

Involvement in a business or even a student organization can expose students to the nitty-gritty of dollars and (financial) sense.

And networking extends from access to opportunities to developing sources.

"Without sources, you are a novelist," Niles writes. "(Not that there's anything wrong with that.) Use your non-journalism classes to build your personal network. Publish on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google Plus. Blog. Video blog. Make meeting and conversing with people your addiction. Fail to network responsibly, and all the smarts in the world won't help you succeed."

Print better than online for retention: study

People who read newspapers "remember significantly more news stories than online news readers"; print readers "remembered significantly more topics than online newsreaders"; and print readers remembered "more main points of news stories," according to study presented at the annual meeting of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication. The paper, "Medium Matters: Newsreaders' Recall and Engagement With Online and Print Newspapers," by Arthur D. Santana, Randall Livingstone, and Yoon Cho of the University of Oregon.

Reporting on, "Press box" columnist Jack Shafer recounted his own unsuccessful attempt to go "print-free."

"What I really found myself missing was the news," Shafer writes. "Even though I spent ample time clicking through the Times website and the Reader, I quickly determined that I wasn't recalling as much of the newspaper as I should be."

"Online newspapers tend to give few cues about a story's importance," he continued, "and the 'agenda-setting function' of newspapers gets lost in the process. 'Online readers are apt to acquire less information about national, international and political events than print newsreaders because of the lack of salience cues; they generally are not being told what to read via story placement and prominence—an enduring feature of the print product,' the [AEJMC] researchers write. The paper finds no evidence that the 'dynamic online story forms' (you know, multimedia stuff) have made stories more memorable."

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Whistleblower case plea deal not reassuring

This summer, federal prosecutors agreed to a deal with a whistleblower that avoided a trial (and public disclosure of information the government prefers to keep secret), but civil libertarians and journalists haven't been reassured that the Obama administration's zeal to vigorously stop leaks won't continue-- and have dire effects on transparency and on basic reporting.

Ex-National Security Agency official Thomas Drake (pictured above in a shot from the Government Accountability Project) was charged with violating the Espionage Act by giving classified information to a Baltimore Sun reporter, but he pleaded guilty to a lesser misdemeanor. Drake's defense was that he was a whistleblower exposing waste in an NSA program after his superiors ignored his concerns.

Journalists are very sensitive to the case -- and the federal government's targeting whistleblowers -- because journalists by the nature of newsgathering could be interpreted as co-conspirators.

"Because reporters often retain unauthorized defense documents, Drake's conviction would estbalish a legal precedent making it possible to prosecute journalists," wrote Jane Mayer in The New Yorker magazine.

Lucy Dalglish, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, predicted the administration will continue to pursue whistleblowers at intelligence agencies “very, very aggressively.”

For more coverage and context, check out Mayer's piece (, Scott Horton's piece in Harper's (, and Pete Yost's Associated Press story from Army Times (

Friday, August 19, 2011

GJR criticizes investigative reporting

Former Chicago Tribune reporter and editorial board member in the new Gateway Journalism Review blasts investigative journalists and their editors for concentrating too much on public-affairs reporting and not enough on the private sector.

McCarron appropriately points out that, too often, it's easier to investigate public bodies that, at least on paper, must adhere to Freedom of Information Act rules and similar public-access measures.

However, by charging that focusing on goverenment malfeasance contributes to a public disdain for government, he overlooks the obvious: the facts.

The truth is, some local, state and government officials do act with disregard for the public they purportedly serve. The chips sometimes fall where they may.

It's also true, nevertheless, that reporters must also do the extra shoe-leather work and sourcing needed to cover local businesses, corporations and interests that are far less transparent than government is at least supposed to be. Otherwise, such prominent forces in the community are not fully covered.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

UK's Cameron threatens to block social media

Bloomberg reports that Prime Minister David Cameron of the United Kingdom is considering blocking social media, which he blames for facilitating some of the unrest that's hit England in recent weeks.

Cameron apparently learned little from similar attempts in Egypt and other "Arab Spring" sites that ignored reasons for unrest, and is focusing on tools some ruffians may be using as opposed to the property damage, thefts and other crimes that have happened.

“If you try to stop people communicating, you create more of a problem,” said Jim Killock, director of the Open Rights Group, an organization promoting freedom of expression on the Internet.

Speaking to Bloomberg reporters Amy Thomson and Robert Hutton, Killock added, “People are angry because their freedoms are threatened.”

Illustration from

ABC-TV 'bans' checkbook journalism

ABC News has dropped the network's practice of paying subjects of news stories for exclusive interviews, media critic Howard Kurtz recently reported.

It's also addressed in the current issue of Quill magazine, published by the Society of Professional Journalists. There, columnist Mike Farrell reminds readers of ABC News having paid more than $10,000 to buy pictures tied to disgraced Congressman Anthony Wiener's "smartphone stupidity" and $200,000 to exonerated murder defendant Casey Anthony for family photos and videos.

ABC also paid $10,000 to a woman who said she'd injected Botox into her 8-year-old daughter.

Farrell reports perspectives from insiders and experts, too.

"What happens to journalism when sources agree to interviews only when they are paid?" he asks. "Media ethicist John Michael Kittross has argued that 'treating news as a commodity eventually will destroy journalism as a public benefit'.”

ABC spokesman Jeffrey Schneider, meanwhile, told Kurtz that ABC News isn't too worried about stopping the pay-off practice.

"We can book just about anyone based on the strength of our journalism, the excellence of our anchors, correspondent and producers, and the size of our audience," Schneider said.

Elsewhere, SPJ president Hagit Limor said, “When you pay for a story, you’re making a contract with the person who supplies it, and that means you’re no longer acting independently."

Monday, August 15, 2011

New ethics for local journalism?

The new "Rules of the Road: Navigating the New Ethics of Local Journalism" from J-Lab is somehow reminiscent of the supposed exchange when non-violent anti-imperialist Mahatma Gandhi was asked what he thought of Western Civilization.

"It would be a good idea," he said.

However, J-Lab's Jan Schaffer and others apparently think hyperlocal, online news sites are developing faster than common sense, so something is needed.

"These 'Rules of the Road' are very much a work in progress," Schaffer writes, "shaped by a news landscape in which:
*The threshold for news is lower. Misdemeanors, not just felonies, constitute news,
*Stories unravel in real time. Editors post updates as they come in rather than wait for a fully baked story,
*'Google juice' makes micro news have a macro afterlife,
*Ethical decisions are as open to community feedback as the stories themselves, and
*Attachment to the community is valued more than dispassionate detachment."

Still, one wonders whether new sources for journalism would do well to abide by the tried-and-true code of ethics the Society of Professional Journalists has, broadly summarizing four main points:
*Seek truth and report it fully,
*Act independently
*Minimize harm, and
*Be accountable.

For details or a free copy of the 52-page booklet, go to and click on "Get the pdf."

Obama's EPA uses 'minders' to clamp down on openness

For all the President's talk about transparency and openness, his Environmental Protection Agency is planning to institute a policy that employees must get permission to talk to journalists, according to a short but detailed report from the Society for Environmental Journalists (SEJ).

SEJ and other press groups have opposed such restrictions, but the policy could go in to effect unless people object before the Sept. 6 deadline for public comment.

The "Scientific Integrity Policy" also mandates that bureaucraic "minders" from EPA's press office must sit in on all media interviews with scientists.

"We object to parts of the EPA draft policy that restrict news media access to EPA scientists," SEJ President Carolyn Whetzel said. "In some cases, the proposed policy is much more restrictive than the NASA or NOAA policies, or even the White House guidelines."

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Debt-ceiling crisis coverage lousy

By resorting to a picture of the recent debt-ceiling fight as two political sides equally sharing the blame of refusing to be reasonable, the news media successfully gave an impression of being an impartial observer of reality. However, since that wasn't what happened, mainstream journalism mosstly failed to tell the story in a complete, fair and accurate way.

That's according to an insightful posting by The Nation magazine contributor Ari Melber, whose reporting includes blasting a typical take on the wrangling about approving an increase in what the federal government may borrow to pay bills it already incurred.

"Take this headline, running at the top of CNN [which Fox News calls "liberal"] a day after President Obama’s national address," Melber writes:

" 'They’re all talking, but no one is compromising, at least publicly. Democratic and GOP leaders appear unwilling to bend on proposals to raise the debt ceiling.'

"Journalist Josh Marshall confronted that bizarro narrative with evidence of what’s actually happening. 'By any reasonable measure, this [CNN headline] is simply false, even painfully so'," Marshall said.

"Whether you think it’s good or bad, we have just seen one party’s leadership embrace the platform of the opposing party," Melber adds, "only to watch that party apparently back off its own original position. That’s news!"

Marshall continues, "It is not partisan or spin to say that the Democrats have repeatedly offered compromises. The real driver of the debate is that the fact that Republican majority in the House can’t agree to win."

"Editors or management will not accept a political story about one side being completely wrong," Melber wrote, "Or irrational. Or irresponsible. Because that 'can’t be the whole story!'

"And if you believe that, then your only response to the endgame of the debt crisis is total denial," he concluded. "That may be human, but it ain’t journalism."

Murdoch's goon squad

Rolling Stone's Tim Dickinson has a good roundup of many of the allegations against media baron Rupert Murdoch in the August 18 issue of the magazine, and it may be somewhat surprising to learn of shenanigans beyond the ballyhooed phone-hacking flap in the United Kingdom.

The allegations range from weird payoffs and "settlements" to embarrassing coziness with politicians and what sure seems like paranoia and other issues by Fox News' Roger Ailes.

(Oddly, the periodical's web site retitled the feature to "Rupert Murdoch's American Scandals.")

Illustration from

Friday, August 12, 2011

Draft of personal column: 'Mom'

Below is a draft of a column I'm sending out next week to the six newspapers and one news site that get my twice-weekly column, FYI.

By Bill Knight

Fireflies floated free from a field of corn moments after Mom died around dusk on a Sunday a month ago.

When someone close passes on or is in danger, swelling up in us all is fear, impotence or anger. So people reach out and reach in.

Prayer might connect the impulses to look outward and inward, although skeptics scoff, dismissing prayer as talking to yourself. Arguing, even.

But when my mother had become unexpectedly ill, I reached out, looking for a “life line” maybe, through emails, Facebook and conversations with friends. I also felt guilty somehow, remembering a line in my morning prayer: “Encourage my weak faith.”

As people grieve, there’s contact with others, plus flowers and cards, kind comments and heartfelt hugs from close friends and total strangers. Family flew in from the West; pals drove hours to be at the funeral. I heard from my book club, softball team, work, church. Also, some guy in Warren County mailed a memorial donation, and a woman in Fulton County sent a nice note. Neighbors and folks I hadn’t seen in decades – including girlfriends from the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s – expressed sympathy.


For journalists, writing obituaries for friends or family is a particularly profound blessing and burden. None fully captures a life.

Born in 1930, in Keokuk, Iowa, Mom spent much of her childhood in Kentucky before returning to Keokuk, where she attended high school. She married Dad in 1949. She leaves him behind, along with my brother and me, our wives and a grandson.

A petite woman – she described herself as “five-foot-nothin’ ” – she was a homemaker and occasional employee at a friend’s small business, active in her church and a volunteer with groups ranging from Scouts to her local hospital in Carthage. She took pleasure in family, gardening, dancing and playing bridge.

There’s more beyond such basics. Reaching in, random memories are ignited.

She enjoyed cooking and creepy novels, and loved animals, from trying to save downed birds and baby bunnies in the backyard, to many beloved cats and dogs.

Humble and stubborn, easy-going but organized, Mom was an amateur archivist of sorts, keeping scrapbooks and genealogical background librarians would envy. She had simple tastes – buttermilk, horehound hard candy, Elvis, Betty Boop – but also was unexpectedly adventurous, like driving 800 miles by herself to visit relatives, or flying in a barnstorming bi-plane that offered rides during a rural stop.

She’d told me how, as a teen-age mom, she’d been fearful and frustrated, which probably explained her being judgmental without condemning others.

“Oh, well,” she’d say. “Live and let live.”

She wasn’t political but paid attention. An Eisenhower Republican, she was drawn to Reagan’s personality, but was put off by the more patrician Bushes. She came to like Bill Clinton and was happy to vote for Barack Obama. She wasn’t exactly athletic but played golf in a determined style, shooting short but straight at the pin while around her long drives were in the woods, and becoming a good putter, tapping the ball and, as it approached the cup, exclaiming, “One time!” It often was.

Smaller memories endure. Mom taught me how to skip as we walked to the hospital, where my baby brother was getting out after being treated for croup; she typed one of the first papers I wrote, in 7th grade; she finished a model rocket for me after I’d given up, in tears, and went to bed when I was about 9.

However, we also argued frequently for 20 years, until the ’70s. Mom scolded me as always opposed to things – an “aginner!” she called me – but she wasn’t my harshest critic. In fact, she could be a heckuva cheerleader. She gave me warm support when I did OK; for decades every word I wrote was done feeling Mom and Dad peering over my shoulders.

Mom was deceptively, sometimes inadvertently, funny. After one road trip with dogs staying rowdy despite sedatives from the vet, she announced, “Next time, I’LL take the tranquilizers.”
Another time, no doubt frustrated with two teens’ appetites, she questioned cooking at all, quipping, “Why bother! You’ll just EAT IT!”

She had a catch phrase – “Yeah, RIGHT!” – as in one conversation, in which I said, “Considering I was 7 when my appendix burst and you had to drain my gut, you’ve had to deal with my crap for 50 years.”

“Yeah, RIGHT!” she smiled.


It’d be an unhappy, hollow place if souls of such goodness and grit in some way didn’t live on.
But frankly, I felt somewhat abandoned until I stumbled on a line from Scripture, where God tells Isaiah, “As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you.”

Now and then, here and there, things still seem empty. Then I answer myself: “But the sky seems full.”

Saturday, July 30, 2011

TriStatesRadio has 'Shoptalk' weekly

In less than 10 minutes each Tuesday, TriStatesRadio (WIUM-FM 91.3 and WIUW-FM 89.5) airs “Shoptalk,” an informal, roundtable discussion of media issues hosted by the station's News Director, Rich Egger (pictured above, left) and featuring print journalist Bill Knight and broadcaster Mike Murray.

This summer, topics have included a possible change to Illinois' Open Records law criticized by advocates of open government; the role media played in the days after a devastating tornado tore through Joplin, Mo.; how the news media view education; an FCC report suggesting news outlets could make money from on-line ad tracking; the use of aggregation by web sites such as the Huffington Post; and the phone hacking scandal involving the Rupert Murdoch-owned media.

Also, TriStatesRadio’s Southeast Iowa correspondent Jason Parrott (above, right)hosted two July episodes featuring Keokuk reporters Megan Spees and Cindy Iutzi from the Daily Gates City newspaper, in which the trio discussed an FCC report noting a shortage of in-depth, local journalism and also how the media handled the Casey Anthony trial and the accusations of sexual assault against Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who resigned as head of the International Monetary Fund.

The station archives podcasts of past shows at

Friday, June 10, 2011

Speaking out against Eavesdropping Act

Bob Roberts in the Illinois News Broadcasters Association newsletter TuneIN writes about the state legislature's Eavesdropping Act:

In newsrooms across Illinois, there's a daily mantra.

"Before we go any further, I'd like to make sure I have permission to record this conversation."

It's something I've said anytime I begin to tape the interview since I can remember. Most of the time I double-check by telling my interview subject, "Thank you again for agreeing to be recorded."

That's because Illinois law is clear: No conversation can legally be recorded unless all parties to it agree.

For those who are Illinois "lifers," it may come as a surprise that the law in other states is not uniform. In fact, a number of states don't require you, the journalist, to tell anyone you're recording.

The Illinois law is being challenged in the 7th U.S. Court of Appeals in Chicago, and RTDNA, SPJ, NPPA, the American Society of News Editors, the Citizen Media Law Project, Reports Committee for Freedom of the Press (RCFP) and the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors have all filed friend-of-the-court briefs in the suit ACLU v. Anita Alvarez challenging the Illinois Eavesdropping Act, which RCFP Executive Director Lucy Dalglish calls "shockingly broad."

RCFP says that the brief, filed April 22, asserts that the "disposition of this case is critically important in setting a precedent that will either protect or endanger newsgatherers' constitutional rights."

Dalglish said Illinois is not the only state with a law she considers "overly broad," but said in some states similar statues have led to citizens being arrested while shooting video or still photographs of public events in public places.

"This is the most outrageous statue we've found," she said. "These unconstitutional arrests tend to have one thing in problem: they occur after someone in power, often a law enforcement official, decides he or she does not like the speech or conduct captured on the recording. The notion that you can be arrested for documenting that behavior should send chills down the spines of anyone who cares about the Constitution."

Unfortunately, INBA lacks the resources to join such a fight on a continuing basis. But I wish those who are pressing the case good luck.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Quincy native pens book on lying

Veteran author and journalist James B. Stewart's new book, "Tangled Webs: How False Statements Are Undermining America," uses more familiar case studies to demonstrate the extent of dishonesty in high-profile circles.

Barry Bonds, Scooter Libby, Bernie Madoff and Martha Stewart are examined in extraordinary detail.

David Kamp in Business Week magazine describes the work as "tweezer journalism at its finest," storytelling that takes readers inside the moment these well-known liars "made the fateful choice to lie."

Stewart is uncharacteristically critical of President Bush's not firing Karl Rove or Richard Armitage in the episode wherein Scooter Libby illegally revealed CIA employee Valerie Plame's identity. Bush's failure to hold those two accountable was "rank hypocrisy," Stewart writes.

He won the 1988 Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Journalism for his Wall Street Journal articles about the dramatic 1987 upheaval in the stock market and insider trading. A contributor to The New Yorker and an editor at Smart Money, Stewart's other books include "Den of Thieves," "DisneyWar" and "Blood Sport: The President and His Adversaries."

News media using many platforms

Jennifer Greer and Yan Yan in a recent edition of "Grassroots Editor" report that the Internet ranked as the third most popular news platform -- behind local and national television outlets. Local print newspapers ranked as the fifth most popular news sources, with 50% of respondents to a national survey saying they get news this way (Pew Internet, 2010). The trend of news consumption shifting online is not new. Readers have been logging on to news websites, including those produced by traditional news organizations, since the 1990s. But the Pew Internet & American Life Project survey also showed that news consumption has increased.

Further, citing a classic 1993 magazine column by newspaper consultant John Morton, the scholars added that "the fundamental strength of newspapers [is] the ability to 'provide intense local coverage of events and subjects of intense concern to local consumers'.”

News finds mediated students

A new global study by the International Center for Media & the Public Agenda (ICMPA) at the University of Maryland shows that students no longer search for news.

The news finds them.

Students "inhale," almost unconsciously, news served up on the sidebar of their email account, on friends' Facebook walls, on Twitter and via chat.

"We are used to having information about everything on the planet and this information we have to have in an unbelievable time. Our generation doesn't need certified and acknowledged information. More important is quantity, not quality of news," said one student from Slovakia.

"Students now get their news in chunks of 140 characters or from Facebook posts," said Ph.D. student Jessica Roberts, a former reporter at the Cape Times in South Africa, and a member of ICMPA's research team.

"Students want and get their news as it is breaking, with few filters," she added.

Most students in the study didn't discriminate between news that the New York Times, the BBC or Al Jazeera might cover, and news that might only appear in a friend's Facebook status update.

"Students are interested in news," Roberts said. "It's just that students today are more inclusive about what they consider news than older adults are. 'News' to students means 'anything that just happened' - and students want to know it all immediately, whether it is a globally momentous story or only one of personal interest."

State celebs add voices, faces to press campaign

The Illinois Press Association (IPA) lined up several prominent Illinoisans for its "Leader are newspaper readers" campaign.

Besides actor Dennis Franz (see previous post), participating are retired astronaut Scott Altman of Pekin, Secretary of Ttransportation Ray LaHood of Peoria, and Illinois basketball coach Bruce Weber of Champaign/Urbana, plus SIU presidenet Glenn Poshaard, Chicago Blackhawks president John McDonough and Assistant Secretary of Veterans Affairs Tammy Duckworth (pictured at left).

"There are two things that all of these Illinoisans have in common," said IPA executive director Dennis DeRossett. "They are all leaders, and they are all newspaper readers. That's not an accident. Leaders depend on the reliable, comprehensive and diverse information that newspapers provide."

Print ads are downloadable from IPA --

Monday, April 18, 2011

Who needs newspapers?

Paul Steinle and his wife Dr. Sara Brown set off on a journey to visit newspapers throughout the country to answer the question: Who needs newspapers? They have visited newspapers in nearly 40 states and have chronicled their findings on the website Read their stories starting with Illinois' Northwest Herald in Crystal Lake --

Monday, April 4, 2011

News on the radio can thrive

Mark Twain said it about his own death: "The report is greatly exaggerated."

Those who say "radio is dead" are equally full of hype, according to a new article in The Communicator from the Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA).

Plus, the examples of success are in Illinois, at Bloomington's WJBC-AM and -FM (pictured above), and at Champaign's WDWS-AM and WHMS/WUIL-FM.

There, the stations successfully attract sizable audiences with not only news, but solid and enterprising journalism and community-minded, public-service reporting.

Kevin Finch's feature, "Radio news on more than just a shoestring," is a well-written account of real-life radio work that contradicts the "conventional wisdom' that's a lot more conventional than wise.

Print pay walls increasing, responses to NYT vary

GateHouse Media's Peoria Journal Star and State Journal Register in Springfield have erected "paywalls" limiting free access to online contents, following several newspaper experiments -- most recently the New York Times.

A week ago, marketing experts from Washington University in St. Louis offered different reactions to the Times' attempt, with one forecasting a decline in audience and another pronouncing it a good business model.

Read the whole summary here --

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Columnist puts news, posts into context

Syndicated columnist Leonard Pitts (above), who writes for the Miami Herald, last week had a terrific column about the venomous attacks hurled at CBS News reporter Lara Logan following the journalist's beating and sexual assault at the hands of a mob in Cairo's Liberation Square this month.

Besides standing up to the anonymous comment posters whose mean remarks mocked and dismissed the incident, Pitts defended her -- and all victims of such violence.

"The woman is a reporter and she was doing what reporters do: going places, sometimes dicey, difficult or dangerous places, in order to originate the information that allows the rest of us to opine from the comfort of our chairs," Pitts wrote. "We are talking about a real attack on a real woman who must now grapple with real consequences.

"It's as if some feel Logan's tragedy exists only as a vehicle for them to score political points."

Reading the whole essay:

Friday, February 18, 2011

Understanding the participatory news consumer

According to a new survey by the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project and the Project for Excellence in Journalism, almost two-thirds of Americans get daily news from a combination of print and web, and almosts half used multiple media platforms daily.

The Internet is generally a more popular source of news than print and radio, making it the third most popular news platform overall, behind only national and local television news.

The survey, "Understanding the Participatory News Consumer: How Internet and Cell Phone Users Have Turned News into a Social Experience," was based on responses from more than 2,000 American adults. Its findings include:

•Nearly 60% of Americans get daily news from both Internet and print sources.
•46% obtained news from four to six media platforms per day, while only 7% get news from a single platform.
•33% of cell phone owners access news on their portable phones.
•28% of Internet users have a homepage personalized with news sources, and 37% have participated in news creation, commentary and dissemination.
While the Internet is an increasingly popular news source, the survey found that Americans have mixed feelings about it. While more than half say it is easier to keep up with news and information today than it was five years ago, 70% feel overwhelmed by the amount of news and information available. In addition, nearly 75% of respondents have concerns that many news sources are biased in their coverage.

Young journalists' conversation yields 'benchmarks'

The national J-Lab convened a weekend meeting of a group of youong journalists, who came up with examples of stories that were inspiring or otherewise effective.

In the discussion, those gathered came up with a list of 10 ways "content providers" can produce good work. They are:

We can produce good journalism if we:

1) Challenge knee-jerk master narratives

2) Reach for new kinds of accountability

3) Add historical context

4) Impart a sense of community, sense of place

5) Seek authenticity

6) Have impact

7) Make the invisible visible

8) Strive for attachment vs. detachment

9) Do less harm

10) Anticipate the future

Monday, February 7, 2011

Editorial cartoon right on time

Cartoonist John Cole of the Scranton Times-Tribune created this excellent graphic commentary on thugs' treatment of journalists trying to cover events in Egypt.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Health care reform OK but information insufficient: business scholar

Health care reform will be good for Americans, according to Dr. Joel Rudin, a professor in the Management and Entrepreneurship Department at Rowan University in Glassboro, N.J.

However, what has not been good is how government officials have explained the policy, and that is impacting what U.S. citizens think of it.

Further, the news media are complicit in the sense that the press has not done its own due-diligence in independently explaining what the actual law will really do.

“Under health care reform, most Americans will have health insurance that is similar to my (New Jersey state) health insurance, but that won’t happen until 2014," Rudin said. "By then, the people who came up with this idea may have been voted out of office. If that happens it will be their own fault for failing to explain to the American people how much better and cheaper their health insurance will be.”

Sharing the blame in Americans' lack of knowledge about health care reform is the press, which can accurately and clearly explain the law -- but hasn't.

Struggling against Powers That Be

Duxbury (Mass.) Clipper editor-in-chief Justin Graeber wrote the following editorial for his weekly on Dec. 29, pertaining to an unusual-yet-not-unheard-of case of a small-newspaper journalist (Jessica L. Lloyd-Rogers, right) being squeezed out of doing the work:

At the Clipper we belong to a couple of professional newspaper societies, such as the New England Newspaper and Press Association, the group that gives out the Better Newspaper Awards each year.

We also belong to the International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors, and this group often sends out “hotline” questions via e-mail. It's always informative and interesting to see how other weekly editors around the country and around the world are tackling some of the same questions we are. For example, there was recently a free-wheeling and wide-ranging debate about charging for obits. (Just in case you were wondering, not going to happen at the Clipper while I'm alive.) But a couple months ago we got a very serious series of e-mails from an editor in Oregon. She was dealing with some serious pushback from officials as she tried to shine the light on a government that was used to doing their business in the dark.

The editor, Jessica L. Lloyd-Rogers of the Coast Lake News in Lakeside, Oregon, was an experienced freelancer who started the paper with her husband. It's got a very local focus on a town with a population under 1,500. Problem was, the city council didn't appreciate that tight focus.

Lest you think I'm exaggerating the level of the corruption in Lakeside or the threats Lloyd-Rogers and her husband faced, here are just some examples, outlined in the latest ISWNE newsletter.

• The chairman of the fire board is the live-in girlfriend of the fire chief.

• Two of the board members on the Water District Board are spouses of city council members.

• The city administrator doesn't meet even the minimum of the written job description, and gave herself a raise by pencilling it in after the 2008-09 budget was passed.

That's not even everything. They've also faced threats, including being libeled repeatedly by a blog backed by city officials unhappy with the paper. (Lloyd-Rogers said stories about a porn star with a similar name are being spread as if it's her.) They even got evicted from their office.

“I sometimes feel like an unarmed marshal sent into an Old West town run by bandits,” she wrote in the ISWNE newsletter.

The point here is that the over-the-top political incest described by Lloyd-Rogers isn't unique or even all that surprising. It's what happens in a community that is not aggressively covered by a local newspaper (there is apparently a daily that covers Lakeside, but they must be facing budget cuts or something.) This is what happens when no one's looking. People double dip. They cut favors for buddies or family members. They give themselves raises when they think no one's looking. That's why someone has to be looking. Think any other things Lloyd-Rogers described could happen in Duxbury? Not with the Clipper and other good local media on the case.

For Lloyd-Rogers' complaints in her own words, check out her story on page 1 of ISWNE's December newsletter --

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Ted Koppel on the Sorry State of TV News

Check out this revealing look at the current state of television news by veteran newscaster Ted Koppel: