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.