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FLOGGING THE BLOGS WON'T CLEAR THE FOG

THE REAL GARY WEBB STORY

JOURNALISM'S GOOD OLD DAYS:They never were like some would have us believe

LETTER TO THE WASHINGTON POST: Some years back the Washington Post asked TPR's editor for some advice. It was the last time.

USA TOMORROW:: What would a really good daily newspaper look like? TPR offers a vision unlike any other -- including actual news!

THE CANONIZATION OF KATHARINE GRAHAM

WHY JOURNALISM ISN'T A PROFESSION

TRASHING THE TRUTH Clinton may be the Dr. Kervorkian of the right-to-lie movement but he's not alone. This well-received article discusses the role of truth and falsehood in today's society.

WHY THEY HATE OLIVER STONE: An essay on the politics of myth and its role in an age of propaganda.

CLINTON & THE MEDIA Why did the media so misread Clinton? In Shadows of Hope, Review editor Sam Smith took on the question early in Clinton's administration.

THE LONELIEST MILE IN TOWN Your editor's adventures in apostasy -- drinking upstream from the Clinton herd

IMPEACHABLE DEFENSES How the media helped Clinton get away with it.

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OCTOBER 2006

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COMEDY CENTRAL FORCES YOU TUBE TO TAKE DOWN CLIPS of DAILY SHOW AND COLBERT

JEFF, SLASHDOT - I received a couple of emails from You Tube this afternoon notifying me that a third party (probably attorneys for Comedy Central) had made a DMCA request to take down Colbert Report and Daily Show clips. If you visit You Tube, all Daily Show, Colbert Report and South Park clips now show "This video has been removed due to terms of use violation."

For a long time, Comedy Central has passively allowed the sharing of online clips of its shows-because let's face it, it's helped them generate the kind of water cooler talk that has made them a ton of money. In this Wired Interview, Jon Stewart and the Daily Show Executive Producer even encouraged viewers to watch the show on the Internet:

||| Karlin: If people want to take the show in various forms, I'd say go. . . The one thing that you have control over is the content of the show. But how people are reacting to it, how it's being shared, how it's being discussed, all that other stuff, is absolutely beyond your ability to control.

Stewart: I'm surprised people don't have cables coming out of their asses, because that's going to be a new thing. You're just going to get it directly fed into you. I look at systems like the Internet as a convenience. I look at it as the same as cable or anything else. Everything is geared toward more individualized consumption. Getting it off the Internet is no different than getting it off TV.|||

But apparently, all good things come to an end when there is money and attorneys involved. I assume the only online clips that will remain will have to qualify under fair use - probably short clips, with social or political importance.

http://rss.slashdot.org/~r/Slashdot/slashdot/~3/42607350/article.pl

CHARLIE ROSE SHILLS FOR WAL-MART

MICHAEL BARBARO, NY TIMES - It was a coup even for Charlie Rose, whose mood-lit television studio can be a revolving door for movie stars and heads of state: an interview with the camera-shy chief executive of Wal-Mart Stores, H. Lee Scott Jr. The television talk show host Charlie Rose, top, found Wal-Mart's recent environmental initiative a prime subject for questions to H. Lee Scott, chief executive of the big retailer. So Mr. Rose made the most of it, driving to New Jersey to speak with Mr. Scott in the executive's comfort zone, the aisles of a Wal-Mart store. During the interview, which was broadcast on Aug. 1, Mr. Rose repeatedly asked Mr. Scott about his favorite topic, Wal-Mart's new environmental initiative.

Now, less than three months later, Mr. Rose is honoring Mr. Scott for his work on behalf of the environment at a private dinner party in Manhattan, paid for by Bob and Harvey Weinstein's production company, the Weinstein Company. Mr. Rose's name appeared as a host, alongside that of Bob Wright, chief executive of NBC Universal; James L. Dolan, chief executive of Cablevision Systems; and a dozen other prominent figures from the New York media and financial industries.

The timing of interview and dinner raised the eyebrows of Michael Getler, the ombudsman at PBS, which distributes Mr. Rose's talk show. "Don't do this," was Mr. Getler's unsolicited advice to Mr. Rose. . .

Mr. Rose does not see a conflict. "If I go somewhere and do something that is an appreciation of somebody I have interviewed in the past, that is not a conflict of interest," he said in a telephone interview, noting that he has interviewed 20,000 people. "I have no relationship with Wal-Mart," he said. "I did one show with Wal-Mart. Period."

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/10/23/business/media/23rose.html?_r=1&oref=login

YOU MAY BE PAYING FOR FOX NEWS WHETHER YOU WANT IT OR NOT

DCRTV, DC - The word is that Rupert Murdoch's Fox News Channel is hiking its subscriber fee to cable systems by 50 to 75-cents, to about $1 per month. And that NYC-based Cablevision has agreed to pay the hike. Which it will, of course, pass along to its subscribers in the form of an annual rate hike. Next up to deal with Murdoch - area cable giant Comcast, which is the nation's largest cable TV company. Also "in play" in the negotiations are continued carriage of Murdoch's many other channels like Speed, FX, Fox Sports, and National Geographic. . . Before you get too upset at Murdoch, remember that you're paying $2 more per month to Orioles owner Peter Angelos to see his Mid-Atlantic Sports Network.

http://dcrtv.org/

THE POWER OF YOU TUBE

PATRICK GOLDSTEIN, LA TIMES - Welcome to the new media universe, where for millions of video junkies, the best TV network in America isn't Comedy Central, MTV, ESPN or even HBO, but You Tube, the amazing website whose video clips are viewed more than 100 million times each day. Launched last year, the website has enjoyed an astounding ascent, being bought last week by Google for $1.65 billion. In an era increasingly defined by audience-driven events, You Tube represents the triumph of bottom-up culture and another sign that old media businesses, from record companies and TV networks to newspapers like The Times, are going to see more of their audience migrating to the Internet. . .

When I heard that Barbra Streisand had cursed out a heckler at her Madison Square Garden concert, I didn't go to CNN - I clicked on You Tube. Sure enough, a fan had immediately posted a video of La Streisand cussing like a sailor.

The impact of this instantaneous access has been earthshaking, from politics to pop culture. Speaking at a conference in Paris last week, Disney-ABC Television Group President Anne Sweeney minced few words about how thoroughly the landscape has been altered. "The digital revolution has unleashed a consumer coup," she said. "Audiences have the upper hand and show no sign of giving it back."

You Tube is already having an impact on this year's election cycle. In years past, political candidates were sold essentially in the same way as movie stars - in carefully staged settings and market-tested ads. Now the scripted veneer has been stripped away by young volunteers, armed with video cameras, who stalk opposition candidates, record their gaffes and post them on You Tube, not unlike the way the Smoking Gun displays embarrassing photos of badly behaved celebrities. . .

While some fans are justifiably worried that the sale of You Tube to Google will usher in the kind of advertising clutter rampant at MySpace, which looks like the Web equivalent of a Sunset Strip billboard forest, most of You Tube's troubles have arisen from media companies who view video sharing as an attack on their copyrights and business models. Earlier this year, NBC forced the site to remove "Lazy Sunday," believing fans should have to go to the network's website to view it, apparently unaware that the young guys watching the clip on You Tube were the same guys who'd already stopped watching "SNL" and network TV in general.

This summer, NBC announced a marketing arrangement with You Tube, which was followed by licensing deals with CBS, Warner Music and Sony BMG Music. But the Wall Street Journal reported Saturday that lawyers from News Corp., NBC Universal and Viacom still believe You Tube could be liable for copyright penalties of $150,000 per unauthorized video. Viacom, for example, claims that clips from its channels (including MTV and Comedy Central) are watched 80,000 times a day on You Tube, meaning potential penalties could run into the billions. . .

Two days after the Clinton-Wallace dust-up, Fox News forced You Tube to yank clips of the interview, claiming copyright infringement, apparently unhappy that so much traffic was going to You Tube instead of Fox News' own site. But a day later the clip was back up.

[Please note that the Review is one of the few media publications still written in English. Thus we translate words like YouTube into their English equivalent: You Tube]

NEWSWEEK COLUMNIST ATTENDED MEETING TO PLAN BUSH POST-9/11 STRATEGY

JULIE BOSMAN, NY TIMES - In his new book, "State of Denial," [Bob Woodward] writes that on Nov. 29, 2001, a dozen policy makers, Middle East experts and members of influential policy research organizations gathered in Virginia at the request of Paul D. Wolfowitz, then the deputy secretary of defense. Their objective was to produce a report for President Bush and his cabinet outlining a strategy for dealing with Afghanistan and the Middle East in the aftermath of 9/11.

What was more unusual, Mr. Woodward reveals, was the presence of journalists at the meeting. Fareed Zakaria, the editor of Newsweek International and a Newsweek columnist, and Robert D. Kaplan, now a national correspondent for The Atlantic Monthly, attended the meeting and, according to Mr. Kaplan, signed confidentiality agreements not to discuss what happened. . . Mr. Zakaria takes issue with Mr. Woodward's account, saying that while he attended the meeting for several hours, he does not recall being told that a report would be produced. "I thought it was a brainstorming session," he said. "I was never told that there was going to be a document summarizing our views and I have never seen such a document."

Mr. Kaplan said much of the meeting was spent drafting and reworking the document, which in the end carried the names of all 12 participants and was "a forceful summary of some of the best pro-war arguments at the time." Could any of the participants have been unaware there was a document in the making? "No, that's not possible," he said. Mr. Kaplan, who was then a freelancer at The Atlantic Monthly, said he spoke to his editor before attending, and was given approval to attend because "everybody was in a patriotic fervor." Mr. Zakaria said he felt participating was appropriate because his views, as a columnist for Newsweek, were public, although he has never divulged his involvement to his readers.

http://fairuse.100webcustomers.com/sf/nyt10_9_6.htm

BIG BIAS OF PBS NEWSHOUR CALCULATED IN REPORT

SEPTEMBER 2006

RADIO STATIONS LOSING LISTENERS

RICHARD SIKLOS, NY TIMES - While more than 9 out of 10 Americans still listen to traditional radio each week, they are listening less. And the industry is having to confront many challenges . . . including streaming audio, podcasting, iPods and Howard Stern on satellite radio. As a result, the prospects of radio companies have dimmed significantly since the late 1990's, when broadcast barons were tripping over themselves to buy more stations. Radio revenue growth has stagnated and the number of listeners is dropping. The amount of time people tune into radio over the course of a week has fallen by 14 percent over the last decade, according to Arbitron ratings. Over the last three years, the stocks of the five largest publicly traded radio companies are down between 30 percent and 60 percent as investors wonder when the industry will bottom out.

ANDERSON COOPER WAS WITH THE CIA

RADAR - Anderson Cooper has long traded on his biography, carving a niche for himself as the most human of news anchors. But there's one aspect of his past that the silver-haired CNN star has never made public: the months he spent training for a career with the Central Intelligence Agency. Following his sophomore and junior years at Yale - a well-known recruiting ground for the CIA - Cooper spent his summers interning at the agency's monolithic headquarters in Langley, Virginia, in a program for students interested in intelligence work. His involvement with the agency ended there, and he chose not to pursue a job with the agency after graduation, according to a CNN spokeswoman, who confirmed details of Cooper's CIA involvement to Radar. . .

He has kept the experience a secret, sources say, out of concern that, if widely known, it might compromise his ability to travel in foreign countries and even possibly put him at greater risk from terrorists. . .

. "It creates the appearance of something smelly there," says a former CNN official who knows Cooper. . . According to the spokeswoman, Cooper told his bosses at CNN about his time with the agency. But even if he hadn't, says Walter Isaacson, who headed the network from 2001 to 2003 and is now president of the Aspen Institute, it's not the sort of thing that would automatically require disclosure, since the stint was brief and far in the past. "I think what he did was probably fine and cool, and I've got no problems with it," he added.

http://radaronline.com/exclusives/2006/09/anderson-coopers-cia-secret.php

AUGUST 2006

WHY DANIEL HERNANDEZ LEFT THE LA TIMES FOR THE LA WEEKLY

[LAIST interviews a 25-year-old latino journalist who moved from the LA Times to the LA Weekly]

Why did you move from the Los Angeles Times to the LA Weekly? How are the jobs similar and different?

DANIEL HERNANDEZ - I owe The Times lots. They taught me so much. They gave me freedom and room to work, and pushed me to push myself. Everyday the people there amazed me, their talent and drive. But The Times has a very clear, very rigid tradition on how to report the news.

Shortly after I got there, I started having these long, tortured thought sessions with myself about my participation in the MSM. I saw how the people and places the paper chose to cover were automatically political decisions because for every thing you chose to cover there is something you chose to not cover. I started realizing that the mainstream style on reporting the news that most papers employ is not really concerned with depicting the truth, but concerned primarily with balancing lots of competing agendas and offending the least amount of interests as possible.

I saw how so much was looked at from certain assumptions and subtexts, and a very narrow cultural view. When I raised questions about such things, I was told we were writing for a "mainstream reader," which I quickly figured out is basically a euphemism for a middle-aged, middle-class white registered Democrat homeowner in the Valley. From where I stand today, I had very little in common with this "mainstream reader" and I didn't care to be in this person's service. I wanted to talk across to people, not up or down to people. I had to get out. . .

The jobs are basically the same: go out there, report the story, think about it a lot, write, turn it in, get edited, learn from it, and start all over. It's been a real challenge. The Weekly is more challenging. At The Times I was just challenging the institutional and cultural barriers of an ultimately very conservative place. That was exhausting, and not very fulfilling. At the Weekly, there's all this freedom, and that means you have to be more careful and more thoughtful.

http://www.laist.com/archives/2006/08/28/laist_interview_daniel_hernandez.php

GREAT MOMENTS IN MEDIA HYPOCRISY

[The Washington Post pimps for the Redskins and the Nationals, major real estate interests, the Washington Board of Trade, its favorite wars and politicians, and for the other concerns of the capital's decadent establishment. Which wouldn't be so bad, if its editor wouldn't keep pretending to be so objective. In the end, true integrity is preferable to false objectivity any day]

GUARDIAN, UK - Leonard Downie is not going anywhere. The Post's executive editor has been running the bulk of the paper - the editorial and comment pages are outside his remit - for 15 years. He is the longest serving editor of any major newspaper in the United States, yet remains largely anonymous outside the industry. . .I will not take positions on issues, and I have not voted since I became managing editor in 1984, because I don't want to take a position on local candidates or political issues. If you come to work here [the newsroom], you agree to restrictions on your political rights. The only political act you can exercise in is voting.". . .

http://media.guardian.co.uk/mediaguardian/story/0,,1859498,00.html

WHY DOES TOM FRIEDMAN STILL HAVE A JOB?

ROBERT PARRY, CONSORTIUM NEWS - New York Times foreign policy analyst Thomas L. Friedman finally has come to the conclusion that George W. Bush's invasion of Iraq -- which Friedman enthusiastically supported with the clever slogan "Give war a chance" -- wasn't such a good idea after all.

"It is now obvious that we are not midwifing democracy in Iraq. We are babysitting a civil war," Friedman wrote. "That means 'staying the course' is pointless, and it's time to start thinking about Plan B -- how we might disengage with the least damage possible."

Yet, despite this implicit admission that the war has unnecessarily killed tens of thousands of Iraqis and more than 2,600 U.S. soldiers, Friedman continues to slight Americans who resisted the rush to war in the first place.

Twelve days after his shift in position, Friedman demeaned Americans who opposed the Iraq war as "anti-war activists who haven't thought a whit about the larger struggle we're in," presumably a reference to the threat from Islamic extremism.

In other words, according to Friedman, Americans who were right about the ill-fated invasion of Iraq are still airheads when it comes to the bigger picture, while the pundits and politicians who were dead wrong on Iraq deserve pats on the back for their wise analyses of the larger problem. . .

As for Friedman, despite botching the biggest foreign-policy story in the post-Cold War era, he retains his prized space on the New York Times op-ed page, which, in turn, guarantees that his books, even ones with obvious and pedantic themes, such as "The World Is Flat," jump to the top of the bestseller lists. . .

Many Iraq war critics, from former Vice President Al Gore to the hundreds of thousands of Americans who took to the streets in early 2003, proved they had a more reasonable strategy on Iraq . . .

http://www.alternet.org/mediaculture/40648/

LEONARD DOWNIE CENSORS ONE OF HIS REPORTERS

LEORA FALK, NY SUN - The executive editor of the Washington Post, Leonard Downie Jr., has rebuked one of his Pulitzer-Prize winning reporters for suggesting on television that Israel was purposely leaving Hezbollah rockets in Lebanon "because as long as they're being rocketed, they can continue to have a sort of moral equivalency in their operations."

The action came as Mayor Koch and the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America pressed the Post on the issue. The reporter in question, Thomas Ricks, is the author of a new book, "Fiasco," sharply critical of the Bush administration's handling of the war in Iraq. . .

When CNN's Howard Kurtz asked if Mr. Ricks was "suggesting that Israel has deliberately allowed Hezbollah to retain some of its firepower, essentially for PR purposes, because having Israeli civilians killed helps them in the public relations war here," Mr. Ricks agreed that he had heard that from "military analysts."

"I have made clear to Tom Ricks that he should not have made those statements," Mr. Downie wrote to Mr. Koch.

Mr. Koch compared Mr. Ricks's statements to the "the age-old blood libel."

Mr. Ricks told The New York Sun, "The comments were accurate: that I said I had been told this by people. I wish I hadn't said them, and I intend from now on to keep my mouth shut about it."

http://www.nysun.com/article/38163?access=474304

PANIC AT THE NY TIMES

MICHAEL WOLFF, VANITY FAIR - Arthur [Sulzberger], on his own say-so, has accomplished a radical management restructuring of the company. He's consolidated, under his control, executive, shareholder, and editorial power -subverting the traditional autonomy of the Times newsroom. Indeed, executive editor Bill Keller is probably the weakest editor in the history of the paper. A company with a historically diffident management structure, where lines of power were always purposefully obtuse, now has a by-the-book, top-down org chart.

With such a figure-attention-seeking, immature, verbally feckless -at the center of the stage, it's hard to maintain a suspension of disbelief, let alone a straight face, about the rights of the firstborn. (This situation must have some resonance in the Bush White House.) The Times, with the scion insisting on his protean leadership, becomes, like any other corporation, judged by its top executive-it's not stronger than he is. Except, profoundly complicating matters, if he turns out to be weak, you can't easily replace this one.

It's Arthur himself who has most consistently articulated the fragility of the Times-its being-and-nothingness struggle in the changing media world. He seems so willing to embrace the sudden-death possibilities of the Information Age, so willing to disregard the conservative, wait-and-see approach favored by executives in Rust Belt-like businesses, that you wonder if there isn't, just a bit, a Munchausen-syndrome-by-proxy aspect to all of this. He gets to make the crisis; he gets to rescue the paper. . .

Seeing the Times as an acquisitive, multi-platform media company puts it, of course, in the same, ever compromised world of marketing and politicking as all other media companies. On the eve of the Iraq war-which it covered with a guilelessness that it has since apologized for-the Times, along with every other media giant, was petitioning the Bush F.C.C. to relax media-ownership rules to allow it to greatly add to its portfolio of television stations. (The Times's last annual report points to the television duopoly it owns in Oklahoma as one of its core achievements.). . .

Before scandal and a falling share price crimped their style, Sulzberger and Raines would talk openly about what they'd like to take over. They wanted the Financial Times or The Wall Street Journal and were looking for cable opportunities. (In 1993, the Times, in some misbegotten futurist idea that the Northeast was going to unite in a gigantic megalopolis, anchored by New York and Boston, bought The Boston Globe, which has performed poorly ever since.) When the chance arose, they snatched-for almost no logical reason, other than that they could-control of the International Herald Tribune (an enterprise with virtually no prospects of being anything more than a sentimental artifact) from The Washington Post, the Times's longtime partner in the paper. They did a convoluted deal with the Discovery network. They bought a piece of the Boston Red Sox. . .

The Times as we know it, as a pastiche of its paper self, can't succeed online (the whole idea that an old-time business can morph seamlessly into a huge, speculative entrepreneurial enterprise is a kind of quackery). At best, it might become a specialized Internet player, having to drastically cut its current, $300 million news budget. What it might providentially become, however, is About.com, a low-end, high-volume information producer, warehousing vast amounts of advertiser-targeted data, harnessing the amateurs and hobbyists and fetishists willing to produce for a pittance any amount of schlock to feed the page-view numbers-and already supplying 30 million of the Times's 40 million unique users.. . .

The fear in the newsroom is that the first thing to be given up will be bodies-fire enough people and earnings improve and stock creeps up and that takes immediate pressure off management. (It's already begun: "There's no money here," hissed a reporter to me recently in what had been a little gossip about expense accounts.)

http://www.vanityfair.com/commentary/content/printables/060814roco02?print=true

MOTHER JONES IS 30 YEARS OLD

HEIDI BENSON, SF CHRONICLE - As the 30th anniversary issue of Mother Jones hits the newsstands this month, the muckraking San Francisco magazine is struggling to retain a consistent senior staff and find its place amid seismic changes to the publishing industry. Editor in Chief Russ Rymer, who came to the job in 2005 with a prestigious background as a writer and editor, departed in late July. Longtime creative director Jane Palecek left just days later; soon after, five staff members were laid off. On Wednesday, Rymer cited "philosophical differences" as the reason for his departure.

Though the impetus for the latest resignations and layoffs vary, they all are connected to the tight financial spot Mother Jones found itself in during the spring. "Early this year, the company was projecting a significant cash shortfall, which we have addressed by layoffs and other cost-cutting measures," said Jay Harris, who has been publisher of the magazine since 1991. (Further layoffs are not anticipated, he said.)

"We're going through the same struggles facing every print publication," Harris said. He cited current circulation at 230,000, down 6 percent from last year and reflecting a decline in both subscriptions and newsstand sales. . .

In 1976, Mother Jones came out strong with Mark Dowie's historic expose of the safety hazards of the Ford Pinto.

In the '80s, the magazine brought in an unknown from an alternative weekly in Flint, Mich., for what was a brief stint as editor in chief. It was documentary filmmaker Michael Moore's first national platform.

Then in 2001, Mother Jones won the prestigious National Magazine Award for general excellence, while under the leadership of editor Roger Cohn.

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2006/08/18/DDG6JKJQA91.DTL

MOTHER JONES
http://www.motherjones.com/

NY TIMES & ESTABLISHMENT LAWYERS TRASH JUDGE'S ATTEMPT TO MAKE NSA OBEY CONSTITUTION

[This is a highly disturbing article even in post-constitutional America. The NY Times is not just reporting what some constitutionally indifferent lawyers say, it is effectively throwing its weight behind them. These lawyers are of the sort that will take a bad precedent over a good bill of rights any day. The problem is that as the country moves to the right, its legal precedents follow suit.]

ADAM LIPTAK, NY TIMES - Even legal experts who agreed with a federal judge's conclusion on Thursday that a National Security Agency surveillance program is unlawful were distancing themselves from the decision's reasoning and rhetoric yesterday. They said the opinion overlooked important precedents, failed to engage the government's major arguments, used circular reasoning, substituted passion for analysis and did not even offer the best reasons for its own conclusions.

Discomfort with the quality of the decision is almost universal, said Howard J. Bashman, a Pennsylvania lawyer whose Web log provides comprehensive and nonpartisan reports on legal developments.

"It does appear," Mr. Bashman said, "that folks on all sides of the spectrum, both those who support it and those who oppose it, say the decision is not strongly grounded in legal authority."

The main problems, scholars sympathetic to the decision's bottom line said, is that the judge, Anna Diggs Taylor, relied on novel and questionable constitutional arguments when more straightforward statutory ones were available.

She ruled, for instance, that the program, which eavesdrops without court permission on international communications of people in the United States, violated the First Amendment because it might have chilled the speech of people who feared they might have been monitored.

That ruling is "rather innovative" and "not a particularly good argument," Jack Balkin, a law professor at Yale who believes the program is illegal, wrote on his Web log.

Judge Taylor also ruled that the program violated the Fourth Amendment's ban on unreasonable searches and seizures. But scholars said she failed to take account of the so-called "special needs" exception to the amendment's requirement that the government obtain a warrant before engaging in some surveillance unrelated to routine law enforcement. "It's just a few pages of general ruminations about the Fourth Amendment, much of it incomplete and some of it simply incorrect," Orin S. Kerr, a law professor at George Washington University who believes the administration's legal justifications for the program are weak, said of Judge Taylor's Fourth Amendment analysis on a Web log called the Volokh Conspiracy. . .

WHY YOU DON'T WANT TO PUT TOO MUCH WEIGHT ON WHAT CBS SAYS

KATIE COURIC LOSES 20 POUNDS AS CBS PHOTOSHOPS PUBLICITY PHOTO

NEW BOOK DEFENDS MUCH OF GARY WEBB'S REPORTING

JOE STRUPP, EDITOR & PUBLISHER - An upcoming book by a veteran investigative reporter who knew [Gary] Webb and reported on many of the same drug-related issues seeks to clear up some of the uncertainties, while defending much of Webb's reporting, criticizing the major newspapers that attacked him, and pointing out several new facts related to his infamous series and tragic death. . .

Since his death, Webb's story has often been seen as a simple case of a reporter going too far in a complicated story, being knocked down by critics, and succumbing to a dark depression that followed. But according to author Nick Schou, and his book, "Kill the Messenger," which is due out in October via Nation Books, the truth is not as clear.

While Schou admits major mistakes on the part of Webb and his editors, he saves his harshest vitriol for The New York Times, The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times, which severely criticized the series in the months after it ran. "So much of the reporting was personal and an attack on Gary Webb, it was unbelievable," Schou tells E&P.

Among the revelations or claims by Schou in the book:

- Mercury News editors, allegedly against Webb's request, focused the series and its lead more on the CIA link to the crack epidemic in Los Angeles than the reporter had wanted. . . .

- After attacking the series for allegedly failing to prove its premise -- that the CIA, via Nicaraguan contra-supported covert operations, had helped boost the crack epidemic in the Los Angeles area -- other newspapers under-covered a CIA Inspector General's report in 1998 that admitted certain CIA connections to drug trafficking. . .

- Dawn Garcia, the former Mercury News' state editor who worked closest with Webb on the stories, spoke publicly for the first time on the series, telling Schou that the basic premise of the series was solid, but its presentation was poor. . .

Finally, Schou spends an entire chapter essentially backing up Webb's reporting on several figures in Los Angeles with ties to the crack trade and the CIA. . .

http://www.editorandpublisher.com/eandp/news/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1002952140

WHEN THE MEDIA GETS MAD, WE MUST BE DOING SOMETHING RIGHT

SAM SMITH - Since Washington journalists joined the establishment a few decades back, their assignment has included keeping the rest of us in line. Most of the time, it's hard to notice, as when the media was helping to shove us into Iraq or beating the drums for a war on terror that has left us more hated in more places than ever before without making us any safer.

Where the effort breaks down is when, despite the media's best efforts, some of us start to get out of line. As when criticism of Israel increases no matter how many times they quote Abe Foxman. Or when a bunch of Democrats in a New Hampshire focus group trash Hillary Clinton despite all the wonderful coverage the Washington press has given her. Or when Joe Lieberman gets in trouble for supporting the war the media told us we had to pursue to get all those damn WMDs.

For example, Media Matters notes that "On ABC's This Week, Cokie Roberts asserted that it would be 'a disaster for the Democratic Party' and would lead to 'chaos' if businessman Ned Lamont were to defeat Sen. Joseph Lieberman in the Connecticut Democratic Senate primary on August 8, thereby 'pushing the party to the left' and sending a message to other senators that 'the only smart thing to do here is play to your base.' However, as Sam Donaldson noted, opposition to the war is not simply playing to the base, 'it's playing to the country, since the majority of the American public opposes the war in Iraq."

Of course, to many Washington journalists it doesn't matter whether the world hates us, or New Hampshire Democrats don't like Clinton, or Connecticut Democrats don't like the war. They live in a political and psychological bunker from which their projections, pronouncement and preferences emanate. Every once in a while, however, somewhere in American someone doesn't get the word and it becomes both revealing and even entertaining to watch how much it disturbs the Cokie Roberts of the world.

Besides, it could just be a sign that the canary in the mineshaft is singing again.

JULY 2006

THE COURAGE TO IGNORE SPIN

WALTER PINCUS NEIMAN WATCHDOG - I believe a new kind of courage is needed in journalism in this age of instant news, instant analysis, and therefore instant opinions. It also happens to be a time of government by public relations and news stories based on prepared texts and prepared events or responses. Therefore, this is the time for reporters and editors, whether from the mainstream media or blogosphere, to pause before responding to the latest bulletin, prepared event, or the most recent statement or backgrounder, whether from the White House or the Democratic or Republican leadership on Capitol Hill. Of course, I'm not talking about reporting of a bomb blowing up in a restaurant, soldiers being shot, police caught in a firefight, a fire, an accident, a home run in the ninth to win a game, an Oscar winner, or a drop in the stock market.

I also am talking solely from the point of view of a reporter who has spent almost 50 years watching daily coverage of government in Washington become dominated by increasingly sophisticated public relations practitioners, primarily in the White House and other agencies of government, but also in Congress or interest groups and even think tanks on the left, right or in the center. Today there is much too much being offered about government than can be fit into print or broadcast on nightly news shows. The disturbing trend is that more and more of these informational offerings are nothing but PR peddled as "news.". . .

The truth of the matter is that with help from the news media, being able to "stay on message" is now considered a presidential asset, perhaps even a requirement. Of course, the "message" is the public relations spin that the White House wants to present and not what the President actually did that day or what was really going on inside the White House. This system reached its apex this year when the White House started to give "exclusives" -- stories that found their way to Page One, in which readers learn that during the next week President Bush will do a series of four speeches supporting his Iraq policy because his polls are down. Such stories are often attributed to unnamed "senior administration officials." Lo and behold, the next week those same news outlets, and almost everyone else, carries each of the four speeches in which Bush essentially repeats what he's been saying for two years.

A new element of courage in journalism would be for editors and reporters to decide not to cover the President's statements when he -- or any public figure -- repeats essentially what he or she has said before. The Bush team also has brought forward another totally PR gimmick: The President stands before a background that highlights the key words of his daily message. This tactic serves only to reinforce that what's going on is public relations -- not governing. Journalistic courage should include the refusal to publish in a newspaper or carry on a TV or radio news show any statements made by the President or any other government official that are designed solely as a public relations tool, offering no new or valuable information to the public.

http://www.niemanwatchdog.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=background.view&backgroundid=00102

JUNE 2006

BIAS OF PBS NEWSHOUR CALCULATED IN REPORT

DAVID BAUDER, AP - Two-thirds of the partisan sources appearing on Jim Lehrer's nightly newscasts between October 2005 and March 2006 were Republican, and 82 percent were men, said the liberal advocacy organization Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting. . . FAIR's researchers found minorities used as sources 15 percent of the time, even though they make up 31 percent of the population. Hurricane Katrina sources, mostly victims of the flood, make up about half of those sources, he said. In stories about the Iraq war, people who advocate a U.S. withdrawal were outnumbered by more than five-to-one, the liberal group said. Its researchers said they couldn't find a single peace activist had appeared on "News Hour" during the six months studied.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20061003/ap_en_tv/tv_newshour

NEWS MAGAZINES TREAT LATINOS LARGELY AS A PROBLEM

RICHARD PRINCE, JOURNAL-ISMS - An examination of the portrayal of Latinos in the nation's leading newsmagazines in 2005 shows the group to be depicted chiefly in the context of immigration and principally as problems. The study, "U.S. News Magazine Coverage of Latinos," was conducted for the National Association of Hispanic Journalists by the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University and released at the NAHJ convention in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. . .

"As is often the case regarding minority groups, the representations seem to fall at the end of two extremes," the report said. "Latinos were either positioned as a problem/threat, or as the successful exception/role model of their community, even the success of Latinos in politics was often represented with ambivalence and danger.

"And yet, the majority of Latinos do not fall into either camp. Indeed, the majority of the coverage did not represent Latinos as average Americans leading mainstream lives. It also suggests that Latinos are only newsworthy when they are doing something that marks them as unique. As long as these news practices persist, Latinos cannot be incorporated as full citizens in U.S. society."

The report found that of 1,547 magazine stories published in Time, Newsweek and U.S. News & World Report, only 18 stories, or 1.2 percent, were about Latinos. Twelve of the 18 focused on immigration.

"In these immigration stories, Latino immigrants were portrayed, for the most part as a negative and disruptive force on U.S. society," it said.

The study noted a headline in Newsweek after the election of Antonio Villaraigosa as mayor of Los Angeles: "A Latin Power surge. A New Mayor in L.A. A Decisive Showing in 2004. Latinos are Making their Mark on Politics as Never Before. Get Used to It." . . .

http://www.maynardije.org/columns/dickprince/060614_prince/

http://www.nahj.org/resources/magazine/magazinereport.pdf

NEWS JUNKIE
Jason Leopold

SAM SMITH - If I were Jason Leopold I probably wouldn't bother to tell you that we had the same publisher since, after all, Process Media (which published Leopold) and Feral House (which published me) are separate operations even if Adam Parfrey is the force behind both. It's the way you start to think after you've been reading 'News Junkie' for awhile.

We have a few other differences. I, for example, have never been a drug addict, never stolen 450 CDs from a record company to feed that habit, never agreed to a plea bargain for doing so, never tried to kill myself, and never had to worry that if I went on national TV someone might recognize me and inform my editor of my felonious past.

One other difference: I have never written any stories that help to break the Enron scandal.

Leopold has written a book that I had intended not to like. But before long, I found myself disliking Leopold a quarter of the time, feeling sorry for him another quarter, cheering for him in a third quarter, and in the final quarter knowing that there but for the grace of God went I.

The contradictions between Leopold's achievements and the failures that destroyed them come at you like an absorbing, never-ending tennis rally. One of the few people who sized Leopold up well was Arden Dale, who hired him as Los Angeles bureau chief of Dow Jones Newswire: Dale told Leopold, "I figure you're either a really great journalist or a serial killer. So we'd like to offer you [the job]."

By today's journalistic rules, you're not meant to think kindly towards the Leopolds of the trade. Actually, it's hard to find a Leopold in the trade anymore. When I started out, there were a lot of them, sinners of various sorts seeking salvation on a deadline. They were part of the allure of the business, adding gratuitous spice to one's own reputation and damn good company. As with the politics of the time, even the disreputable were a lot more interesting and fun to be around than most of today's precious and priggish role models.

Take the Washington Post's Howard Kurtz, for example, one of those who seemed to take some pleasure outlining Leopold's problems. Ask yourself: what has Kurtz done for journalism or the nation worth half as much as helping to expose Enron? Would Kurtz, given the chance, have put half as much effort into the story as Leopold?

You take your choice: a respectable stenographer for an entropic establishment or a flawed but insatiable scribe who might just tell you what's really going on.

One need look no further than how the respectable, source-checking, objective, balanced media led us into the Reagan revolution and the second robber baron era, not to mention the Iraq war and the end of the First American Republic, to understand the weakness in its pretenses of propriety. The media has been on the take big time - but instead of bribes, it has taken endless bromides - freely and without skepticism - from the most corrupt and damaging leadership this country has even known.

So bad has it been that, despite lying to his bosses, using some poor sources, and once plagiarizing paragraphs from the Financial Times (albeit giving it credit three other times in the same article), Leopold can still make a case for himself.

Leopold came from a truly screwed up family, screwed himself up further with drugs and other mischief to make up for the lack of love, and then tried to wipe the slate clean with a lot of scoops.

"I naively thought that breaking stories on the energy crisis would impress working journalists to look up to me as the new Bob Woodward or Carl Bernstein. But instead following up on my scoops and going after bad guys, the press corps attacked my credibility. Reporters go out of their way to discredit journalists who continually scoop them. Otherwise they have to explain to their editors why
they aren't breaking the same stories. When the press corps rejected me I convinced myself that the whole goddamn world was conspiring against me. All I wanted was to be accepted as a member of their club.

"What I found out about my competitors is that most of them
were a bunch of lazy fucks who were less inclined to dig for the truth than report bureaucratic bullshit and then go home for the day. They weren't interested in the relentless, gumshoe reporting I shot my wad over. Luckily for me no one in the Sacramento press corps was smart enough to end my writing career by exposing me as the felonious thief and drug addict I was."

Some seek money as an substitute for love lost in action; Leopold went after fame and stories. Along the way he was denied the one thing that could have made it all work well, but which the Center for Journalistic Excellence never seems to worry about: an editor or two who recognized his talents and, rather than merely exploit them until he got in trouble, taught him how to do it right. The real bad guys in this book are those who used Leopold without helping him.

But Leopold is not out to make you feel sorry for him. He's trying to tell a hell of a story and does an exceptional job of it. And he's not to be confused with that other Jason, Jason Blair, who wrote things in his book like, "The cognitive logic of my belief that I could get away with not visiting a city that I was supposed to be writing from can easily be understood, though not excused." Although like Leopold, Blair was on cocaine and tried suicide, he, as Publisher's Weekly noted, "composed many of his stories while hiding out in his Brooklyn apartment, relying on information from phone interviews and the Internet to fill the column inches. The book, in fact, is filled with excuses-cum-explanations, most of a personal nature." Leopold, whatever his faults, actually covered his stories.

He is still having problems such as his recent report that Karl Rove had been indicted. Maybe his source was wrong, maybe he was being used for reasons not yet clear (such as helping the prosecutors turn Rove) and perhaps there is more to come.

In any case, I didn't run that story. And if Leopold had asked me why, I would have told him that stories about what is going to happen based on anonymous sources are among the most dangerous you can handle. I would have told him to work more on his reputation and less on his fame. I would have quoted I.F. Stone's line about the fact that most of what the government does wrong it does out in the open - and to spend more time on that than on the undercover stuff. And then he would have called me a "fucking stupid bastard." If Rove had been indicted, he would have been right.

That's the way real journalism is. Hands reaching for the light switch in the dark. The difference between Leopold and many of his more respectable colleagues is that he, albeit with sometimes lousy aim, never stopped trying.

ORDER
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ISBN=0976082241/progressiverevieA/

THE THINKER'S GUIDE TO CONSPIRACY THEORIES

- A conspiracy does not have to be illegal; it can merely be wrongful or harmful.

- The term 'conspiracy theory' was invented by elite media and politicians to denigrate questions or critical presumptions about events about which important facts remain unrevealed.

- The intelligent response to such events is to remain agnostic, skeptical, and curious. Theories may be suggested - just as they are every day about less complex and more open matters on news broadcasts and op ed pages - but such theories should not stray too far from available evidence. Conversely, as long as serious anomalies remain, dismissing questions and doubts as a "conspiracy theory" is a highly unintelligent response. It is also ironic as those ridiculing the questions and doubts typically consider themselves intellectually superior to the doubters. But they aren't because they stopped thinking the moment someone in power told them a superficially plausible answer. Further, to ridicule those still with doubts about such matters is intellectually dishonest.

- There is the further irony that many who ridicule doubts about the official version of events were typically trained at elite colleges where, in political science and history, theories often take precedent over facts and in which substantive decisions affecting politics and history are presumed to be the work of a small number of wise men (sic). They are trained, in effect, to trust in (1) theories and (2) benign confederacies. Most major media political coverage is based on the great man theory of history. This pattern can be found in everything from Skull & Bones to the Washington Post editorial board to the Council on Foreign Relations. You might even call them conspiracy theorists.

- Other fields - such as social history or anthropology - posit that change for better or evil can come as cultural change or choices and not just as the decisions of "great men." This is why one of the biggest stories in modern American history was never well covered: the declining birth rate. No great men decided it should happen.

- Homicide detectives and investigative reporters, among others, are inductive thinkers who start with evidence rather than with theories and aren't happy when the evidence is weak, conflicting or lacking. They keep working the case until a solid answer appears. This is alien to the well-educated newspaper editor who has been trained to trust official answers and conventional theories.

- The unresolved major event is largely a modern phenomenon that coincides with the collapse of America's constitutional government and the decline of its culture. Beginning with the Kennedy assassination, the number of inadequately explained major events has been mounting steadily and with them a steady decline in the trust between he people and their government. The refusal of American elites to take these doubts seriously has been a major disservice to the republic.

- You don't need a conspiracy to lie, do something illegal or to be stupid.

POST-POST AMERICA: HOW NEWSPAPERS CAN SAVE THEMSELVES

SAM SMITH - It's been about 17 years since I last offered any advice to Don Graham of the Washington Post. He wasn't interested. Oddly, about a year later, the circulation of American newspapers, including the Post, began a slow decline that continues to this day.

This morning, however, I was so struck by the thin size of the Post that I actually compared the number of pages of the major sections from the previous week: there were five less. So now I actually feel sorry for the guy and would like to pass on a few more ideas:

- Newspapers early surrendered the image battle to TV when, in fact, TV only shows images for a few seconds at which point they are gone forever. Newspapers should go back to the approach to photos that made Life Magazine so appealing: images that made you stop and look either because of the quality of the photo or because of the story that a series of photos told. When, for example, was the last time you let a photographer edit your page design?

- Dump the Pulitzer porn such as your recent series on black men. That dreary combination of abstractions, stats, and not all that interesting stories makes for poor journalism, especially over breakfast. Besides, you can't make up for years of ignoring the problems of black men with an occasional series even if it does win a prize.

- Put news on your front page. I define news as something that has happened, something that is happening or something that is going to happen. News is not what someone said about what is happening nor what someone perceived was going to happen nor what the editors thought the impact of something happening would be on its readership.

- The one exception to filling the front page with news would be a story or two that are just interesting, which is to say ones about which readers will ask their friends, "Did you see that story about. . ?"

- Use the "holy shit" principle of news editing. If your reaction to a story is "holy shit" and the story is true, many of your readers are going to feel the same way.

- Run more and shorter stories. You can get the edge over both the Internet and TV through quantity rather than just style of news. And the more names the better.

- Run more local stories, more stories affecting different ethnic groups, and more stories about sports people play rather than just watch.

- Go back to pyramid style reporting or at least get to the point within the first paragraph or two.

- Stop burying stories that affect ordinary readers in the business and real estate sections and put them in the front of the paper where they belong.

- Run more stories that affect ordinary readers. Handle your news from the viewpoint of your readers rather than from that of your advertisers, sources, or journalistic staff - few of whom live in some the toughest yet newsworthy parts of town.

- Have a labor section as well as a business section. After all, you have more employees than employers in your circulation area.

- Slash the number of stupid, spinning, or sophistic quotations from official sources used in your paper.

A FEW QUESTIONS FOR THE NY TIMES

PROGRESSIVE REVIEW - Why are there no rightist candidates? Your internet headline listing today included a couple of references to the "leftist" running for president of Mexico. While there is nothing wrong with being a leftist, one gets the sense from the way you use the term that you think there is. If so, what is it?

For an example, a leftist in America would have supported civil rights, and end to the war in Vietnam, environmental issues, gay and women's rights etc, sometime before the Times and other conventional publications did. Do you consider this a bad thing?

Is using leftist but not rightist balanced and fair journalism?

A CONSERVATIVE ARGUMENT FOR LEAKS

ELI LAKE, NY SUN - It was bad enough when the left argued for the erosion of press freedoms, but it's incoherent for conservatives to go down this road. Conservatives are supposed to be skeptical about unchecked power for the federal government. It is one of the principles that binds together a coalition of home-schoolers, federalists, gun owners, and tax cutters - the view that while the federal government may be necessary, its power should be checked at every available opportunity.

Yet if conservatives get their way, enormous new powers will be delegated to the federal government. If the executive branch starts prosecuting the recipients of leaks on a wide scale, then Americans would be trusting the people who make national security policy to determine when the rest of us - without clearances - are allowed to know when they make mistakes. Forget for a moment the problems this poses for the First Amendment. What about the values of good government the congressional Republicans who captured the House in 1994 have all but forgotten?

After all, the people who will be entrusted with declassifying the information that newsmen will be allowed to print without fear of legal retribution are not movement conservatives. They are bureaucrats who have proved all too willing so far in this war to declassify selectively all sorts of information damaging to our foreign policy. A policy of prosecuting leaks would not stop them. It would give an advantage to those leakers who have mastered the classification process.

http://raggedthots.blogspot.com/2006/07/let-sun-shine-in.html

NEWSPAPERS HAVEN'T LOST THEIR AUDIENCE, THEY'VE DESERTED IT

[From a talk at the Media Giraffe Project conference. The link takes you not only to the rest of the talk but to a close analysis of one day's issue of the Boston Globe based on the issues that Stites raises]

TOM STITES - What really makes me twitch is that the amount and distribution of serious reporting that people can read are both dwindling, and they're dwindling in a way that all but cuts off citizens who are less than affluent - the hourly wage earners, the marginally self-employed, the Wal-Mart shoppers, the regular folks of America. This is to say most folks. . .

Keep in mind that we're talking about a huge population of people . . . people whose average wages have been declining for years after inflation is taken into account, who may be dealing with predatory lenders and have a negative net worth, whose job security tends to be eroding, who may be working more than one job, who include almost all the 45 million Americans without health insurance. Journalism doesn't serve this huge population if it is written and presented only in ways that appeal to people with disposable income to spend on nice furnishings for their suburban houses and who worry about how best to get a second opinion on a medical diagnosis. In fact, to people whose challenge is how best to see just one doctor without ending up in the poorhouse, that kind of reporting is an affront. So is all the lavish coverage of personal finance. And this is the state of our daily newspapers today.

Citizens who have no access to serious journalism about the issues that are relevant to their lives end up awash in the propagandistic opinion media and in the sound bite vapidity of standard broadcast news. Without serious journalism that they can read to equip them with facts and engage their reason, some respond to this sorry state by disenfranchising themselves in hopelessness; others vote the opinions drilled into them by the manipulative cable news diatribes.

What's the Matter with Kansas? Thomas Frank famously asked in his book title. I submit that a big part of what's wrong is that lots of Kansans - especially less affluent Kansans who voted their conservative values and thus elected people to Congress who were sure to legislate against their economic interests - these citizens were bereft of serious reporting they could read and thus saw and heard only endless propagandistic opinions from the only media left in their lives. . .

Why is it that less-than-affluent Americans are being zoned out of serious reporting? Elite audiences like this one often jump to the conclusion that "those people" are undereducated and don't read much. But less affluent people do read. Wal-Mart is one of the Big Four booksellers, the others being Borders, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon. Harris poll data show that year after year about 30 per cent of citizens report reading as a favored leisure pursuit. Less-than-affluent people still read, it's just that a great many have stopped reading news.

Every two years [the Pew Center] does a survey that asks people whether they'd read a newspaper the day before. When Pew presents its findings, it breaks down the responses by age, and also by educational attainment. But it doesn't break the numbers down by income. Suspecting that the decline in newspaper readership has been disproportionately among the less affluent, I asked them to dig out that data for me.

To my astonishment, for people with annual household income from $50 to $75,000, Pew found that people answering that they'd read a newspaper the day before had actually increased by a percentage point between 1998 and 2004, to 58 per cent from 57. And people with household incomes of $75,000 and up declined by five points, to 55 per cent from 60. But the study did not ask about reading newspapers on line, and the higher one's income the likelier one is to be what another Pew effort, the Internet & American Life Project, calls "high-powered broadband users" – 46 per cent have household incomes of more than $75,000 annually. And Harris Poll data show that 26 per cent of people who read newspapers on line report reducing their use of other media, including newspapers. . .

For citizens with household incomes of less than $50,000, readership has plummeted. For people in households earning $30,000 to $50,000, readership is down by 13 points, to 35 per cent from 48; for people in $20,000-to-$30,000 households, it's down by 9 points, to 34 per cent from 43 per cent, and for people in households with less than $20,000 income, it's down 11 points, to 27 per cent from 38 per cent. In terms of percentage of decline, the falloff exceeds 20 per cent for all three of these groups - in only six years.

Part of this can be explained by young people entering their earning years with modest salaries and advanced technology habits, and surveys show that today's young people spend less time on news than their counterparts of earlier years. But even taking this into account, what we're talking about here is a class divide -“ two classes of citizens, one that's well served with quality reporting and one that's left to the vagaries of the manipulators. . .

So what's causing this? There are many variables. The number of media competing for our attention just keeps expanding. Younger people are far more adept with technology than their elders – although the Harris Poll finds significantly more Gen Xers reading national newspapers than the overall population. But here's a variable that gets almost no attention: How editors choose what stories to cover and how to frame them.

In this era of discount retailers like Wal-Mark that advertise very little, newspaper advertising tends to come from upscale retailers. Responding to the wishes of these advertisers, publishers no longer want nonaffluent readers. Over the last three decades, newspapers have increasingly reflected that. . .

When I was breaking in as a reporter, I ran the police beat for The Kansas City Times. The managing editor, a crusty old guy named John Chandley, explained that he wanted me to provide at least a short item about every siren heard each night in all parts of the city, so our readers would know what had happened. And he meant all parts of the city, rich and poor. This kept me hustling, and to this day I remember the lesson: The newspaper I worked for wanted to sell papers to every household in the area. They wanted 100 per cent market penetration, or as close as they could come to 100 per cent. In 1962 and 63, when I was a police reporter, dailies everywhere wanted 100 percent market penetration. Newsday, where I worked in the 1970s, approached 85 per cent penetration at its peak, the record for American newspapers. Now it's about 40 per cent. . .

Now fast-forward to the late 1980s. By this time I was associate managing editor of The Chicago Tribune, and all the talk among the news management was about editing the paper for the top two quintiles of the income distribution. That means that 40 percent market penetration is the goal, not 100 percent, and that The Trib cares little about 60 percent of the people who might be its readers. And these people are the men and women in the bowling alley. Why doesn't The Trib care? Because these days non-affluent people shop at Wal-Mart, and advertisers like Lord & Taylor and stores that sell fancy wines don't want to pay for circulation among people who can't afford their wares. It's as simple as that.

Now almost all metro dailies want only the affluent readers. Everybody else is what advertisers call "waste." So publishers simply ignore the interests of the bowling alley set, or write about "them" only as statistics or as the objects of debates among economists and policy analysts. I am absolutely confident that it takes these "waste" readers – more than half of all Americans - very little time perusing their metro daily to see that reading further is a waste of their time. .

http://citmedia.org/blog/2006/07/03/guest-posting-is-media-performance-democracys-critical-issue/

PUBLIC RADIO, AN STATIONS LOSING AUDIENCE;

[From an interview with George Bailey and David Giovannoni, who are wrapping up their Audience 2010 inquiry commissioned by public radio. They are interviewed by Current editors Mike Janssen and Steve Behrens]

Mike Janssen: Why is public radio's audience slipping?

George Bailey: First of all, we should say that we documented that it is slipping. It is losing momentum. I think there was some denial about that in the first place. Out there in the system, in the press and among managers and other places, there were all kinds of hypotheses or myths or delusions about what was going on. For example, people were saying that satellite radio was taking audience away from public radio. And Vinnie Curren [senior VP of radio at CPB] was quoted in the New York Times as saying people might have gotten tired of election coverage-that would be why we're losing audience. We wanted to systematically test as many of those ideas as possible. And we pretty much destroyed the myths that blamed the decline on external problems. We ended up finding that public radio is losing loyalty.

David Giovannoni: That's the central finding - that we're losing loyalty. Loyalty is a symptom, it's not a cause. But it's a hurtful finding, isn't it? It's like learning your girlfriend still enjoys her nights out - just not so much with you. . .

Janssen: How big a deal is this decline? . . .

Bailey: Not every station is losing audience and loyalty, but the trend is clear. Nearly half of listening to pubradio stations last year was to stations that lost loyalty over the previous year. . .

Bailey: It's wrong to try to look nationally across the whole country and say, "Here's the one factor in the competition that's doing better, and so we can learn from that and emulate it.". . .

Giovannoni: Listening to locally produced music slid first, but other categories also lost momentum - even network news, which has fueled pubradio's audience growth. . .

Bailey: The fact that some of the NPR news stations are doing well and some are not, and the same with the other formats, indicates that public radio really can support a variety of formats and maybe even serve a variety of audiences with those different formats, but that within any one of those formats there's a variety of right and wrong ways to do it. . .

Behrens: We asked Leslie Peters of Audience Research Analysis whether there were any patterns characteristic of local news and information shows that have done well in loyalty, and she found only a couple of programs have loyalty on par with the stations' average loyalty. And those are the talk shows of Faith Middleton on Connecticut Public Radio and Brian Lehrer on WNYC.

Giovannoni: And there's Terry Gross on WHYY, Diane Rehm on WAMU, Tom and Ray on WBUR [Car Talk], Michael Feldman in Wisconsin. Like we said earlier, it's about talent and implementation, not about source of production.

Behrens: Is there any indication there or elsewhere what would make locally produced programs with particular characteristics more competitive?

Giovannoni: We found no patterns by format or program, either. So again, it means that success and failure are in the implementation, not in the genre. . .

Janssen: In doing Audience 2010, what did you learn that most surprised you?

Bailey: It turns out that when you examine AM radio versus FM radio, almost all the loss in listening to radio has been due to the fading popularity of AM radio. That's something Arbitron has never reported, and Audience 2010 is the first study to report that. It wasn't that long ago that public radio managers were thinking about buying AM stations. . .

http://www.current.org/audience/aud0611radioQandA.shtml

WHY THE MEDIA ISN'T REPORTING THE BILDERBERG STORY

The Bilderberg Conference is an ideal example of how the American elite turns its back on facts even as it denigrates those who wonder what the hell is going on.

As of Saturday night, no major American media had reported the meeting of 130 of the world's most powerful and wealthiest individuals, a meeting so secret that one reporter was arrested for merely flying into the host city and the Ottawa police had to show credentials to private security guards to be permitted on the premises. The invited also include some nasty individuals such as Richard Perle and Ahmad Chalabi. You don't invite such types to a secret meeting if you plan to do anything worthwhile. There are no reports of any person of known moral standing being invited.

How does one explain the utter lack of journalistic curiosity about all this? One could come up with a conspiratorial explanation but the answer is probably even more troubling: no conspiracy was needed at all. Like a well trained child, the media doesn't even want to know what is going on.

Well, that isn't completely true since past participants have included the likes of Don Graham of the Washington Post and Paul Gigot of the Wall Street Journal.

Many city councils in America operate under some sort of freedom of information and/or sunshine law. Why is it so important that we know what our town council is talking about behind our backs and so irrelevant what 130 of the most powerful individuals in the world are talking about secretly? Sorry, the American media is not cleared to give you an answer.

IT IS ONE THING for Ryan Secrest to use the French and, more recently, phony Hollywood pronunciation of the word "homage," but we hear it creeping into use elsewhere, such as on NPR the other day. All would-be sophisticated broadcasters should note this comment sent to the NPR ombudsman two years ago: "Could you please circulate a memo to all your NPR correspondents and show hosts... informing them of the proper pronunciation of the word "homage?" The people you hear most frequently mispronouncing it as a French word are the Hollywood airheads in their commentary accompaniments on DVDs. . . [It's] a semi-literate attempt to sound smart, made so much sadder by how wrong it is."

GREAT MOMENTS IN THE ALTERNATIVE PRESS

[A nice peek at the phoniness of the so-called alternative press which perpetuates the lie that being hip is based on consumer choices rather than philosophical and psychic matter]

MARK FITZGERALD, EDITOR & PUBLISHER - Hey, grandpa, go somewhere else to find a "date" for the night. That's the message the alternative newspaper Boston's Weekly Dig is sending by banning ads for so-called "escort services." It isn't about morality, Dig President Jeff Lawrence tells E&P -- it's about demographics.

Boston's Weekly Dig, like all alternatives, is fighting for the young and hip 18- to 34-year-old. Escort services just don't fit, Lawrence said in an interview Friday. The paper wasn't put off by the fact that most law enforcement agencies believe escort is just another name for call girl. Worse, the ads attracted only old readers.

"It's no different than if we started running ads for Geritol or Depends adult diapers," Lawrence said. "In terms of attracting readers, content is one thing, but the advertisements, too, are huge part of determining whether your readers are going to respond to your paper.". . .

Studies show that the Dig readership peaks among the 18 to 34 cohort, then gradually drifts down through the late thirties and forties -- before suddenly spiking at around 50. "Now unless there are lot of hipsters in their 50s, it seems they search out the paper for the escort ads," Lawrence said. "I honestly think there are a lot of suburban men reading the paper for that purpose."

The Dig even conducted focus groups with the escorts to confirm their demographic suspicions, Lawrence said. "A lot of the escorts are black, and they told us that a white, married man in his 50s, maybe late 40s, that was the customer they would get," he said. "So we kind of looked at each other, and went, this is so obvious.". . .

"Advertisers like that you're protecting your demographic," he said, "They say, you're willing to give up revenue to stay on mission -- that's fantastic."

http://www.editorandpublisher.com/eandp/search/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1002463756

TOM FRIEDMAN'S BRAIN IS FLAT AND WE'LL KNOW WHY IN SIX MONTHS

[Tom Friedman quotes collated by FAIR]

"The next six months in Iraq - which will determine the prospects for democracy-building there - are the most important six months in U.S. foreign policy in a long, long time." (New York Times, 11/30/03)

"What I absolutely don't understand is just at the moment when we finally have a UN-approved Iraqi-caretaker government made up of - I know a lot of these guys - reasonably decent people and more than reasonably decent people, everyone wants to declare it's over. I don't get it. It might be over in a week, it might be over in a month, it might be over in six months, but what's the rush? Can we let this play out, please?" (NPR's Fresh Air, 6/3/04)

"What we're gonna find out, Bob, in the next six to nine months is whether we have liberated a country or uncorked a civil war." (CBS's Face the Nation, 10/3/04)

"Improv time is over. This is crunch time. Iraq will be won or lost in the next few months. But it won't be won with high rhetoric. It will be won on the ground in a war over the last mile." (New York Times, 11/28/04)

"I think we're in the end game now. . . I think we're in a six-month window here where it's going to become very clear and this is all going to pre-empt I think the next congressional election-that's my own feeling- let alone the presidential one." (NBC's Meet the Press, 9/25/05)

"Maybe the cynical Europeans were right. Maybe this neighborhood is just beyond transformation. That will become clear in the next few months as we see just what kind of minority the Sunnis in Iraq intend to be. If they come around, a decent outcome in Iraq is still possible, and we should stay to help build it. If they won't, then we are wasting our time." (New York Times, 9/28/05)

"We've teed up this situation for Iraqis, and I think the next six months really are going to determine whether this country is going to collapse into three parts or more or whether it's going to come together." (CBS's Face the Nation, 12/18/05)

"We're at the beginning of I think the decisive I would say six months in Iraq, OK, because I feel like this election-you know, I felt from the beginning Iraq was going to be ultimately, Charlie, what Iraqis make of it." (PBS's Charlie Rose Show, 12/20/05)

"The only thing I am certain of is that in the wake of this election, Iraq will be what Iraqis make of it-and the next six months will tell us a lot. I remain guardedly hopeful." (New York Times, 12/21/05)

"I think that we're going to know after six to nine months whether this project has any chance of succeeding. In which case, I think the American people as a whole will want to play it out or whether it really is a fool's errand." (Oprah Winfrey Show, 1/23/06)

"I think we're in the end game there, in the next three to six months, Bob. We've got for the first time an Iraqi government elected on the basis of an Iraqi constitution. Either they're going to produce the kind of inclusive consensual government that we aspire to in the near term, in which case America will stick with it, or they're not, in which case I think the bottom's going to fall out." (CBS, 1/31/06)

"I think we are in the end game. The next six to nine months are going to tell whether we can produce a decent outcome in Iraq." (NBC's Today, 3/2/06)

"Can Iraqis get this government together? If they do, I think the American public will continue to want to support the effort there to try to produce a decent, stable Iraq. But if they don't, then I think the bottom is going to fall out of public support here for the whole Iraq endeavor. So one way or another, I think we're in the end game in the sense it's going to be decided in the next weeks or months whether there's an Iraq there worth investing in. And that is something only Iraqis can tell us." (CNN, 4/23/06)

"Well, I think that we're going to find out, Chris, in the next year to six months-probably sooner-whether a decent outcome is possible there, and I think we're going to have to just let this play out." (MSNBC's Hardball, 5/11/06)

http://www.fair.org/index.php?page=2884

PBS NEWS HOUR SPONSOR FINED $57 MILLION FOR PRICE FIXING

NICHOLAS E. HOLLIS AGRIBUSINESS COUNCIL - Today's announcement that the European Court of Justice had upheld antitrust fines of $57 million on ADM for its role in the global lysine cartel back in the mid 1990s provides another insight into the Decatur, Illinois based Supermarket to the World.

The fact that ADM's London office played such an important role in the price fixing cartel --- even providing office space for an accountant who kept records on the cartel members' quotas --- has remained shrouded. ADM was forced to pay a whopping $100 million fine to the U.S. Treasury as part of its plea bargain on this side of the Atlantic --- but the company gained immunity for most of its senior executives from further questioning --- and also found a way to maintain its business with the U.S. government. . .

As ADM finds itself at center stage in the wrangling over ethanol --- and high gas prices --- only a few years removed from the largest antitrust case in agricultural history --- today's announced EU ruling might prove instructive for inquiring minds on an old truth: History is prologue. During the cartel's organization and implementation in the 1990s, the head of that ADM/London office was none other than ADM's current chairman, G. Allen Andreas.

In the "window" between FBI raids in Decatur and EU raids on ADM/London, G. Allen Andreas was quickly installed as ADM's chief executive. He had the "extraterritorial dodge" factor. If his office had been in Decatur, instead of London, it might well have been targeted by the FBI, which could have resulted in an indictment. His cousin, Mick Andreas, son of Dwayne Andreas, ended up indicted, convicted and served several years in Federal prison. . .

Before we allow ADM to squeeze the country into an "Ethanol straitjacket" with a dunce cap maybe we better read the history lessons here. Falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus -- False in one thing, false in all.