Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Local News Topples Cable News

With competition like CNN, Headline News, CNBC, MSNBC, Fox News Channel and CSPAN, local broadcast affiliate news remains the media of choice.

Despite the attractiveness and ease of 24-hour news on cable networks and the Internet, local news has the greatest following.

Earlier this month David Rehr, President and CEO of National Association of Broadcasters, spoke about the future of broadcasting.

He stressed the effectiveness of local newscasts and provided some surprising statistics:

During the 2005-2006 TV season, broadcasters had the top 235 highest rated programs among all TV households.

Cable's most-watched show was number 236. It was on ESPN.

Additionally, during the month of May in Spokane, Washington, 994 Comcast subscribers ages 25 to 54 watched one of five 6P cable newscasts. In this same demographic and time slot, three local broadcast newscasts attracted a total of 38,500 people.

That’s nearly four times the amount of viewers of cable newscasts.

So why is the appetite for local news so strong?

Maybe because people want to know how the news affects them. When the news is local, the affect is greater.

Maybe because local reporters cover neighborhood stories, in addition to national and international news. They promote local causes, provide vital emergency information, report schools closings and weather conditions and publicize upcoming events.

David Rehr says, “We work hard every day for our audience, and the numbers bear this out.”

With so much media attention given to cable newsmen like Bill O’Reilly, why are local broadcasters often left in the dusk?

If local news has significantly higher ratings that cable news, why isn’t more attention cast on the success of local news?

To read David Rehr’s transcript or to watch a video of his speech, click here.


So you want to be an anchorwoman...

A recently released Ladies Home Journal poll found that the largest number of women--15 percent of those involved in the survey--dream of being a television news anchor. That's even more than the number who want to be movie stars (13 percent) and a mere 10 percent who would like to be the president.
The poll was done in June, a few months before Katie Couric took over the evening news at CBS as the first woman to anchor such broadcasts solo. It's hard to say how much Couric played into the poll results, but it seems surprising that in today's celebrity-obsessed world, more women would like to read the news than read lines on the big screen. It's possible that women see a news anchor as an actress-sort of celebrity, with all the perks of fame and the additional bonus of credibility. I wonder, though, what the results would have been if the "anchor" answer was switched with "reporter", or with "journalist."
A big part of the attraction of TV news is the fact that your face goes with your work, rather than in print, where most of us are relatively anonymous. In that way, TV news reporters, like actresses, can (wrongly) be made or dismissed on the basis of looks before talent. I wonder if the 15 percent who'd like to be Katie Couric would want to stay there when they found out how concerned everyone was about her wardrobe, rather than her words. And I wonder if they'd be ready to do the hard work of reporting.
The survey is in the magazine's November issue, and you can read more about it in the Chicago Tribune by clicking here.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Do Local News Shows Clown Around Too Much?

The other day another student (who is not from Illinois) asked me why the anchors on WGN and Fox joked around so much. I hadn’t given much though to the issue, but I’ve heard others complain about all the banter, particularly during the morning newscasts.

I realize morning news shows have more leeway and often feature segments on cooking and other light-weight fare. But newscasts only have a limited amount of time, shouldn't that time be used for news? I’m all in favor of the occasional witty remark, but do local broadcasts go too far in the other direction? And does it take away from the credibility of a journalist if he or she jokes around so much?

Speaking of WGN, why is it OK for the news to regularly advertise for CW television shows? The first item on the WGN Web site is an ad for "Everybody Hates Chris," not a link to the day's top news stories.

Going back to my initial point, the Web site also features a "rejected morning news promo" spoofing “CW” as Country Western. The anchors, wearing cowboy hats, vests and fake mustaches, sing and promise you the news quality will remain the same with all the changes to the network. Never mind that the clip is more corny than funny, are the journalists stepping a little too far outside their roles by poking fun at themselves in this way? And shouldn’t they focus their energy on the news and leave promotions to the advertising department?

To see the video, go to http://wgntv.trb.com/ and click on the Video Clip of the Day.


Thursday, October 26, 2006


There’s no doubt that Barack Obama is one popular guy right now.

Between appearances on Oprah, a book tour, and….oh yeah… being a Senator he’s probably pretty busy too.

But as Robert Feder points out in this column he wasn’t too busy to accept an “honorary chair” position from Unity: Journalists of Color.

Unity is a group composed of several organizations including the National Association of Black Journalists, the Asian American Journalist Association, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists and the Native American Journalist Association.

I, like Feder, have no problems with Obama accepting an award. But I do question a group of journalists who want to honor a politician. But isn’t there a danger when journalists get too close to politicians?

I caught this article in GQ.

Many consider Bob Woodward to be the best political reporter of our time. His reporting brought down a Presidency. But after writing “Bush at War,” an account of the Bush Administration post-9/11, some accused him of getting too close to his sources. In this case his source was the White House.

In previous books Woodward used up to 400 sources. That was his style. His investigations would start at the bottom of the totem pole and work their way up. Woodward would build the story as he climbed each rung. By the time he got to the top he already had his story.

But in “Bush at War” Woodward had unprecedented access to the Commander-in-Chief—as much as four hours of interview time.

Critics say that the Bush White House rolled out the red carpet for Woodward. The result: the CIA, not the Administration, takes the heat for messing up the weapons of mass destruction claim.

Obama is not the Bush Administration. (I think he would be the first to point that out.) But isn’t part of our job as journalists to be critical of all politicians, not just the one’s we don’t like? And are we really doing that when we bestow them with honors?


Running for office? Better run from Colbert
Most politicians are as likely to pass up free TV face time before an election as they would be to refuse a campaign check. Then again, there's a price to be paid for looking stupid.

Media has a role in politics - I think it's safe to assume we're not naive about that. But we still ask, as we should, how that role should be defined. For good or for bad, we find ourselves in every nook and cranny of the political arena.

Politicians turn to the media looking for a way to define themselves in the public eye and one of those impressions they want to give viewers is that they're not as stuffy as government work makes them look.

Ever since Richard Nixon delivered the "Sock it to me" punch line on "Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In" during the 1968 presidential campaign, politicians have sought to use comedy shows to prove they aren't the stiffs they seem to be.

One of the criticisms against Al Gore was that he was "too serious" and lacked personality. I've heard some folks say that if they knew he could be as personable as he is today, they would have voted for him! Bill Clinton's been on the "Tonight Show" and played the saxophone on Arsenio Hall's talk show.

See, I think these things are great. I think opportunities to see government leaders in "friendlier" environments is necessary and helpful to voters who want to feel connected to elected officials. However, some comedies can be borderline "stupid."

"I watch it all the time," said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco), "and I think, 'Why would anybody go on there?' "

Pelosi is referring to Stephen Colbert's show that is so blunt, it is either too honest or too vulgar.

Paul Lewis, a Boston College professor who has studied humor and politics, said the series was just "a trap" for politicians.

"When they go on the show," he said, "they often seem like buffoons."

Read the actual article for specific examples of Colbert's interviews. Are comedy shows a bad idea for politicians?

Posted by AL

Politics and Plastic Surgery

Let's face it--we all want to look good. Women spend thousands of dollars a year to defy gravity, lifting and tucking anything that might start to fall south. Men have also begun to sing to this tune, getting calf implants (yes, I said calf implants) and needing to enhance other parts to make themselves feel more manly.

This desire for the trim and slim has seeped even into the realm of politics, where the electorate has to double as actors and superstars. As I read this article about an accusation that Hilary Clinton had Botox, it struck me that people will often elect someone who "looks" right. Why else would politicians (male and female alike) ascribe to the same staunch suits, Mister Rogers cardigans when addressing the nations and stiff hair? Because it fits the formula for the unintrusive, non-gaudy politician who will make all of our political woes better.

But should image be the focus? Should I care whether Laura Bush has the classic Botox stare and probably dyes her hair to a lush auburn or more about her policy? Have we descended to a time where a look of a politician matters more than his or values? Would I like the Governator more if he didn't have crows feet? I doubt it.

This article from the NY Times was in the Fashion & Style section, which I found interesting. I would have liked it better in another section of the paper. But I guess it shows that even politicians, in the midst of the possibility of a congressional upheaval, will keep themselves looking youthful. The writer did a great job of examining the double standard that civilians can get all the nipping and tucking they want but politicians cannot. After all, they are only responding to the societal lie that we must look young forever. Why else would they spend thousands of dollars on image?

At any rate, did you know there was an underground culture of political plastic surgeons?


Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Celebrity Political Endorsements and the Media Response

Michael J. Fox recently played a starring role in a political campaign advertisement. He asked voters to support an issue: stem cell research. Fox did so by asking viewers to vote for Democratic candidates in Wisconsin, Maryland and Missouri.

Fox appeared (by what some say) unusually affected by his Parkinson's disease and shook back and forth throughout the spot. He also bashed a Republican candidate in Missouri. Then, Rush Limbaugh accused Fox of exploiting his disease for the Democrats. He eventually apologized.

This video was downloaded over and over again, so Republicans got some stars of their own to show their side on stem cell research in an advertisement. The stars were not as recognizable in my opinion but famous nonetheless.

I have to take issue with two factors in this scenario. The first is that hollywood actors are endorsing politicians through campaign ads. Both parties should not use famous faces to lure voters to their side. I know this has been going on forever. Yes, Fox has a disease so he can serve as a spokesman, but is it appropriate for him to bash the other candidate? He could ask voters to vote for certain people without slamming the other candidate in vague terms.

Second, should the media (in this case Limbaugh) so blatantly take political sides? I know that Limbaugh is a conservative radio talk show host, but can he attack Fox about his disease just because he backed some Democrats? He picked apart Fox's appearance during the ad because he happened to support the other side. I think better attempts at objectivity must be taken here.

To find out more, go to the New York Times article here


Democrats not playing ball with new media

According to a recent Washington Post article "New Media A Weapon in New World Of Politics," Republicans have welcomed new media with open arms while Democrats have faltered in figuring out how to use non-traditional media to their advantage.

In the day of new media, politics and, more precisely, politicians' antics are fair game for analysis and scrutiny 24/7.

Need I mention Mark Foley?

Republicans have embraced new media - for better or worse.

During the last election, leaking information to the Drudge Report was standard operating procedure for the Rove contingent. They tried to create a public image of John Kerry before he could do it for himself.

RNC staff members leaked everything from Kerry getting expensive haircuts to controversial quotes from his days protesting the Vietnam War.

One suggestion for why Democrats aren't as new media savvy as the Republicans is that the left wingers are holding on to a sanctified image of the media.

"We're all that way, and I think a part of it is we grew up in the '60s and the press led us against the war and the press led us on civil rights and the press led us on Watergate," former president Bill Clinton said. "Those of us of a certain age grew up with this almost unrealistic set of expectations."

Clinton regards new media with disdain, evidenced most recently when he lashed out at Chris Wallace.

On the flip side, Dick Cheney said he welcomes the breakdown of what he called an old media "monopoly."

He said politicians need to develop "thick skin" to weather the barrage of attacks and name-calling that are now commonplace in politics.

So what do you think? Should Democrats get on board and wage war new media style? Or are the Republicans sleezy? Or are they super smart?

Thoughts, questions and concerns welcome.

Here's the full Post story http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/10/05/AR2006100501811.html.


Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Fairness Bias

Journalistic ethics demands that reporters and editors be fair. This involves a balance in reporting. When it comes to politcal coverage, journalists are required to present each candidate's side so that there is no question of bias or emotional allegiance. In other words, journalists strive not to become a partisan press. Consequently, according to Rhetorica.net, whenever one faction or politician does something or says something newsworthy, the press is compelled to get a reaction from an opposing camp. This creates a "ping-pong-like" package where one side is refuted by the other. For example, if politician A mentions his community involvement, then the press is encouraged to seek a comment stating that Politician A is not visible in the community. The press then has to get a statement from Politician B. Does this echoe TV drama?

When it comes to political coverage, is the media trying too hard to be objective and unbiased in its coverage that it sacrifices reality? If investigative journalism allows reporters to seriously probe a topic of interest, often involving crime, political corruption, or some other scandal, then doesn't it seem fair to say that reporters could focus on one side of the political campaign rather than both? Could it be for the greater good? Is the push to portray two side as if they have equal standing hurting journalism and the quality of news coverage?

I recently confronted this particular issue in political reporting. While trying to cover an aldermanic race, I had one candidate willing to be interviewed and his opponent not so willing. But when it came down to showtime, I could not air my package without a soundbit from the opponent. On top of that, I was told that both candidates needed equal air time, in part, to be fair to the campaign process.

My role as a journalist was not intended to include campaign advertising.

While it is good to have a huge variety of viewpoints, in a 1:30 package, I don't always think it's fair to sacrifice in-depth reporting of one candidate for superficial reporting of two candidates. It seem as though media only sees in red and blue and reports in figures of two.

To visit Rhetorica.net, click here.

To learn about media bias basics, click here.


CNN WAR VIDEO-unpatriotic?

Rep. Duncan Hunter, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, is asking the Pentagon to bar CNN from the embedding program where journalists spend time with combat units after airing b-roll last week that showed insurgents shooting at U.S. troops. Hunter says "you" can't be on both sides of the war. But who is the "you" he is referring to? Surely he is not asking CNN to take a stance as a news organization on the war effort. Or is he?! What happened to freedom of the press? Are we only free if we are shooting video that pleases the administration? Hunter further alludes that CNN was 'unpatriotic' for airing the footage. As discussed in class, I feel politics is coming into play here. God forbid we actually 'see' the truth that we aren't being told by the administration. *gasp.*I could see if the video was distorted in some way. But CNN did NOT distort the video. All they did was their job. What they purport to do as a news organization is shoot what was happening as it was happening. The reality of war is that insurgents are going to shoot at and furthermore, set off roadside bombs to injure and kill our troops. We all know that and its further evidenced by the death toll and numerous injuries. (*Tammy Duckworth*, anyone?") VIDEO DOESN'T LIE. ADMINISTRATIONS DO.


To view this article go, here!

Free(ish) speech in Iraqi journalism

In another ironic twist of the war in Iraq, it turns out that the Pentagon has hired outside contractors to pay Iraqi news organization and their employees to write--and publish--positive news about the war. And according to a U.S. Defense Department review of this plan, it's all legal.

As the Washington Post suggests in a October 23 editorial (which can be read here), the American military has its reasons for wanting the Iraqi people to think things are going well. But there's a major error in this reasoning. In a war that is supposed to be about bringing democracy to a former military dictatorship, something is more than a bit off with America's attempts to make the Iraqi press not quite as free as our own.

Here in America, free speech and the vital role of the press in maintaining it is one of the most important parts of the working democracy. We take issue when politicians try to limit the power of the pen or to operate it themselves. So how is it legitimate to do the same under our watch in a different part of the world?

In a statment relesed to the Post, the Pentagon argued that "the current situation in Iraq necessitates that the coalition maintain the capability to communicate with the Iraqi people via the Iraqi media."

Apparently that means communicating our interests first, and everything else in a distant second.


Monday, October 23, 2006

The Audacity of the Media

Is Barack Obama the next U.S. president? That seems to be the question on everyone’s mind, and I’d dare say the media put it there. Oprah publicly endorsed Senator Obama a few weeks ago, and Time magazine recently devoted its cover to Obama and his presidential potential. Just yesterday Obama finally acknowledged that he is considering running for president in 2008 during an appearance on NBC's "Meet the Press."

There’s no question this is news. But has the media been handling Obama with kid gloves? Sun-Times columnist Lynn Sweet tackled the question today in her column . She and Clarence Page of the Chicago Tribune also addressed the issue Sunday on CNN’s “Reliable Sources.”

During the show, host Howard Kurtz posed an important question: “Does the senator walk on water, or have the media gone off the deep end?"

Do you think Obama is using the press much the way President Reagan did? If so, how do we keep falling into the same trap over and over again? Let’s not forget Obama is also promoting a book, the sales of which I’m sure have benefited from all this coverage.

During the show, Page compared the hype over Obama to that generated by Colin Powell in 1996 and said members of the media are not the only ones going crazy over Obama. Still, wouldn’t you say we have a responsibility to keep a level head, especially at times like these?

There’s also a question of timing. As Kurtz said, “There's a war in Iraq, there's a battle against al Qaeda, and the media are clamoring for a guy who two years ago was a state senator in Springfield, Illinois?"

For me, the most interesting thing about the media's coverage of Obama is the way race has (or has not) been addressed. The Time magazine piece put Obama up there with Oprah and Tiger Woods—African Americans that have been able to “transcend” racial stereotypes. Likewise, in response to a question from Kurtz, Page said part of Obama’s appeal to journalists and the public is that he appears to transcend his race. In other words, he makes us feel that we’ve progressed as a society and individuals because we are able to consider a black president. Yes, that is an interesting and newsworthy cultural moment. But should journalists be swept up in it, or be on the outside “objectively” analyzing it?

If we’ve become enamored with Obama, is it too late for us to go back to the shallow waters and treat him as we would anyone else who was considering running for the highest office in the country?


Double Standards for Print

As a reporter, if I ever went on air after an interview with a politician and said: “don’t vote for that person... they’re clearly a waste of time; you should vote for the other candidate because that’s who I endorse," I would lose my job.

CNN doesn’t publicly endorse candidates, ABC7 in Chicago doesn’t and even though FOX News has a few talk shows where a host is more vocal about his or her political views, the last time I checked, FOX does not release press statements in which they tell the public to vote for a particular candidate. So, it is beyond my understanding how a newspaper is able to do so.

I consider the Chicago Tribune’s recent and public endorsement of a Republican candidate, and the Chicago Sun Time’s similar endorsement of a Democrat governor, to be quite disheartening. I think it is terrible for any journalist or journalistic institution to reveal personal bias.

Granted all institutions, individuals and establishments have a particular leaning towards left or right. However, it’s very bizarre for a medium upon which the public relies for at least semi-objective news, to blatantly disclose an interest in a particular political party.

As a Chicago Tribune reader or Chicago Sun Times reader, knowing the political affiliation of each particular paper discredits any coverage the newspaper has on the candidate that is not in its favor. I cannot fathom a mainstream news channel plastering “Proud Supporters of Bush” prior to a broadcast, so why can’t newspapers hold themselves to the same standards?


Sunday, October 22, 2006

Navigating the Waters of (Un)Employment

So we enter Medill, bright eyed and alight with the passion and goals of making a difference with our work. Who knows what story we might crack that would lead to the downfall of political empires (and perhaps win a Pulitzer on the way?) Who knows what story we could write that would be seen by millions and cause someone to see a country, candidate or a issue a different way?

And then the quarter system descends on us like vultures to a carcass. Hair begins to fall out, the work load seems impossible and psychotic professors act like they are the only ones who assign work in the universe. Or maybe that was just me.

The year passes swiftly. Nut grafs and ledes are no longer rocket science and AP becomes our second or third language. AND THEN THE JOB SEARCH.

Perhaps when we arrived at Medill we imagined jobs coming to us on floating clouds of happiness. Painfully, it comes down to who you know, and what they need. This quirky story is the tale of one man's search for a journalism job and all the difficulties that ensued. As a Poynter Fellow, I'm sure that he had grand ambitions of the New York Times and the Washington Post, and ended up at a paper in Naples, Fla. locked out of an apartment in his underwear.

It seems like life in journalism doesn't turn out what we necessarily think. It could be my recent cynical adoption of truth, or the fact that I'm hungry. Who knows? But I liked the story.


Here We Go Again-What is the Cost of Corruption?

The Trib is running yet another article about Chicago Police misconduct. This time, its four officers indicted by grand jury on charges that they robbed and kidnapped drug dealers. Correct me if I'm wrong, but aren't the police supposed to ARREST drug dealers and not ROB them?! Of course, these officers didn't think the drug dealers would file complaints. After all, drug dealers are virtually nonexistent on the morality map. So what does that make the officers who steal from them? I agree with U of C law professor Craig Futterman that the CPD does not look at patterns of abuse. Instead, they ignore the "big red flags" waving at them before a scandal even breaks. There is a term in criminal law that describes this behavior. Its called "willful blindness." What sadness me is that I know there are good men and women on the CPD force. And this type of behavior undermines the integrity of the good guys and their work for the city. This is downright embarassing. Where is the shame?


To view this article, go here!

Thursday, October 19, 2006

A not-so-colorful peacock

Brian Williams may not have anything to worry about. He’s consistently been ahead of his former NBC News colleague Katie Couric and ABC’s Charles Gibson in the ratings game. But other NBC newsers are probably feeling a little anxious tonight. NBC News announced that it will be cutting its staff by more than 200.

Our co-workers over on the print side of things have been facing glum announcements like this for decades—circulations have dwindled and publishers have cut jobs. But wasn’t broadcast news the sector that was growing?

Bob Wright and Jeff Zucker don’t think so. In this Wall Street Journal article Wright and Zucker acknowledge that they see a limited growth potential in the news division.

So how’s a rookie reporter supposed to feel?

On one hand I could be optimist. Perhaps NBC just bit off more than it could chew. There’s the regular NBC News programming—Today, Nightly, Dateline, etc. And then there’s all the other channels MSNBC, CNBC, Telemundo, etc. When’s the last time you found yourself going to MSNBC? That’s not a rhetorical question. I’m really curious what MSNBC does well.

But on the other hand, the “Universal” colossus seems to be more interested in churning a profit than covering news. How is one supposed to remain inspired?


Show me the money!

Journalists are truth tellers. Journalists are hounds who work long hours. Journalists are relentless. Journalists are tireless. And many journalists are...penniless.

Right now I’m doling out some pretty pennies to attend a top journalism school (let's say the top journalism school). My career ambition is to be, in fact, a journalist. But how come the pay is so darn lousy?

Recent graduates of journalism school earn an average salary of – gulp! - $29,962, according to a fall 2005 survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers in Bethlehem, Pa.

That’s roughly half of what us Medill students will spend during our one year of graduate school.

I think it’s laughable how utterly disrespected journalists are when it comes time for the bi-weekly paycheck.

Our friends in other graduate programs – MBA/J.D. – don’t seem to have the same salary quandary. Why are we starving journalists??

So I’d like to see journalists unite and make a change. A big change.

Journalists should be legitimized in the same fashion as doctors and lawyers are.

Enough of the Jayson Blairs and citizen journalists of the world. Let’s make our degrees, experiences and skills worth something. Let’s set standards. Decree rules that must be followed or else you lose the right to be a journalist.

Maybe then we can be taken more seriously. Where being a journalist can become a more respected profession in the eyes of society.

And let’s not dismiss journalism as a profession where, “You’re not in it for the money.”

I’m tired of hearing people say that. If I really wasn’t in it for the money, I’d be getting a Ph.D. in philosophy right now.

What I’m in it for is a career. To me that career involves not only a rewarding job, but also a job that rewards me with a nice salary.

For more salary medians, check out http://www.rtnda.org/research/salaries.shtml. But viewer discretion is advised...


Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Weathering Words

Everyone wants to know the weather. We want to know if it will be hot or cold tomorrow, what to wear and the forecast. Just as most news shows resort to "common" language, I would expect the same when I watch a weather report that's part of the same program.

Evening news shows favor words like "occurred" instead of “happened” and "said again" instead of "reiterated" - to ensure that any viewer, regardless of background or education, can "comprehend" or should I say, "understand" the news. So why can't the weather people do the same?

Turn on any newscast and you'll hear your local weather personality telling you about cold fronts, minimal precipitation, wind content, translinear cloud graphs, saturation and a million other words that I don't need to know in order for preparing for tomorrow. All I care to know is will it be hot or cold tomorrow and what's the temperature? Just the basic information is sufficient for the weather, while the news of the day could use further elaboration and detail.

I hardly have enough time as it is, and the amount of my time that the average weather report demands, is simply too overwhelming. If news directors took more time away from weatherman, and designated that block of time to reporters or anchors, the news of the day would be more thorough and developed – and I would still know what to wear for tomorrow. I assume most people watching the news are not meteorologists.


Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Whoops--Is sorry enough when an article is wrong?

Former NBA player Eddie Johnson is suing the Chicago Tribune and other media outlets for incorrectly identifying him as the suspect in the sexual assault of an 8-year-old girl in August. A Chicago native, Johnson played in the NBA for 18 years and now works as a TV analyst for the Phoenix Suns. The actual suspect had the same name as him and also played in the NBA. The AP got the story right Aug. 8, but a Tribune article the next day named the wrong Eddie Johnson.

The Tribune ran an apology, but apparently, that wasn’t enough for Johnson. Should it have been?

In their haste to get information out for the “greater good of society,” journalists sometimes make mistakes. Spelling and grammar errors are forgivable, but falsely connecting someone to a sexual assault or a murder is far more serious and could do permanent damage (i.e. Richard Jewell).

Steps can be taken to prevent such mistakes, but they will invariably happen. How should we expect the public to respond? I’d hope they would understand that media outlets don’t intend to unnecessarily harm someone’s reputation. But maybe it’s necessary for newspapers and TV outlets to be taken to court as a warning to other journalists to triple check the facts. And if our No. 1 loyalty is to the public, and we betray them with a libelous accusation, what other recourse does an individual have but to sue?

On a related note, a Slate magazine article asks why newspapers hesitate to admit when they make mistakes. The Tribune issued an apology the next day, but Jim Shafer gives several examples of other newspapers failing to acknowledge flawed coverage of a story. To read his article click here.

Shafer asks, “Why is it so hard for newspapers that have climbed out onto a limb in reporting a story to turn back once they hear the wood cracking? Instead of announcing their errors in judgment, most newspapers reverse course by ignoring the flawed stories in their back pages and taking a new tack—as if those old stories had never been written.”

What do you think? Do newspapers hold themselves accountable to the same degree as they do public figures? And how much leniency should the public give reporters when they get the facts wrong?

To read about the Chicago Tribune lawsuit, click here

Posted by AJ

Younger Generation Not into Traditional News Outlets

The Pew Research Center For The People & The Press states that the median age of a newscast viewer is 60 years old! Another statistic shows only 18 percent of 18-29 year olds watch nightly network news on a regular basis versus 26 percent of 30-49 year olds, 43 percent of 50-64 year olds, and 56 percent of 65 year olds and above (Pew Research Center For The People & The Press 2004).

What does this mean for the future of network evening news? Or even cable news outlets?

A recent New York Times Article, "The Youngsters Aren't Listening as Much" points to two problems in getting a younger audience for radio news. First, the outright conflict is the increasingly competititive environment for media outlets today. Second, radio, as a medum, does not try to target this group, as they are not considered the money makers. The article says that listening hours for the 18-24 age range has dropped about 21 percent over the past two years. I find this statistic interesting given the recent XM radio push to a younger crowd.

With statistics like the ones aforementioned, we can only wonder if the younger generation will "grow up" and start listening/watching the news, or if the new trend is here to stay.

Networks are trying to implement new strategies (like CBS and Katie Couric) to appeal to this demographic, but will it work? I think there may just be too many options with the internet, cable stations, and the likes to have an outright media winner or a concentrated audience.


Do YouTube?

The People's Republic of YouTube
By Patrick Goldstein
Welcome to the new media universe, where the best TV network in America might be a website where video clips are viewed more than 100 million times each day.

It used to be that if you missed something on TV, too bad for you. Then video taping came along and of course, TiVo. But for those without either of these tools, we now have YouTube - not just for home video entertainment made by random people, but also for TV moments missed. Where else can you go if you want to see Bill Clinton's finest moment with Chris Wallace (free and without commercials or advertising)? For example, I found Lisa Ling on MSNBC on YouTube and learned that her actual footage from her sneak into North Korea would be aired at the end of this year.

YouTube has also changed the way political "reporting" is done. U.S. Senator George Allen (R-VA) was recently on the defensive for his remarks captured by an Indian American student who posted the video footage on YouTube. Political campaigning no longer comes in neat little packages controlled by the parties.

However, in light of News Corp. making a deal with Google a few months ago to be the search engine for MySpace, it seems like control over the elusive websites like YouTube, MySpace, Facebook, etc. is slowly emerging. Will these kinds of deals and buyouts change what these websites were meant to be? Would you want advertising in your YouTube videos? Has YouTube really taken our media to another level and will its impact be curbed by big media ownership?

Posted by AL

Monday, October 16, 2006

Should Past Torture Prohibit A Windy City Olympics?

When I think of the Olympics, I think about the combination of hard work, discipline and teamwork that can lead to a gold medal. I don't necessarily think about the ethical culture of the city where the event is held. At least until now. Black People Against Police Torture is challenging Chicago's worthiness for an Olympic bid based on the Burge/police torture scandal. Now, police torture happens in other cities but the cover-ups, hefty pension and the million dollar defense team supplied to cops like Burge the Barbarian haven't been as highly publicized elsewhere. Now one could argue both sides. Pros of having having the olympics here-Chicago is a spacious, relatively clean city with a beautiful skyline and an active sports culture. Why should the city suffer because of the barbaric actions of a few law enforcement officers and those cowards who covered it up? Cons -Meanwhile, 24 black men are rotting away in jail after being tortured to confess. Meanwhile, Burge is living the good life in Florida. Where is the real retribution for this heinous act committed right here on US soil? I don't think the Windy City should be able to breeze past this one..............


To check out the original article, go here!

Get it right, politicians...

It's hard to escape the fact that we're in the middle of election season. It's the time of year when every television commercial seems to end with "I'm [insert name here] and I sponsored this ad because I belive in America." Or something to that effect.

In these unavoidable ads, many candidates like to use "quotes" from newspaper articles that attest to their own brilliance and their opponent's inherent stupidity or evil.

The problem with this kind of quote-lifting, however, is that most politicians are not journalists. And apparently, they don't pay attention to detail in the same way that we do.

At least one major newspaper--The Chicago Tribune--is fed up. In an editorial published on October 16 (click here to read it), Tribune editors point out misrepresented quotes used in the campaigns of Illinois Govenor Rod Gov. Rod Blagojevich and state Sen. Peter Roskam, who is running for a 6th District seat in Congress. Apparently, both camps used quotes that the Tribune had used as quotes--without citing them as such.

"If you choose to quote us," writes the Tribune, "please take care to relate what we said, not what you wish we'd said. Get it right--or leave us out of it."

So what should be the standard for candidate's use and misuse of the media? Clearly, candidates should take the time to get the quote right, because like journalists, they are dependent on their own credibility. Do people take the time to check these quotes? Does it matter in the larger outcome of the election?

From Onscreen to in Office

Can a journalist and TV personality become President? Well, these days it seems so.

From newspapers to talk radio to TV, rumor has it that Oprah Winfrey and John Stewart are running for President. Although they’ve denied these reports, why are people so fascinated with the prospect of having a journalist for President? Could celebrity status soon lead to political victory?

Hollywood says yes.

In the newly released comedy “Man of the Year,” Robin Williams plays the host of a late-night political talk show who runs for and wins the presidency of the U.S.

And it seems as though the fiction played out on the big screen would be a dream to many.

Documentary-maker Michael Moore has set up a petition to persuading Oprah to run. And a Missouri man has recently opened a store that sells "Oprah for President" merchandise.

Similarly, according to the October 13th edition of RedEye, “Hipsters on the streets of New York are wearing Stewart/Colbert ’08 T-Shirts, promoting a Dream Team presidential ticket.”

Growing governmental distrust has led many people like the Manhattan “hipsters” to listen to political commentators/comedians for relief. John Stewart has had a positive effect on many.

So much that maybe it couldn’t hurt to have a journalist run for the big seat. In fact, the University of Pennsylvania’s National Annenberg Election Survey reported that “Daily Show” viewers answered more political questions correctly than non-viewers of late-night comedy shows. Likewise, a study released by Indiana University last week determined that in 2004 “The Daily Show” tied with network evening news programs in terms of time devoted to “substantive political news.”

Maybe if Stewart and other journalists cast their names on the ballot for President, more educated voters would turn to the polls.

Maybe then people would have more confidence in the person in office. Or maybe their votes would only lead to more jokes.

To view the “Oprah for President” website and listen to “If Oprah Was President” (Official Theme Song) click here.

To sign the "John Stewart for President Petition" click here.


Thursday, October 12, 2006

Not so free time.

Most Chicago sports fans know the name Bruce Wolf and many recognize his distinct voice.

He’s become a figure of controversy recently.

This winter, after spending 18 years at the Fox-affiliate WFLD, he was canned. Wolf had two recent suspensions before the station let him go. One involved an awkard on-air incident with a local radio personality. The second was a result of him keying a car. To his defense, he thought he was being punked by the station.

Many speculate that the decision to let Wolf go was based on money—let the expensive talent go and bring in the new (and cheap) guy. Many loyalists hoped he would soon find a home on other airwaves.

And he did. Wolf was picked up by WMAQ. Now you can see him delivering traffic and sports during the morning show.

But if you’re not awake during the pre-Today hours, you can still hear Wolf’s voice. Try tuning in to 97.9-- Wolf is the voice of Outback Steakhouse on WLUP-FM.

If you have a problem with a local newsman also playing local pitchman, you’re not alone. WMAQ managers also had a problem with it.

However, the question remains. Is it wrong for local news “personalities” to use their own time for financial advantage?

The stations do it. Why do you think Katie Couric’s face was plastered on EVERY bus in NYC pre-roll out of the world’s most anticipated newscast?

Lou Dobbs has a new book coming out. You can bet that will be publicized and advertised across the board. Is that crossing the line?

I know that working for a political candidate or being paid by a certain company can appear to compromise credibility. But where should journalists draw the line in their not so free time?


Wednesday, October 11, 2006

(Why) Would you go to North Korea today?

Lisa Ling talked to Oprah on Wednesday's show about her secret entry into North Korea and she brought back video footage with her at the risk of losing her life or, from my perspective, at the risk of causing more strain on the situation we already have with the reclusive country. What if she was caught and imprisoned? Was it a bad move considering the fragile state we are in right now? Furthermore, although she was on an investigative reporting assignment, she lied and said she was a medical assistant for cover-up. Is this tactic ok to use in certain situations?

Ling explained that everything is run by the government in NK. No one is allowed to own a cell phone and the Internet is forbidden. She had to hand her cell phone over and she was reprimanded for having a fashion magazine. There are only two television stations in NK and both are operated by the government. Despite the fact that America is far from perfect and we have First Amendment battles, can you imagine living in a society where only two television stations exist and the only broadcasts, music and literature you can access is from the government? In this light and in light of the murder of Russian journalist Anna Politskovskaya, can we not show some gratitude for the freedom of press we know of today?

Lastly, as we have been watching the coverage of North Korea's nuclear testing and the American and international governments' responses, what is the role of journalism in such significant matters? At what point are we actively educating and at what point are we just "getting in the way?" Because although we are constantly guessing about North Korea, the top officials there get all they need to know about us basically through, well, our journalism news, no? For example, one article quoted a government source who said he didn't want to talk about the particulars of the nuclear test that may have gone wrong because he didn't want the NK government to read about it and fix it.

In the end, I commend Lisa Ling for getting in and out safely so that we could get a glimpse of the dark society. I just hope that the courageous acts of journalists are truly about more than the thrill and wow factor of getting rare news because the situation we have with North Korea is real and close to many people's hearts. For thousands of people, and they're not just in Korea but here in America, those are real people - mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, sisters, brothers, friends left behind over 50 years ago and "unification" of the Koreas would only be a miraculous dream come true.

Posted by AL

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Hearsay Grace

There could easily be an entire blog dedicated to Nancy Grace, and I’m sure there are many. Instead I would like to discuss her most recent coverage of the Foley scandal.

Nancy Grace has dedicated several of her shows (since the scandal became publicly apparent) to covering Foley. The last few Nancy Grace shows have been such terrible excuses for journalism that I find myself glued to Headline Prime like it’s stand-up comedy. I’m not here to criticize Nancy Grace as a person, as she is a well-educated English major, an advocate for children’s right and very experienced as an attorney but she should probably stay on Court TV where she belongs, and NOT CNN’s Headline Prime!

Nancy throws out leading question after leading question until her guests, who happen to be entirely unfamiliar with whatever subject matter Nancy has chosen to discuss, say precisely what it is that she wants them to say.

Inviting people onto a show, who happen to be experts in a field that is not related to the focus of the show, who sit on a panel and make ludicrous suppositions about what Foley did without having any background information, is not news and it should not be on a news channel.

I’m just as capable of guessing and formulating opinions based on hearsay, but Nancy Grace’s specialty is stating suppositions and unconfirmed claims as factual. Nancy Grace throws the word “allegedly” around her show interchangeably with the word “guilty.” For example, when Nancy refers to anyone accused of a crime of which she happens to disapprove, she roles her eyes and uses quotation marks that suggest the word “alleged” is a mere technicality that she must recite on air. Nancy Grace draws parrallels between issues that are completely unrelated to the point where her show is more reminiscent of a comedy routine. In fact, for the first time, Saturday Night Live devoted an entire skit to mocking Nancy Grace’s coverage of the Foley scandal. While the skit is hysterical, it provides a very accurate portrayal of the types of “journalistic” practice by which Nancy abides. To watch this satire, click here.

Allegedly Posted by MG

Fox News--The Evil Channel?

Is Fox News the enemy of all that is unbiased or a balance to the current popular liberalism of the day?

George Bush is the devil and to be liberal is the only way to remain unbiased in today's journalism...or some would say. I've noticed at my time at Medill that Fox News has an ugly cloud over its head, mainly that it leans too far right to be unbiased. The right has become labeled as the opposite of everything that lies in a democratic society, and the sum of all that is untruthful. But what's wrong with the right? Is it really true that if a person is opposed to same-sex marriage and abortion, they are aligned with the dreaded Republicans and therefore not as free-spirited as those who welcome everything into society? What if we rewinded time 50 years ago? Would those who champion values that have disintegrated be labeled as evil right-wingers?

Now, I'm a personal fan of CNN, but I think it's funny that extremely opinionated people lecture others about being unbiased. Really, there is no way to be unbiased. We will bring our values and assumptions into every story.

Maybe Fox wouldn't have such a bad rap if we didn't have a President leading a war that no one likes. Oops, but maybe I'm being biased.


No Laughing Matter

In undergrad I had a Sociology professor who told the class we were required to follow the news, but we should not look to broadcast news programs as a reliable source—except for “The Daily Show.”

Apparently, she knew what she was talking about.

According to a recent study by an Indiana University telecommunications professor, the Comedy Central show has about as much substance as the evening news programs on ABC, NBC and CBS, which isn’t very much.

Professor Julia Fox and two graduate students analyzed coverage of the 2004 presidential election and the first Bush-Kerry debate on “The Daily Show” and CBS, NBC and ABC evening news. They found that like “The Daily Show,” the evening news programs don’t have much substance, which they wrote “should give pause to broadcast news executives in particular, and more generally to all politicians, citizens and schools concerned with the important information function that mass media, particularly television new sources, serve in our democracy.” (To read Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Daniel Rubin's blog on the study, click here.)

It sounds bad, but I think there’s still hope for television news programs. It’s no secret that young viewers are tuning into “The Daily Show” and other comedic sources and turning away from traditional news sources. But as another professor pointed out in a USA Today article last month, to fully understand Jon Stewart’s humorous takes on the news, you have to already know something about the stories, which means people aren't relying solely on "The Daily Show."

Also, the fact that people are watching “The Daily Show” suggests that they have an interest in news and the political process. So why are they turning to a comedian? Maybe because in addition to making them laugh, he appears to be one of them.

Over the years, journalists have lost touch with their readers/viewers. People don’t trust the media like they used to, and they don't feel that we are truly fighting for them. Rather than trust news outlets, people are turning to someone who doesn’t take himself that seriously and is willing to poke fun at and call into question the behavior of public officials. Granted, Stewart can make his opinion known in a way that a news anchor cannot. But he’s also a real person; he asks the questions we’re considering and says what we’re thinking. If journalists can find a way to make a similar connection with viewers without compromising their professional values, then maybe they can get their audiences back.

Posted by AJ

Monday, October 09, 2006

A Lack of Sincerity in “Big News”

It seems as though the phrase “if it bleeds, it leads” is all the rage these days. Journalists compete for “hard news.” But recent “hard news” seems to embody natural disasters, school shootings, and terrorist attacks. What is most surprising is that viewers tune into these graphic stories, oftentimes begging for more coverage. And this reality is not even new.

I cannot help but wonder have we become numb to violence? In the race to find the lead story, do journalists compromise their story’s “face” and voice for uncomfortable footage? Have we become desensitized?

Thinking back to the coverage of Hurricane Katrina, every time you turned on the news, you’d be confronted with bodies floating face down in the water. Similarly, when photographs of Iraqi citizens tortured by US soldiers at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison were leaked to American networks, producers jumped on the bandwagon and broadcasts were flooded with the horrific images. Here in Chicago and other major cities, “breaking news” typically involves murder, fire, crashes and corruption. People mourning seem more compelling than people smiling. Tragedy trumps comedy. Too often, we hear what’s going wrong, instead of what’s going right.

As fascinating as crime may be, is this preoccupation with horror and oftentimes disregard for suffering victims pushing the aims of newsgathering too far? For reporters, the struggle over how far to pursue a story presents serious ethical and even moral complications.

Recently, Meredith Vieira traveled to Bailey, Colorado to meet with the parents of Emily Keyes, the victim of a recent school shooting in Platt Canyon High School. In her blog, she writes, “I wish I could stay here for weeks. To meet more people. To tell more stories. It’s like the peeling of an onion…I realize it’s good to leave New York and go back into the country. You forget there’s a big world out here. It’s nice to reconnect with this place called America.” (Click here to read an article on Keyes.)

Are all journalists as compassionate in their pursuit for news?

It’s easy in the race for ratings to lose sight of the intent behind reports.

What’s most interesting is that Vieira disassociates New York from America. America, “the Land of the Free,” the “home of the brave,” a symbol of democracy seems more concerned with death over life.

I think skilled journalists know when not to cross the line and when to counter stories of horror with stories of safety and charity. We need to report the facts, whether they’re uncomfortable or not. It’s how we report these facts and to what depth we report them that becomes tricky.

Sometimes the old maxim “things are better left unsaid” is the best advice.

The link to Meredith Vieira's blog is here.


"Sex Power God" Party at Brown University Creates Media Debate

Last year a producer for the O'Reilly Factor purchased a ticket online for the infamous "Sex Power God" party held every year by the Queer Alliance at Brown University. The party is attended by both straight and gay students. He showed his ticket, got into the party and returned back with footage of unbelievable things. Several people I know went to the party and were outraged by O'Reilly's commentary and the shots used (some of which showed half-naked students dancing, among other things). Many students claimed the producer had no right going into the party and shooting video without asking permission. Some students may not have been 18. The Brown Daily Herald article has photos and video included.

On the other hand, some people who did not go to the party said it was about time for people to realize that they should not go parading around naked and feel like they are invincible. Bill O'Reilly and the producer incorrectly stated some of the facts surrounding the party and snuck in without consent.

Students debated the media's role in society after this party was leaked to the public. Since Brown is a liberal institution, many students were quick to blame the whole scandal on Fox and O'Reilly.

But, do you really think these students should have been so oblivious?

Who do you think was at fault?

The students parading around barely-dressed? Or, the media, who snuck in and exposed the party?


Do we want to be Anna Politkovskaya?

I'll admit it--I hadn't heard of Russian investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya until last weekend, until after she was already dead.

On Saturday, in broad daylight, a man wearing a baseball cap and carrying a gun followed Politkovskaya into her Moscow apartment building. As she stepped into the building's elevator, the man shot the journalist, tossed the gun next to her body, and fled.

The murder was big news in Russia and slightly less big news here in the U.S., but apparently, it's nothing new in Putin-era Russia. Next to it's web story on Putin's reaction to the news--he reportedly told President Bush that Politkovskaya's death was "tragic"--the BBC posted a scary infographic listing similar violence against Russian journalists in recent years. (Click here to see the story.)

According to Washington Post columnist Anne Applebaum, in life, Politkovskaya had been " proof...that there is still nothing quite so powerful as the written word." The Russian reporter had been one of the few to continue writing and criticizing the conflict in Chechnya, even when doing so became increasingly dangerous.

She won journalism awards, but was arrested. She sold papers, but was poisoned, allegedly by Russian officials trying to cut off her critical words. This time, somebody succeeded--it is widely believed that her death was a contract killing by one of the many individuals or organizations against whom she bravely stood up.

Politkovskaya was clearly a remarkable journalist and individual, the kind that most of us somehow want to be. We want to be the ones that go for the toughest stories, the ones that need to be told, the ones that could get us in trouble.

We get reminders all the time: 107 journalists have been killed since the U.S. began military action in Iraq in early 2003. Sixty-two were killed in the Balkans, and 49 in Rwanda. In Ireland in 1996, journalist Veronica Guerin was shot to death in her car by drug dealers she'd written about in the newspaper. In the Netherlands last year, the filmmaker Theo Van Gogh was stabbed and shot in broad daylight after his film about women in Islam was shown on television.

The list goes on and on. And the question is this: does it take a certain kind of person to want to be this kind of reporter? Or is it a certain issue that turns timid journalists into the kind of person will to risk everything to tell a story? And what stories are worth so much?

The link to Anne Applebaum's column is here.

...and the link to the International Press Institute's "Death Watch" on journalists is here.


Saturday, October 07, 2006

Liberals yet to counter Fox News with TV channel

I have a question: Why can’t liberals get a cable TV channel off the ground?

Fox News is thriving (just celebrated 10 years) and getting ratings galore (Bill O'Reilly's "The Factor" brings in more than 2 million viewers a night) with news tilted to the right, but liberals are nowhere to be found on the talking picture box (unless you count the evening news, but that’s for another blog entry).

Those swinging left have one main non-print outlet…on the radio. Yup, I’m talking about Air America (a.k.a. The Al Franken Project).

So, I'll ask again, why do you think the left-wingers don’t have a TV channel? Is it that they can’t unite? Would they not get ratings? Have they tried (insert Al Gore here)? Will there ever be an all-liberal network?

And going back to Fox News for a moment. The channel touts itself as being "fair and balanced." Do you think that's the case? Does Bill O'Reilly really exist in a "no spin zone"?

Read more about Fox News turning 10 and what it means in the cable landscape @ http://www.usatoday.com/life/television/news/2006-10-01-fox-news_x.htm.

All thoughts, questions and concerns are welcome.

- L

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Boy, times sure are a changing...

This isn't the first time a member of Congress has got caught with the hand in the proverbial cookie jar. As ABC's Liz Marlantes points out sex scandals in Congress are nothing new.

In 1983 the House Ethics committee determined that not one, but two Congressmen had engaged in "sexual activity" with pages. That's seems to me to be a little bit more provocative that the "overly friendly" emails Foley admits to.

The house voted to censure both members of the 1983 scandal. One apologized and later lost his seat. The other stood his ground. Held a press conference with the page that he was accused of having a relationship with and stayed in Congress for six more terms.

So what makes the Foley case different than the previous episode?

Last Friday the ABC News investigative team confronted Foley about email's and instant messages that he has sent to a male page. Some, as you can see, were quite explicit. Before ABC could air the piece, Foley announced that he was resigning from the U.S. House.

There are reports that ABC didn't have the transcripts of Foley's computer conversations exclusively.The New York Times says that at least two Flordia papers had copies of the emails but decided not to publish the stories because their editors thought it was "chit-chat."

Even Brian Ross at ABC had been sitting on the e-mails since this summer.

So what does this say about the power of the media today?

The story has snowballed into an avalanche. Now Democrats and Republicans are calling for investigations, prosecutions and resignations. Three things no politician wants to be the subject of less than five weeks away from an election.

This sure shows how much power the press has gained with technology. People are going to have to do a whole lot more than clear there computer cookies to not get caught with their hand in the jar.


Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Missing Minorities and Media Coverage

Media execs in a 2005 USA today article (linked below) defend the 'race' issue in media coverage of missing women by stating that when choosing to air coverage, race isn't a factor. But rather, they look for a compelling, emotional aspect that makes the missing woman's case interesting. For example, the "runaway bride" Jennifer Wilbanks was like a real version of the Julia Roberts movie. She was bizarre and had the 'deer in the headlight' eyes.
And Natalie Holloway's disapperance was "every parent's worst nightmare." I imagine the same is true for the Elizabeth Smart story. But more important to me is what media execs are implicitly saying, which is there is nothing compelling or emotional or interesting about missing black, female toddlers or missing black female teen runaways. Isn't every missing persons case emotional and compelling to some segment of the viewing audience? Holloway and Smart were beautiful blondes. And let's not forget the murder of JonBenet Ramsey. She was beautiful, blonde, young AND rich.
But white people with blonde hair aren't the 'only' genetic makeup of a viewing audience. Similar to Katrina, I feel race and class are strongly interwined here. If a prominent, wealthy black woman went missing, we just might see coverage. Not because she's black or even a brunette (presumably), but because she's rich. And to the typical media exec, that would be the only 'compelling' thing about her disapperance. And let's bring sociology to the mix. Don't most people identify with 'victims' who are a reflection of themselves? My best friend looks more like Tamika Huston than Natalie Holloway. So I may identify with Huston's disapperance slightly more than Holloway. And I"m woman enough to admit that. And it may not be politically correct for them to admit, but most media execs are white males who are more likely to think of beautiful, blonde white women as 'victims.' Its who they identify with more. So that is what we see on TV. Just like in a majority of cases (but certainly not all) we socialize with people who look like us. And it just so happens in a lot of cases (but certainly not all) that our friends with similar interests, that we grew up with and went to school with are the same race as us. So whether we admit it or not, 'race' is an factor (intentionally or not) in deciding what gets on air.

To view the referred article: http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2005-06-15-missing-minorities_x.htm

Show me the money--and the donor

In an effort to promote free speech abroad, Yahoo gave $1 million to a fellowship program at Stanford University for journalists from countries where the press is under attack. It’s nothing new for a journalism program to take donations from corporations, but some say Stanford shouldn't have accepted the money given that in 2004 Yahoo turned over user data information to the Chinese authorities, which led to the arrests of some journalists.

In Yahoo’s defense, execs say the company had no choice but to comply with the government's requests, and the grant to Stanford has no strings attached. But all gifts are not free. If nothing else, taking the money has cost the Knight Fellowship the respect of some alumni. Is it worth it?

Better yet, does taking money from corporations and wealthy private donors compromise the independence and integrity of a journalism program? And are we willing to make those sacrifices given the potential payoff?

I’d love to get journalistically righteous and say taking money from individuals or companies that have violated journalistic principles in the past is wrong under any circumstance, but it's not that simple. Such a policy might leave universities that are dependent on large donations without the scholarships and computer labs necessary to train future journalists, and I'm not ready to pay that price.

Read more here

Posted by AJ

Tuesday, October 03, 2006


At the end of many of my favorite TV newscasts, the anchor often invites the viewer to log on to the network’s respective website to enjoy what is often plugged as “an endless amount of online content, interviews and extra news coverage.” Once I finally make it onto a website, like cnn.com or the news section of nbc.com, the websites are often far less inviting than the teleprompter-friendly invitations to which TV viewers are regularly subjected. Let’s recount my most recent experience:

I own a Mac computer but it is a brand new intel Mac which means that the majority of content available to the PC-dominated real world, should be available to me. But that is not the case. For example, if I click on any of the videos that accompany the print articles on cnn.com, I am confronted with a variety of error messages on my computer. Most of these messages inform me that I don’t have the correct Windows Media player plug-in, which is not correct, I do (even though cnn.com tells me otherwise). If I click on the Pipeline section of cnn.com, I have no trouble watching the video streams the only catch is that I must allow cnn.com to bill me $0.99 for videos of poorer quality that would otherwise be free if I turned on my TV. At this point I’m frustrated and decide to try something else.

So, I go to nbc.com and click on their “news” section. A lovely little box with a description of the NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams appears. At this point I’m excited and eager to download video content from his show. I comply with the disclaimer and click on the video section of the Nightly News and once again, I am redirected to another message: “Collections of video news and documentary programming are now available for purchase and download from the iTunes Music Store.” I click on a new link - again - (only to be redirected for a fourth time) and I arrive in the easily accessible “podcast” section of the iTunes Store. I am greeted by an icon of the NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams and quickly learn that it is a “free” download from iTunes. Phenomenal! So I click download and about 60 seconds later I have the September 29th podcast of the NBC nightly news on my desktop. I open the file and to my horror I realize that NBC is only kind enough to provide VIEWERS with the audio version of their Nightly News. Now if I wanted to only hear my news programming, I would go to the AM dial on my radio and sit by a fire place. The NBC website claims that they have online video readily available. NBC anchors make the same claim. The reviews from other people, however, who have also tried to download podcasts from NBC in iTunes, clearly reveals that dozens of iTunes store users are equally angry that they’ve spent at least 15 minutes trying to access video for a podcast that NBC has decided to restrict to an audio format. I’ve never been more aggravated trying to watch the news online. Next time I will stick to my television and avoid the technological torture.

Posted by MG

Media Coverage of the Duke Lacrosse Team Rape Scandal

Do you think the media ruined the chance for a fair trial in the Duke University lacrosse team rape case? More generally speaking, do you think we even get a chance to know both parties in such cases?

I think anchors, reporters and other news personalities were too opinionated in this case. They were also too quick to draw conclusions before hearing all the facts. Take the examples in the article here.

Tucker Carlson referred to the alleged victim as a "crypto-hooker." And then Rush Limbaugh called her a "ho." Depending upon what network you were watching, the case was crudely decided for you.

I am not slamming any particular network. I just think it is going to be hard to have jurors who are not affected by media coverage in this case. The media does not give you room to interpret facts because of sensationalism surrounding a high-profile case. The reason this is an attractive case for news gatherers is because it involves wealthy, white athletes at a top university and a poor, black stripper.

As a result of the networks I watched, I was swayed in a different direction. Because the lacrosse players were portrayed as vulgar, I was quick to assume their guilt. I had to remind myself to take a step back from the info-tainment in the news. Can all viewers do this?

The problem is all judgments are made by the media before it even gets to the courtroom.

Posted By: TD

A New Landscape for American News

The culture of news is undergoing seismic change. In a sometimes frantic search to reclaim audience, the press has become thirsty for sensationalism, entertainment, and chat—areas that rake in the rankings quickly and oftentimes cost-effectively. Exhaustive coverage of the JonBenét Ramsey murder case and TomKat’s baby girl, Suri are just two recent examples. Similar tabloid-like stories often trump more acute and "newsworthy" events such as the war in Iraq and have news networks reevaluating how we perceive and receive news.

In fact, on Sept. 5, 2006, the evening news was given a facelift.

Until then, the sole players of the nightly news were erudite, middle-aged men with serious demeanors. Now, a perky, blond-haired woman armed with a golden smile has entered into the picture and is challenging the “girl news” versus “boy news” dichotomy that morning and evening broadcasts have usually fallen into. Couric's new role rekindled an old debate posed by Washington Post staff writer, Howard Kurtz: “Why do people watch one newscast over another?”

Unlike her predecessor, Walter Cronkite, Couric has taken a non-traditional approach to reporting. With segments like “Free Speech” and “Snapshots,” her newscast adopts what Kurtz calls a “chattier” or, in my opinion, more “Sunday Morning” style approach than a “hard news” approach. From her story selection to her relaxed anchoring, "CBS Evening News" raises further questions and concerns about the crossover between entertainment and news. Now, media critics are jumping at the opportunity to attack more than just controversial cable news shows. But are their criticisms truly warranted?

I think Couric should be applauded, rather than criticized or feared. She takes risks in her reporting in a time slot that has remained relatively static. She doesn’t offend viewers, but attracts a new type of viewer—one who is multitasking and looking for news in creative ways. It is true that the serious style of reporting has weakened, and it is also true that there was a time not long ago when our living rooms were connected by anchors who brought our country together in moments where we all shared a national commonality. Moments of fear, of war, of political scandals and more. We can’t ignore this fact. Our job as journalists is to find a way to address it and to better it. If Couric can appeal to more female viewers and younger viewers, I say good. She's innovative. As expelled in the RTNDA Code of Ethics, the goal of a journalist is to “gather and disseminate information.” It does not specify the exact content of this “information.” If Couric can get more people tuned in to the news, no matter how traditional or untraditional this news and its presentation may be, I think society is better off. She has embraced the mixed-media culture in novel ways. Many ridicule Couric and classify her with fluff news. I think they are just hesitant to accept a female anchor who can smile.


Howard Kirtz’s article on the "Couric Report" can be read here.

To read about the state of the news media visit here.

The Advertising Monster Strikes Again

Yet another round of staff cuts at a newspaper due to drops in revenue. The OC Register could cut as much as 40 positions. There has been a drop in advertising at the paper, which is usually directly correlated to advertisers not feeling that a given publication is reaching their target readership. We all know that newspapers have been steadily declining in circ, with youngsters getting their news from everything but. Can the old guard recover, in the world of minute-by-minute news? Or the better question: Can they recover without writing advertising-influenced copy? We have yet to find out.

Monday, October 02, 2006

The tough task of covering school violence

It has not been a good week for American schools.

Last Wednesday, a men held several female students hostage at a suburban Denver school. He sexually assaulted the girls and shot and killed one 16-year-old. Then on Friday, a 15-year-old Wisconsin boy took two guns from his parents' bedroom, went to school, and shot his principal to death. And three days later, a truck driver in Pennsylvania killed three girls and wounded eight others in an attack on a one-room Amish schoolhouse.

In the aftermath of such sudden, violent events, community members in each of the areas react differently. In Colorado, readers of the Rocky Mountain News had another, separate reaction--to the media coverage the followed Wednesday's violence at Platte Canyon High School.

Several Rocky Mountain readers wrote angry letters to the paper, blasting its decision to reveal information about the teenage victim of the shooting just hours after her death, reportedly against her family's wishes.

On Saturday, the paper's editor, John Temple, responded. In an editorial outlining the lessons learned from that other infamous Colorado school shooting, Temple argued that identifying the young victim was a service to her--and to the community.

"As for the decision to publish the victim's name, a homicide in a school is not a suicide in a private house," Temple wrote. "It's a matter of public concern...By showing her picture and treating her as a real person, I think we showed far more humanity than if we had not reported anything about her life."

To be sure, reporting the details of such a shocking event makes for a tough task, and a tough series of decisions. According to Temple, by the time the story was running, people in the community were already aware of the victim's identity. But before the day had even ended, the community was drowning in media coverage of all kinds.

It's really hard to say what was the right thing to have done. Certainly, the girl deserves the respect of the community, and perhaps writing about her personality, printing her picture, and telling her story accomplishes that task. Or perhaps the paper should have waited, giving the girl's family--and the rest of the community--a minute to regroup.

The bottom line is that these stories--Columbine, Platte Canyon, and now Lancaster County--need to be told, but not overhyped. School violence is terrifying and it says something terrifying about our country. The victims of these acts should be remembered as individuals, rather than school safety statistics.

But members of the media should tred carefully. Though we hope days like these will become a thing of the past, it is essential to learn from each story and do better with the next.

Temple's full editorial can be read here.


From print to prison: An Iraqi photographer's plight

In the aftermath of war in Iraq and constant threat of terrorism, Tom Curley, president and CEO of the Associated Press, took up his pen in another kind of fight to write a column for Bilal Hussein.

CNN.com - In Iraq, a journalist in limbo - Sep 29, 2006*

Hussein, an Iraqi AP photographer whose photo helped AP win a Pulitzer Prize last year, has currently been detained in a U.S. Army prison in Iraq for six months. The U.S. Army says Hussein's ability to capture the kind of photos he gets is cause for suspicion that he may have ties with Iraqi insurgents.

Curley defends Hussein, not only because he believes in his innocence but because he believes in the AP being able to hire foreign journalists who can get to places American reporters may not be able to break through, whether because of ethnicity, language or cultural sensitivity. In other words, the AP is able to capture some of its greatest photographic and video imagery because of the kind of reporters it hires overseas.

Is the U.S. Army being paranoid to be suspicious of reporters like Hussein? Is Curley making the right defense, not only for Hussein, but by entrusting people with cameras and microphones and trusting them as long as they get great footage? Or is Curley doing the right thing in fighting for his reporter's freedom?

But then again, are we really sure about who we hire and where?

- AL

The New York Times out

The New York Times has gone into TV, and I think they might want to reconsider...

One day I clicked my way to nytimes.com and, to my surprise, saw a link to "video." Being in broadcast journalism, I couldn't help but check it out.

I mean, The New York Times is an institution. You know, the paper that fought off color on the front page for years.

But now even they see that being a newspaper isn't enough. And being a web site isn't enough either. No, to compete these days or to even be in the ring, you've got to be in TV, too.

What surprised me the most, though, is that the Times gave its print reporters cameras to go out and shoot the stories that would be played on the web site.

Um, is it just me or could that pose a problem?

Well, there is a problem. The video stories are long. I mean, looooooong. Five minutes. Six minutes long. And the stories get boring. What I can't believe is that the video section on the Time's home page is prominent, yet the videos themselves...aren't that great.

TV is a short form media, and done best in one to two minute packages. Even the Sunday Morning Show on CBS, which shows birds chirping for minutes at a time, doesn't have stories as long as the ones on nytimes.com. (Hope I didn't lose you with the birds chriping reference - B.B. gets it.)

The New York Times can get away with long form journalism on a daily basis. They're the Times after all.

But when it comes to video, the Times needs to think less newspaper and more TV. Short. Concise. Good story. Great video.

Otherwise, stick to good old newsprint.

- L