April 2005 Archive
Note that some of these links are short term and will expire after two weeks. If you have access to Lexis-Nexis at your college or university library, you can retrieve many of the stories that are no longer on the web.
Main Archive List
Saturday - April 29, 2005
- Matt & Judy Watch: Journalists Stay Out of Jail Until Supreme Court Hears Case
Journalists Matt Cooper and Judith Miller have their contempt of court jail sentences stayed until the U.S. Supreme Court will hear their cases. Both journalists have been sentenced to jail terms for refusing to testify over who leaked the name of CIA agent Valerie Plame to them. (For background on this case, follow the links back through my blog. I normally don't do Saturday entries, but I missed this during the week.)
Friday - April 28, 2005
- Media Effects Are Not Always Obvious or Predicable Dept. - Patients Who Mention Drug Ads More Likely To Get Pills They Ask For
A recent study found that actors pretending to be patients were five times more likely to get a prescription for a given drug if they mentioned seeing an ad for the drug. This is fascinating because it is showing a somewhat different kind of influence by the ads. Not only are the patients potentially being informed/influenced by the ads, doctors would seem to have their behavior changed as part of a two-step flow of influence. (Washington Post)
- WP's Tom Shales Looks at Censoring / Sanitizing Movies
Critic Tom Shales considers whether directors really have a point in objecting to the DVD sanitizing business. The surprising thing about his commentary is that he doesn't necessarily side with the movie purists here (nor does he side with those who like to censor). A worthwhile read that breaks away from the Dreaded Talking Points. (What's a Dreaded Talking Point? Predictable partisan rhetoric that follows the straight party line and shows no original thought. Something both the left and right are all too vulnerable to these days.)
- Is American Idol Fake?
I prefer the question - "Is American Idol scripted?" Lisa de Moraes question brings to mind the recent interview C-SPAN's Brian Lamb recently had with former wrestler and governor Jesse Ventura on how much of professional wresting is real.... (If anyone can find the link to this story, I would sure appreciate it!)
Thursday - April 27, 2005
African-American Papers in the News
Wednesday - April 26, 2005
Sorry for the shortage of posts. It's Dead Week on the WVU campus.
- Reasons MSM Aren't Dead Dept. - The Life of a Cotton T-Shirt
Bloggers love to tell us that the Mainstream Media are dead, but bloggers rarely deal with more than politics, technology, or media criticism, when it comes to really reporting news. As a new occasional feature here, I'll be highlighting excellent reporting that goes beyond talking to official sources. For example, last week I point out the excellent story on the Marburg virus the Sunday NYT ran. The story I'm linking to here is from National Public Radio, and it tells the complete story of how a simple cotton T-shirt comes to find its place on your body. A complex story that deals with international trade, labor, genetic engineering, and a scientist who really hated picking cotton as a kid.
Monday - April 25, 2005
- A Critical Look at Vanity Fair Magazine
This is an interesting look at the upscale magazine business. Larry Dobrow, writing for the Magazine Rack at Media Post, says that you can see the worst of fluffy marketing PR and the best of hard hitting magazine commentary and reporting in the latest issue of Vanity Fair. A great summing up of what's happening with magazines.
- CBS May Ask Cable Companies to Pay to Carry Affiliate Programming
In general, cable companies don't have to pay broadcasters to resend their signals over the wire. After all, the cable companies are providing a service to the broadcasters by delivering their signals via wire, right? That's not how CBS owner Viacom sees things. The media giant is investigating charging cable companies to carry CBS broadcast signals, just as the companies would have to pay to carry cable/satellite-only channels. This is a big deal, because traditionally, the only revenue stream for broadcasters has been advertising. (Thanks to SPJ Press Notes for this link.)
- Changing of the Guard at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting
Washington Post staff writer Paul Farhi looks at changes happening at PBS and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. The nation's non-commercial network has some big changes coming up that some say are politically motivated.
Friday - April 22, 2005
- Sure Sign of the Apocalypse Dept. - Karl Rove Says Media Not That Liberal
Presidential adviser Karl Rove made remarks Monday that have everyone all atwitter - he said that he has deliberately not complained about the "liberal media" because he feels the media is "less liberal than it is oppositional." That actually isn't a half-bad reading of the situation, though WP commentator Dana Milbank goes on to give reasons why he doesn't completely buy Rove's critique of the news media. Interesting stuff. Read on below for more coverage of Rove's comments on the news media.
- Kinder and Gentler Celeb Gossip Magazines Start Up
New Hollywood gossip magazines are launching, including one from the folks at TV Guide, that will just have nice stories about the stars. Gee, just what we need, another advertising friendly, source friendly publication. Not that I like mean-spirited gossip, but generally "good news only" means "no news." (USA Today)
- Baby Darth Speaks Up
Speaking of kinder, gentler celeb gossip - here's an interview on MTV.com with Jake Lloyd, who played little Anikan Skywalker in The Phantom Menace. It's his first interview in six years.
Thursday - April 21, 2005
Wednesday - April 20, 2005
Creating Your Own Editorial Page
Today's entry is actually an assignment for my editorial & commentary writing students, but you may find it useful as well. My students are being asked to assemble two days worth of editorial pages, using the resources listed below as a starting point. They are to choose two editorials (one on a local issue and one on a national/international issue), three columns, and an editorial cartoon for each day. (They are to be the author of one of the columns each day.) They need to find some type of balance (which they can define as they please) within their content, although they are clearly allowed to have an editorial POV on the page. They then need to defend their choices to the class as a whole. Have fun figuring out what would go on your editorial page. I may post some samples of what they come up with later on. Here are a few places to get started with, But feel free to go anywhere you please for material.
Tuesday - April 19, 2005
- Sanitizing DVDs: Who Has the Right?
There has been considerable debate as of late about indecent content in the media. Now we have companies that through a variety of methods are "sanitizing" movies on DVD to remove potentially offensive content. The question becomes who has the right to control the content of a movie? The companies that sell sanitized movies buy a legit unedited copy for every edited copy they sell. They claim their editing falls under fair use copyright. Directors claim that the editing out of offensive language, violence and sex is an improper desecration of their artistic vision. Lots of really interesting ethical issues here. Whose rights are more important - the director's or the audience member's? Are movie studios obliged to provide an edited version of their movies? (Washington Post)
- Why William Raspberry Doesn't Like Partisan News
Actually, WP columnist William Raspberry doesn't object to partisan news as much as it does to partisan news that claims it's impartial. Interesting arguments on why Fox News worries him, and Rush Limbaugh doesn't.
Monday - April 18, 2005
- WP Ombudsman Gives History of Coverage of Schiavo Memo
Michael Getler, the Washington Post's ombudsman, takes a retrospective look at how the Post and its wire service covered the mysterious Terry Schiavo talking points memo. An excellent discussion of the issues surrounding the memo stories - it looks at what the Post actually did, the mistakes it made, and the things it did right. It also gives an inside view on how multiple versions of a story circulate. Required reading for those who care what actually happened and not just what ideologues on the left and right had to say. Also, at the end of the column Getler gives an interesting take on a complex correction to a simple problem - what party did a source belong to.
- Visit to a Hot Zone
Medical stories don't generally find their way into this blog, but I'm going to make an exception here. Many of you may remember Richard Preston's frightening true book on the Ebola virus The Hot Zone. The book (although criticized by some in the medical community) is for me one of the great narratives about the great dangers we face from emergent diseases, and their potential to go global almost overnight through world-wide air travel. Ebola, and its various cousins, jump into the news periodically when they emerge from the jungle into the human community. This lengthy story from the NY Times looks at a current outbreak of a particularly nasty variant of Ebola known as Marburg. I strongly recommend this article for two reasons: 1) It tells a critical story about a major threat (emerging diseases) that we pay way too little attention to; and 2) It illustrates what real journalism is. Way too much of our news is taken up these days with politicians scoring points off each other. When bloggers claim mainstream news is dead, they may be correct when it comes to the reports of squabbling in Washington, DC. But bloggers are a long ways from covering real news in the way that the old line media can. Stories like this show what we should be getting from our news media.
- Samuel Johnson's Dictionary Celebrates 350th Birthday
Although the comprehensive Oxford Dictionary gets more attention today, Samuel Johnson published the first dictionary of the English language on April 15, 1755. An appreciation from Sunday's NY Times.
Friday - April 15, 2005
Thursday - April 14, 2004
- Texting, Interactivity & Rock 'n' Roll
Cory Treffletti, writing in Online Spin this Wednesday, talks about how cell phone text messages are combining with a rock concert amplification and projection screens to create a whole new interactive experience. The Irish rock band U2 is asking concert goers to text message their names to be added to a petition calling for improving human rights around the globe. The names are then projected up on the giant video screens surrounding the stage. I've long thought that the line has been blurring between group and mass communication at big events like stadium concerts. The fact that concert goers can start being active participants in what is happening up on the stage makes the question even more intriguing. You will have to register with Media Post to access this page, but it's worth doing so. Not only do you get to read the article, but you can also sign up for their excellent newsletters. (For example, take a look at Magazine Rack's discussion of Marie Claire's confused identity as a women's magazine.)
Wednesday - April 13, 2005
Tuesday - April 12, 2005
Monday - April 11, 2005
Everyone's Gone to the Movies Dept.
- Why Young People Will Always Go to the Movies
Pulitzer Prize winning movie reviewer Stephen Hunter explains why teenagers will always go to horror movies on dates. (And if you don't already know, you haven't been to enough movies!) Seriously, an essay on the nature of genre pictures and why horror movies have been so enduring. This also illustrates that a good movie reviewer can do so much more than just review movies. In this essay he looks at how horror movies have evolved over the years, drawing on various international influences. Last week he explained exactly why he hated Hostage so much with an essay on the nature of the movie thriller. (BTW, don't get lured into Hunter's page of reviews when you have work to do. You won't get it done.)
- Revenge of the Sith to have PG-13 Rating
According to Ain't It Cool News, Star Wars: Revenge of the Site will be the first of the Star Wars franchise to be released with anything other than a PG rating. (Though rumor has it from when I was young that Lucas pushed to get the original released with PG rather than a box-office killing G rating.)
Friday - April 8, 2005
- When Will They Ever Learn? Dept. - Mitch Albom Writes Column About Event Before It Happens
Mitch Albom -- the famed Detroit Free Press columnist who is also known for his sappy, bestselling books (Hey, it's my blog, my opinions!) -- apologized for writing about events that he appeared to have witnessed, but didn't actually happen. He confused the job of journalist with that of a fortune teller -- i.e. he tried to write about the future as though it was something that had already happened. He talked to people about what they were planning to do on the weekend of basketball's Final Four. He then wrote a column as though he had seen these events take place, although they were still in the future by his column's deadline. But then reality caught up with Albom, and the people didn't do as they said. Oops! Excuse me, but when will journalism professionals remember that the basic standard for journalism is that it is supposed to be based on things that actually happen. And if it is about fiction, as columns can be, then it ought to be obvious that what the columnist is writing is metaphor or parody. Sigh. (And as Eric Deggans of the St. Petersburg Times points out, the fabrication had to be known by Albom's editors, who must have known that the event hadn't happened by Albom's deadline. (Thanks to Romenesko for bringing this item to my attention and for some of the links.)
- Who Wrote the Schiavo Talking Points Memo?
You may recall the fuss over the memo that allegedly outlined the talking points Republicans could use to score on the Democrats with the Terri Schiavo right to live/die case. There were accusations that the memo was fake, that it was true, that it was a mystery. We now know that the memo was written by Brian Darling, former chief legal counsel for Senator Mel Martinez (Republican, Florida). Darling wrote the memo, which Sen. Matinez accidentally gave to Sen. Tom Harkin (Democrat, Iowa). Harkin then passed the memo on the media. Why do I mention this piece of political gossip? Because there have been lots of accusations of this story being another Memogate. There was certainly no overall effort to score points off the Schiavo case, but there was nothing wrong with what the press reported, either. (Thanks to Wonkette for bringing the story to my attention.)
Thursday - April 7, 2005
Wednesday - April 6, 2005
Tuesday - April 5, 2005
- Pulitzer Prizes Announced
Top news Pulitzer Prize honors went to the L.A. Times and the Wall Street Journal, each of which won two. The Times won for public service in exposing racial injustice, and the Wall Street Journal for stories about cancer survivors. For an archive of Pulitzer Prize winners, go to Pulitzer.org. Watch for more links in tomorrow's entry.
- Des Moines Register Keeps Up Its Iowa Tradition
The Des Moines Register, especially when it was an independent paper prior to Gannett ownership, always tries to find an Iowa focus to any story. This story carries on the tradition, mentioning current or former Iowans who won Pulitzers this year.
Years ago, when Pope John Paul II was a vibrant younger man, he visited Iowa and celebrated mass, an event I attended. It was joked that when the pope's time came, his obit in the Register would read, "The pope, who once visited Iowa, died...." Those predictions were not far off. Please note I'm not making light of the pontiff's death; attending (and covering) the papal mass was a high point of my sophomore year at Iowa State.
Monday - April 4, 2005
- No Sense of Place Dept. - Death of a Pope
Long-term readers of this blog know that I'm a big fan of two books on television that came out in 1985 - Neil Postman's Amusing Ourselves to Death and Joshua Meyrowitz's No Sense of Place. Both books look at the non-obvious effects that television, through its mere existence, has on society at large. In the case of Meyrowitz, he argues that one of the great, unavoidable effects of television is that it takes us to places that would have otherwise been off limits to us geographically, socially, economically... WP television writer Tom Shales takes a look at one of the implications of No Sense of Place in his column on Sunday - how the world mourns for the pope via television delivered instantaneously around the world via satellite. (He also touches on Postman's thesis by noting that as we surfed the airwaves this weekend we went from mourning the pope to cheering for basketball and NASCAR.) This column is worth reading because I think that it gets at the real, lasting effects of television on society.
- Boston Herald - Several Premature Reports of Pope's Death
The downside of instant news - we can get it wrong.
- Sify News (India) - Arab Media's Coverage of Pope's Death Angers Some
A prime example of how a story may seem universal, but reaction to it will not be. A look at Al-Jazeera's and Al-Arabiya's coverage of the pope's death. (Coverage from the two networks focused on the late pope's efforts towards peace in the Middle East.)
- NY Times Looks at Arab Media's Coverage of Pope
A look at how the Arab sat nets move beyond strictly Arab news.
Friday - April 1, 2005
- Harper's Misuses Marine's Photograph
Putting together a magazine cover using stock photos is a fairly normal occurrence. You've got a good story, and so you order up a photo from a photo agency to go with it. That's what Harper's magazine did with a photo of a group of Marine recruits. The only problem is that the story was about Marines deserting - going AWOL. And none of the Marines in the photo had deserted. They are all serving their country honorably. The photo was also manipulated to make one of the Marines look transparent, which was in violation of the photo agency's rules. An interesting photo editing ethics case study. (BTW, I am a source in this story.) (Charleston Daily Mail)
- Ted Koppel Leaving Nightline
Long-time Nightline anchor Ted Koppel is stepping down as anchor from the show he helped create 25 years ago. He said he does not want to work with the live hour-long format the show is going to. In 2002, ABC (which is owned by Disney) tried to replace Nightline with David Letterman, but the attempt was not successful. (Washington Post)