June 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
Friday - June 24, 2005
Whupping on Public Broadcasting - It's Too Liberal, It's Being Taken Over By Conservatives, It's Elitist, It Doesn't Play Enough Classical Music... Oh, Just Stop It, Already!
For the last several weeks there's been an ongoing battle as to whether Congress was going to substantially cut government funds for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. But on Thursday the house voted 284 -140 to strike a 25 percent proposed cut to its budget. Kenneth Tomlinson, the CPB's chair has been in the spotlight as of late, contending that public broadcasting is too liberal. To counter this, he has appointed two politically connected ombudsmen for the CPB (never mind that NPR already has an excellent independent ombudsman), hired a consultant to monitor Bill Moyer's program NOW to make sure that it isn't too liberal, and appointed conservative members to the CPB board. In related news, former Republican Party co-chair Patricia S. Harrison has been elected as president and CEO of the corporation. (In the interest of full disclosure, I have served on the Friends Board of West Virginia Public Radio for the last six years.)
Wednesday - June 22, 2005
Has Synergy Gone Too Far? What's Going On At NBC These Days?
Can we step away from the endless left/right bias debate for a bit and look at a real problem in television news? How far can a news organization go to get an exclusive story? Can it pay for it? Can it give a politician a quid pro quo? There have been at least two stories circulating today about questionable practices at NBC News that don't suggest dishonesty or laziness so much as a really scary level of synergy.
- NBC, ReganMedia, and the Runaway Bride
We would all generally agree that it is improper for the major television networks to pay a source for an interview with cash or a check. But sometimes the payment can be part of a larger package. USA Today's Peter Johnson looks at the connections between the runaway bride, Katy Couric, book and movie agent Judith Regan, a potential made-for-TV movie, and an alleged payment of $500,000. Sounds to me like the synergy deal from hell.... Take a look at Johnson's column for the full analysis.
- NBC To Have Exclusive Rights To Cover First Lady's Trip
We would also generally think that news about a First Lady's trip to Africa would be news that would be available to all White House reporters. But we would be wrong. According to Fishbowl DC, the White House has set up an exclusive deal with NBC News to cover Laura Bush's upcoming trip to Africa.
Tuesday - June 21, 2005
Monday - June 20, 2005
- What Does Balanced Reporting Look Like?
Those of you who are regular readers know that I'm a big fan of the Washington Post and that I have little patience with the constant charges of the mainstream media having a strong liberal or conservative bias. Sunday's Post provides some great examples that justify my opinion on both of those matters. I read three articles off the front page of the Post yesterday which I think draw a striking picture of what is good about the paper. The first of these was an extended article about the new memoir by Democratic Sen. Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia. The article deals in depth with Byrd's involvement with the Klan in the 1940s and how his book is inconsistent with what the records of the 40s show. The second article deals with how Maryland's new Republican governor has fired more than 200 people in the Maryland bureaucracy for being politically disloyal to him. Finally, there was an excellent analysis of possible candidates for the anticipated opening on the U.S. Supreme Court. You'll notice that with this front page, there is a story that holds a legendary Democratic senator accountable for his actions 60 years ago, an article that holds a new governor accountable for his actions over the last year, and an article that looks at what the president's actions will likely be during the coming year.
- Why The Music Industry Deserve Ashlee Simpson
Within the last few weeks (I'm too lazy to check) I mentioned that the new Dave Matthews CD has copy protection on it that keeps legitimate buyers from uploading the music onto their iPods. What a great concept! Alienate the people who actually want to buy your product. Force them to go to illegitimate sources to get what they want instead of selling it to them.
- Questions Worth Asking Dept.
Friday - June 17, 2005
- PR Isn't Just for Big Corporations - A Case Study
We generally think of public relations as a tool for large corporations, but as Martin Luther King Jr. proved, it can be an effective tool for social change organizations as well. NPR has been running stories this week about how a group of migrant workers won a PR battle with fast food giant Taco Bell to improve working conditions and wages. An interesting story and a great case study. (NPR)
- First Amendment Law - Congress Votes Limits on Patriot Act
The U.S. House voted 238-187 to block the portion of the law that allows the government to secretly obtain bookstore and library records that tell who has been reading what books. The government says the provision of the law has never been used, but could be of value. (USA Today)
- Bristol-Myers to Wait Year With Advertising New Drugs
Drug maker Bristol-Myers Squibb has announced that it will wait until new drugs have been on the market for at least a year before they start advertising them to consumers. This is in response to heavy criticism of drug manufacturers going overboard in consumer marketing of drugs that do everything from lower your cholesterol to help you in bed. (USA Today)
Thursday - June 16, 2005
Tuesday - June 14, 2005
- Advertisements Find Their Way Into Textbooks
In general, we don't often see advertisements for anything other than other books in books, But according to the Toronto Star, McGraw-Hill Ryerson is trying to sell advertising space in textbooks. Actually, what the company is selling is inserts that would be tipped into the books rather than ads printed on the pages. It's interesting that the Sun's article should be so negative. Torstar, which owns the Star, also owns Harlequin, the romance publisher; and it has experimented with putting ads in its books for many years. (Though most of them that I've seen have been for other Harlequin products.) Full disclosure here - I write for McGraw-Hill, Ryerson's parent company; and my wife has written a number of books for Harlequin. (Thanks to Librarian.net for the link.)
- No DTPs Dept. - Whose Speech Should Be Free?
What's a DTP? Dreaded Talking Points! For my money, the biggest thing wrong with commentary today is that way too many writers do nothing but parrot back political party talking points. In my commentary writing class, the big criticism students wanted to avoid was that they had written a DTP column. Anyway... Newsday's James Pinkerton had a provocative column back in April about how both conservatives and liberals in congress are working to limit political speech that doesn't match the parties' agendas. Pinkerton looks at Howard Stern as a libertarian voice who could be a threat to the Republican party (get rid of all the moral value issues, and Stern is actually quite conservative), and at how Democrats would like to put limits on blogging as campaign speech. Very interesting stuff. (Thanks to Wonkette for the link.)
Monday - June 13, 2005
Everyone's Gone to the Movies Dept.
A quick round-up of movie-related stories from the Washington Post:
- Stephen Hunter Appreciates Roger Ebert
Pulitzer Prize winning critic Stephen Hunter explains why Roger Ebert will always be "the man."
- Hollywood of the 1940s
A review of Otto Friedrich's 20-year-old book City of Nets. Sounds like a good source for anyone wanting to study the Golden Age of Cinema.
- Film Takes an Open Look at North Korea
Generally speaking, totalitarian regimes aren't real big on letting in news crews and documentary filmmakers. Butt North Korea has allowed a British documentarian to do a film about a pair of gymnasts who work to glorify their country's leader - Kim Jong Il. An interesting look at what could be the first opening in the North Korean armor.
Thursday - June 9, 2005
Wednesday - June 8, 2005
- How Do You Put A Child Actor in a Movie He Shouldn't See?
Actually, it's not just movies. How do you have children playing children who have bad things happen to them? If you're going to have stories about child molesters, for example, you need a child to play the victim. This is a question that dates back to when Jodie Foster played a 12-year-old prostitute in Taxi Driver back in 1976. Provocative reading. (Washington Post)
- Media Business - NBC Universal Buys Last Part of Universal
Mogul Barry Diller has sold off his last piece of Vivendi Universal Entertainment to NBC Universal. So NBC Universal is now the sole owner of the movie studio. But wait! NBC Universal is owned 80 percent by General Electric (the parent of NBC) and 20 percent by Vivendi Universal. Got that straight? There would be a quiz tomorrow if I could figure it out.... (USA Today)
Tuesday - June 7, 2005
- Media Writer Profiles - Meet Howard Kurtz
Congressional Quarterly profiled WP media critic/reporter Howard Kurtz on Monday. The man is a writing animal, with 419 bylines in the Post last year. He's most likely the most linked to individual in this blog. Thanks to Romenesko for the link.
- Stop Hurting America Dept. - CNN Remembers that News is it's Middle Name!
Hey, maybe CNN is on to something. The Cable News Network is going to run fewer people shouting at each other and more news. News on a new channel. What a concept. Seriously, CNN has figured out that it can't compete with Fox in the commentary and opinion show arena, but perhaps it can by providing more hard news. We'll see.... (USA Today)
- Questions Worth Asking:
Monday - June 6, 2005
- Soul of a Reporter
If you're going to be a reporter, when did you first figure it out? Daniel Schorr knew it at age 12 in the Bronx. (Washington Post Magazine)
- Good Story Dept. - Students Shocked to Discover Alphabet Has 26 Letters
No, this isn't about students who graduate from high school without being able to read, though it could be. It's a story about college students who get angry and confrontational about any grade lower than an 'A.' Not about mass comm, but listed here as part of an occasional series of entries on good journalism. I can't speak to the issue of grade inflation, but I can tell you that every semester I get students who for whatever reason absolutely must have a higher grade than they've earned. (WP Magazine)
- Cinderella Man Opens Slow, Will Battle Back!
Russell Crowe's depression era boxing drama opened with lower box office than expected ($18 million for fourth place for the weekend), but the people who went to see it (myself included) absolutely loved it, according to this analysis from Box Office Mojo. Speculation is that the studio promoted it too much as a sentimental movie and not enough as an exciting and funny film. Expectation is that the movie might take awhile to find it's audience. I hope so. Despite being too rough for young children, this has to be the best movie about family values I've seen in forever.
Friday - June 3, 2005
Thursday - June 2, 2005
Deep Throat - Day 2
The news about the news today continues to be dominated by Tuesday's revelation that legendary Watergate source Deep Throat was actually W. Mark Felt, former #2 at the FBI. Here's a round up of items from blogs and news sites on the story.
- UPDATE - Bob Woodward Talks - How Mark Felt Became 'Deep Throat'
Let's face it, this is the one story we've all wanted to read since 1974. The story of Deep Throat by the reporter who knew him. I've just had the time to read this story over my morning coffee, and it is spellbinding. In addition to telling the story of Deep Throat, it is also the story of how a young Navy lieutenant went looking for a job after he finished his service obligation. It tells how Woodward caught the journalism bug and became the best known reporter of his generation. I was really sorry when the article ended, and I hope to see a book out from Woodward on being a reporter.
BTW, were Woodward to write about the current stop loss programs in the Army, it would be something he knows about personally. He had to stay in the Navy an extra year back in 1970 because his four-year obligation was involuntarily changed to five to meet staffing needs during the Vietnam War. It's also interesting that Woodward worked as a volunteer for the Republican congressman from his home district in Illinois while he was assigned to the Pentagon.
Journalism students - if you want to understand your professors, you need to understand the Watergate story. This is why many of us of my generation got into journalism in the first place and still retain some idealism about what journalism is supposed to be.
- Introducing Deep Throat - Editorial from the NY Times
The Times looks at who it turned out to be and the importance of keeping promises.
- NYT Overview on Deep Throat Story
Lead story on Deep Throat from the Times. Includes an audio slide show and a range of related stories.
- Deep Throat Revealed Cartoons from Cagle
Daryl Cagle's wonderful editorial cartoon omnibus page has a great collection of Deep Throat cartoons.
- NPR Audio Coverage of Deep Throat
Includes commentary from former Nixon enemy Daniel Schorr and analysis of the role of anonymous sources.
- Romenesko - All Deep Throat - All The Time
On Wednesday, it seemed as though all items dealt with Deep Throat. Maybe not. But there were items from Nora Ephron (journalist, writer, director, Carl Bertstein's ex-wife), the WP's David Von Drehle, and on the issue of anonymice.
Wednesday - June 1, 2005
Journalism's Great Secret Revealed - Washington Post Confirms Identity of "Deep Throat"
Reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein confirmed Tuesday that W. Mark Felt, the former #2 person at the FBI, was "Deep Throat." Deep Throat was the secret source who provided guidance and background to the two reporters as they worked the Watergate story in the early 1970s. The reporters, along with editor Ben Bradlee, had promised not to give up Deep Throat's name until he died, but Vanity Fair magazine and Felt's family had identified the 91-year-old retiree as the source. Woodward will have story in Thursday's Post discussing his relationship with Felt.
Deep Throat was in many ways one of the most important sources in recent journalistic history, for a variety of reasons. First of all, he gave the Washington Post confidence to move forward with their story when everyone was full of criticism for the paper. As Bradlee told the Post, "The number-two guy at the FBI, that was a pretty good source." But Woodward and Bernstein's success using sources on deep background has also led to the whole culture of using anonymous sources in Washington. At times, of course, anonymous sources are a necessary part of journalism. But these days, routine briefings are held on background so that the sources won't be identified. These sources, sometimes referred to as "anonymice," remove accountability from sources and put journalists in a dangerous position. And dishonest journalists can use unnnamed sources as a way of fabricating stories. So the legacy of Deep Throat is journalism at its best and at it's worst. That is not Deep Throat's fault, though. It is up to journalists and their editors to know when anonymous sources are worth using, and when they are not.