This one is truly delicious (grateful hat tip to Little Green Footballs): The International Federation of Journalists condemned Israel for attacking the headquarters of Lebanese broadcaster Al-Manar. For those that are unfamiliar, this is the television station and website run by Hezbollah, the terrorist group that started this recent conflagration against Israel.
As reported by the Islamic Republic News Agency: “The International Federation of Journalists Friday condemned the Israeli bombing of the Lebanese broadcaster Al-Manar, warning that the attack follows a pattern of media targeting that threatens the lives of media staff, violates international law and endorses the use of violence to stifle dissident media.”
At the beginning of each TV season, the cable and broadcast television networks trot out their new lineups for an ever-jaded and cynical bunch, the nation's TV critics. Despite their grousing about shows, Aaron Barnhart writes, tv crix realize they shouldn't be complaining because in many ways, entertainment television has never been better in this country than it is now. So why is it that news television fails to inspire much enthusiasm? My thoughts follow this excerpt from Barnhart's piece:
Here inside the Ritz-Carlton ballroom, we may be suffering from chills,
bloggerhea and other work-related ailments, but we're not kidding
ourselves: We know our jobs are great.
And that's because it's a pleasure to write about TV shows that, on
the whole, are now better made and better written than movies are.
Every day, thousands of people walk out of the store with a home
theater and soon discover the joys of staying at home as opposed to the
cineplex, where their choices have dwindled thanks to the
divide-and-conquer demographic madness that has gripped Hollywood. (If
only the Caribbean pirates would wear Prada, as my friend Gary Dretzka recently joked.)
Prime time television is more entertaining, more satisfying and -- as Stephen Johnson convincingly argued in his book Everything Bad Is Good For You -- more challenging than it has ever been. We're living in a golden age for TV entertainment.
So why is it that the situation for TV news is trending in exactly
the opposite direction? Why is it more insipid, sensational and facile
than ever? Why are Americans who rely on television as their main
source of information less informed than ever? [...]
Last week, the media reported rather quickly on charges that conservative author and columnist Ann Coulter had plagiarized material in her writings. Will they be as quick to report that both her syndicate and her publisher believe the charges to be illegitimate?
The syndicator of Ann Coulter's newspaper columns rejected allegations that she had lifted material from other sources, saying a review of the work in question turned up nothing that merited concern.
"There are only so many ways you can rewrite a fact and minimal matching text is not plagiarism," Lee Salem, editor and president of Universal Press Syndicate, said Monday in a statement.
"Universal Press Syndicate is confident in the ability of Ms. Coulter, an attorney and frequent media target, to know when to make attribution and when not to."
Of note: while AP reporter Hillel Italie instantly jumped on the plagiarism charges against "the right-wing pundit", mentioning specific liberal web sites by name where readers could go to investigate the charges, they have failed to do so for a litany of charges made by critics against the equally vocal (but liberal) Michael Moore. Not one of the litany of charges made by sites like MooreWatch.com has been covered by the AP according to Nexis.
Fox News Channel is currently thinking about a new show that is supposed to be a conservative version of the very liberal "Daily Show," seen on Comedy Central.
I've long thought conservatives should take a stab at televised political parody. The last time it was really done was during Rush Limbaugh's short-lived syndicated show which was doomed by niche audiences and unsympathetic programming. In the cable age, though, this type of show really has potential. I was pleased to see FNC has apparently chosen just the person I had in mind for such a show, radio host Laura Ingraham.
TV Newser has more details, noting that the show may never happen since it's only a pilot.
Related: Study says "Daily Show" creates negative perceptions among viewers about politics. The post has an unrelated but interesting item about how Democrats believe the federal government should give more aid to white victims of Hurricane Katrina than black victims. See James Taranto's discussion for more.
Reality often is stranger than fiction, the saying goes. An author writing the story of former anchor partners Dan Rather and Connie Chung's lives would never have had the temerity to have them both get canned within a week of each other. Not after the two's well-known history of bickering and fighting with each other. Yet that's exactly what happened. Seattle Post-Intelligencer TV critic Melanie McFarland looks back at the twighlight of both discarded anchors (Diskussionsleitersdämmerung?), realizing that between Rather's delusions and Chung's bizarre singing debut, the former duo provide another lesson in how not to behave:
More than a decade has passed since Dan Rather and Connie Chung had us shaking our heads at the obvious tension when they briefly shared an anchor desk between 1993 and 1995.
Rather won in the end, using a nasty behind-the-scenes campaign to force out his co-anchor. He remained at CBS; she jumped to ABC and later to cable.
Nobody would have guessed their separate and drastically declined careers would share headlines again -- and in the same week. [...]
Many are the lessons of how to begin a journalism career. These two showed us how not to end one. Different as their career trajectories may have been for a time, Chung and Rather's respective undoings are, in the end, the same. They held on for too long. And you know what happens when you overstay your welcome: You get cast out with a rough push instead of a friendly wave.
This is truer of Rather's departure, of course. Given his inglorious step down from CBS's anchor chair, a muffled exit was inevitable. The 74-year-old newscaster insists he's not done and has announced his intention to host a weekly interview program on Mark Cuban's high-definition channel, HDNet, where he will be watched by a few thousand, if he's lucky. He told The New York Times that he's contemplating a blog.
Two weeks certainly aren’t a large sampling, but since the much-heralded – and over-celebrated – departure of the perky Katie Couric, NBC’s “Today” show actually widened its average daily viewing margin over second-place rival ABC’s “Good Morning America.”
As reported by the Associated Press (hat tip to Drudge): “‘Today’ beat second-place ‘Good Morning America’ of ABC by an average of 1.3 million viewers in the two weeks following Couric's last show on May 31, according to Nielsen Media Research. The NBC show's margin of victory (5.85 million to 4.92 million) was tighter during Couric's last full week on the air.”
Yikes. And, generating advertising dollars without Couric hasn’t been a problem either: “NBC also says it has earned about $25 million more in ‘upfront’ advertising sales for ‘Today’ in the fall than it did last year at this time, when the morning show was facing a stiffer challenge from ABC.”
Double yikes. Finally, one of NBC’s top brass might have added a bit of a parting shot at Katie to drive the point home:
A new study says that the more the media cover terror attacks, the more terror attacks occur. Both the media and terrorists benefit from terror attacks, because the terrorists get free publicity while the media get higher ratings and sell more newspapers.
It's a macabre example of win-win in what economists call a "common-interest game," say Bruno S. Frey of the University of Zurich and Dominic Rohner of Cambridge University.
"Both the media and terrorists benefit from terrorist incidents," their study contends. Terrorists get free publicity for themselves and their cause. The media, meanwhile, make money "as reports of terror attacks increase newspaper sales and the number of television viewers."
MSNBC surprised everyone Monday with its announcement that the struggling channel will now be headed by an executive tag team of "Today" chief Phil Griffin and one of its own show hosts, Dan Abrams.
The appointment of Griffin didn't exactly come as a surprise; last week's scuttlebutt had him being given the top spot. Abrams's elevation did. It also gives insight into what MSNBC's strategy to avoid being known as "electronic journalism's version of the Chicago Cubs."
Some key facts:
Griffin, known officially as "executive in charge," is also keeping his title as executive producer of NBC's "Today" show.
Newly dubbed "general manager" Abrams will keep his job as NBC's top legal affairs analyst but will be giving up his current main job as host of the courts-heavy "Abrams Report."
Griffin will not move his offices over to MSNBC's far-flung New Jersey location.
NBC is in the process of buying out its partner Microsoft's stake in MSNBC entirely. It's already the majority owner.
For Aaron Barnhart, the verdict seems in: "They're letting him keep his network job. Which tells you something about what a high priority fixing MSNBC is over there at GE."
UPDATE 20:54. My take: That Abrams was brought in as Griffin's deputy indicates that there may be relatively major changes in the near future, with a team comprised of a newsie and an exec, it will be harder for competing factions within the organization to resist management. Abrams's hiring also likely means that MSNBC is going to approach news with more irreverence, and give greater latitude to anchors to express their opinions and show emotion (i.e. be more like human beings instead of talking infoheads). [Abrams not getting the top spot also shows that upper management views this as a test of sorts for him. If he pulls it off, expect him to move up the NBC ladder.]
The National Center for Policy Analysis writes about the rise of "docu-ganda" films, movies that are portrayed as "just the facts" filmmaking, but actually have an agenda and make no attempt to carry both sides. In this way, they are like the news media. Both docu-ganda filmmakers and news reporters strive to be thought of as dispassioned observers, and want to be regarded as speaking with the "voice of God."
Documentary films promise to tell an "untold" story, but is it the full story, asks Daniel Wood of the Christian Science Monitor?
Don't count on it; the days when "documentary" reliably meant "inform the audience" are over. Today, makers of such films feel little or no obligation to heed documentary-film traditions like point-by-point rebuttal or formal reality checks, says Wood.
With more people now going to the internet for news, forecasters predict tough times ahead for newspapers. Reports Reuters:
The U.S. newspaper industry is likely to face a "somber" second half of the year, with circulation and advertising revenue remaining under pressure, according to an analyst's report released on Friday.
The report casts doubt on any hopes of a major recovery for an industry that has seen share prices fall by 15 percent in the last 12 months amid declining readership and a migration of advertising dollars to the Internet.
"The environment will get harder for newspapers before it gets better," according to Deutsche Bank analyst Paul Ginocchio. "And we're not sure when it is going to get better."
With Rick Kaplan out at MSNBC (fired, just as I surmised), TV news observers are wondering what's next for the third-place cabler.
Word has it that Phil Griffin, a veep at the network's broadcast parent NBC, might be given the MSNBC healm. Previously, he was MSNBC's primetime veep.
During his tenure, Kaplan tried his hand at a number of new projects, none of which succeeded particularly well. He also seems to have stubbornly clung to things that less ideological (Kaplan is outspokenly liberal) president would've canned, such as the retaining the increasingly unhinged Keith Olbermann. Observers also say he gave host Chris Matthews too much latitude over his show "Hardball."
MSNBC president Rick Kaplan has resigned from the network. TVNewser is on top of all the latest developments. Here's Kaplan's fairwell note:
I want to let you all know that today I'm leaving MSNBC. It is not
often in professional life that someone has the opportunity to end his
tenure on such a high note. I couldn't be more proud of the progress
we've made together over the last 2 and a half years.
we've increased MSNBC's viewership 25% in primetime and 19% in dayside.
Over just the last year, we've had great success across the board, with
Hardball and Countdown coming into their own. All of our primetime
programs have improved tremendously in their production and content.
Together we had a great election year in '04 and you're poised to
improve on that excellence this fall.
Writing at Editor and Publisher, the bible of the newspaper industry, senior editor Joe Strupp blasts newspapers for not doing enough to promote gay marriage:
The gay marriage debate has wasted time, energy and
effort long enough. It barely shows up in a list of issues that concern
Americans in a Gallup Poll released in the past week. And the current proposal for a constitutional ban on gay marriage may be the height of abuse.
It is bad enough that newspapers have not taken a
harder stance in favor of gay rights in the past. But to allow this
short-sighted misuse of the Constitution to move ahead without
condemnation would be the ultimate irresponsibility.
Web media is the dominant at-work media and No. 2 in the home, according to a new report from the Online Publishers Association.
The Web also ranked as the No. 1 daytime media.
A research project, conducted by Ball State University's Center for Media Design, tracked the media use of 350 people every 15 seconds. The subjects represented each gender, about equally, across three age groups: 18 to 34, 35 to 49 and 50-plus. The people were monitored by another person for approximately 13 hours, or 80 percent of their waking day.
Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Tom Hallman apparently has a hard time nailing down the truth. In a profile of math guru Mark Provo, Hallman took vast liberties with the truth without actually picking up a phone to verify any of it. The subject of the story has listed about 30 facts that are not actually factual.
Hallman paints wild pictures of non-existent hills, phantom hotel rooms, even the thoughts that run through people's heads. He writes about the subject "glancing at the clock" and how "in that moment the turmoil of his past would disappear" which were both complete fabrications. As Provo correctly points out, these are the things of screenplays and novels. These are not accurate representations of the truth.
You can still win a Pulitzer Prize for writing a fictional play, so why do these reporters even bother with journalism? And why do newspapers fail to mention that falsities and fabrications paint their pages?
In a cautionary signal for the future of American media, an online poll conducted by Bolt Media indicates some interesting changes in viewing behavior as a result of the Internet. AdAge.com reported on Monday (hat tip to Drudge): “Only one in four 12- to 34-year-olds can name all four major broadcast networks: ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox."
The poll also asked what respondents’ favorite activities were. The number one answer? “That would be surfing the Internet, which 84% said they did during their idle periods.” By contrast, TV viewing got a 69 percent response. Their favorite TV Networks:? “Fox, Comedy Central, ABC, MTV and Cartoon Network.”
The article continued: “‘There's a massive movement going on in people under 30 and how they spend their media time,’ said Bolt President Lou Kerner, who once upon a time was a cable analyst on Wall Street before leaving to run TV.com and then Bolt. ‘Our audience spends lots of time on net, creating their own media.’"
Kerner believes this is a sign of a significant change in media usage habits:
The runaway success of Rupert Murdoch's Fox News Channel, founded on
the premise that other news outlets are biased, is the source
of much anger to lefty journalists. Most elite journalists I've encountered hate the network and the fact that it's broken through the liberal glass ceiling of news.
A great example of this was a Monday column
in the LA Times by Scott Collins which instead of leading with a 38
percent ratings drop at CNN (something that's causing turmoil and
repeated personnel shifts), focused on a 17 percent drop at FNC.
Inside the article, Collins allows CNN president Jonathan "Pajamas"
Klein to comment on why the rival network has fallen [by half the
amount his has]. Perennial ratings dropout Keith Olbermann is also
A new study by the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University says that within the last 12 months, 70 percent of 527 randomly chosen newspaper reporters said they had been accused of bias. But most journalists offered excuses as to why they did what they did.
More than half of newspaper journalists in a recent survey believe an unethical or unprofessional incident occurred in their newsroom within the past five years, while seven out of 10 said they had been accused of bias in the past 12 months, according to a study released today by the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.
But at least 70% of those polled more often pointed to "factors beyond their control" as the cause of such poor ethical perceptions, rather than their own newspapers' actions.
Since Dan Rather left the "CBS Evening News" just over a year ago, the ratings for the show have increased. After years of being a distant third in the ratings race, CBS's nightly program is now battling it out for second place with ABC's "World News Tonight," Matt Drudge reports:
The CBS EVENING NEWS WITH BOB SCHIEFFER finished the week of May 1 only
310,000 viewers behind ABC’s “World News Tonight,” narrowing the gap
with ABC by 1.64 million viewers and with NBC’s “Nightly News” by 1.03
million viewers compared to the same week last year. In households, the
CBS EVENING NEWS has cut the gap with ABC’s “World News Tonight” more
than 75% to -0.3 of a ratings point compared to a -1.3 rating point
differential for the same week last year. The CBS EVENING NEWS also
halved the gap with NBC’s “Nightly News” to -0.8 rating point compared
to -1.6 for the same period last year. The CBS EVENING NEWS is also the
only network-evening newscast to post year-to-year and season-to-date
gains in total viewers and households compared to the same period last
The outspoken actor Bruce Willis has taken aim at the press again. According to ContactMusic.com (hat tip to Drudge), Willis has “slammed the media for its poor news coverage, accusing the industry of deliberately ignoring serious news in favour of racy stories.” Willis is apparently “disgusted with the news reports, claiming they are frivolous and superficial rather than informative.”
In Willis’s words: “‘We go for the sensational now in the news. If it's not sensational or tantalising or making fun of someone, it seldom gets into the news.’”
As a result, Willis has banned televised news from his house:
Newspapers circulation rates took another steep decline in the six-month period ending in March according to a just released AP report (hat tip to Drudge): “The decline in average paid weekday circulation was about the same as the previous six-month reporting cycle for the period ending last September, according to the Newspaper Association of America, a trade group.”
Some of America’s most “popular” dailies were amongst the biggest losers: “Several top newspapers reported significant declines in the period, including Tribune Co.'s Los Angeles Times, down 5.4 percent at 851,832; The Washington Post, down 3.7 percent at 724,242; the New York Daily News, also down 3.7 percent at 708,477.”
The biggest percentage loser was the San Francisco Chronicle “where average paid weekday circulation fell 15.6
In reality, the headline says it all, doesn’t it? I mean, there’s not much more to say…but I’ll try.
Remember when Aaron Brown was fired from his anchor position at CNN last November? As reported by NewsBusters, CNN/USA’s president Jon Klein announced in a memo: “We have made some programming decisions which will impact our prime time schedule as well as our colleague Aaron Brown. Aaron will be leaving CNN and is very much looking forward to some well-deserved time off with his family.”
At the time, the New York Daily News had said that the shakeup – giving Anderson Cooper two hours from 10PM to midnight – was designed to improve CNN’s ratings versus Fox News. Well, according to a New York Post article Thursday, the gamble failed:
Whenever newspaper corporations report disappointing quarterly earnings numbers – which is quite frequent these days as recently reported by NewsBusters – they always cite the Internet as a problem for subscription and advertising rates. Well, The Pew Internet & American Life Project has released results of a new study on Internet usage and penetration, and the news is not good for the drive by media. The data show a huge year-over-year increase in the number of adults using the Internet:
“While the share of internet users who report positive impacts has grown, the sheer size of the internet population also continues to increase. Surveys fielded in 2006 show that internet penetration among adults in the U.S. has hit an all-time high. While the percentage of Americans who say they use the internet has continued to fluctuate slightly, our latest survey, fielded February 15 – April 6, 2006 shows that fully 73% of respondents (about 147 million adults) are internet users, up from 66% (about 133 million adults) in our January 2005 survey.”
So 14 million more American adults are using the Internet than in Pew’s January 2005 poll. This represents a 10.5 percent year-over-year increase. Yet, maybe most telling are the generational differences in Internet usage:
Most of you are probably familiar with a book written by Peter Schweizer entitled “Do As I Say (Not As I Do): Profiles in Liberal Hypocrisy.” In it, Schweizer chronicled numerous examples of how prominent liberals say one thing in public, but hardly follow their own prescribed ideals.
Since its publication, how often have you read an article by a member of the drive by media and buckled over in uncontrollable laughter thinking just how much it fit into Schweizer’s model of liberals not practicing what they preach?
Well, this article from Editor & Publisher dealing with the lack of ethnic diversity in America's daily newsrooms has to more than qualify:
On Friday, the rather liberal AlterNet published responses to a series of 20 questions asked of John Moody, a senior vice president at Fox News, concerning issues of media bias and the “fair and balanced” approach of his network. His answers were quite interesting. When asked if the media are biased, and, if so, are they too liberal or conservative, Moody answered:
“‘Because of the qualities it takes to succeed in the media, we have bright and responsible people in this business -- and bright people have opinions about everything. These opinions stay with them when they put on a reporter's hat,’ he continued. ‘The challenge is not to let those opinions cross the line into their reporting. So there are biases -- not at the corporate level -- but biases that can creep in to become part of the mindset of a news organization.’"
Moody then addressed the belief in some circles that Fox News employees must have a certain political ideology to get hired:
Many of you are likely aware of a book by Peter Schweizer entitled “Do As I Say (Not As I Do).” In it, Schweizer demonstrated the hypocrisy of many popular liberals who espouse one position in public that they clearly don’t follow in their private lives.
Well, it seems that The New York Times is guilty of such hypocrisy. In an article Wednesday concerning a looming shareholder revolt at the Times Company over declining share values, it was revealed that one of the complaints coming from Times’ largest investors is how much upper-managers have been paid during a tough period for the company. In fact, a representative from Morgan Stanley – one of the largest Times shareholders – stated: “‘Despite significant underperformance, management's total compensation is substantial and has increased considerably over this period.’"
Yet, just three days earlier, the Times published a 1024-word, front-page business section article entitled “Fund Managers May Have Pay Secrets, Too”: “Amid all the talk about executive compensation and pay for performance, one group of managers has been pretty much untouched: those who run mutual funds.”
On April 13, The Times published an editorial -- yes, an editorial -- entitled “A Cozy Arrangement” concerning -- you guessed it -- executive pay:
Frustrated with nearly five years of declining stock values and increased executive compensation, Morgan Stanley Investment Management, one of the top institutional shareholders of the New York Times is crying foul and demanding major corporate and management changes.
"Over the past several years, the New York Times Co.
has consistently underperformed its peers. Its market value has
declined 52% since its peak in June 2002," the company said in a statement put out by its managing director, Hassan Elmasry.
"Despite significant underperformance, management's total compensation
is substantial and has increased considerably over this period."
Let’s all give one collective “Awwwwww” for the newspaper industry that seems destined to go the way of the Dodo bird. As reported by The New York Times on Friday, the first quarter was another bad period for an industry which continues to see ad revenues decline as America’s readers increasingly lose interest in their content:
“The newspaper industry continues to flag financially, with three companies — The New York Times, Tribune and McClatchy — reporting sharply lower first-quarter earnings yesterday.
“Executives of all of the newspaper companies said they were hurt by stagnant advertising, particularly in the automotive and entertainment categories, and a continuing rise in the cost of newsprint. The Times Company and Tribune also cited the cost of severance packages after cutting hundreds of jobs.”
Nobody seemed immune to the contagion that continues to devastate the industry: