Poynter faculty and contributors share their observations about the media week that’s ending and the one that’s beginning.

This Week in Media: Nervous Chatter at ASNE, Too Much Attention for Moussaoui?, A Look to the Past

Our impressions of this week (May 1-5, 2006) in news coverage:

  • Rick Edmonds on the behind-the-scenes chatter at the ASNE convention

  • Casey Frechette on the high’s and low’s of Moussaoui’s trial coverage

  • David Shedden highlights current events and takes a look back at Kent State and the launch of NPR

Industry Shake-ups Bring Mixed Feelings to ASNE Convention
By Rick Edmonds

People are still talking about last week’s American Society of Newspaper Editors convention in Seattle. This includes an eye-of-the-beholder split about whether the overall effect was upbeat or a bummer. My sense is that it depends on which convention you’re talking about — the proceedings on the floor, which were optimistic and forward-looking, or the conversations in the hall, where complaint and anxiety were more likely to be aired out.

In my bailiwick — empirical research on the industry — there was some modestly good news. The annual census of professional newsroom jobs showed a loss of about 600 in 2005, not the 1,200-plus that I and other watchers of this annual indicator had predicted. That 600 is roughly equal to the announced job cuts of 2005, mostly at large metro papers. The number also suggested that smaller papers did much better, that many papers held their staffs even and that there may have been unannounced pockets of modest growth. ASNE also took a shot at measuring employment at 11 free-distribution dailies and estimated more than 1,000 professional jobs in that sector. It also remains unclear whether the census includes the growing number of editorial jobs in separate online divisions of newspapers. Add it up and, with the prominent exception of metro papers like those in Philadelphia and San Jose, it appears that the industry may be redistributing, rather than shrinking the news workforce.

Besides adding marquee value, Bill Gates of Microsoft and Howard Schultz of Starbucks had worthwhile things to say at the convention. Techies told me there was less news than met the eye in Gates’ demonstration of a soon-to-be-released newspaper-reading product, enabling easier, better-organized reading onscreen (and offline, should you wish). Still, I was taken aback when both Gates and his New York Times collaborators said that the current state of Web design (where so many papers are focusing hard-charging growth efforts) is no great shakes. It was another reminder of the moving-target nature of online content and display. Today’s best may look quaint within a few years.

As for Schultz, he claimed to know nothing in particular about newspapers, but his opening anecdote about how good brands can be “fractured” made me wonder. He reached into a manila envelope and produced a box of Raisinets he said he had purchased on a recent trip to the movies with his daughter. It looked like a good-sized box of candy and even came with a cellophane window through which you could glimpse the product. But once he opened the package, he found the Raisinets themselves wrapped in a second cellophane bag — a lot smaller than the dimensions of the box. Hmmmm — looks like a real newspaper, but once you dig in, there is not much there — sound like any of the products of our industry?

Moussaoui Coverage Proves a Balancing Act for the Media
By Casey Frechette
Interactive Learning Producer

Following a nearly two-month trial replete with unexpected revelations and bizarre antics, it’s been interesting to track coverage of the Moussaoui sentencing verdict. We’ve seen a well-crafted mix of trial timelines, historical background, official statements, family reactions and descriptions of courtroom proceedings. The Washington Post produced a quality article, seamlessly weaving firsthand accounts of trial milestones with appropriate background and contextual information. And I found the BBC’s blend of trial documents, analysis, multimedia, related stories and reader comments particularly informative. With so much supplemental content, the line separating journalism and education begins to blur, though this may not be such a bad thing.

In some cases, though, an overly eager spotlight on Moussaoui’s courtroom outbursts undermined otherwise even-handed coverage. In several instances, the “America, you lost… I won!” quote appeared in a story’s deck; in others, the quote was the headline. These stories certainly can’t be charged with inaccuracy — the quotes are precise, and in some ways touch on key themes in the trial. A perfect example is the defense’s and prosecution’s differing views on how to serve justice best, despite their agreement on Moussaoui’s guilt.

The issue here is one of placement; leading into a story with inflammatory comments makes it difficult to give those words context, while also setting the stage for readers and viewers to approach a story with a particular mindset. In this case, focusing on Moussaoui’s taunts, especially in a headline, makes a subtle but powerful value judgment about the jury’s decision. The result pushes coverage beyond reporting or analysis, and into the realm of commentary.

Then and Now: Media Moments that Made an Impact
By David Shedden
Library Director

Monday, May 1:

Thousands attended rallies across the U.S. to protest the violence in Darfur. Here is a story from the Richmond (Va.) Times-Dispatch:

A prayer for Darfur

WASHINGTON — Ten years ago, Apajok Deng was in a refugee camp in Kenya after fleeing civil war-ravaged Sudan in eastern Africa. Yesterday, she stood in front of the U.S. Capitol, surrounded by tens of thousands of demonstrators calling for the international community to help her native country.

“I’m really grateful” for the large crowd, said Deng, 21, who relocated to Richmond about five years ago when a Catholic organization sponsored her move to the U.S. “If something changes, that would be good. We need to save lives.”
Tuesday, May 2:

The “Day Without Immigrants” was front-page news Tuesday. The Associated Press reports:

Boycott’s Economic Impact Evident, Mixed

Far from the boisterous streets where hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants and their supporters marched Monday, many of the restaurants, factories and construction sites they boycotted stood silent.

Kitchens that normally serve food were empty. Meat-processing plants came to a halt. Fields were barren of workers. Truckers avoided the nation’s largest shipping port, and tens of thousands of students skipped school.

Despite divisions over whether “A Day Without an Immigrant” sent the right message to lawmakers mulling reforms to federal law, the impact of the economic boycott was evident, though hardly uniform, at workplaces nationwide.
Wednesday, May 3:

35 years ago today:

On May 3, 1971, the National Public Radio news program, “All Things Considered,” began broadcasting on more than 90 stations across the country. The first “ATC” hosts were Susan Stamberg and Bob Edwards.

In 1967, the Public Broadcasting Act was passed by the U.S. Congress. This created the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which organized and financed National Public Radio and television’s Public Broadcasting System. NPR was incorporated in 1970 and began transmitting programs on April 19, 1971.

NPR repeated the “All Things Considered” format when it started “Morning Edition” in 1979 and “Weekend Edition” in 1985.

Thursday, May 4:

36 years ago today:

On May 4, 1970, the news media reported that four people were killed at Kent State University when members of the Ohio National Guard shot at crowds protesting the American invasion of Cambodia. John Paul Filo of the Valley Daily News of Tarentum, Pa. and the Daily Dispatch of New Kensington, Pa. earned a Pulitzer for his photo coverage of the tragedy. The staff of the Akron Beacon Journal was also awarded a Pulitzer Prize for its reporting. Here is an excerpt:

Four persons were killed and at least 11 others shot as National Guardsmen fired into a group of rock-throwing protesters at Kent State University today. Three of the dead were tentatively identified as William Schneider, Jeffrey Miller, and Allison Krause. The fourth was an unidentified girl. …

…Gunshots rang out about 12:30 p.m., half an hour after Guardsmen fired tear gas into a crowd of 500 on the Commons behind the university administration offices. Demonstrators hurled rocks and tear gas grenades back as they scattered … an eyewitness to the shooting, said the gunshots were fired after one student hurled a rock as Guardsmen were turning away after clearing the Commons. ‘One section of the Guard turned around and fired and then all the Guardsmen turned and fired,’ he said. According to the witness, some of the Guardsmen were firing in the air while others were firing straight ahead.

Friday, May 5:

Each weekday, Poynter highlights the front page of a newspaper somewhere in the world. You can view the current ones at Page One Today / May.

Read more

Wednesday, Apr. 26, 2006

This Week in Media: Podcasting, Plagiarism (Again) and More

Our impressions of this week (April 24-28, 2006) in news coverage:

  • Keith Woods on the optimistic spirit raised by NAB, RTNDA and ASNE
  • Scott Libin reports from RTNDA@NAB, focusing on the podcasting trend
  • Chip Scanlan examines the latest ethical standards in book publishing
  • David Shedden on moments that made history and highlights of current media issues that will leave an impact

The Fourth Estate Strikes Back
By Keith Woods
Dean of the Faculty

The industry conventions this week — The Radio-Television
News Directors Association
and the National Association of Broadcasters in Las
Vegas and the American Society of Newspaper Editors in
Seattle — offered journalists something
that’s been hard to find, even on the industry’s home turf: optimism.

Rocked as the media has been of late by self-inflicted
scandal, a fickle and hyper-critical audience, destabilizing technological
shifts and the dire, near-daily predictions of mainstream journalism’s demise, it’s
been invigorating to spend a week watching the industry rise from its knees.

When NAB’s new president, David Rehr, took the podium on
Monday morning, his bold rallying cry, urging broadcasters to “go on the
offensive” seemed to catch the crowd by surprise. They applauded his five-point

but it was his chutzpa that energized the audience. Two days later, outgoing
ASNE president Rick Rodriguez, who made “Watchdog Journalism” the buzz phrase
of his presidency, called for newspapers to “step forward to lead as never

Where recent conventions have been overrun with panels that
picked at the sores of the year’s misdeeds or explored ways of fending off the Internet juggernaut and wooing an audience back to appointment viewing and the
morning paper, this year’s offerings included sessions like ASNE’s “Embracing the Web: Doing better journalism in
the 21st century,” and RTNDA’s “Citizen Journalism:
Embracing the New Power of Your Audience.”

Book-ending the week were profiles in vital, courageous
journalism emerging from coverage of New Orleans
and the Mississippi Gulf
Coast when Hurricane Katrina
struck. RTNDA’s convention opened with the stories of reporters, news
directors, network and chain leaders, and a helicopter pilot who all recognized
that everything from competition to the bottom line had to go out the window
when public need met journalistic purpose. The National Association of Minority
Media Executives recognized print and broadcast journalists for their courage
in covering the carnage of war and nature. ASNE’s last panel would be about

We’ve spent a great deal of time and energy in recent months
and years bemoaning our shrinking circulation numbers and ratings shares,
worrying about how the blogosphere is dissing the so-called legacy media and
joining sometimes giddily in the indiscriminate bashing and degrading of
journalism when things have gone wrong. So it was heartening this week to be
somewhere where people spoke for a change about staring down the economic and
technological challenges, embracing new modes of delivering news, and fighting
to protect journalism’s democratic birthright.

Podcasting Perspective from RTNDA@NAB

By Scott Libin
Leadership & Management Faculty

you think kids are doing the darnedest things with iPods these days,
you should see what some of their college professors are doing. 

moderated an educators’ breakfast session on podcasting at this week’s
RTNDA@NAB convention. I began packing an iPod myself just within the
last couple of months, prompted by the opportunity to lead this week’s
session. That made me not only the least knowledgeable person on the
podium, but probably in the room. 

The panel was a rich
mix of academics and professionals, offering insight on podcasting’s
potential, its limitations — at least so far — and the differences in
the way newsrooms and classrooms are using the new medium. 

Here are a few highlights:

Sasha Norkin of Boston University
pointed out that, despite the
iPod-inspired name, podcasting consumption occurs these days mostly at
desktop and laptop computers, rather than with MP3 players. The ratio,
Norkin said, stands about 80-20, computer to iPod. 

Riley, managing editor of nbc5.com at WMAQ-TV in Chicago
, said his
station was one of the first in the country to podcast on a regular
basis, beginning a year ago. Riley said nbc5.com’s podcast content is
all original
and designed to supplement WMAQ’s on-air product, rather
than to repurpose that product. (Conversely, some stations represented
in the room, including KCRW-FM in Santa Monica, California, podcast
only broadcast material.)

Riley said he first heard about podcasting in a report on National Public Radio

encouraging, said Jay Brodsky, director of digital media at NPR Online,
because NPR didn’t begin podcasting for another six months after airing
that report. Brodsky said in the six months since then, listeners have
downloaded 25-million podcasts. 

Larry Gillick,
assistant professor at American University in Washington, D.C., is
responsible for at least a few of those 25 million. He told the
room how much he enjoyed the public radio programs “On the Media” and
“The Business,” and how he heard each of them only a couple of times a
year when he happened to be in his car at the time they were on the

“As much as I enjoy the programs,” Gillick said, “I
am not going to schedule my life around them.”  However, since the
two shows became available as podcasts, he says he hasn’t missed a

Gillick and Al Stavitsky,
professor and associate
dean at the University of Oregon, use podcasting to complement
their classroom lectures and as an outlet for their students’ work.
Stavitsky said he has had strong student response to his weekly “Alpod”
– a podcast he produces himself and assigns as homework for his

Shortly after assigning his first “Alpod,”
Stavitsky says a student who found the production values lacking
provided him with an original music mix for the open of each week’s
podcast, with a music bed to run under the professor’s verbal

Stavitsky buries bonus information in each week’s “Alpod,” such as questions he will include on the class’s next test. 

In Whose Words?

By Chip Scanlan
Senior Writing Faculty 

another ethical implosion from the world of book publishing surfaced
this week: the case of Kaavya Viswanathan, a 19-year-old Harvard
undergraduate who snared a $500,000 two-book contract, as well as a
DreamWorks movie deal.

Unfortunately for the author, a reporter for Harvard’s student daily, The Harvard Crimson, exposed
a case of serial plagiarism. The young literary hotshot — who was
gloried in puff-piece profiles by mainstream media — is now at the center of a dispute between rival publishers and reams of negative publicity. Sadly, she seems to suffer the same self-delusion of James Frey,
the fabricating memoirist whose “Million Little Pieces” shattered on
the “Oprah” show. Her only crime, she says, is “inadvertent” and “unconscious borrowing.”

The only positive news to come out of
this story so far: an impressive piece of enterprise reporting by
Crimson reporter David Zhou, who provided side-by-side comparisons, revealing Viswanathan’s blatant word theft from author Megan McCafferty.

Then and Now, Media Moments with an Impact

By David Shedden
Library Director

Monday, April 24:

Babe Ruth was back in the news Monday. Here is an excerpt from a story in AM New York:

Are Yankees courting their own curse?

house that Babe Ruth built by hitting balls out of the park now has a
date with the wrecking ball, and demolition plans have set off a
backlash that has little to do with the loss of parkland or increased
traffic, and everything to do with nostalgia.

Having cleared all
but a few financial and legal hurdles, the Yankees are planning to
build a new stadium across the street from their 83-year-old home. The
structure should be finished for the 2009 season, and the most tangible
symbol of four generations of Yankees fans will be eradicated soon

“If there are baseball gods the Yankees will be
punished for this,” said Jim Bouton, a Yankees pitcher from 1962 to
1968. “The curse of Babe Ruth is going to come visiting on them,
saying, ‘You’ve paved over my hallowed ground for a few bucks.’ “

Tuesday, April 25:

26 years ago today:

On April 25, 1980, all of the major television networks broadcast an address by President Carter about an abortive attempt to free the American hostages
in Iran. The mission was called off after problems developed with the
rescue helicopters. Eight U.S. servicemen were killed and several
injured during the withdrawal. (1980 CNN Video)

The Washington Post said the following:

Series of Mishaps Defeated Rescue in Iran

aircraft and the charred bodies of eight servicemen smoldered in a
remote Persian desert yesterday, sad symbols of a new American
humiliation in Iran.

A bold operation to rescue the 53
hostages in Tehran had ended in disaster 12 hours after it was launched
with the highest hopes of success. The survivors of the clandestine
American military force escaped from the desert at dawn, leaving dead
comrades and equipment behind. They had been defeated, not by the
Iranians, but by the mechanical failure of their own aircraft.

Wednesday, April 26:

The Reuters news service reported on the 20th anniversary of the world’s worst nuclear accident:

Flowers and tears mark Chernobyl anniversary

Ukraine (Reuters) — Mourners laid red carnations — symbols of grief –
in the shadow of the ruined Chernobyl power station on Wednesday as
they marked the 20th anniversary of the world’s worst nuclear accident.

Hundreds filed past a memorial wall engraved with the names of
the local fire crew. They were among the first to perish when
Chernobyl’s reactor No. 4 blew up on April 26, 1986, spewing
radioactive dust across Europe.

One old woman in a headscarf made the sign of the cross as she stooped to lay a single carnation at the foot of the wall.

Ukraine’s President Victor Yushchenko said it was time to start healing the scars left by the disaster.

Thursday, April 27:

The next chapter in the Knight Ridder / McClatchy deal was announced. Here is a story excerpt from the San Jose Mercury News:

Buyer Steps Up for Mercury News

MediaNews’ agreement Wednesday to acquire the Mercury News, Contra Costa Times and two other Knight Ridder newspapers in a $1 billion deal would transform the Bay Area media landscape.

that is ultimately good or bad for journalistic competition in the
region is being debated by everyone from readers and reporters to
advertisers and competitors.

Denver-based MediaNews is acquiring the papers, including the Monterey County Herald and St. Paul Pioneer Press
in Minnesota, from McClatchy. The Sacramento company decided to sell 12
Knight Ridder newspapers after agreeing March 13 to purchase Knight
Ridder for $4.5 billion.

The details of the MediaNews deal are fairly complex: MediaNews will purchase the Mercury News and Contra Costa Times, and Hearst, which owns the San Francisco Chronicle, will acquire the Monterey County Herald and the St. Paul Pioneer Press. For tax reasons, Hearst has agreed to trade the St. Paul Pioneer Press and Monterey Herald to MediaNews in return for an investment in MediaNews’ assets outside the Bay Area.

Friday, April 28:

Each weekday, Poynter highlights the front page of a newspaper somewhere in the world. You can view the current ones at Page One Today / April.
Read more


Thursday, Apr. 20, 2006

This Week in Media: The Pulitzer Slump, NYT Stock, Video News Releases and more

Our impressions of this week (April 17-21, 2006) in media:

  • Jim Romenesko examines some not-so-promising effects of winning a Pulitzer

  • Rick Edmonds on Pulitzer Week, newspaper stocks and circulation losses

  • Scott Libin delves into the full disclosure and “value” of video news releases

  • Sree Sreenivasan on the passing of Don Fitzpatrick

  • David Shedden on the Pulitzers and the anniversaries of the Oklahoma City bombing and the San Francisco quake

Can Winning a Pulitzer Lead a Career on a Downward Spiral?

By Jim Romenesko
Senior online reporter/ROMENESKO

Pulitzer day always has me thinking about the two winners I’ve worked with. One, who won for her reporting, ended her career writing cutlines on the photo desk. The other — also honored for his reporting — spent a lot of time writing weather stories many years after winning the prize. The award seems to be a career-killer for some.

I took last Friday off to make my annual trip to St. Paul. (I worked at the Pioneer Press from 1996 to 1999.) I saw that a few sites took notice of my absence, including Gawker and Snarksmith. A blog called Pod Rows of Hell had this headline on my vacation day: “Where have you gone, Joe Romanesko?” Joe? RomAnesko? I guess I’ll be working on my brand on my next day off.

Pulitzers, Times Stock, ASNE Indicators & Circulation Losses

By Rick Edmonds

This Week: Pulitzers and NY Times stock

Pulitzer Week is always a nice occasion for reflecting on the amount of superb work the industry still does, challenging economic times or no. Besides the Katrina coverage and rock-em-sock-em performance of The Washington Post and The New York Times on national security matters, consider just how good some of the runners-up were:

  • The Sun-Sentinel of South Florida’s breaking news coverage of Hurricane Wilma and prescient investigation of FEMA’s dysfunction.

  • The Los Angeles Times investigation of graft at the Getty Art Museum that cause the biggest of heads to roll there.

  • Cynthia Tucker’s consistently zippy commentaries on local and national topics for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Unfortunately, the week underscored that Pulitzers and great content don’t count on Wall Street.  Led by Morgan Stanley, 28 percent of shares withheld votes for the the New York Times Company’s slate of directors. Don’t hold your breath waiting for the Times and its sister newspapers to go on the block (a la Knight Ridder) or for the company to accede to Morgan Stanley’s request that it convert to a single class of stock. But even with the buffer of family control, the company must be feeling heat to do something in response to shareholder dissatisfaction. That is the deal-with-the-devil part of going public.

Next Week: ASNE Indicators

The American Society of Newspaper Editors has some top-draw speakers for its annual convention in Seattle — Bill Gates and Starbucks CEO Howard Shultz. Inquiring minds will want to know how he gets away with charging $2 to $4 for a cup of coffee when consumers balk at paying 75 cents for the experience of reading a superior metro newspaper.

Even so look for attendance to be down and the ratio of hangers on like me to real editors to be up.  Travel budgets are tight, it’s a long trip, and Knight-Ridder “limbo” won’t help either. 

On Tuesday ASNE will announce the result of its annual newsroom census. Our guess is that it will show 1,200 to 1,500 full-time professional newsroom jobs lost in 2005 (roughly double the announced cuts at big papers). You never know, though: sometimes the cuts get all the attention while many other papers stay even or make modest increases.

The Week After: More Circulation Losses

The first week in May typically brings reports on circulation changes for the six-month period ending March 31. Both the grapevine and simple math suggest comparable losses to those reported six months ago — about 2.5 percent daily and 3 percent Sunday. A reminder: because these comparison are versus the same period a year ago, what happened last April through September is a big drag on results. The industry would actually need to gain 2.5 percent daily in the most recent six months to break even.

Selling Fake News

By Scott Libin
Leadership & Management faculty member

Conversation continues this week about the use of video news releases by local television stations. The controversy caught one of the country’s leading media critics off guard on national TV. The story highlights how marketing material masquerading as news ends up on the air, below the radar of even some industry experts.
Last week, the Center for Media and Democracy released a study saying it had caught 77 stations using VNRs and satellite media tours, or SMTs, in newscasts without disclosing their source. Last week, the Center for Media and Democracy released a study saying it had caught 77 stations using VNRs and satellite media tours, or SMTs, in newscasts without disclosing their source. Sunday, on CNN’s “Reliable Sources” host Howard Kurtz of The Washington Post spent several minutes interviewing Daniel Price, co-author of the report “Fake TV News, Widespread and Undisclosed,” and FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein.
“Your local TV reporters wouldn’t repeat corporate press releases word-for-word, would they?” Kurtz asked in the “tease” leading into the segment. “These are taped packages that are nothing but PR for corporate clients,” Kurtz continued after the commercial break. “But now a media advocacy group has documented how local TV stations across the country are using these tapes without identifying where they came from, passing them off as the station’s own work.”

What neither Kurtz nor his guests mentioned is that CNN itself is in the VNR business, distributing such materials to the more than 800 affiliates of CNN Newsource, the network’s syndicated news service.

“The ‘Reliable Sources’ segment on Sunday should have included that CNN distributes video news releases to its affiliates through CNN Newsource,” CNN spokesperson Laurie Goldberg told me by e-mail. “The omission was noticed immediately prior to airtime, but since the show was taped, that information was unable to be included.”
Kurtz himself explained it somewhat differently: “It was clearly a misstep on our part. We never shy away from criticizing CNN on ‘Reliable Sources.’ Had I known of the network’s role in distributing these questionable news releases, I would have mentioned it. I should have looked into it more deeply.”
And Kurtz says he is doing just that, looking into the practice for an update on this Sunday’s “Reliable Sources.” It will air live, as the program normally does. But Kurtz says the unusual practice of pre-recording is not an adequate explanation of the omission. “We were a little rushed pretaping a show for Easter weekend, but that’s no excuse,” he said. “I wish we had gotten this info before the broadcast.” 
Kurtz clearly is no fan of VNR use in newscasts without disclosure. “I found the practice so outrageous that I suggested the segment,” he told me.
Network spokesperson Goldberg says “CNN clearly identifies such material — which are third-party segments not produced by CNN,” so that affiliate stations will not mistake VNRs for news. She acknowledged that the distribution of VNRs generates revenue for CNN, but would not go into detail.

The producers of VNRs do pay us but we do not disclose financials,” Goldberg said. “It is fair to say it is not a material impact one way or the other.”
CNN is not alone among networks in distributing VNRs. The Web site Pathfire, which provides digital distribution systems to CNN-affiliated television stations, lists ABC’s news feed system and CBS as customers too. Pathfire’s online company profile prominently lists delivery of VNRs as one of the ways its system “delivers unprecedented control for both content providers and stations.”  

Don Fitzpatrick’s Passing 

By Sree Sreenivasan
Web Tips contributor

To me, a story that didn’t get enough coverage this week was the death of Don Fitzpatrick, veteran television talent scout. Long before blogs and wikis and podcasts, Don understood the true power of electronic communications and used it to shed more light on the goings-on in the TV business.

His daily take on the world of broadcast news, through “Rumorville” and, later, “Shoptalk,” was a must-read for anyone who wanted to know the latest. “Shoptalk” was the first truly influential e-mail newsletter of the media business because it went to everyone’s mailbox — not just to the top brass. Be sure to read the tribute to Don, by Larry Kane and George Case, on the RTNDA site.

He also understood the importance of diversity and reaching out to minorities and helping them get into broadcasting. This he did long before it was popular to do so.

Back in 1995, Don was kind enough to come and speak to my Columbia students about the TV news business. He was supposed to talk for an hour but stayed for more than two, answering every question — almost all of them with a small smile.

I asked broadcast writing coach Mervin Block about Don’s passing, and here’s what he wrote: “Don’s death is a loss to broadcast professionals, broadcast students, and to me personally. Count me among his admirers — and mourners.”


Pulitzer Prizes and Anniversaries in History

By David Shedden
Library Director

Monday, April 17:

Journalists started clicking their Web browser “refresh” buttons after 3:00 p.m., EST, to find out the winners of the 2006 Pulitzers. Here is an excerpt from a story in the next day’s (Biloxi, Miss.) Sun Herald:

Sun Herald Wins Pulitzer

GULFPORT, Miss. – The Sun Herald on Monday received a Pulitzer Prize for public service, and three of the newspaper’s editors were listed as finalists for a prize in editorial writing.

“Today is your day, Sun Herald family,” executive editor Stan Tiner told employees gathered in the newsroom shortly after they erupted in applause at the announcement. “You are truly the best. And to this newsroom I say this: Never have so few worked so hard and so long to tell such a story — an unending story, as you all know.”

Tiner dedicated the Pulitzer Prize gold medal to the people of South Mississippi.

“Finally, this Pulitzer Prize, this gold medal, is dedicated to the people of South Mississippi whose magnificent hearts and spirit moved us every day that we have been privileged to tell the story of their struggle and triumphs,” he said. “They will not be defeated, not by Katrina, or anything.”

Publisher Ricky Mathews told employees: “It’s been a hell of a journey, you guys, and this is the ultimate honor.” Mathews said the newspaper has been “a reflection of our community: the pain, the joy, the unbelievable agony and everything that comes with that” and added that “Our best journalism is still ahead of us because this Sun Herald is in a community that has never been in the situation that we’re in right now. We’re in no-man’s land.”

The following report in The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune announced their Pulitzer awards:

TP wins two Pulitzers, in public service, breaking news

With reporters and editors in the newsroom of their battered city cheering and crying at the same time, The Times-Picayune won two Pulitzer Prizes on Monday, including a gold medal for meritorious public service, for the newspaper’s coverage of Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath.

The newspaper also received a Pulitzer Prize for distinguished reporting of breaking news for Katrina coverage. Both prizes were awarded to the newspaper’s staff.

In addition to the paper’s two awards, Chris Rose was honored as a finalist in the commentary category for his columns about the devastating psychic and emotional toll of the storm on the community. The commentary award was won by Nicholas Kristof of The New York Times.

The Times-Picayune newsroom erupted in applause when the awards were announced Monday afternoon. But with much of the New Orleans area still in ruins, and with dozens of staff members among the tens of thousands of residents who lost homes and possessions in the storm, the celebration was more subdued than what normally attends the achievement of journalism’s pinnacle.

“Our celebration today is tempered by the knowledge that we lost so much — more than 1,000 people dead and our communities so deeply wounded,” editor Jim Amoss told the staff as many quietly wept. “If there is a saving grace here, it’s the love that tragedy lays bare — our love for each other, our love for this newspaper, our love for this community. We must love it back to life, and that’s what we celebrate today.”

Tuesday, April 18:

Stories appeared about the 100th anniversary of the San Francisco earthquake. The San Francisco Chronicle ran the following article:

The Great Quake: April 18, 1906
From Smoke and Ruin, A New City

Why is it important to remember the Bay Area’s biggest disaster?

Because the 1906 earthquake and fire was a terrific story — a force of nature that shook a famous city without warning, a fire that destroyed the ruins, a story that was both a tragedy and a science lesson, with myths and legends, and even with survivors, living relics of another time.

Wednesday, April 19:

11 years ago today:

On April 19, 1995, the news media reported that a bomb had exploded at the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. The Oklahoma City bombing was an early example of a major news story reported on the Web.

Here is how Jim Lehrer, from the PBS “NewsHour”, began his report:

There was a bombing at a federal building in downtown Oklahoma City today.

Read more


Thursday, Apr. 13, 2006

Romenesko on ‘Page Six’; Keller Mixes it Up with Readers; Biz Indicators & Romenesko Gets a Day Off

Our impressions of this week (April 10-14, 2006) in media:

  • Jim Romenesko on the maneuvering behind the gossip of ‘Page Six’.

  • Rick Edmonds on one step back and three forward in the newspaper business.

  • David Shedden on the week’s headlines and a historical moment in radio news.

  • Bill Mitchell on Bill Keller’s inaugural Talk to the Newsroom, a new feature on nytimes.com

By Jim Romenesko
Senior online reporter/ROMENESKO

My suggestion for Jared Paul Stern — get out of the gossip business and try PR/damage control.

The suspended “Page Six” gossip has been peppering me with URLs all week — links to stories sympathetic to him, or that make billionaire Ron Burkle look bad. (Another story he forwarded: “Stern’s clothing line explodes.”) Stern’s also a master of the rapid-response. Just minutes after I posted Burkle’s Wall Street Journal op-ed piece, Stern sent me this two-liner: ” So Burkle’s turning his hand to freelance writing now? There might be an opening at ‘Page Six’…”

Hmmm…I thought he predicted he’d be reinstated at the paper. Or maybe already has decided to quit gossip.

By Rick Edmonds
Researcher and Writer

This Week in Media has been on hiatus for awhile, but I’m sorry to say that basic indicators of the newspaper business have not been recovering in the meantime.  This week companies are releasing first quarter results with profits off 10 to 20 percent and revenues virtually flat compared to the same period last year. Some links to results at GannettTribune and McClatchy.

Not surprisingly Wall Street just keeps getting unhappier.  Share prices, which lost an average of 20 percent of their value in 2005 are still sinking, typically another 6 to 8 percent so far this year.  McClatchy has fallen from $60 to just over $45 — reflecting both an unexpectedly bad first quarter and typical investor skepticism about digesting a big acquisition.

However, I wouldn’t convene a pity party for several reasons:

  • McClatchy’s auction of 12 Knight Ridder papers in slower growing markets has drawn a number of bidders.  The Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News, a poster child for the deteriorating financial condition of big-city metros, has drawn no fewer than four suitors.  That suggests that there are believers in the future of these franchises even if the newspaper business has lost favor with the investor consensus.

  • Every indicator we see shows newspapers charging hard to build the capacity and offerings of their online sites.  The New York Times unveiled a handsome redesign earlier this month and announced this week it is selling its stake in the Discovery Times cable channel, the better to concentrate on online video.  The Times is also among a number of papers drastically cutting back print stock tables.  Altogether the industry is pursuing necessary transitions with urgency.

  • I don’t detect new waves of self-destructive newsroom cuts.  It is way early to call this an emerging trend of 2006s.  No one seems to be saying out loud to Wall Street, “get used to tighter margins for a few years — we need to make expensive investments in our future.”  However if the companies act that way, even to a degree, it would be a marker of progress.

By David Shedden
Library director

Monday, April 10:

This year’s Masters golf tournament came to an end Sunday. Here is an excerpt from a story in The State:

Mickelson swings his way to victory

AUGUSTA — The last time Phil Mickelson won the Masters title, he reacted with a height-challenged victory leap after his clinching birdie putt on the final hole at Augusta National.

Late Sunday afternoon, after capturing his second green jacket in three years, Mickelson was able to enjoy a considerably more leisurely celebration.

Tuesday, April 11:

Thousands of people marched for immigration rights this week. Here is an excerpt from a story in USA Today:

Immigrants, backers demand citizenship

Hundreds of thousands of people demanding U.S. citizenship for illegal immigrants took to the streets in dozens of cities from New York to San Diego on Monday in some of the most widespread demonstrations since the mass protests began around the country last month.

Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators, wearing white shirts and carrying banners reading “We Have A Dream Too” staged rallies Monday in cities across the USA to demand citizenship for millions of illegal immigrants.

“I would love to be a citizen,” said Alex Vega, 45, at a rally in Santa Ana, Calif. “I’ve been in the shadows for a long time.”

Wednesday, April 12:

Italy was in the news Wednesday. Media organizations around the world reported on the contested election between Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and his opponent, Romano Prodi.

Another Italian story that received a lot of attention was the arrest of Bernardo Provenzano, the head of the Sicilian Mafia, who had escaped capture for 43 years. He was found near the city of Corleone. (You might remember this small town as the birthplace of Don Vito Coreone.)

Thursday, April 13:

The news media reported that Flight 93’s cockpit recording was played to jurors in the sentencing trial of Zacarias Moussaoui. Here is an excerpt from a story in Newsday:

31 minutes of terror in the sky

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Thirty-one minutes and 12 seconds of chaotic, bloodcurdling horror.

The raw, evocative sounds of the final half-hour onboard United Flight 93 on Sept. 11, from a stewardess begging for her life to passengers assaulting the cockpit, resonated in federal court here yesterday as prosecutors closed their death-penalty case against Zacarias Moussaoui by playing the plane’s voice recorder for the first time publicly.

Friday, April 14:
Each weekday, Poynter highlights the front page of a newspaper somewhere in the world. You can view the current ones at Page One Today / April.   

Saturday, April 15:

61 years ago today:

On April 15, 1945, CBS broadcast journalist Edward R. Murrow reported from World War II’s Buchenwald concentration camp. He visited Buchenwald shortly after the camp was liberated by Allied troops. Here is an excerpt from his CBS radio news report:

During the last week, I have driven more than a few hundred miles through Germany, most of it in the Third Army sector — Wiesbaden, Frankfurt, Weimar, Jena and beyond. It is impossible to keep up with this war.

….Permit me to tell you what you would have seen, and heard, had you been with me on Thursday. It will not be pleasant listening.

….I propose to tell you of Buchenwald. It is on a small hill about four miles outside Weimar, and it was one of the largest concentration camps in Germany….As we walked out into the courtyard, a man fell dead. Two others — they must have been over sixty — were crawling toward the latrine. I saw it but will not describe it.

In another part of the camp they showed me the children, hundreds of them. Some were only six. One rolled up his sleeve, showed me his number. It was tattooed on his arm. D-6030, it was. The others showed me their numbers; they will carry them till they die.

….Murder had been done at Buchenwald. God alone knows how many men and boys have died there during the last twelve years. Thursday I was told that there were more than 20,000 in the camp. There had been as many as 60,000. Where are they now?

As I left that camp, a Frenchman who used to work for Havas in Paris came up to me and said, ‘You will write something about this, perhaps?’ And he added, ‘To write about this you must have been here at least two years, and after that — you don’t want to write any more.’

I pray you to believe what I have said about Buchenwald. I have reported what I saw and heard, but only part of it. For most of it I have no words. Dead men are plentiful in war, but the living dead, more than twenty thousand of them in one camp.

….If I’ve offended you by this rather mild account of Buchenwald, I’m not in the least sorry.

<BY href="http://www.poynter.org/bill" Bill Mitchell

Poynter Online editor


The most interesting piece of media news in The New York Times this week never made the paper (as far as I know) and generated only modest promotion on the front of nytimes.com. But if you made your way inside the site to the new Talk to the Newsroom page, you discovered one of the most interesting windows into the paper this side of Times Talk (which, alas, has apparently not been updated online since December 2004).


By week’s end, Executive Editor Bill Keller had responded to questions on 28 topics raised by Times readers. The questions ranged from personal (his favorite story) to word choice (staunch or stanch?) to issues that just won’t go away (Judy Miller’s reporting). Specifics included:

  • The prospects of New York Times news meetings on a webcast, as some other newsrooms are trying. Keller says the idea has been discussed “briefly and decisively.” The verdict: “We don’t plan to turn The Making the the NYT into a reality TV show.”

  • The redesigned nytimes.com. Keller: “We live in a state of permanent beta.”

  • Publishing complete stock tables in the Internet era. Keller: “It’s like publishing a dictionary every day, in case a reader wants to look up a word.”

  • Aspirations of The New York Times. Keller cited a list of four aspirations compiled by an unnamed colleague at the Boston Globe.

  • Jumping stories from the front page. Keller: “There’s nothing worse than getting to the bottom of a compelling Metro story on Page A1 and discovering that my crime-obsessed 8 year-old has run off with the B section, where my story continues.”

Keller stopped well short of answering each and every question on the minds of Times critics and readers (850 questions were submitted), but his accumulated answers represent a significant investment in a new approach to audience. Other editors will get their turns in what Keller termed “the dunk-em seat” in subsequent weeks.

There’s plenty of room for improvement, with ample suggestions from bloggers who accompanied their links to the new feature with tips to make it better. Should Times editors decide to pull back the curtain just a bit further, in fact, they could make use of a Technorati tool and invite those bloggers right onto the page.   

Where’s Romenesko?

Finally this week, you may have noticed that Jim Romenesko took a rare (and well-deserved) day off Friday. Gawker noted his absence here.  On Thursday, journalism professor Mindy McAdams charted the impact of Romenesko like this. Jim will be back Monday. Read more


Wednesday, Mar. 22, 2006

This Week: Headlines & History; Editors’ Daily Dose of ROMENESKO

Our impressions of this week (March 20-24, 2006) in media:

  • David Shedden on the week’s headlines and historical moments.
  • Jim Romenesko on editors’ daily dose of ROMENESKO and other blogs.

Flashback three years; Civil rights landmarks; Japan defeats Cuba; Basque separatists declare ceasefire

David Shedden
Library director

, March 20:

The week began with the news media looking back.

Here is an excerpt from a story in the San Antonio (Texas) Express-News:

Iraq Boils, Three Years Later

Clashes between U.S. forces and suspected insurgents — and fresh
allegations of American troops killing Iraqi noncombatants — marked
the third anniversary Sunday of the start of the ’03 American-led Gulf War II.

Bush marked the anniversary by touting the efforts to build democracy
there and avoiding any mention of the daily violence that rages three
years after he ordered the invasion.

The president didn’t utter the word “war.”

The war
began on March 19, [2003], Washington time — early morning March in
Baghdad — when Bush authorized an early strike by U.S. fighter-bombers
and offshore Tomahawk cruise missiles on a Baghdad bunker where Saddam
Hussein was reported to be sleeping.

Tuesday, March 21:

41 years ago today:

On March 21, 1965, the news media reported that Martin Luther King Jr. had begun a civil-rights march in Selma, Alabama. The Washington Star and Haynes Johnson would win a 1966 Pulitzer Prize for distinguished coverage of the civil rights conflict in Selma and particularly the reporting of its aftermath.

, March 22

The Tokyo, Japan newspaper, Asahi Shimbun, reported on its country’s win over Cuba in the World Baseball Classic final. Here is an excerpt from a story on the paper’s English-language Web site:


World Baseball Classic: Japan 10, Cuba 6

SAN DIEGO — National honor restored, and then some!

a dismal showing at the recent Turin Winter Olympics, Japan’s baseball
team did the nation proud Monday, beating Cuba 10-6 in the final of the
inaugural World Baseball Classic.

, March 23

A big international news story from Spain dealt with the Basque separatist group ETA’s declaration of a permanent ceasefire. The Madrid newspaper, El Mundo, has a special section about ETA on its Web site. (You may need to use a language-translation tool.)

, March 24

Each weekday, Poynter highlights the front page of a newspaper somewhere in the world. You can view the current ones at Page One Today / March.

Editors’ Daily Dose of ROMENESKO

Jim Romenesko
Senior online reporter/ROMENESKO

We learned this week that New York Times executive editor Bill Keller doesn’t read ROMENESKO
and other media blogs because “they can lead to a tremendous and to a
somewhat disorienting degree of self-absorption.” No hurt feelings,
Bill, but I have to say you’re missing a lot of good stuff about the
newspaper industry.

I’m pleased to report that other editors are reading ROMENESKO. I learned that from the current issue of The American Editor
[PDF], the magazine put out by the American Society of Newspaper
Editors. Here’s what some news execs have to say about ROMENESKO:

not one of my priorities, but if there’s something important on
Romenesko, I figure someone will tell me about it — and they usually

“I know many
media executives and managers are cautious about what they send out to
their staffs for fear their memos might wind up in Jim’s column.” –

“Because it is so widely
read by journalists, the echo effect can be overwhelming. [I'm]
convinced Howell Raines and Gerald Boyd lost their jobs because they
couldn’t escape the Romenesko undertow. That said, it provides an
essential and immediate forum for discussion of important journalistic
issues.” — DOUG CLIFTON, THE PLAIN DEALER (Cleveland, Ohio)

site puts a spotlight on anything that goes wrong in the industry, and
then amplifies it. This country has a lot of good journalists and a lot
of good newspapers. That story is rarely told.” — VICKI GOWLER, THE IDAHO STATESMAN

“It’s great fun to see names of my buddies in the business make
headlines on Romenesko’s site. And when ethics are challenged or
questioned, I value the insights from the best in our business that are
readily found there. Romenesko also can get the industry rumors flying
better than any other source. But he’s not always there when the rumor

think Romenesko is a ‘must-read’ for anyone who really wants to keep up
with the daily nitty gritty of the business. That said, it’s often
boring. Let’s face it, the inside baseball of the news business is
often far from exciting.” — BILL ROSE, THE PALM BEACH POST (West Palm Beach, Fla.) Read more


Thursday, Mar. 09, 2006

Romenesko: Punk’d?, Knight Ridder Bids, Blaming Victims and More This Week in Media

Every Thursday, we ask Poynter faculty, staff and online contributors for their impressions of the news of the week. What surprised them? What was overplayed? Underplayed? What does it mean for the media? What will they be watching for next week? You can find this week’s answers below and answers from previous weeks here. To contribute your own thoughts on the week in review, click the “Add Your Comments” link at the bottom of a post. You can also subscribe to receive “This Week in Media” by e-mail: just click here.

For the week of March 6-10, 2006:

Romenesko, Punk’d?

Jim Romenesko
Senior online reporter/ROMENESKO

I thought I had been “punked.”

On Wednesday, a ROMENESKO reader e-mailed me what he said was a message to TimesSelect subscribers about a “Win a Trip With Nick Kristof” contest. (I don’t subscribe to TimesSelect because I read Times columnists in my print edition.) A trip with oh-so-serious Nick Kristof!? Hmmm….I saw red flags everywhere.

I’ve yet to post a bogus memo or announcement — knock on wood! — and I don’t recall catching anyone even *trying* to slip a fake one by me. But I decided I’d better check out the Kristof item. I put a call in to a Times source, but got a voicemail notice that he was out until Monday. While on the phone, I put “Win a trip with Nick Kristof” into Google’s search engine. Bingo! The first reference was to an old Editor & Publisher story about TimesSelect, which mentioned that the contest was coming up. I then posted the item.

An hour or two later, I worked on cleaning out my inbox and noticed that a Times reporter had sent me a message on Tuesday night that included Kristof’s own description of the contest. I added that to the item.

Bloggers quickly picked up on the Kristof contest. “Now you have to hang out with nerds to get ahead?” asked one. One reader predicted in a not-for-publication e-mail to me that Kristof would get hammered for this line in his announcement: “So no war zones. And no purchases of Cambodian sex slaves this time.”

I haven’t received any other complaints about that, but maybe it is best that the usually serious Kristof stay away from humor.

Any Bid a Good Bid? and a Little Skirmish in a Long War

Rick Edmonds
Writer & researcher

Speculation about the Knight Ridder auction will be largely eclipsed by Friday reports on Thursday’s deadline for bids. See Romenesko.

As the Knight Ridder board evaluates offers, here is a thought: Even a very modest premium over the current stock price — say $65 per share versus $62 — may be attractive. Remember that Knight Ridder was trading at a little over $52 last Nov. 1 when thrust into play as a takeover target. If bids are rejected, the stock could easily fall back to that level or lower. Which result do you think Private Capital Management’s Bruce Sherman and his fellow institutional investors would prefer? Remember: they have the controlling votes.

A Little Skirmish in a Long War

In late February, a California judge ruled that Google had infringed on copyrighted material, as its “Image Search” function linked to thumbnail porn images produced by Perfect 10 Inc.

The problem is that Perfect 10 was selling those pictures to cell-phone users in Britain. Google links to other sites that had pirated the images, and therefore provided end-users a way to get the same pictures for free. Forbes.com provided helpful background on the case last June.

The judge left it to Google and Perfect 10 to work out details of a cease-and-desist agreement and said the case had no general application to Google search results. However, as the quality and immediacy of online photo and video grows, watch for continuing fights between content producers and the search giant, which makes its money selling advertising against that content.

Several British publications covered the preliminary outcome of the suit; so did The Associated Press. I learned of the story while doing a Google search — on the company’s parallel legal fight with Agence France Presse over use of the wire service’s stories and images (which Google News dropped after the lawsuit was filed in March 2005). 

Blaming the Victims

Scott Libin
Leadership & Management faculty

I think blaming victims is really the result of basic human fear. I’m not proud to admit it, but when I see or hear a story about something terrible happening to someone, I look for reasons it couldn’t happen to me or my loved ones. 

Fatal car crash? Speeding, seat-belt neglect, age or alcohol must have been a factor. 

Carnage on another continent? Glad I don’t live there.  

Lung cancer? That’s what smoking will do to you. 

Then this week, the death of Dana Reeve forced me and millions of others to confront again the fact that, sometimes, there just is no such comforting explanation. 

The scariest stories sometimes leave us no choice but to learn — and that may be the only silver lining  in such tragedy. It’s also the redeeming social value of certain celebrity news. 

After all, Reeve will be only one of more than 150,000 people to die of lung cancer this year, if the government’s most recent statistics are any indication. She may be the most famous, and her death may have a bigger impact than that of last year’s most-famous cancer casualty, Peter Jennings, because of course he smoked for many years.  Reeve, as everyone knows, never did.

I think it’s that fact more than anything else that accounts for the kind of coverage her death has drawn: coverage from which I learned this week that women who have never smoked are twice as likely to get lung cancer as men who have never smoked; that lung cancer kills far more women than breast cancer does; and yet that many times more money is spent on breast cancer research than on lung cancer research, relative to the number of people each disease kills. 

I can think of three friends currently living with breast cancer, but none living with lung cancer. That’s probably in part because we and our doctors don’t detect lung cancer as well as we do breast cancer.  It’s almost surely also because so many more breast cancer patients survive to tell their stories, to raise research money and to keep their disease on the minds of the rest of us. 

Television stations compete to sponsor breast cancer awareness campaigns and events. I’m convinced these efforts save lives. They also make a lot of money, and not just for non-profits, but also for the stations that reap revenue and demographically strategic promotional advantage — not that there’s anything wrong with that. 

It’s just that I don’t see any comparable campaigns about lung cancer, and I never stopped to wonder why — until this week. 

I also learned this week, along with thousands of other readers of Al’s Morning Meeting, that an important study will come our way within the next few days. The American Journal of Managed Care will publish research on the way local television stations report on health, and Al’s early indications are that it won’t be pretty. I know we’ll be talking about that a lot here at Poynter, and I hope we have a lot of company in newsrooms across the country.      

The Internet in China, The IAEA in Iran and Polls in the U.S.

Casey Frechette
Interactive learning producer

What coverage surprised you?
This week brought a flurry of stories about Internet use in China. Unlike typical coverage focused solely on government censorship or the practices of U.S. tech companies, this week’s stories dug deeper, providing a fresh perspective on mainstream Internet usage through the lens of Chinese Web surfers. From The New York Times, we learned about celebrity blogger Xu Jinglei and early attempts to find a blogging business model with Sina.com, a major Chinese portal.

NPR’s Morning Edition also ran a story about blogging in China (the country boasts about 30 million blogs, we learned), and ran another piece about the rise in podcasting. We even learned about the legal woes of Hu Ge, who’s in trouble for producing a frequently downloaded parody of the big-budget film “The Promise.” And another New York Times piece this week looked at the preponderance of illicit activity on the Chinese Web.

Was anything overplayed? Underplayed?

Overplayed: This might fall more under the umbrella of “misplayed,” but the pervasive use of the Vaeedi “harm and pain” quote in headlines about the Iran/International Atomic Energy Agency/U.S. story felt mostly mislaid. As entrées into this complex international issue, these headlines invoke a decidedly emotional, even reactionary tone. Some cable news coverage in particular this week felt a bit too theatrical. In many cases, the actual reporting has been thoughtful, but for those whose exposure to this story doesn’t move past sound bites, using this incendiary quote to represent the issue doesn’t seem to set the stage well for meaningful understanding.

What will you be watching for next week?

Two noteworthy polls were recently released; I’m interested in knowing more about what’s behind the numbers, and I’m curious to see if next week brings any follow-up coverage. The Washington Post reported on their poll conducted with ABC News on Americans’ feelings toward Islam and Muslims. And Editor & Publisher recapped a recent Gallup poll highlighting the country’s deep divide on human origins. What’s especially interesting about the results in both cases is how the numbers seem to be shifting over time. According the Post, unfavorable views toward Muslims are higher now than shortly after 9/11, while Editor & Publisher suggests that belief evolution is now less popular than it once was.

Week in Review: Academy Awards, South Dakota & Abortion, Gordon Parks and Birmingham Church Burnings

David Shedden
Library director

Monday, March 6:
Folks woke up Monday morning to news about the Academy Awards. Many stories focused on the surprise winner for best picture: “Crash.”

Tuesday, March 7:
An excerpt from a story in South Dakota’s Argus Leader:

Gov. Mike Rounds signed a bill Monday making nearly all abortions illegal and putting South Dakota at the top of a short list of states challenging the 30-year-old law of the land. The bill flies in the face of the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade and is almost certain to be challenged in what could be a long and expensive federal lawsuit or a direct referendum at the polls.

Wednesday, March 8:
The Wichita Eagle‘s obituary about photojournalist Gordon Parks included this descriptive quote: “He excelled in photography, movie directing, movie score writing, autobiographies, poetry, painting, and the list goes on and on.” (Poynter has compiled a list of links about the incredible life of Gordon Parks.)

Thursday, March 9:
An excerpt from a story in The Birmingham News:

Three Birmingham college students charged in a spree of church burnings set the first two fires at rural Baptist churches “as a joke” and, thrilled by the sound of firetrucks, torched three more, investigators say. Four days later, on Feb. 7, four more churches were burned in an attempt to distract investigators, a  federal complaint says.
Fifty-two years ago today…

On March 9, 1954, Edward R. Murrow and the  CBS show “See It Now” broadcast one of the most famous programs in journalism history: “A Report on Senator Joseph R. McCarthy.”

Murrow ended this “See It Now” program with the following words:

This is no time for men who oppose Senator McCarthy‘s methods to keep silent, or for those who approve. We can deny our heritage and our history, but we cannot escape responsibility for the result. There is no way for a citizen of a republic to abdicate his responsibilities. As a nation we have come into our full inheritance at a tender age. We proclaim ourselves, as indeed we are, the defenders of freedom, wherever it continues to exist in the world, but we cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home.

The actions of the junior senator from Wisconsin have caused alarm and dismay amongst our allies abroad, and given considerable comfort to our enemies. And whose fault is that? Not really his. He didn’t create this situation of fear; he merely exploited it — and rather successfully. Cassius was right. “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.”

Good night, and good luck.
Friday, March 10:
Each weekday, Poynter highlights the front page of a newspaper somewhere in the world. You can view the current ones at Page One Today / March.
Read more

Thursday, Mar. 02, 2006

Sweeps & MySpace, Olympics & Mardi Gras, The AP and President Bush & More This Week in Media

Every Thursday, we ask Poynter faculty, staff and online contributors for their impressions of the news of the week. What surprised them? What was overplayed? Underplayed? What does it mean for the media? What will they be watching for next week? You can find this week’s answers below and answers from previous weeks here. To contribute your own thoughts on the week in review, click the “Add Your Comments” link at the bottom of a post. You can also subscribe to receive “This Week in Media” by e-mail: just click here.

For the week of Feb. 27 – March 3, 2006:

Sweeps, MySpace and How They Fit Together

Scott Libin
Leadership & Management faculty

Another television ratings period drew to a close this week. As Nielsen rolls out Local People Meters (LPMs) in more of the nation’s largest markets, “the book” — as TV types call sweeps weeks — reportedly will mean less and less. Most people I know in television seem to think that’s a good thing, potentially evening out some of the mood swings, staffing stress and on-air inconsistency attributable to old audience-measurement methodology. 

For now, however, Nielsen’s LPMs are in only the largest markets. Most journalists and those they serve remain at the mercy of the mindset that produces both the best and worst of TV news during the key months of February, May, July and November. 

From my unscientific observation, the most popular “promotable” piece this time around was about MySpace.com. Poynter’s Kelly McBride has a good look at the issue in her Everyday Ethics blog. In virtually every market, I think at least one station did a special report on the new online hangout for teens. The TV treatments I saw tended to focus on frightening elements of the issue, and there appears to be plenty to work with there, even for news organizations that try to take a measured, responsible approach. 

As a hot topic, MySpace.com beats by a mile some stunts of sweeps gone by: tainted tea, dirty hotel bedsheets, what your pets do when you’re gone. Such ready-made ratings ploys of the past hardly appealed to the intellect or important concerns of most viewers. Understanding a legitimate phenomenon like MySpace.com has a whole lot more redeeming social value, in my view. But then, I have a 13-year-old daughter. 

The story also has almost perfect demographic balance, addressing the interests and habits of those elusive youthful consumers — and the priorities of their parents, who actually watch television news  and sometimes even read the newspaper. It’s hard to imagine an issue more timely, in terms of journalistic or commercial concerns.  

I think we’ll be talking for quite a while to come about MySpace.com, similar sites and the social trends they reflect. The question is not whether journalists should be covering them, but how.

AP Makes Us Eyewitnesses

Jill Geisler
Leadership & Management group leader

The Associated Press demonstrated the power of broadcast journalism this week when it obtained and released a tape of a government videoconference about Hurricane Katrina planning. The tape makes us eyewitnesses to the story as it unfolded. It can be compared to the after-the-fact recollections of the participants, a rare opportunity and a genuine service.

The AP has not disclosed how it obtained the video, and that piques curiosity and raises questions. I imagine there is a great story there, one that includes not just who provided it, but why — and with what, if any, assurances from The Associated Press. Other questions would include how AP verified that the tape was an accurate, un-tampered-with video and audio account of the gathering, and how they made certain that what they released was not only accurate, but contextually accurate with the entirety of the tape.

Will we see more? Will we hear from AP about the ethical questions and decisions involved in the acquisition and dissemination of the tape? I hope so. There are some great journalism lessons in this story.

Meanwhile, political bloggers are busy framing this tape as an exposé of an inept administration (Huffington Post: “AP Catches Bush in a Lie“) or yet another example of the mainstream media debasing a fine administration (Rightwinged.com: “Media Goes Nuts with New ‘Bush Knew About Katrina/Levees Video’ — Distorting All the Way”).

Meanwhile, take a look at how CNN, The New York Times and The Washington Post topped their stories, and you’ll find they took thoughtful, even-handed approaches. The writing was expository rather than inflammatory — more “what happened” than “gotcha.”


WASHINGTON (CNN) — A newly released transcript from a video conference the day Hurricane Katrina struck seems to reinforce arguments that governments at all levels identified the potential dangers from the storm but were under-prepared for the devastation.

The New York Times:

WASHINGTON, March 1 — A newly released transcript of a government videoconference shows that hours after Hurricane Katrina made landfall, federal and state officials did not know that the levees in New Orleans were failing and were cautiously congratulating one another on the government response.

The Washington Post:

A newly leaked video recording of high-level government deliberations the day before Hurricane Katrina hit shows disaster officials emphatically warning President Bush that the storm posed a catastrophic threat to New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, and a grim-faced Bush personally assuring state leaders that his administration was “fully prepared” to help.

Daily recap: Olympics, celebrity deaths, Mardi Gras & southeast Asia

David Shedden
Library Director

Monday, Feb. 27:

The week began with the end of the Olympics. A couple of newspapers offering an Italian perspective on the Games were Rome’s La Repubblica and Turin’s La Stampa. (You may need to use a language-translation site.) Speaking of the Olympics, make sure to take a look at Kenny Irby’s new Poynter Online story, “Olympic Photos: Picks from the Photo Editors.”

Tuesday, Feb. 28:

The front page of the Los Angeles Times included an obituary about the newspaper’s former publisher, Otis Chandler. It was one of the longest obits they have ever printed. Here is an excerpt from the story:

OTIS CHANDLER — 1927-2006
A Man of Many Passions Transformed The Times

By David Shaw and Mitchell Landsberg

Had Otis Chandler never worked a single day, his would have been a memorable life. An Olympic-caliber athlete, a champion weightlifter, an accomplished race car driver, big game hunter, surfer, cyclist, antique car and motorcycle collector, Chandler, who died Monday at 78, was a man whose avocations alone were the stuff of legend.

But Chandler did work, and in a remarkable 20-year span as publisher of the Los Angeles Times — from 1960 to 1980 — he reshaped this newspaper to an extent that has few, if any, parallels in the history of American journalism.

(In addition to the passing of Otis Chandler, this week also saw columns, editorials, and television programs about the deaths of Don Knotts, Darren McGavin and Dennis Weaver. One headline: “A sad week in TV land.”)

Wednesday, March 1:
The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune reported on the first post-Hurricane Katrina Mardi Gras. Throughout the week, there was a great deal of media coverage about Mardi Gras and the six-month anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.

As the month of March continues, it will be interesting to see how much news coverage there is about Women’s History Month.

Thursday, March 2:
President Bush‘s trip to Afghanistan, India, and Pakistan was covered by news organizations around the world, including Calcutta, India’s newspaper, The Telegraph.

Friday, March 3:
Each weekday, Poynter highlights the front page of a newspaper somewhere in the world. You can view the current ones at Page One Today / March.

Katrina Follow-Up, Tension in Taiwan, Condeleeza Rice & Anna Nicole Smith, Document Reclassification and the Patriot Act

Casey Frechette
Interactive Learning producer

What coverage surprised you?

Among the many stories this week that focused on Hurricane Katrina, coverage on Monday’s “NewsHour” struck me as especially insightful. The “NewsHour” story focused on struggles to provide adequate healthcare in the still-battered region, and particularly on the ongoing use of makeshift tents to care for patients. What surprised me about this coverage was how effectively it placed the effects of Katrina in a larger social and institutional context. We learned about how pre-existing flaws in the area’s healthcare system hampered recovery efforts, and descriptions of current conditions were balanced with concerns over key challenges moving forward.

What was underplayed?

A recent flare-up in the long-contentious relationship between China and Taiwan was mostly underplayed this week, even though the U.S. is almost certain to become involved should any conflict materialize. The challenge in covering this story seems to rest in accurately capturing the seriousness of what’s happened. The decision of Taiwan’s president to abolish the National Unification Council seemed significant; so too did the reaction of the Chinese government, which characterized the move as “disastrous.” Yet, put into the context of years of tense relations that occasionally simmer over and then subside, recent events seem less profound. I’m always eager to get some historical context with a story like this, and hearing reactions from within the countries involved helps a lot, too. BBC News did well on both counts, first by making available a resource with background information and also by publishing a rundown of the mixed reactions from within Taiwan.

What was overplayed?

It’s a toss-up this week between Condoleezza Rice’s exercise videos and the Anna Nicole Smith legal battle. A story involving Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Anna Nicole Smith does have a certain “when worlds collide” appeal, but for an issue that boils down to how federal and state probate courts interface, this news item figured a little too prominently. As for Rice’s workout regimen, I’d prefer to know more about her thoughts on the situation in Darfur.

What industry developments will we be talking about next week?

It’s a few days old now, but there’s a chance that next week will bring more talk about a New York Times story, later covered on NBC Nightly News, on the reclassification of government documents. The story concerns a 7-year-old government program tasked with reclassifying documents, some of which have been in the public domain for quite some time. If nothing else, this seems to be an important freedom of information issue, and might spark renewed interested in how document classification and declassification are handled by the government — and what it means to the investigative journalism process.

What will you be watching for next week?

The deadline to renew the Patriot Act is next Friday, and I’ll be watching this ongoing story into next week. Within Congress, the Patriot Act has both strong support and a few fervent critics, but a range of opinions on its precise strengths and pitfalls seem to persist as well. Although overwhelming Senate approval on Thursday makes renewal almost certain, the Patriot Act remains an important focusing point for ongoing discussions on how to balance national security and civil liberties, making it a story worth tracking next week.

All About the Play
Bill Mitchell
Poyner Online editor

There was a time, not long ago, when subjects of coverage and others upset with journalists were cautioned to “avoid picking a fight with an outfit that buys ink by the barrel.”

That’s not as true as it used to be, thanks in part to the interactive and distributed nature of Internet publishing. Critics of the media may lack the traffic enjoyed by lots of mainstream publishing sites, but they sure can reach a lot more people digitally than they ever could with the dissident leaflets of yore.
Even online, though, the publisher holds the upper hand. Readers and/or subjects of coverage are invited to provide feedback to articles or blog items, but that feedback is typically relegated to the basement beneath the published article. In the case of Poynter Online, you’ll usually find such comments listed under the “Add/View Feedback” or “Add Comments” links at the top and bottom of each article or the bottom of each blog item.

John Temple, who is editor, president and publisher of the Rocky Mountain News, calls attention to another way of doing things in an entry posted on his own blog Tuesday night. When a reader or subject of coverage offers a point of view that challenges an earlier article or item, Temple suggests, why not elevate the play from the feedback area to the main page?

Temple has criticized Poynter’s performance on various fronts, including this entry, which he posted on his blog Sunday. That a Poynter colleague comes in for some praise in Temple’s latest posting matters less than his larger point that publishers share some of their best real estate with their critics.
Some newspapers have been doing something similar in print for years, of course, even devoting precious front-page space to corrections of articles that originally appeared out front themselves. But it’s even easier to do in the Web environment. And it makes particular sense at a time when news as conversation should be fast replacing journalism as lecture. Read more

Thursday, Feb. 23, 2006

WSJ Fusion, Perspective on the Philippines, Defining Your Core & More This Week in Media

Every Thursday, we ask Poynter faculty, staff and online contributors for their impressions of the news of the week. What surprised them? What was overplayed? Underplayed? What does it mean for the media? What will they be watching for next week? You can find this week’s answers below and answers from previous weeks here. To contribute your own thoughts on the week in review, click the “Add Your Comments” link at the bottom of a post. You can also subscribe to receive “This Week in Media” by e-mail: just click here.

For the week of Feb. 20-24, 2006:

Most E-mailed Stories

Jim Romenesko
Senior Online Reporter (ROMENESKO)

The most-e-mailed ROMENESKO-posted stories of the week:


1) Check out the winners of the 2005 George Polk Awards
2) Journalism needs more working-class people and immigrants 
1) Washingtonpost.com wins NAA’s best news site award
2) (tie) Microsoft co-founder Allen seeks buyer for Sporting News   
    Supreme Court decides not to touch college newspaper case


1) WSJ to combine print and online editions into one unit   
2) Study: Critics tend not to review bad movies they’ve seen


1) Rocky gets about 200 complaints after trimming stock tables
2) Block: “I think the Post-Gazette has a staff that’s too big”

The Question of Cartoons, Growing Glossies and Fusion at the Journal

Kelly McBride

Ethics group leader

Overplayed: Cartoon questions. Reporters who are still asking if American editors should run the Muhammad cartoons are missing the point. It’s not a “free speech versus political correctness” issue. It’s more complicated than that — and the story has moved on.

Underplayed: Magazine circulation grows. This is one more piece of evidence that documents how the public is changing its habits when it comes to consuming information. It’s not that people don’t read hard copies. They read more magazines, fewer newspapers. They spend more time on the computer and less time watching TV. What’s it all mean???

Next week: The Wall Street Journal combining print and online. Maybe the public won’t be as interested as I am, but I want to know what that’s going to look like. How has it been going over at USA Today, which recently did the same thing? How will reporting and writing be different? Newspaper newsrooms are structured and organized around production of a newspaper, usually once a day. How will all that change?

Perspective on the Philippines, The Lotto in Nebraska, Rioting in Nigeria, Ports, Populations and More

Casey Frechette
Interactive learning producer/NewsU

What coverage surprised you?

NPR ran an informative piece Tuesday on the Philippines’ recent history and current economy. The story followed a report on the status of the mudslide rescue effort, and demonstrated how brief reporting on a current event can effectively set the stage for deeper coverage of related, possibly little-understood topics. In this case, the history and economic snapshot were not only informative but added context to the mudslide story.

Was anything overplayed? Underplayed?

Overplayed: The mega-million lotto winners. It was nice to see several people win the unprecedented jackpot, but the prominent coverage on CNN, Fox News and other cable news/online outlets overreached the importance of the story. The newsworthiness here is in the record-setting, difficult-to-fathom $365 million prize, but I couldn’t help feeling that more important things were happening in the world as the story continued to get top billing, especially midweek.

Underplayed: It seems strange to say that a story that’s gotten as much coverage as the cartoon protests was underplayed this week, but one particular angle of the story — ongoing religious rioting in Nigeria — didn’t get much play. The Washington Post ran a piece midweek and CNN.com weighed in Thursday, but I haven’t noticed much coverage elsewhere. Difficulty parsing out what aspects of the violence connect to the cartoons and what parts tie to pre-existing religious strife makes the Nigeria violence tough to cover. But this story also helps to highlight the complexity of the violence and shows, at least in some cases, how the publishing of the cartoons may have served more as a catalyst, rather than a cause, of the ongoing conflict. The difference is subtle, but an important step toward deeper understanding of all the factors at play in this issue.

What will you be watching for next week?

In addition to repercussions of the Shiite shrine bombing in Iraq, the United Arab Emirates port deal seems like the big story to look out for next week. There are quite a few angles worth watching here: the unprecedented effects in Washington (promises of a first-ever Bush veto, a rare clash between the White House and top-ranking Republicans in Congress, the backdrop of impending midterm Congressional elections), the security front, and, more generally, foreign policy. Later this week and into next, I hope there’s a bigger effort to clearly define what exactly “port terminal/shipping operations” entails. We heard a little bit from the White House Wednesday on what it’s not (i.e., managing security), but early descriptions stated merely that the deal would put the UAE in “control” of certain ports. This lack of details, combined with impassioned concerns over national security and xenophobia (along with the drama of a late-night call from Air Force One) seemed to result in a powderkeg of sorts by midweek. Thursday brought more details and thoughtful analysis, and I hope this continues into next week.

Also worth watching: Wired News this week points out that the Earth’s population will soon reach 6.5 billion. The U.S. Census Bureau tells us we’ll cross the threshold sometime this weekend. I’m curious to see how many outlets use this milestone as a springboard for population coverage next week. This is an interesting topic that could be covered from any number of angles (food, water, natural resources, environment and so on). The 6.5 billion signpost provides a rare opportunity to explore a topic that, though important, may not otherwise be deemed newsworthy.

Mixed Signals, Mid-Meetings

Rick Edmonds

I have poked my nose out of marathon staff meetings this week just long enough to harvest the usual mixed bag of tidings on the newspaper industry’s economic health:

  • To start with the good, most public companies had excellent January advertising results, with gains of 10 percent or more year-to-year typical. No one is boasting that the whole year will hit that mark, but it is better than the miserable fourth quarter of 2005. That dragged down total advertising revenue growth to barely 2 percent for the year — half of the gain from online and niche publications.

  • Conversely, my prolific friends at Media Post send an estimate by e-Marketer that automakers’ online advertising will double over the next two years. That is where nearly all the advertising growth in many lines of business is going now.

  • There has been a spate of studies and articles lately suggesting that the growth in readership of blogs is cresting and that except for a few elite bloggers, the economic model that would pay one person a living wage is not materializing. A good, extended treatment appeared in last Friday’s Financial Times. Perhaps I’m partial because author Trevor Butterworth shares my low estimate of the news/journalism heft of the great majority of these offerings. I don’t read this to say newspapers should nip in the bud their growing volume of experiments with staff blogs. Newspapers have two things going for them that independent bloggers (except for a few stars) do not: professional writing and reporting discipline and the ready-made audience that visits the typical newspaper Web site.

Don’t Be So Sure About Your Core… and Other Notes from NAA in Orlando

Bill Mitchell

Editor, Poynter Online

Even Web editors refer to the evening news or the morning paper as “the core product.” But readers and viewers may suggest a different way of looking at things.
Karen Crotchfelt, vice president for market and business development at The Arizona Republic, told a Newspaper Association of America meeting this week that the core product for 18-to-39-year-olds in Phoenix is no longer the print newspaper. At least for this chunk of the market, she said, the paper regards its Web site — azcentral.com — as its core. For readers in some outlying regions of the market, she added, the core product is one of the Republic‘s community newspapers rather than the main sheet.
What would it look like if, depending on the story and the portion of its audience most likely to be interested, more mainstream media outlets regarded their new media platforms as at least occasionally “core”?
Acting More Like an Ad Agency

I believe it was in one of the buzz sessions for the Connections portion of the convention that somebody suggested this as a strategy for newsrooms.
An ad agency figures out what its clients need and then comes up with a package of various media that matches the particular strengths of various platforms –- print, video, online, e-mail, etc. -– to the particular needs of the client.
Advertising departments for newspapers and TV stations have been struggling to get to this kind of consultative selling for years. Rather than selling space in a newspaper or time on the air, sales staffs have been urged, with mixed results, to come up with customized solutions to customer problems.
What would it look like if more newsrooms (and individual journalists) took a similar approach to the information and entertainment needs of readers, viewers and users? What would the daily report look like if, as a matter of routine, assignment desks and their staffs matched the strengths of various techniques -– narrative, chart, video, audio, photo, interactive –- to particular needs of readers, viewers, users (otherwise known as news clients)?
Words to Work By
I found most of the NAA sessions remarkably straightforward about the challenges facing newspapers these days.  
But what might newspapers look like if they really took to heart the words of NAA Chairman Jay Smith?
“The world has changed a lot,” he told 1,400 representatives of advertising, circulation, marketing and online departments from around the country, “and we haven’t changed all that much.”

Too Much To Read!!

Sree Sreenivasan
Web Tips Columnist

Finding the time to read more than a few blogs each day is tough. So when I visited one of my mandatory stops, Instapundit.com — the libertarian rock star of the blogosphere — and saw an external link to blogs Newsweek‘s Howard Fineman reads, I just had to follow it. Fineman’s a writer I admire and I always stop channel-surfing if he’s punditizing on TV, so I was curious about what I presumed would be a short list of blogs he visits every day. Turns out he has a very healthy blog diet and reads all kinds of bloggers.

This item was part of a new feature on the ExtremeMortman blog: “Blogs The Famous Media Reads.” Here’s what Jake Tapper of ABC News reads, and here’s what Jeff Dufour of The Hill reads. Keep track of the entire feature here.

Leadership Lessons in the Meatpackin’ Millionaire Lottery Story

Jill Geisler
Leadership & Management Group Leader

Didn’t you love the meatpackin’ millionaire lottery winners from Nebraska? Now THAT was reality television — or was it? My friend Lori Waldon, assistant news director at CBS-13/UPN-31 in Sacramento, Calif., sent me a note about one winner’s quote, since it resonates with leadership teaching.

Here it is, excerpted from a story by Jeff Zeleny of the Chicago Tribune:

Not all of the winners, though, stepped immediately into early retirement. At least three said they would stay on the job — for now, anyway.

“They would have been short of help,” said David Gehle, 53, a supervisor who has worked at the plant for two decades. “The managers, we think a lot of them. We couldn’t just leave them.”

Four hours before the news conference, Gehle had finished working the overnight shift. He said he planned to report to work Wednesday for his 10 p.m. shift and politely asked not to be disturbed until then. “I need to get some sleep,” he said.

As Lori pointed out, they must have some pretty good managers at the plant! Wonder what the quotes would be like in your newsroom if eight of your staff won the lottery today? Read more


Thursday, Feb. 16, 2006

Cheney Chatter; Cartoon Controversy; Press Expectations; & More This Week in Media

Every Thursday, we ask Poynter faculty, staff and online contributors for their impressions of the news of the week. What surprised them? What was overplayed? Underplayed? What does it mean for the media? What will they be watching for next week? You can find this week’s answers below and answers from previous weeks here. To contribute your own thoughts on the week in review, click the “Add Your Comments” link at the bottom of a post. You can also subscribe to receive “This Week in Media” by e-mail: just click here.

For the week of Feb. 13-17, 2006:

  • Jill Geisler on the chatter about Cheney

  • Scott Libin on the expectations of the American press

  • Rick Edmonds on details of the details of the story… and more Knight Ridder news

  • Bob Steele on the anatomy of the cartoon furor

  • Larry Larsen on Larry’s Spy Challenge and the last telegram

The Chatter About Cheney

Jill Geisler
Leadership & Management Group Leader

My take on the vice-presidential shooting saga: It hasn’t been over-covered. It has been over-chatted.

The logorrhea of cable TV hosts and guests, newspaper columnists and bloggers shouldn’t be confused with reporting. Reporting means uncovering new information, filling holes, separating assumption from fact, sourcing and verifying — and getting as close to the story as possible. 

Talking about the event isn’t reporting. Accusing someone of arrogance — be it Dick Cheney or David Gregory — isn’t reporting. Making jokes on late-night comedy shows (however hilarious) isn’t reporting. Filling news programs with chatter — and then repackaged chatter — isn’t reporting.

And yet — at the end of the week, people may look back, remember clutter that was chatter, and say the story was over-covered.

I wish it had been over-covered. When the second-highest elected official in the country shoots a man, it is news of consequence, and the public has a right to know about it — in detail — in a timely fashion.

Africa, America, and the Expectations of Openness in Government

Scott Libin
Leadership & Management Faculty

I had a fascinating conversation this week with a group of 13 visiting African journalists. We met just as the story of Vice President Cheney’s shooting accident was unfolding and as the White House press corps was getting its first shot at spokesman Scott McClellan. 

The African visitors’ English was better than my French, but we were all fortunate to have skilled translators on hand. 

I had watched that day’s White House press briefing live, as indignant reporters fired questions at a visibly uncomfortable McClellan. The Washington journalists could barely believe it took almost an entire day for the White House to say anything about the hunting incident. 

My African guests could barely believe what they were hearing. 

They found the matter of the shooting itself far less amazing than the outrage of the press corps. In the African nations the visitors come from, information on such an incident might have emerged over the course of a month or a year — if ever — but certainly never within a day. The Africans, several of whom work for government-run media themselves, said that in their countries journalists, readers, listeners and viewers don’t expect openness on the part of government, and they don’t get it.  

Over the following few days, I began to wonder how truly different Americans and Africans are in that respect. The vice president, speaking exclusively to Fox News Channel, suggested the Washington press corps was simply suffering from a bruised ego after being beaten on a big story by a small paper in east Texas. Cheney said he was more concerned about his friend’s care than about the media’s curiosity, and, despite the furious fuming of a few Democrats in Washington, that line of logic seemed to satisfy a lot of people. 

It worries me that Americans in general are so much more willing than journalists are to be kept in the dark when the government says it’s best. I still believe the handling of this episode by the vice president and the White House turned what would otherwise have been an unfortunate mishap into
an outright fiasco. But I don’t think most people really share the anger of journalists on this sort of thing. To paraphrase the previous administration, the public just doesn’t feel our pain. 

Oh, and one word of advice: When talking through a translator about a shooting incident like this one, don’t make the mistake I did and refer to the vice president as “fair game.” 

Psst, David Gregory, Who Cares? and More Knight Ridder News

Rick Edmonds

Researcher and Writer

Most over-covered story of the week? By a wide margin, when and where the details of Dick Cheney’s hunting accident were released. I know NBC’s David Gregory and his brethren were bent out of shape at being scooped by the Corpus Christi Caller-Times, but outside the White House briefing room, that, and being a day late in the news cycle, is no big deal.

The accident itself is a legitimate story. We will all want to know about how Mr. Whittington recovers, just what happened on the quail shoot and whether there is a plausible case that something important was covered up. But I would be astonished if the matter rises anywhere close to the level of, say, Steve Coll’s superb reconstruction in The Washington Post, of how Pat Tillman was killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan.

I get the point that this may be another example of the Bush administration’s poor communications and disrespect for the Washington press. But this very week, we had fresh, far meatier stories on instances that actually matter — like the Katrina snafus, Abu Ghraib and Mideast intelligence.

It pains me to agree with Rush Limbaugh about anything and to be out of step with respected Poynter colleagues. By week’s end, I at least had company from PressThink’s Jay Rosen. His take: two cheers for the non-traditional path by which the story broke; self-important MSM “ex-influentials” need deflating. 
Best case, they might even be encouraged to get out of the briefing room more often.

This week also brought the surprising news that Knight Ridder’s corporate charter requires that an expert independent panel consider whether a potential buyer will maintain journalistic quality. If not, the required margin for approval of a sale goes up from 67 to 80 percent.

Also, the Newspaper Guild found a financial backer for its long-shot attempt to buy the nine Knight Ridder papers that are unionized.

I was particularly struck, though, by a recent story in Forbes, often a cheerleader for predatory capitalism, suggesting that too much “dumb money” is now chasing too few deals in private equity pools like those bidding for Knight Ridder. The story added that after an acquisition, the private equity groups typically charge their investors 1 to 2 percent in fees and take 20 percent of profits — a structure that virtually guarantees cost-cutting (as opposed to, say, investments in journalistic quality).

There is a range of happy and unhappy endings possible in the Knight Ridder auction. Surely one of the saddest would be to see the company swept away by a financial bubble.

Decoding the Cartoon Fiasco

Bob Steele
Nelson Poynter Scholar for Journalism Values

I found The Washington Post’s Anatomy of the Cartoon Protest Movement: Opposing Certainties Widen Gap Between West and Muslim World” very enlightening on a number of levels. It offers a clear, substantive chronology of the issue and the events as they’ve played out in Europe and the Middle East in particular. It includes thoughts from a number of players in the Muslim world. It gives insight into how this “movement” progressed, including the role of several technologies in building steam.

This article doesn’t offer a complete picture, to be sure, but rather focused insight. Perhaps it’s fodder for conversation. There’s so much to ponder on this issue. Click here to offer your own insights.

Larry’s Spy Challenge & Telegrams

Larry Larsen
Multimedia Editor

The grand prize in Larry’s Spy Challenge has so far gone unclaimed. A free lunch sits on the back burner, waiting for an enterprising journalist to tackle the subject of warrantless domestic spying, uninterrupted from Truman to Bush.

Last week, I mentioned the contents of the last telegram transmitted by Western Union as an under-covered story. I received a note from former Poynter summer fellow Hina Alam:

I did try to find out what the contents of the last telegram sent were. I was told that due to privacy purposes that could not be disclosed. But I was also told that there were 10 telegrams sent on Jan. 27, some were birth announcements, some congratulatory messages and others the employees trying to be the last person sending each other a telegram. I did a story about this. It will be published in The Lufkin Daily News this Sunday.

Here is a link to the story. I am saddened that a final (public) message was not constructed for the history books (OK, wikis); maybe that kind of celebratory message is a relic of a bygone era. After all, does anybody know what the first Google search was? So, in light of this failing, I have constructed my own ficticious “last telegram” that I feel would have been appropriate. Please feel free to submit your own.

First telegram message: “WHAT HATH GOD WROUGHT?”

My ficticious last telegram message: “It served us well, but a new day has come. May we never forget these communication footprints in the soil underneath the information superhighway that carries us today. Godspeed.”

Read more

Friday, Feb. 10, 2006

Larry’s Luncheon Challenge

By Larry Larsen
Multimedia Editor

You’ll find the following as part of my contribution to the current Week in Media feature. As the suggestion of one of my editors, I’ve broadened this challenge from “comprehensive article” to conversation in the feedback area. If you have ideas for coverage of this issue — the historical context of domestic spying approved by the White House — please add them to the feedback area attached to this item. Depending on what develops, we’ll explore some virtual luncheon possibilities.

I’ll buy a nice lunch for the first journalist who can write a comprehensive article that explains to me the difference between the warrantless domestic spying of the Bush administration compared to the warrantless domestic spying of the Clinton adminstration, compared to the warrantless domestic spying of the Reagan administration (ruled legal by a Federal appeals court), compared to the warrantless domestic spying of the Carter administration (how do you think they caught Billy with a quarter-million of Libya’s money?), compared to the warrantless domestic spying of the Ford administration, compared to the warrantless domestic spying of the Nixon administration, compared to the warrantless domestic spying of the Johnson adminstration, compared to the domestic spying of the Kennedy administration, compared to the warrantless domestic spying that began under the Truman administration.
Read more