Brian Williams reportedly lobbied to succeed David Letterman

Good morning! Here are 10 media stories.

  1. More tales of tumult from inside NBC News

    Gabriel Sherman's much-anticipated longread about the turmoil surrounding Brian Williams' suspension from the anchor chair dropped Sunday. Among the juiciest tidbits: Williams asked CBS CEO Les Moonves to be considered as a replacement for David Letterman upon the comedian's retirement from "Late Show," according to "a high-level source"; Four NBC and NBCUniversal officials visited Williams at his apartment to notify him he was being taken off the air; Richard Esposito, the investigative producer at NBC News conducting a review of Williams, "delivered a 45-minute presentation at [NBCUniversal CEO Steve] Burke’s apartment" that unearthed "more issues" with Williams' disputed claims; Williams can't talk to the press under the terms of his suspension and "can’t wait until he can speak" publicly about the situation, according to "a close friend." (New York) | "If Brian Williams proposed to CBS that he take over when Letterman retires, that alone is reason he should not return" (@jayrosen_nyu) | "Last weekend, workers at NBC's Rockefeller Center headquarters briefly wiped away promotional photos of Brian Williams." They went back up the next day. (CNN Money)

  2. Gawker Media might sue for Clinton emails

    Gawker Media is "probably likely" to sue under the Freedom of Information Act after its 2013 open-records requests for Hillary Clinton's emails were rebuffed, Gawker Media investigations editor John Cook told CNN host Brian Stelter for Sunday's edition of "Reliable Sources." "It's because there was this highly unusual, deliberate system created to prevent her records from being released under the FOIA." (CNN) | The Associated Press is considering legal action, too. (Poynter) | Politico media columnist Jack Shafer says Clinton and company will wait the controversy out. "Six weeks hence, when asked about the emails, Clinton and her staff will flick their hands and say, as they often do, 'Oh, that’s old news.'" (Politico) | Previously: "The State Department had not searched the email account of former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton because she had maintained a private account, which shielded it from such searches, department officials acknowledged on Tuesday." (New York Times)

  3. Newspapers bid Chris Christie spokesman a not-so-fond farewell

    The (Newark, N.J.) Star-Ledger published a biting sendoff for longtime Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak Friday: "Let's be frank: If Michael Drewniak were an affable and agreeable chap, rather than someone with the personality of an ulcerated nightclub bouncer, the vicious media and vile denizens of the chat room underworld would wish him bona fortuna and that would be that." (Star-Ledger) | Drewniak, a former Star-Ledger reporter, will be chief of policy and strategic planning for New Jersey Transit. (Star-Ledger) | "Let's state the obvious right up front: The new six-figure job created for Michael Drewniak at NJ Transit, courtesy of the good graces of Gov. Chris Christie, is a complete waste of money." (Asbury Park Press)

  4. Media show support for International Women’s Day

    Several news organizations have taken steps to show solidarity with the No Ceilings initiative, a Clinton Foundation project that highlights gender inequality. W magazine removed Scarlett Johansson from the cover of its March issue. (New York Times) | "Teen Vogue removed Gigi Hadid and Binx Walton from our March cover to help people imagine a world in which women are missing and to symbolize that girls are 'Not There' yet when it comes to equality." (Teen Vogue) | Vogue published a slideshow of previous covers with women cut out of them. (Vogue) | Mashable briefly changed its Twitter profile picture. (@Mashable) | Related: Reporters Without Borders paid tribute to 10 women journalists around the globe. (Reporters Without Borders)

  5. Sun-Times layoffs could be postponed

    Employees at the Chicago Sun-Times will vote today on a proposal "that would forestall layoffs for six months," Chicago media reporter Robert Feder writes. "But there’s a catch: The moratorium on layoffs is tied to an agreement to reduce six full-time positions to part-time ones in areas where management expects to reduce coverage." (Robert Feder) | Fifteen editorial staffers at the Sun-Times accepted buyout offers in late February. (Poynter)

  6. Guardian report alleges the BBC is punishing sex abuse whistleblowers

    Former BBC journalists Meirion Jones and Liz MacKean told The Guardian's Nick Cohen they felt their careers were negatively affected after they produced a report detailing allegations of pedophilia against BBC media personality Jimmy Savile. "The scandal is simply this: the BBC is forcing out or demoting the journalists who exposed Jimmy Savile as a voracious abuser of girls." (The Guardian) | British journalist Nick Pollard reviewed the network's decision not to publish an investigation into Savile. "He said there was 'chaos and confusion' at the BBC but found no evidence of a cover-up over the decision not to broadcast." (BBC)

  7. Read this before you write another post about 'The Dress'

    Stories that aim to generate traffic by piggybacking on viral trends might face headwinds, Lucia Moses writes for Digiday. "...a confluence of factors, from viewability to changing Facebook algorithms to falling CPMs, are making the economics of this kind of viral strategy a bit more complicated." Some news organizations have taken away bonuses for high-traffic traffic stories, and advertisers are increasingly suspicious of pageview numbers. (Digiday) | Previously: "‘The Dress’ illustrates ‘viral sameness’ among news organizations" (Poynter)

  8. The Toronto Star is ending its subscription program

    As of April 1, readers will be able to access all of the Toronto Star's content, the paper writes. "We are making this move after extensive input from our readers and our advertisers. Listening to our audiences is critical to the success of our daily newspaper and our digital offerings and we are committed to continually adjusting our digital strategies to provide them with what they want." (Toronto Star)

  9. Front page of the day

    The (Mobile, Alabama) Press-Register offers this then-and-now look at the crossing of the Edmund Pettus Bridge after the 50th anniversary of "Bloody Sunday." (Courtesy Kiosko)

  10. Job moves

    Randy Archibold will be deputy sports editor at The New York Times. Previously, he was Mexico bureau chief there. (Email) | Justin Green will manage social media and engagement at IJReview. Previously, he was online editor at the Washington Examiner (IJReview) | Andy Lack is now chairman of NBC News and MSNBC. Previously, he was CEO and director of the Broadcasting Board of Governors. (Poynter) | Bryan Bender will be a national security editor at Politico. He is a national security reporter at The Boston Globe. (Dan Kennedy) | Job of the day: Inside Higher Ed is looking for a higher education management and finance reporter. Get your résumés in! (Journalism Jobs) | Send Ben your job moves:

Corrections? Tips? Please email me: Would you like to get this roundup emailed to you every morning? Sign up here.

Correction: A previous version of this post called Jack Shafer a Reuters media columnist. He writes for Politico. Read more


CBS’s Bob Simon Killed in Car Crash

Bio-Photo-Simon-60-xlargeOne of CBS News’ most honored journalists, Bob Simon, died in a car accident in New York City Wednesday night. Simon was 73.

Simon’s career spanned five decades from covering the Vietnam War to filing a story last Sunday for 60 Minutes about the movie “Selma.” He is the recipient of what is believed to be an unequaled 27 Emmy Awards for field reporting.

CBS said:

Simon recently reported on the persecution of Coptic Christians caught up in Egypt’s political turmoil and the situation in Fukushima, Japan, three years after it endured the triple tragedy of an earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster. His 2012 story from Central Africa on the world’s only all-black symphony won him his fourth Peabody award and an Emmy. Another story about an orchestra in Paraguay, one whose poor members constructed their instruments from trash, won him his 27th Emmy.

To get the story, Simon sometimes paid a stiff price. CBS’s official bio of Simon notes:

In addition to several short detentions, close calls and wounds, he was captured by Iraqi forces near the Saudi-Kuwaiti border during the opening days of the Gulf War in January 1991. He and the other three members of CBS News’ coverage team spent 40 days in Iraqi prisons, an experience Simon wrote about in his book “Forty Days” (Putnam, 1992). He went to Baghdad again in January 1993 to cover the American bombing of Iraq.

Simon said he and his crew ventured out of the safe watch of the military because they felt they were so restrained from traveling that they were not seeing the real story.

In 1990, Simon told People Magazine:

“We were brutally interrogated. They beat me on my head and feet, then they beat the others. I asked for water but was told we wouldn’t get any until the following day, in Baghdad.” 

The trip to the Iraqi capital was “the longest and most painful imaginable,” he says. The blindfolded men “could recognize each other’s voices, so we knew all of us were alive. But the road was shelled incessantly. Every time a bomb exploded, we were thrown backwards, the cuffs cutting into our swollen and bleeding wrists. The couple of times I asked them to loosen the handcuffs, they beat me. I never asked for anything again.” 

Ten hours and 210 miles later, they arrived at an army prison. “At that point there was still some compassion,” acknowledges Simon. Indeed, a medic treated sound man Caldera, who had developed a cough, with antibiotics, and a teenage soldier gave the team a kerosene heater for their dank cell. ” ‘But we learned that the Iraqis had not announced our capture, and we feared that our families did not know we were alive.” 

The date of Bob Simon’s death February 11th, carries a significance. It is the same date on which Nelson Mandela was released from a South African prison in 1990. Simon was there and covered Mandela’s release, it became one of his hallmark stories in a career filled with history-making events.

CBS says, “He and his wife, Françoise, have a daughter, Tanya, who is a producer for CBS News’ 60 Minutes in New York.”

Simon said that after being held in that Iraqi prison, one thing about his life was never the same. “Never again will I visit a zoo, where animals are kept behind bars, in a cage,” he said.  Read more


CBS prepared to play rough with affiliates over money

CBS fired an opening salvo in what could become a disruption for network affiliated television stations.

WISH TV, the LIN Broadcasting owned station in Indianapolis will no longer be the CBS affiliate starting January 1, 2015. CBS is moving from LIN owned WISH-TV to the Tribune owned station WTTV, currently the CW affiliate. Tribune also owns the FOX station in Indy.

The move will cost WISH about half of its revenue, according to one media analyst, who added it will serve as a warning to other network affiliated stations. CBS is sending a signal that it is prepared to play rough when it comes to the percentage of revenue that local stations pass along from the retransmission fees that cable companies pay the local stations. In TV terms, the money that an affiliate pays a network is “network compensation” often called “net-comp.” Side note: A couple of decades ago, networks sent compensation to local stations and it is now the other way around.

Local stations hoped that agreements with cable companies would be a stable and significant new income stream. But now, networks, stressed by the high costs of athletic contracts, are putting new pressure on the affiliates to hand over more of the cable income. SNL Kagan, a leading media research firm, says within three to five years local stations may be handing over 50-to-60 percent of their cable retransmission income to the networks. The cost of resisting could be high.

CBS initiated the talks when Tribune approached the network about extending CBS agreements for other stations it owns. CBS spokesman Dana McClintock said the deal has been in the works “for months” and confirms that the cable retransmission fees were a key reason for the Indianapolis affiliate switch. McClintock also agreed that while it is unusual for CBS to change affiliates, it is not unprecedented. And he said cable transmission fees will become a bigger issue in future affiliate negotiations around the country.

Justin Nielson, Sr. Justin Nielson, Research Analyst, SNL Kagan

Justin Nielson, Research Analyst, SNL Kagan

Justin Nielson, Senior Research Analyst for SNL Kagan told that he estimates a CW affiliate in Indianapolis generates $10-$15 million in annual advertising revenue. He estimates that a CBS affiliate generates $30-$40 million a year. “On top of that,” he said, “You would add the cable retransmission income, which would be significantly higher for a CBS station that has more viewers than a CW station.” Nielson said by losing the CBS affiliation, WISH will likely lose millions of dollars in revenue. How much depends on whether the station can land a new affiliation agreement with another network or whether it tries to “go it alone” as a fully independent station, which would be unusual.

WISH TV does not mention the affiliate switch on its website.  The soon to be new CBS affiliate announced the change on it’s co-owned FOX website.

Not only does WISH give up CBS programming including news and entertainment, in Indianapolis, it gives up Colts football.  CBS holds the rights to AFC games.

In a statement posted on its corporate website, Tribune said the new affiliation with CBS means it will add local news:

“This comprehensive agreement further expands our strong partnership with CBS and allows us to provide an array of outstanding programming, including leading live sports, news and entertainment,” said Tribune Broadcasting President Larry Wert. “Through WTTV’s new affiliation, we look forward to significantly enhancing our sports offerings, local news coverage and commitment to the community.”

The shakeup happened just one week after Tribune spun off its broadcasting properties from its print holdings.

WTTV hopes to have local news when it launches the new affiliation January 1, said Jessica Bellucci, Tribune director of communication. She said the Fox station that Tribune owns in Indianapolis already produces more than ten hours of news a day and the CBS station may share a newsroom and some resources. But she said, the CBS station will not just repurpose or repeat stories from the FOX station. Bellucci added Tribune believes the FCC will have no problems with the company owning both a FOX and CBS affiliate in this case.

Tribune also used the opportunity to lock up it’s CBS agreements in Memphis, Huntsville, Ft. Smith Arkansas and Richmond, Virginia. None of those agreements were due, but Tribune and CBS re-upped the agreements early.

LIN media finds itself in a delicate spot.  In March, LIN announced it would merge with Media General. As soon as the news broke about the affiliate change, LIN stock dropped nearly 4 percent, it was off even further on Tuesday. Media General stock dropped about the same amount and also continued to drop on Tuesday. But both have enjoyed highs since their merger announcement and are above 2013 levels. LIN has 10 other CBS affiliates around the country and will have to face CBS negotiations again as affiliation agreements come due.

Other network affiliates will be watching what happened in Indianapolis, Nielson said. “CBS has significant costs to cover, including its new NFL Thursday night football rights.”  And while he expects networks to stay with their current affiliates if they can, the shakeup in Indianapolis this week sends a signal that networks are willing to change channels if another owner is willing to pay what the network wants. Read more


Tennis, Obama interview muted CBS’ rollout of Assad exclusive

Associated Press

Charlie Rose’s interview with Syrian President Bashar Assad was ready at an awkward time for CBS, David Bauder reports.

Not only did “CBS Evening News” anchor Scott Pelley have an interview with President Obama, “the evening news was pre-empted on all but the West Coast by CBS Sports’ telecast of the U.S. Open men’s tennis finals.” Read more

Katie Couric, Sean McManus

Time Warner offers to ‘unbundle’ CBS channels

Robert Marcus, the incoming CEO Time Warner Cable offered to “unbundle” CBS programming as a way to get the network back on the cable system. Time Warner blocked CBS programs in New York, Los Angeles, Dallas and in parts of a number of other markets in a dispute over the cable company’s rights to carry CBS’ programs.

Until now, the battle has affected only CBS-owned stations serving customers also served by Time Warner.  But now, Time Warner is opening the door to an idea that until now, cable companies have vigorously resisted.

The offer, in a letter from Marcus to CBS, would allow customers to decide if they wanted CBS programming and if so, they would pay specifically for that.

In other words, the new offer includes allowing Time Warner Cable customers to choose a plan that includes CBS or not. Read more


Time Warner blacks out CBS stations in major markets

USA Today | Variety | Los Angeles Times | The Wall Street Journal

At  5 p.m. EDT Friday, Time Warner Cable began blacking out CBS programming in New York, Los Angeles, Denver, Boston, Dallas, Detroit, Pittsburgh and Chicago. The blackout follows contentious negotiations between the network and cable company over retransmission fees, which cable companies pay TV stations for the rights to carry their signals. Three million subscribers are affected.

For some stations, such as WBZ, KCNC, WKBD and KDKA, the blackout only affects part of their coverage areas, where Time Warner Cable is the provider, but not the main metro areas they serve. Variety’s Todd Spangler lists the affected stations:

Those stations are: WCBS and WLNY (independent) in New York; KCBS and KCAL (independent) in L.A.; KTVT and KTXA (independent) in Dallas; WBZ and WSBK (independent) in Boston; KDKA and WPCW (The CW) in Pittsburgh; WBBM in Chicago; WKBD (The CW) in Detroit; and KCNC in Denver.

Read more
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Aereo files suit against CBS as it moves into Boston

The Verge | CNET
The television service Aereo has filed suit against CBS Monday as it moves to the Boston market.

The litigation, strange though it may seem, is an effort to quell any future lawsuits brought by the broadcast networks against Aereo. The Internet startup has been at the receiving end of several suits filed by NBC, ABC, Fox and CBS; the companies have sued to protect their copyright over their broadcast programs. Read more


ABC, CBS and other networks take second swing at Aereo

The Wrap | New York Times

Aereo’s honeymoon is over, as broadcast networks re-filed their petitions for an injunction this morning.

As The Wrap reports, ABC, CBS, NBC Universal and Fox Television Stations are among the parties who have asked judges to reconsider the 2nd Circuit District Appeals Court’s decision from earlier this month. The decision came down in favor of Aereo, whom the court ruled was not in violation of copyright law.

The networks’ complaints stem from Aereo’s business model. Aereo provides a live stream of broadcast television to its subscribers via a live Internet feed. The court’s ruling hinged on the fact that Aereo uses an individual antenna for each subscriber; the judges in a 2-1 decision said this constituted a “private” rather than “public” performance, which meant Aereo is in the clear.

The networks have filed suit against Aereo to stop the company from transmitting their broadcasts without giving the networks compensation. Speaking from the NAB Show last week in Las Vegas, News Corp. President and COO Chase Carey  threatened to move Fox’s broadcast channels to cable if Aereo continued to win in the courts. Read more


CBS asks for tax break for Super Bowl week coverage

The Lens

CBS broadcast its show “The Talk” from New Orleans in the week leading up to Super Bowl and is asking for a $700,000 tax credit, Tyler Bridges reports.

“The Motion Picture Investor Tax Credit statute specifically excludes televised news and sporting events from eligibility; therefore, the filming and distribution of a game such as the Super Bowl would be ineligible to receive motion picture tax credits in Louisiana,” Lousiana Economic Development’s Chris Stelly told Bridges. “However, talk shows that are filmed in Louisiana are eligible.”

Stelly told Bridges “The Talk” would probably get the credit. Read more


Greg Sandoval, who quit CNET, joins The Verge

Greg Sandoval | The New York Times
I’m saved,” Greg Sandoval wrote on his blog Sunday, announcing he was joining tech site The Verge as a senior reporter. Sandoval quit his previous employer CNET after he announced on Twitter, “I no longer have confidence that CBS is committed to editorial independence.” CBS owns CNET and forbade the site to give an award to a product from Dish Network, with which it is engaged in litigation.

He’s obsessed with getting the news — the real news — and I find that kind of energy infectious,” Verge Editor-in-Chief Joshua Topolsky told Brian Stelter.

Sandoval writes that he has a “written guarantee from management that nobody from the business side of the company will ever have any authority over my stories.”

Related: Carl Franzen also joins The Verge; he comes from Talking Points Memo, where he was a tech reporter.

Previously: CNET reporter quits after reports that CBS impinged on editorial decision | CBS again impinges on CNET’s editorial independence | In BitTorrent case, CBS argues for CNET’s editorial independence Read more


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