May
19
2011

Why Did Olbermann Really Leave MSNBC?

Keith Olbermann popped up on the David Letterman show and gave one reason–perhaps one big reason–why he left MSNBC. As transcribed by MediaBistro's TVNewser (where you can also watch the video): At some point in the last few years that I have been doing the news in the way that I do, it has occurred to me that the best place to continue doing the news in that way would be to do it at a place that is just in the news business and nothing else. It doesn't also own an amusement park in Orlando, it doesn't have outdoor […]

May
17
2011

David Gregory's Factcheck Fail on Show's Sponsor

Labor journalist Mike Elk (In These Times, 5/16/11) made an excellent point after watching NBC host David Gregory interview Newt Gingrich on Sunday's Meet the Press (5/15/11). Elk wrote: Speaking yesterday on Meet the Press, Republican presidential candidate and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) said that "the Obama system of the National Labor Relations Board [NLRB] is basically breaking the law to try to punish Boeing and to threaten every right-to-work state." While Meet the Press host David Gregory vigorously challenged Newt Gingrich on details of his personal life, he failed to challenge Gingrich on his false […]

Mar
23
2011

USA Today's Advertiser-Friendly Future

A condensed version of an AP story (3/23/11) about USA Today's new business plan: The nation's second-largest newspaper is expanding its coverage of advertising-friendly topics, designing content for smartphones and tablet computers and refreshing the look of its print edition, whose circulation has fallen by 20 percent over the past three years…. For readers, it means lots of travel tips, gadget reviews, sports features, financial advice and lifestyle recommendations. Top editors say investigative journalism will also be emphasized…. Even as it publishes more stories aimed at attracting advertisers, USA Today is promising to produce more hard-hitting coverage from an expanded […]

Oct
22
2010

LA Public TV, Direct From–WHOSE Studios??

The L.A. Times has an interesting piece (10/22/10) about KCET, the local PBS affiliate that is bolting from PBS because it says it can't afford to pay the fees PBS wants to charge them. What happened is that KCET, for a little while at least, was very good at raising corporate money; the PBS fee formula required them to pay more as a result, even though that corporate underwriting was supposed to be used for producing programming. Who did the money come from? Oil giant BP.So much money that, as the Times noted, "in gratitude KCET bosses renamed their historic […]

Sep
15
2010

Do Paid-For Local TV Segments Violate the Law?

Los Angeles Times columnist James Rainey (9/15/10) takes a look at "experts" appearing on local newscasts who are actually paid spokespeople for commercial interests–without viewers being made aware of this fact. He focuses on "toy expert"Elizabeth Werner, who makes appearances on local stations to talk up new products–on behalf of a company paid by toy manufactures to doso. Her employer, DWJ Television, saysit tells TV stations that companies are footing the bill for her promotional appearances.If that's true, then the burden is clearly on the stations to tell viewers about this connection. Rainey argues that it's the law, too: Federal […]

Aug
24
2010

Conflicts and Transparency at the Washington Post

Washington Post ombud Andy Alexander devoted his August 22 piece to lauding how the paper handles storiesabout its parent company and itsvarious business entanglements–which, as he explains, are rather extensive. The Washington Post Co. owns Newsweek, several television stations, and the Kaplan company, which runs the for-profit Kaplan University,the subject of recent critical media reports. As Alexander put it: The list of Washington Post Co. holdings and interests is extensive, and the relationships are complex. Whenever a news story discusses investment giant Berkshire Hathaway or its chief executive, Warren E. Buffett, it must note that he is a Post Co. […]

Jul
23
2010

Amazon vs. the Little Guy Does Not Mean Macmillan

Unlike a lot of critiques of Amazon from the publishers' point of view, Colin Robertson's article in the latest issue of the Nation (8/2-9/10) does describe actual bad behavior on the part of the online bookseller: Dennis Loy Johnson, co-publisher of the Brooklyn-based independent Melville House, is one of the few publishers who have dared to speak openly about Amazon's bullying. His story is far from atypical. In 2004 a representative of the retailer contacted Melville's distributor demanding an additional discount. Such payments are illegal under antitrust law, which precludes selling at different prices to different customers. Large retailers circumvent […]

May
18
2010

Online Journalism–Where Advertisers Make Content Too!

A long New York Times Magazine piece (5/16/10) aboutstart-up online journalismoutlets brings us some troubling news about the wall between editorial content and advertising: One thing many of these new strategies have in common is a willingness to transgress time-honored barriers–for instance, by blurring the division between reporting and advertising. True/Slant offers to let advertisers use the same blogging tools that contributors do, to produce content that, while labeled, is blended into the rest of the site. Such marketing deals are central to the companyâ┚¬Ã¢”ž¢s plans for future revenue growth. "Everywhere I go, the whole notion of enabling marketers to […]

Apr
20
2010

Unlike Amazon, Publishers Understand Authors–and How to Rip Them Off

Ken Auletta (cc photo: JD Lasica, socialmedia.biz)

In a lengthy New Yorker piece (4/26/10) about the Amazon/Apple battle over e-books, Ken Auletta paints some familiar heroes and villains: "The [publishing] industry's great hope was that the iPad would bring electronic books to the masses–and help make them profitable. E-books are booming…. But publishers were concerned that lower prices would decimate their profits." If Amazon gets away with selling e-books for $9.99, Auletta quotes one publishing CEO, "to my mind it's game over for this business." Amazon is depicted as controlling and mercenary: Many publishers believe that Amazon looks upon books as just another commodity to sell as […]

Mar
19
2010

This Week on CounterSpin: Jemima Pierre on Haiti, Megan Tady on TV Wars

This week on CounterSpin: The network camera crews have mostly packed up and gone home, but the political fights over reconstruction and rebuilding in Haiti are only just getting started. University of Texas professor Jemima Pierre was part of a delegation that recently visited Haiti, and she wrote about what she saw for the Nation. She'll join us to talk about what she found, and where the Haiti story is headed next. Also on the show: Media technology can put more control in consumers' hands over the gathering and sharing of information and entertainment. But some folks, frankly, would rather […]

Mar
18
2010

NYT Exposes Amazon's Fiendish Plot to Sell Books for Less Money

Boy, the folks at Amazon.com sure are mean–to hear the New York Times tell it. A March 18 story by Motoko Rich and Brad Stone begins: Amazon.com has threatened to stop directly selling the books of some publishers online unless they agree to a detailed list of concessions regarding the sale of electronic books, according to two industry executives with direct knowledge the discussions. It's very clear who's the villain in the story, tabbed on the website as "Amazon May Impede Access to Some Publishers' Books": The story talks about how the online bookseller is "pressuring publishers" with its "hardball […]

Mar
12
2010

CounterSpin: Lynn Paltrow on Utah Miscarriage Law, Susan Linn on Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood

This week on CounterSpin: A new law in Utah says some women who miscarry should go to jail. You may have seen some coverage, but are journalists asking the right questions about the law's implications, and is there a bigger story here that's being missed? We'll hear from Lynn Paltrow, executive director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women. Also on CounterSpin this week: With a name like the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, you'd expect such a group is going to upset some big corporations. And they have, including launching a very successful campaign against media giant Disney. Well, maybe […]

Mar
02
2010

Read the Chart, Not the NYT Article, to Get the Straight Dope on Book Profits

Books (cc photo: Sarah Browning)

There's a certain category of newspaper article where you're better off ignoring the text and just looking at the accompanying graph. Such an article is "Math of Publishing Meets the E-Book" (New York Times, 3/1/10), by Motoko Rich. The context for the article is the fight between publishers and Amazon over how much to charge for an electronic copy of a book; Amazon wants to price them at $10, whereas publishers would prefer to charge $13 or $15. Here's what you learn about publishers' profits from the article itself: In the emerging world of e-books, many consumers assume it is […]