Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Death of Print

Howard Kurtz covers many of the points we have talked about in class in a recent article about the death of print.

See here

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The changing newsroom at the New York Times

Emily Nussbaum wrote an article for the New York Magazine describing the changing face of the New York Times newsroom. She describes how young software developers have become just as important to the Times as journalists and how the Times Building often feels more like a Silicon Valley startup than a newspaper headquarters.

“The proposal was to create a newsroom: a group of developers-slash-journalists, or journalists-slash-developers, who would work on long-term, medium-term, short-term journalism—everything from elections to NFL penalties to kind of the stuff you see in the Word Train.” This team would “cut across all the desks,” providing a corrective to the maddening old system, in which each innovation required months for permissions and design. The new system elevated coders into full-fledged members of the Times—deputized to collaborate with reporters and editors, not merely to serve their needs.

"The Renegades at the New York Times" -- New York Magazine

Summing Up

Chicago Tribune:
A short-lived research project in which the Chicago Tribune solicited responses from current and former subscribers to descriptions of Tribune stories before they had been published has been halted after reporters raised journalistic concerns.

Jeff Jacoby:
Newspapers are in extremis not because of their political agenda, but because the world around them has been transformed. The growth of the Internet has left the traditional newspaper business model, with its vast physical plant and expensive armies of writers, editors, photographers, pressmen, mailers, truck drivers, and salesmen, in a shambles. Craigslist and its ilk have vaporized what used to be most papers' greatest profit center: classified advertising. A decades-long trend of falling readership, brought on by the rise of television, has been accelerated to warp speed by the explosion of websites and blogs offering news and opinion on every conceivable subject, 24 hours a day - and usually for free. The culture has changed. Only 15 percent of Americans younger than 40 now read a printed newspaper every
day. It isn't political bias that keeps them away. Conservatives who insist otherwise do themselves no favors.

Debra J. Saunders:
When a newspaper dies, you don't get a comprehensive periodical to fill the void. You get an informational vacant lot into which passersby can throw their junk.

Marc Dunkelman:
[T]he decay of the newspaper industry eats away at the connection that individuals have with their neighbors, and their understanding of the challenges facing those who live outside of earshot, on the other side of the interstate. You might have been solely interested in getting commentary on last night's baseball game, but if you buy the newspaper, you're likely to peruse the front page. You may simply have wanted to check cinema schedules, but you're likely to notice a headline that indicates that a local elementary school is laying off a portion of its teaching corps.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

"If it bleeds it leads" got you down?

I came across this site the other day called Good News Now. It is an aggregator site that highlights only good news for the day. Some of the articles are really uplifting. This made me think that because of the prevalence of aggregator news sites in the new media, journalists should try not only to get the attention of their readers, but also the attention of news aggregator sites. Anyone could create an aggregator site that could become extremely popular like the Huffington Post or the Drudge Report have become.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Obama and American Journalists Abroad

Earlier today, President Obama expressed concern about the foreign detention of American journalists, citing specifically Roxana Saberi in Iran and Euna Lee and Laura Ling in North Korea.

The President said,
"Even as the world recognizes the central and indisputable importance of press freedom, journalists find themselves in frequent peril."

Obama's statement is aptly timed, as May 3 is World Press Freedom Day.

Blaming Media Hype for Swine Flu Fears

In a post on a New York Times blog, Robert Mackey discusses ways that media hype has contributed to swine flu fears. He cites sensationalist headlines and the need to fill airtime on 24-hour news stations as two examples of causes.

In addition to our mention of the media and swine flu, it's an interesting look at the media's role in potentially crisis situations and how to not overstate a threat while at the same time informing the public.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

May 3: World Press Freedom Day

May 3 is World Press Freedom Day. On its website, the UN describes the purpose:
World Press Freedom Day is celebrated every year on 3 May worldwide. It is an opportunity to celebrate the fundamental principles of press freedom; to evaluate press freedom, to defend the media from attacks on their independence and to pay tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the line of duty.

While we're lucky to have a very free press in the U.S., people elsewhere are actively celebrating the day. It's a fun bit of trivia given some of our class discussions.

Update on Newspaper Woes

Here are a few more recent examples of newspapers facing problems:

The Baltimore Sun had to cut its newsroom staff by almost a third because of increasing costs. You can read more about the impact here.

A story in the LA Times mentioned that Independent News & Media, Ireland's major newspaper, is expected to default a $265 million debt after sales fell 11.8 percent because of the decline in circulation. The company is seeking a bailout.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Media Takes a Glance at its Navel

The New York Times ran an article on its website yesterday titled "How ABC Interview Shaped a Torture Debate." The article contrasts claims by an ex-CIA operative (broadcast by ABC in a report on interrogation in 2007) that waterboarding was effective with the information in a recently declassified Justice Department Memo. The article points out that the ex-CIA operative's claims got a lot of reverb in the media and helped shape the debate on torture, but also argue that his claims were false.

The article brings up a few important questions: To what extent can people rely on the media to use accurate information to guide public debate? We have looked at conditions under which the media has trouble reporting the full story accurately, but once the media has reported on a story how well can the media return to an issue and correct itself? If false or heavily slanted information is reported by the media and heavily influences public debate, can the media correct itself or is this left to media scholars several years down the road? In either case, what does this mean for how we remember the past and view the present?

This is also a good example of a self-referential media story (hence the title). An ABC interview and its subsequent media reverb is the subject of a New York Times news article.

Obama Coverage

From the Center for Media and Public Affairs (Lichter's outfit):

The media have given President Obama more coverage than George W. Bush and Bill Clinton combined and more positive coverage than either received at this point in their presidencies, according to a new study by researchers at George Mason and Chapman Universities. But the study also finds that Mr. Obama’s positive media image hasn’t precluded heavy criticism of his policies. Continue reading

Dumbest Photo Op Ever

And a CMC trustee becomes Keith Olbermann's worst person in the world:

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Making the News

Interviews: The Classic Case of Manipulating Time Limits and Playing Head Games

The Ethics of Photoshopping a Shirtless Obama

The Washingtonian is generating a lot of buzz for featuring a shirtless pic of Obama on their cover. Here is an interesting discussion on photo ethics, prompted by the discovery that the paparazzi photo on the cover had been altered.

Said Leslie Milk, the magazine's lifestyle editor, "I know we changed the color of his suit to red, and dropped out the background." In the original photo the president is wearing a black suit and walking from what appears to be sliding glass doors leading to a living room. What also appears to be altered from the original image is the contrast and the color balance of the president's skin. On The Washingtonian's cover the sun striking Obama's chest makes him appear more golden, almost glistening.

In the world of news, that's unethical. The rule of thumb is, if you want to change what's in the photo, choose another photo. Making Obama into a man wearing brilliant red surfer trunks, instead of a more modest black pair, making the image more dramatic by having him walking out of darkness, and changing the exposure so he looks more gilded changes viewers' ideas about who the man is.

The cover shot:

The original shot:

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Take-Home Final

CMC Government 115
Professor Pitney
20 April 2009

Take-Home Final

Answer one question from Part A and one from Part B.

Part A.

1. You lead a group of Claremont students who want more government aid. You may either:
a. Lobby Congress to increase Pell Grants; or
b. Lobby the California Legislature to maintain current levels of Cal Grants
Drawing upon what you have learned in this course (especially Salzman), do one of the following:
a. Lay out a plan for getting media attention for your cause. Consider logistics and the qualities that make a message effective.
b. Create a video news release in support of your position. Where would you send it? How would it advance your goal?

2. Drawing on everything else that you have learned in the course, write a postscript to the Salzman book that revises and extends its analysis. That is, what did he miss, botch, or fail to anticipate?

Part B.

1. Evaluate a proposed reform of the mass media. (See Iyengar & McGrady, chapter 11, Farnsworth & Lichter, chapter 6). Drawing on what you have learned in the course, identify both the costs and benefits of this reform. Would you support it? Explain.

2. Prof. Joseph Bessette has defined deliberation as reasoning on the merits of public policy. In recent years, have technological and organizational changes in the mass media improved or diminished the quality of deliberation on national issues?

  • Exams should be typed, stapled, double-spaced, and between six and seven pages long (including both answers). I will not read past the seventh page.
  • Cite your sources. You may use either endnotes or parenthetical references to a reference list. In either case, put your documentation in a standard format (e.g., Turabian or Chicago Manual of Style). The endnotes or reference sheet will not count against the page limit.
  • Watch your spelling, grammar, diction, and punctuation. Errors will count against you.
  • Return exams to me no later than May 6. Papers will drop a gradepoint for one day’s lateness, a letter grade after that. (Since the deadline for senior grades is noon on May 8, two days’ lateness will mean a failing grade for graduating seniors.)

Monday, April 20, 2009

Senate to Hold Newspaper Hearings

HuffPost reports: Senator Kerry, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will begin holding hearings on the state of the newspaper industry beginning May 6, 2009. This should be fun...

Going over the media's head

Americans also try to bypass the media and their representatives to directly contact Obama. A Times article describes the director of the White House Office of Correspondence, Mike Kelleher's, daily task of choosing 10 letters from the public for Obama to read. The Times reports that Obama takes the letters seriously and even responds to some of them with a handwritten note. Since the letters are intended to offer a sampling of what Americans are thinking, it would be interesting to learn more about how he chooses the letters. Apparently, so many letters are sent to Bo (the 1st dog), that the dog has a mailbox of his own in the White House.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

YouTube falling just like newspapers + Let's get rid of the WH press corps!

Slate parallels YouTube and Newspapers as both the new and the old try to maintain profitability:

Everyone knows that print newspapers are our generation's horse-and-buggy; in the most wired cities, they've been pummeled by competition from the Web. But it might surprise you to learn that one of the largest and most-celebrated new-media ventures is burning through cash at a rate that makes newspapers look like wise investments...

YouTube's troubles are surprisingly similar to those faced by newspapers. Just like your local daily, the company is struggling to sell enough in advertising to cover the enormous costs of storing and distributing its content. Newspapers have to pay to publish and deliver dead trees; YouTube has to pay for a gargantuan Internet connection to send videos to your computer and the millions of others who are demanding the most recent Dramatic Chipmunk mash-up.

Read the full article here.

Also, an interesting Op-Ed in the Washington Post today, Anna Marie Cox, of Air America says that we should get rid of the White House press corps. Cox argues that top journalistic talent is wasted in the WH press room, where scoops are simply "doled out."

Tea Parties

The GOP's decision to hold tea parties all over the country have been attracting the national press, because of their creative ideas. The tea parties are reminiscent of the Boston Tea Harbor events when people claimed "taxation without representation." This latest attempt by the GOP to highlight what they call excessive taxation and pork-barrel spending (which they deem lack of representation) has been very creative in its attempt to replicate a historical event.

Rahm Emmanuel does damage control

This weekend featured some interesting interaction between the White House and the media. The New York Times has pointed out that since Obama is out of the country, his aides are trying to influence the weekend news in his absence. At least one aide, Rahm Emmanuel, had to do some damage control after The New York Times ran an article yesterday (on the website), today (in the paper) expressing doubt as to whether Obama is willing to take strong stands on issues. On ABC's "This Week" George Stephanopoulos challenged Rahm Emmanuel to respond to the story. You can see his reaction here.

This is a good example of the back-and-forth that goes on between the media and the White House. Rahm has to do some damage control and try to prevent the NYT article from defining the frame through which the media analyzes Obama's first 100 days.

A little later on in Rahm's appearance on the show you can see him struggling to adhere to one of our mock press conference rules: do not embed the words of the question in your answer. You can see this especially well in his answer on bank nationalization (between 3-4 minutes before the end).

Friday, April 17, 2009

Canada YouTubes

This morning, millions of Americans woke up to discover that they were now Canadian citizens. An amendment to Canada's Citizenship Act reversed an old policy of forcing emigrants to renounce their Canadian citizenship.

To inform emigrants of their newfound dual citizenship, the Canadian government made expert use of YouTube. This online WSJ article has more detail, as well as the YouTube video. Aside from using new media, the Canadian government showed mastery of Salzman's news-making principles; press coverage generated by the ridiculous video is helping inform the public of their potential Canadian citizenship.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Absence of Malice

The clip I mentioned in class today:


Seek the Truth
Act Independently
Minimize Harm
Be Accountable

Citizen Journalists

The Huffington Post is using citizen journalists to cover the GOP tea parties in every state. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Mark DeMarino Undercovers Bus Drivers Neglect

In this news article, the reporter, Mark DeMarino from the Cleveland Leader, uncovered through disguise that bus drivers were making stops to pick up girlfriends and do errands. If it weren't for undercover filming, this wouldn't have been revealed.

This article does not say exactly how he was undercover.

Saberi's Trial

A NYT article reports that American journalist Saberi's trial began in secret yesterday and that the verdict was expected within two weeks. A dual Iranian-US citizen, Saberi moved to Iran 6 years ago. She has worked for the BBC and NPR, but her press credentials were revoked 3 years ago. Saberi was initially arrested for working without press credentials, but she now faces the the very serious charge of spying for Washington.

The verdict could sour the positive turn that US-Iran relations have taken on the nuclear issue.

Life Imitates Class

Two back-to-back stories in the New York Times:

The Obama administration and its European allies are preparing proposals that would shift strategy toward Iran by dropping a longstanding American insistence that Tehran rapidly shut down nuclear facilities during the early phases of negotiations over its atomic program, according to officials involved in the discussions.

In abandoning longstanding restrictions on the ability of Cuban-Americans to visit and send money to family members on the island, President Obama demonstrated Monday that he was willing to open the door toward greater engagement with Cuba
— but at this point, only a crack.

Bias, Ethics, and CMC Student Publications

I wouldn't normally post my own journalistic work on this blog, but the recent debate sparked by my piece in today's Port Side issue echoes exactly what we have been learning about media bias, ethics, and sources.

My article on conservatives at CMC focuses on the strained relationship between the Claremont Independent and the Port Side, whose opposing ideological views often breed mutual accusations of bias and inaccuracy. The Claremont Conservative responded to my article, claiming that my quoting the Port Side Editor-in-Chief violated journalistic ethics. I addressed these criticisms on the Port Side's blog, the Compass; to achieve a balanced portrayal of the relationship, I needed to quote our Editor-in-Chief in addition to both the Claremont Independent's Editor Emeritus and current Editor-in-Chief. The Claremont Conservative then tried to give me a lesson in "Ethics 101."

Throughout this ordeal, I kept thinking about how applicable our course is to real-life media politics, and I just wanted to share this experience as an example.

Monday, April 13, 2009

US Press Freedom Ranked 36th in 2008

When writing my paper last week, I came across an published on March 30, 2009 from The Nation (one of Pakistan's leading English newspapers) with the headline "US Ranked 36th Freest Press in World." This article caught my attention, and after having read it, I realized that the article was not written by The Nation reporters, rather, it was taken from other sources but published in The Nation (no mention of Pakistan's 152nd rank also was a clear indicator that The Nation reporters did not write this article). I did a Google search to find the actual report, and saw that the Huffington Post wrote an article on this back in October, when Reporters Without Borders first released the information. Pakistan was a bit late in revealing this to its readers. I could not find any major US publication that had an article discussing this information (talk about agenda setting!) Instead, a lot of foreign news sources and the AP covered the findings of Reporters without Borders.

Two reasons for US improvement in the ranking (2007 US ranked 48th) were:
- The release of Al-Jazeera cameraman Sami Al-Haj
- The number of journalists being subpoenaed or forced to reveal their sources has declined in recent months and none has been sent to prison.

One of the main takeaways Reporters Without Borders had in this report was the freedom of the press was oftentimes associated with the country's peacefulness.

Furthermore, this is relevant information given the discussion we are going to have on Wednesday regarding ethics in the media and press freedom.


Some bias is situational, that is, it stems from availability of information or natural affinity for certain sources (e.g., consider embeds and local news)

Liberal Media Bias
Conservative Media Bias?
Business Media Bias

Sunday, April 12, 2009

NYT Op-Ed on Getting News Online

In a New York Times op-ed entitled "The Daily Me," Nicholas Kristof discusses the effects of the increase in getting news online.

He argues that people who get their news online tend to stay away from arguments they disagree with, choosing instead to read only sources that reaffirm their opinions, whereas traditional media is more likely to expose people to opinions from the other side.  This is particularly harmful because it is just one more way in which Americans are becoming more insulated in like-minded groups.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Two pioneers of the new media review the changing landscape

A great writeup by Arianna Huffington on the changing shape of the media, in a column appropriately titled "It's the Consumer, Stupid."
The key question is whether those of us working in the media (old and new) embrace and adapt to the radical changes brought about by the Internet or pretend that we can somehow hop into a journalistic Way Back Machine and return to a past that no longer exists and can't be resurrected.

The great upheaval the news industry is going through is the result of a perfect storm of transformative technology, the advent of Craigslist, generational shifts in the way people find and consume news, and the dire impact the economic crisis has had on advertising. And there is no question that, as the industry moves forward and we figure out the new rules of the road, there will be -- and needs to be -- a great deal of experimentation with new revenue models.

But what won't work -- what can't work -- is to act like the last 15 years never happened, that we are still operating in the old content economy as opposed to the new link economy, and that the survival of the industry will be found by "protecting" content behind walled gardens.

Consumer habits have changed dramatically. People have gotten used to getting the news they want, when they want it, how they want it, and where they want it. And this change is here to stay.
Here's Markos Moulitsas of the Daily Kos, one of the earlier innovators of the new media, talking about newspaper execs' resistance to making the changes Arianna described as inevitable. He points out that contrary to what many newspaper execs are arguing, investigative journalism will always remain as someone will fill the void. Moulitsas also counters the notion that newspapers deemed as more "credible" should get search engine preferences over blogs, aggregators and opinion websites. He says that what it should come down to in terms of gaining readership is the quality of the content, not brand image. Let the consumer decide, not corporate decision-makers.

It seems as though many traditional outlets view the media transformations of the last decade as an unfortunate result of undesirable, exogenous events that we must fight for the good of journalism. But what Arianna and Markos argue is that these changes have been brought about by improvements in the landscape of news, which consumers have knowingly and willingly adapted to. In essence, the consumer is now more in control than ever and as Arianna warns news outlets, "Evolve or perish. Resistance is futile."

Friday, April 10, 2009

Wikipedia and old media

Here is an interesting Wall Street Journal article about Wikipedia. It highlights Wikipedia's reliance on old media for its entries. The article relates to the discussion we were having earlier in the course about the role of new media. While Wikipedia itself might be considered new media, it bans people from using other new media sources to edit entries. Wikipedia's reluctance to cite new media suggests (or at least suggests that Wikipedia thinks) that new media can't stand alone and needs old media in order to function.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Will the Last Journalist Please Turn Out the Lights?

From the Sacramento Bee's Capitol Alert:

April 9, 2009
Team Whitman lures veteran political reporter
The gubernatorial campaign of former eBay CEO Meg Whitman has hired Silicon Valley's top political writer.Mary Anne Ostrom, a longtime politics and government reporter for the San Jose Mercury News, signed on with team Whitman. In a memo to the Merc staff, Assistant Managing Editor Bert Robinson lamented the loss of a journalistic pro who "is one of the most relentless, most thorough, most passionate reporters I have ever known."Whitman campaign spokesman Mitch Zak said Ostrom will be an adviser on policy, media and on-line outreach. "Obviously, Mary Anne has tremendous experience and will play an senior role in our communications effort," he said.Ostrom's new gig was another blow to California's dwindling political press corps. Respected politics veteran John Wildermuth of the San Francisco Chronicle is taking a buyout. Zachary Coile of the Chronicle's Washington bureau is going to work as communications director for U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer. And Jordan Rau, state capitol reporter for the Los Angeles Times, has signed on with the Kaiser Family Foundation's new Kaiser Health News.

Rosa Brooks in the Los Angeles Times:
This will be my last column for the L.A. Times. After four years, I'll soon be starting a stint at the Pentagon as an advisor to the undersecretary of Defense for policy. Some might say I have a "new job," but because I'll be escaping a dying industry -- and your tax dollars will shortly be paying my salary -- I prefer to think of it as my personal government bailout. Like everyone else whose livelihood is linked to the newspaper industry, I've been watching, appalled, as newspapers continue their death spiral, with dwindling circulations and thousands of layoffs. Here at The Times, the editorial staff is down to almost half the size it was in 2000. Often, as I've watched talented colleagues get the ax, I've suspected that I've only lasted this long because as a freelancer -- with no benefits and minimal pay -- I'm just too cheap to be worth firing.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Knowledge and the Agenda

Political Knowledge

The Agenda

Twitter Activism

Twitter is playing a role not only in reporting the news, but in creating the news. Youth in Moldova orchestrated a massive protest against the government by using Twitter, Facebook, and text-messaging. This article is interesting based on our previous discussions of the impact of Twitter and its relation to the new media.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

WWF Gets Kids Involved in Framing Climate Change

In this Canadian article, the World Wildlife Fund-Canada is encouraging kids to get involved in the local PR stunt to frame climate change. Through this article, it shows that kids are being used to encourage people that climate change is a real issue with postcards.


Iraq Makes a News Comback!

Washington Post's Chris Cillizza, author of The Fix, illustrates Obama's surprise trip to Iraq as an example of priming (as an extension of agenda setting):

In a mid-March CNN poll, just six percent named the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as the nation's most pressing priority -- roughly one tenth the percentage of people who chose the economy (63 percent).

With that as a backdrop, Obama's decision to stop off in Iraq seems to be aimed at reminding people of the struggles and sacrifices still happening in the region as he prepares to ramp up America's military presence in Afghanistan.


This side trip -- coming at the conclusion of Obama's eight day foreign trip -- effectively pushes Iraq back into the front of peoples' minds (at least for a day or two) and reasserts the continued need for sacrifice as the country seeks to deal with its continued economic problems.

HuffPost had this story as their top headline this afternoon, showing a spread of Iraq-related news headlines as the featured picture.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Framing: For Discussion in Monday's Class

Coverage of the recent Binghamton shooting shows differences in the framing of a news story. (See Iyengar and McGrady, pages 219-223.) Some of these differences are a matter of the timing of the broadcasts, but some involve interpretation. If you know of additional distinct takes on the story, please post them.

ABC News (embedding not available)

CBC News (embedding not available)

Fox News:

Another Fox segment:

Sky News:

Thursday, April 2, 2009

A Day in the Life...

I ran across this story a while ago and our recent discussion of embedded media reminded me of it. Jeffrey Duran is part of the military media and uses a rifle stock to mount his camera. So, when he takes pictures in the field, enemies commonly mistake his camera for a gun. His life as a military photographer seems a bit harder than most. The story focuses on the rifle stock but there are some good tidbits of insight into the dangers media faces on the line.

Pointing a long lens mounted on a stock is indeed a recipe for getting shot if you're not careful. In fact in training at Fort McCoy, Wi., I was "shot" by Soldiers on practice missions.
Full Story Here

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

National Security and the Media

Examples of "A" papers:

Examples of questions from the 2007 senior take-home final:

  • Find a news story on video at http://www.cbsnews.com/sections/home/main100.shtml.
    Why did CBS air that story in that form on that day? In your answer, consider the motives of news organizations, the constraints they face, and the efforts of outside individuals and groups to influence coverage.

  • Prof. Joseph Bessette has defined deliberation as reasoning on the merits of public policy.
    Have Internet news sites and blogs improved or diminished the quality of deliberation on national issues? (Make sure you consider the Sunstein reading, among others.)



Military Media Manual

World War II propaganda film:

The Daily show did a segment yesterday on the Obama Administration's rebranding efforts. This is an example of issue framing using semantics. 


Going over their heads

Here is yet another example of how President Obama is using new media to reach out to the American public and pass his legislation without the filter of the media.

BBC Covers Switzerland

Even more than fifty years ago, the BBC was devoting serious airtime to other countries. See:

Information Visualizations and the Decline of Newspapers

The New York Times has put together a nice information visualization of the decline of newspapers in the United States. It's nothing too surprising in light of our recent discussions, but it nicely aggregates the state of all the major newspapers.

"Bad News for Newspapers." New York Times March 12, 2009.

Visualizations like these and other innovative design are allowing some newspapers to distinguish themselves and recapture lost markets. Jacet Utko is an innovative Polish newspaper designer whose clients have not only won awards for their redesigns, but allowed them to increase their circulation by up to 100%. He recently gave a great 6 minute talk at TED. If you have a chance, I'd highly encourage you to watch it.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Teleprompter President

This DailyKos article summarizes how Barack Obama has used the telepromter to become as media fit as possible.  

Monday, March 30, 2009

Simulation Coverage


The International Beat

The Big Three:

Watching America

Compare how BBC covers American national security and ABC covers British national security.

Lara Logan and Jon Stewart on parachute journalism:

Video of the dangers facing journalist in a war zone:

Committee to Protect Journalists

Abduction and Murder

Jill Carroll

Danny Pearl

Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Story of Jill Carroll

Frequently throughout the articles, there is mention of freelancer for the Christian Science Monitor, who was abducted by Iraqis in January 2006 and released three months later. I wanted to know more about the story, so I did a little research.

Here is a youtube video of her answering questions during her abduction:

And then here is a CNN article describing her situation:

Saturday, March 28, 2009

What's Wrong with this Picture?

From the Los Angeles Times:

Discuss: does this clip suggest the visual impact of staff cutbacks? (Click photo for larger image.)

Hint here.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Newspaper Revitalization Act

Tuesday Senator Benjamin Cardin (D-Maryland) introduced the Newspaper Revitalization Act. According to the AFP, the act "would grant newspapers tax-free status as non-profits, an arrangement similar to that enjoyed by public broadcasting outlets, which survive on tax-deductible contributions from listeners."

See the whole article here.

Cardin's press release.

The New York Times cuts pay, lays off workers

The New York Times today had the misfortune of having to run another story on its own financial difficulties.

A couple things jumped out at me about this article.
-It is yet another indication that newspapers are facing tough times as we've talked about before.
-The NYT headline puts a much more positive spin on the story than this Reuters article (notice the NYT headline featured the word "temporary").
-Imagine being a reporter writing a story on a cut in your own pay. Ouch. Hopefully this reporter didn't get laid off. That would be downright sadistic.

Obama's Online Town Hall + Online Coverage of Media Issues

There's been a lot of buzz recently about some issues we've discussed in class.

HuffPost has a "big news page" that covers the media, but several stories (more than usual) have made the front page as well:

-->Early this morning the top headline was "Goodbye Press Corps, Hello Internet Corps." HuffPost ripped a piece from the AP on Obama's online chat on the economy today. Obama's town hall received almost 100,000 questions (and 3.5 million votes for which questions should be asked) from citizens across the country.

Morley Winograd, a former adviser to Vice President Al Gore who now runs the Institute for Communication Technology Management at the University of Southern California noted that:

In the new world of online media, formal press conferences are just one element or program to get the message out -- to those, usually older, who watch such things on TV. The online version he is doing is an alternative way to get out the same message, in this case on the budget, targeted toward a different audience, usually younger.

This online event could become an important new component of presidential communication strategy. Maybe Iyengar & McGrady will have to add this to their next edition!

-->Yesterday, HuffPost had a couple interesting links on the front page as well:

Today's debate in Politico's The Arena, an online discussion board for invited contributors, is on whether the decline of the newspaper will hurt our democracy.

There is also a twitter dedicated to providing facts and gossip on struggling media outlets. Thought you all might be interested in checking it out: see themediaisdying.

Brandi/Factchecking POTUS

Brandi Hoffine `06 in today's Politico Playbook (h/t Byron Koay):
DNC Deputy Press Secretary BRANDI HOFFINE is awarded the pre-dawn "Mike
Allen shift." So we say “auf Wiedersehen” to “The Daily Damien,” and “good morning, sunshine” to Brandi

Factcheck.org looks at POTUS's press conference and finds some problems.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Going Public

Lockdown drill.

A better way to deal with a maniac.

Yesterday's presidential press conference:

Helen Thomas comments:

Presidential approval ratings and the rally effect


Clinton Inaugural:

"Humor" that is not so funny when you know the rest of the story:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartM - Th 11p / 10c
Headlines - Novak's Hit-and-Run
Daily Show Full EpisodesEconomic CrisisPolitical Humor

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Assignment 2 and 3

Here is an "A" paper from the first assignment.

Here is the second assignment, with all alternatives:

1.         Pick any current (2009) event in Iraq or the Mideast (e.g., a battle, a terrorist incident).  Compare and contrast coverage in two American and two non-American sources (from different countries).  How did each define the story?  Did any show a bias?  Did any miss something important?  In your essay, try to find some outside documentation of the event in question (e.g., government sources) and learn about the news organizations.  Distinguish between coverage that an organization itself produces and wire stories that it merely carries.  Remember that coverage may consist of more than one story and may involve more than one day. You may find non-American sources at:

2.         Do the same kind of analysis as in question 2, but for an American news event.  Here you may find  stories at http://www.watchingamerica.com/index.shtml

3.         If you are covering the legislative simulation, write an essay on the opportunities and constraints of covering legislation.  That is, how did you use the participants, and how did they try to use you?  How did the experience compare with the real Congress?  (See, esp. Iyengar & McGrady ch. 7).

4.         Pick any national interest group or party organization. You are the communications director for that organization. Devise an advocacy ad for or against some aspect of President Obama’s agenda.  You may draft a print or Internet ad, write a script for a video or audio spot, or (if you have access to the equipment), actually produce such a spot.  Whom are you trying to persuade to do what?  Where would you place the ad?  How would you try to get “reverb” in the MSM and new media? If the group already runs ads, tell why yours is an improvement, or at least a worthy addition. (The ad will not count against the page limit.)  In your analysis, supply appropriate evidence.  (A marginally useful resource is http://attackadgenerator.com )

 5.         President Obama, like other presidents, is trying to "go over the heads" of the White House press corps. (See: http://gov115.blogspot.com/2009/03/over-their-heads.html).  Evaluate this strategy.  What is he saying in these venues that he cannot convey (or does not say) in his MSM appearances?  Are elements of his base picking up and repeating messages that the MSM would otherwise have filtered out?   Check the White House website, but note that not it may not include all of the president's non-MSM communications.  You may have to check by using Google, Nexis, and other resources. 

  • Essays should be typed (12-point) stapled, double-spaced, and no more than four pages long.  I will not read past the fourth page.  
  • Put your name on a cover sheet.  Do not identify yourself on the text pages. 
  •  Cite your sources.  You may use either endnotes or parenthetical references to a bibliography.  In either case, put your documentation in a standard format (e.g., Turabian or Chicago Manual of Style).           
  • Watch your spelling, grammar, diction, and punctuation.  Errors will count against you. 
  •   Return essays by the start of class on Wednesday, 8 April.  Essays will drop one gradepoint for one day’s lateness and a full grade after that.  I will grant no extensions except for illness or emergency.


Over Their Heads

Addressing that topic relevant to this week's discussion, Jonathan Martin of The Politico writes:
At a time when his Washington honeymoon is turning into a hazing, President Barack Obama and his team are launched on a strategy to sail above the traditional White House press corps by reaching out to liberal commentators, local reporters and ethnic media. ... The around-the-filter strategy began under Nixon, notes Martha Joynt Kumar, a Towson University political science professor and expert on presidential communications. “Nixon created the Office of Communications, and they would send out copies of the president’s speeches directly to various groups,” Kumar said, referring to what is now the media affairs office. The idea then, as now, was to reach certain groups directly and without the interpretation of an at times cynical Washington press corps

The Ed Schultz interview is at:

Monday, March 23, 2009

Facts and Figures

This CNN article provides an overview of the current state of the newspaper industry.
Facts include:

  • "At least 120 newspapers in the U.S. have shut down since January 2008."
  • "More than 21,000 jobs at 67 newspapers have vaporized in that time, according to the site."
  • "The chain that owns the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune is in bankruptcy."
  • "The industry's advertising revenue in 2008 was $38 billion, a staggering 23 percent drop from $49.5 billion the year before."
The article focuses on the decreasing ability of the newspaper industry to serve as a political watchdog but also predictions that market changes give larger, national newspapers the opportunity to seize market share. If the latter prediction holds true, newspapers like the New York Times could resurrect journalists' democratic check and the industry itself.

The Daily Show Goes Inside the White House Press Corps

"In a new Administration, it's not just the government that changes. The people that cover the government change as well." Except Helen Thomas.

I remembered this segment of a recent "Daily Show with John Stewart" that recently aired, and points out the comical aspects of the White House Press Corps, many of which were topics in today's class. Some of these include:

A very small press room (:35)
The very un-West-Wing-like press offices (:50)
Dan Lothian of CNN calling himself a "hungry bird" (1:25)
Chip Reid of CBS commenting on small attention spans (2:00)
An interaction with Helen Thomas (2:25)
John Oliver's scripted interview with Robert Gibbs (3:40)

Though it fails to address any conflict between the White House and the Press and is clearly edited for comedy, it does prove a few points so I thought I would pass it along - if not only to experience Helen Thomas in real time!

Sorry about the ads, I had to use Hulu because I couldn't find it on YouTube!

For those who want to cover the simulation...

The simulation site is here.

Video from past simulations is here.

Coverage of the 2007 simulation is here.


Sunday, March 22, 2009

Obama Set to Win Ohio

In October 2008, there was an article that described how the economy helped Obama persuade voters that he should be elected over John McCain. This relates to Chapter 10, since it says that the state of the economy affects a president's popularity. Bush's unpopularity was a successful campaign message that the Obama campaign tied to the McCain campaign.


Obama 2.0 and CMC `06

This story describes an episode of Obama 2.0 and quotes Brandi Hoffine `06:
A spokeswoman for Organizing for America, Brandi Hoffine, said Thursday that "hundreds of thousands" of Americans had signed the pledge online, and they expect more than 1,000 canvassing events in all 50 states this weekend. Some analysts and political experts believe Obama will be able to springboard from his campaign success, using online tools to keep backers connected and motivated, and that will put new pressure on Congress to enact the president's agenda on health care and energy. Votes on the budget are expected in the next two months. "The legislative branch is about to experience crowd-sourcing," said Morley Winograd, the co-author with Michael Hais of "Millennial Makeover." He was using a term for leveraging Web technologies to enable mass collaboration.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Mad Max and the Shrinking MSM

At the LA Times, James Rainey reinforces a major theme of the course. (If the "Mad Max" reference is obscure, click here.)

Political consultants aren't exactly rubbing their hands together and snickering. But as the hired guns look over a landscape of closing newspapers and laid-off investigative reporters, they sense an opening that leaves them both excited and queasy.One operative told me this week about planting attacks on opponents in partisan blogs, knowing the stories could bleed into mainstream news outlets, without leaving any incriminating fingerprints. Another described how he got green reporters to write stories (no campaign cash wasted!) on ads that the candidate had no intention of ever paying to put on TV. "They don't know any better," the consultant chuckled. "So we can get away with that one again."The political pros I interviewed talked about stories missed and questions not asked. But they were not entirely gleeful. These are consultants who care about more than just winning. (Hard to believe, but it's true.)They know better than anyone what happens when the gatekeepers go missing. "Imagine driving along [Interstate] 5. There used to be a couple highway patrolmen to keep people in line. Now they're gone and everyone knows it," said Chris Lehane, a veteran Democratic consultant. "It can devolve into a Mad Max situation pretty quickly."

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

San Diego Union Tribune Sold (finally)

The San Diego Union Tribune, which has been on the market for sale since July 2008, finally has a new owner. Platinum Equity has bought the paper from Copley Press Inc. for an undisclosed amount. According to the San Diego Daily Transcript (whose publisher is a CMC alum): "Platinum specializes in acquiring businesses facing complex operational challenges in declining or transitioning markets. The Platinum team includes David H. Black, an experienced newspaper owner and operator whose holdings include more than 150 newspapers and Web sites in the United States and Canada." Hopefully the new owners will be able to restore the paper back to what I remember it to be as a kid.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Echo Chamber

A few years ago, David Brock wrote of a Republican noise machine. Now a fascinating story in The Politico describes a little-known but influential listserv on the other side:
For the past two years, several hundred left-leaning bloggers, political reporters, magazine writers, policy wonks and academics have talked stories and compared notes in an off-the-record online meeting space called JournoList. Proof of a vast liberal media conspiracy? Not at all, says Ezra Klein, the 24-year-old American Prospect blogging wunderkind who formed JournoList in February 2007. “Basically,” he says, “it’s just a list where journalists and policy wonks can discuss issues freely.” But some of the journalists who participate in the online discussion say — off the record, of course — that it has been a great help in their work. On the record, The New Yorker’s Jeffrey Toobin acknowledged that a Talk of the Town piece — he won’t say which one — got its start in part via a conversation on JournoList. And JLister Eric Alterman, The Nation writer and CUNY professor, said he’s seen discussions that start on the list seep into the world beyond.

Friday, March 13, 2009

The Pope Must Google!

Awareness of the new media has reached the very, very, very highest levels. The New York Times reports:

The letter released Thursday in which Pope Benedict XVI admitted that the Vatican had made “mistakes” in handling the case of a Holocaust-denying bishop was unprecedented in its directness, its humanity and its acknowledgment of papal fallibility.

But it also contained two sentences unique in the annals of church history.

“I have been told that consulting the information available on the Internet would have made it possible to perceive the problem early on,” Benedict wrote. “I have learned the lesson that in the future in the Holy See we will have to pay greater attention to that source of news.”

In other words: “Note to the Roman Curia: try Google.”

Note: the pope was not denying the doctrine of papal infallibility, which has a very specific meaning. (Sister Anna Gregory would have wanted me to stress that point.)

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Submitting Op-Eds

Some of you have asked for the contact info for newspaper op-ed pages. I have found a handy collection from Fairleigh Dickinson University. It does, however, contain a misspelling of the LA Times guy (Goldberg, not Goldber). For information specific to LAT, click here.

In any case, you should doublecheck with a newspaper’s own site before submitting anything.

Here are various other web pages with op-ed submission information:

There are some good writing tips here and here.

Campaign Coverage: Tone and the Future

Campaign Tone: A study of 2008

Talk Show Politics in 1992. Ross Perot:

Gore v. Perot in 1993

Comedy News

Local Media Conference

If you're going to be here over Spring Break (or if you're coming back early and will be spending the last weekend in Southern California), there is a local media conference happening on Saturday March 21, 2009 at Occidental College.

Local Media for Social Change: A Southern California Regional Summit

How happy are you with your local news? How are the issues you care about being covered?

If you are concerned that our democracy and your community are being underserved by the state of today's media, then you should join us for this informative half-day summit.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Occidental College in Los Angeles, CA

11:00am to 5:15pm, with reception to follow

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Nonprofit Newspapers, Twitter, and Ann Coulter

The dying San Francisco Chronicle may become America's largest nonprofit newspaper, reports Gawker.  Also, who needs polls when we have twitter?  And speaking of debates, this time it's the talking heads' turn to spar.  

Obama's mark in history

NYT article, Making Obama's Marks, provides further background on Obama's logo including the intent of the design:

The White House guidelines for each logo were very clear. “It was explicitly stated that the ARRA logo not look ‘governmental,’ ” Juras said. “We were asked to create a ‘visible sign of progress’ in a contemporary way while referencing energy, education and health care.

“The sooner it becomes a historical artifact, the better.”

Monday, March 9, 2009

Dogs and Debates

Media Training:

Meet the Press (yesterday)

Soundbites and Photo Ops

Watch CBS Videos Online

Fala (start at 7:30)


1960 Debate

1980 Debate

1984 Debate: Reagan Stumbles

1984 Debate: Reagan Comes Back

1988 Quayle-Bentsen

1988 Dukakis

1992 Town Hall

Campaign Tone

Meet the Press (yesterday)