Monday, January 31, 2011

And the last nose job goes to...

Very interesting interview and take on the role of reality TV programming thriving on American TV networks right now.

Adele Melander-Dayton interviews Jennifer Pozner for

I'm glad that you said that nothing new really happens, because it's true. When they first introduced the plastic surgery shows, it was to amp up the shock level. If your business model is "Oh my God, what the hell is wrong with these people," and trying to elicit that response in an audience, then you keep having to layer on shock value. We're often told these shows are extremely popular when very often they're not. What we're told by networks and reality producers is that this genre exists simply because we the public demand it. That is very often a lie. It's a very convenient lie to mask media economics. It can cost 50-75 percent less to make a reality show than to make a scripted show. That's massively lower production costs before you add on hundreds of thousands, potentially millions of dollars in product placements per show per season. They don't even have to sell a single commercial before they're already profiting. If it gets good ratings, that's a bonus for them. In every episode of "Bridalplasty," there were "wedding experts" from the wedding field, designers who make dresses, and floral architects -- when did we come up with the term "floral architect" -- it's a simple economic equation that brings up this type of programming.

Politico's Diversity (or lack thereof)

Richard Prince's Journal-isms:

"Did anyone catch CNN's Reliable Sources going inside the newsroom of" Roland S. Martin, the CNN and TV One commentator, wrote to the National Association of Black Journalists e-mail list. "It was pathetic. All white folks at the table deciding the stories to cover. Not one African American or any other minority.

"I only saw one woman, and I swear she didn't say a word. They had her sitting next to the editor, and it was clear she was window dressing," said Martin, who is secretary of the association.

A self-described Latina "news junkie" wrote Journal-isms, "I just watched with my significant other in absolute horror on CNN that POLITICO's morning 'top editors and reporters' meeting had not ONE female or ONE person of color. POLITICO has often been referred to as one of the top and influential DC publications. How is this possible when they seem to only represent the views of white men? How can they consider themselves 'new media' when they look just like the old media? . . . Should it be any surprise to anyone why their articles on issues of race seem so absurd?"

[...] Harris told Journal-isms via e-mail:

"I didn't see the CNN segment or what shots they used.

"I do wish to disabuse you of the idea that the editorial meeting featured 'token representation of women.' The women in that meeting included our managing editor for on-line (in charge of the web site), the deputy managing editor (in charge of running the print operation day to day) and one of our lead White House reporters.

"On racial diversity, POLITICO has made steady progress since you and I first corresponded around the time of our publication's launch three years ago, and we are expecting more progress as the publication matures.

"We have racial diversity in most of the most important positions in our newsroom--on the White House team, on our photo team, on the copy and production desks, and on our congressional team.

"This progress has come because we have worked at it, attending NABJ conventions (and sponsoring one of their Washington events) and establishing good ongoing relationships with Eric Wee's impressive JournalismNext job site, as well as several collegiate programs"

-March 21, 2010

The Meaning of News

A new media model: The Politico (strategy memo)

Typical newspaper organization chart
Generic titles
  • Bureau Chief The director of news operations in a remote site or bureau.
  • Reporter A person whose job it is to gather and write the news for a publication or a broadcast outlet.
Print Titles

  • City Editor The individual (also known as the metropolitan, or metro, editor) in charge of the city desk, which coordinates local news-gathering operations. At some papers the desk also handles regional and state news done by its own reporters.
  • Copy Editor A person who checks, polishes and corrects stories written by reporters. Usually copy editors write headlines for those stories, and sometimes they decide how to arrange stories and pictures on a page.
  • Editor The top-ranking individual in the news department of a newspaper, also known as the editor in chief. The term may refer as well to those at any level who edit copy.
  • Editorial Page Editor The individual in charge of the editorial page and, at larger newspapers, the op-ed (opposite editorial) page.
  • Graphics Editor Usually, the editor responsible for all non-photographic illustrations in a newspaper, including information graphics, maps and illustrations.
  • Managing Editor The individual with primary responsibility for day-to-day operation of the news department.
  • News Editor The supervisor of the copy desk. At some newspapers, this title is used for the person in charge of local news-gathering operations.
  • Photo Editor The individual who advises editors on the use of photographs in the newspaper. The photo editor also may supervise the photography department.
  • Publisher The top-ranking executive of a newspaper. This title often is assumed by the owner, although chains sometimes designate as publisher the top local executive.

Broadcast Titles
  • Anchor One in the television studio who ties together the newscast by reading the news and providing transitions from one story to the next.
  • Executive Producer The television executive with overall responsibility for the look of the television newscast.
  • Field Producer Behind-the-scenes television reporter who often does much of the field work for a network's on-camera correspondents.
  • Network Correspondent A television reporter who delivers the news on camera. Network correspondents may or may not do the actual news-gathering for their stories.
  • Show Producer Television news specialists who produce individual newscasts and report to the executive producer.

A rose by any other name...

In O: A Presidential Novel, an antonymous author (probably Mark Salter) describes a news organization 'Body Politic' (read: POLITICO). This description is a basically a short summary of the charges against Politico. The editor, Will Janssen, is waiting for a reporter to confirm that the President used the f-word in a meeting.
This was the kind of story Body Politic prided itself on breaking. No one would have leaked the Pentagon Papers to it. High-caliber scandaled, government misfeasance, and genuine political controversies were still in the province of old media, and Janssen didn't care. Body Politic wasn't in the business to win Pulitzers. It wasn't a national news organization....It was, in essence, a trade publication, published exclusively for politicians, staff, government bureaucrats, consultants, lobbyists, journalists, and assorted hangers-on who made a living one way or another from politics.
Body Politic had built a profitable business model on the ever shrinking news cycle's appetite for any scrap of information that could be, with a little imagination, interpreted as news. And a presidential profanity, especially one beginning with the letter f, could be interpreted as a crack in the famous reserve of a young president besieged by a quarrelsome Congress and impatient electorate....If the president said f---, Washington wanted to know about it, and Will Janssen wanted Washington to learn it from him first. [emphasis added]
In a POLITICO story on O, the reporter, "ANONYMOUS" notes Salter's past criticisms of the site.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Making of the President Meets Tron Legacy

The New York Times reports:

The New Hampshire primary is over a year away, and the first major candidate has yet to formally declare. Just don’t tell that to outlets like Politico, Talking Points Memo and RealClearPolitics, which are already planning to smother the 2012 campaign trail in a way they could never have imagined four years ago when they had far smaller staffs of bloggers and shoestring budgets.

With an eye toward earning greater respectability, this crop of political Web sites is hoping for more than just page views and traffic-driving links from the Drudge Report. They want to establish themselves as the Blogs on the Bus.

“We were a garage band in 2008, riffing on the fly,” said Jim VandeHei, Politico’s executive editor and co-founder. “Now we’re a 200-person production, with a precise feel and plan.”

Politico will host, with NBC News and Telemundo, the first debate of the campaign season on May 2, getting a head start on a season of face-offs that is already remarkably busy. (Politico edged ahead of Fox News, which scheduled a debate for May 5.)

Politico has nearly tripled its staff since 2008, when it was already a formidable if somewhat overextended presence on the campaign trail.

It will start a Web site, 2012 Live, this weekend that will serve as a home for what Mr. VandeHei described as “tons and tons of stories” in addition to the kind of minutiae that Politico believes political enthusiasts can never get enough of — politicians’ daily schedules, county-by-county demographic data in key primary states and historical voting trends.

2012 Live is up at -- including course alum Andy Barr.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Internet and Events in Egypt

Meredith's post noted the Internet's role in launching the events in Egypt. The Committee to Protect Journalists offers a graphic illustration of what happened when the Egyptian government flipped its Internet kill switch (click image for large view):

Arbor Network's traffic analysis for Egypt

National Journal reports that the WikiLeaks document dump played a part in launching the uprising:

The toppling of Saddam Hussein in 2003 and America’s much-bedeviled efforts to install democracy in Iraq certainly worried Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and other Arab autocrats, who were uneasy about George W. Bush’s much-touted “model” for the Arab world. But these leaders are much less disturbed by that nearly eight-year effort than by a few weeks of spontaneous popular eruption in Tunisia, which has now spread to the cities of Egypt and Yemen.

And although the democratic uprising in Tunisia was mostly generated by 20 years of brutality and corruption under the rule of President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, it appears very likely that last year's WikiLeaks cable dump helped to light the spark.

The Tunisian protests began among largely college-educated students who had heard about the details of ostentatious high living revealed in disapproving cables from U.S. Ambassador Robert Godec; he had written that “corruption in the inner circle is growing” and that Ben Ali “and his regime have lost touch with the Tunisian people.”

According to on-the-ground accounts from the Associated Press and other new organizations, many Tunisians felt vindicated by the details revealed in the leaked cables, which social networks helped to spread. Other U.S. diplomatic cables have exposed double-dealing by Yemen's leader, who now faces his own revolt.

New White House Press Secretary

CMC alum Mike Shear writes at The New York Times:

In a few weeks, Jay Carney, a former Time magazine bureau chief with more experience doing the asking than the answering, will take over as press secretary from Mr. [Robert] Gibbs. Mr. Carney, who has spent the last two years as the chief spokesman for Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., must develop relationships with three distinct constituencies as he steps into Mr. Gibbs’s shoes.

The first is the public. In the hyper-fast era of Internet video and 24-hour cable news, the White House press secretary is often the face of the administration. The image of Mr. Gibbs in front of the blue White House seal is — probably more than any of his predecessors — ubiquitous.

One clip of a Gibbs briefing titled “W.H. Press Briefing Room Laughs At a Gibbs Answer” has been viewed 87,533 times. Another entitled “Cell Phones Interrupt White House Briefing” has been viewed 193,937 times. When Mr. Gibbs mocked Sarah Palin for writing on her hand, the clip was viewed more than 75,000 times.

Mr. Carney is hardly used to that kind of public attention. There is no daily briefing for Mr. Biden, and it would probably get little coverage if there were. Most of the YouTube clips of Mr. Carney are from his days as a reporter more than two years ago.

Friday, January 28, 2011

The Role of Social Media in Egypt's Protests

Egyptians have been using social media like Twitter and Facebook to organize protests and mobilize support. The Egyptian government allegedly shut down much of the country's access to Internet to curb the effects of social media on unrest and violent protests. Many believe their country is censoring them, but Egypt has denied claims that they are responsible for the blocking access to the Web. This article also talks about how social media sites are enabling people with camera phones and personal experience in the protests to post news about the situation, while mainstream media struggles to get to the "front line" to provide this news. This is an example of a scenario in which social media is reporting the news first rather than republishing it from traditional media sources.

Article: "Social Media @ the Front Line in Egypt" by Tim Lister and Emily Smith, CNN

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The WikiLeaks Story

In Politico "Playbook" (a great source if you are not already checking), Mike Allen sums up an article in this Sunday's NY Times Magazine (already available online):
BILL KELLER, N.Y. Times executive editor, in Sunday's Times Magazine, "Dealing With Assange and the Secrets He Spilled": "[W]e assembled a team of reporters, data experts and editors and quartered them in an out-of-the-way office. Andrew Lehren, of our computer-assisted-reporting unit, did the first cut, searching terms on his own or those suggested by other reporters, compiling batches of relevant documents and summarizing the contents. We assigned reporters to specific areas in which they had expertise and gave them password access to rummage in the data. ... Reporters exchanged notes via Skype, believing it to be somewhat less vulnerable to eavesdropping. On conference calls, we spoke in amateurish code. Assange was always 'the source.' The latest data drop was 'the package.' ... On July 24, the day before the War Logs went live, I attended a farewell party ... that was given by Richard Holbrooke ... [H]e pulled me away from the crowd to show me the fusillade of cabinet-level e-mail ricocheting through his BlackBerry ... [H]e was already spinning the reports of Pakistani duplicity as leverage he could use to pull the Pakistanis back into closer alignment with American interests." This essay is adapted from his introduction to "Open Secrets: WikiLeaks, War and American Diplomacy: Complete and Expanded Coverage from The New York Times," an ebook available for purchase at

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

State of the Union address: Do Americans even watch it?

State of the Union address: Do Americans even watch it?

Regulation, Free Speech, Free Press, and New Media

The First Amendment: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Broken Embargo

Tonight's State of the Union speech got out a bit earlier than the White House would have liked...(via Rich Galen's Mullings)

"The embargo for releasing the speech was busted by the National Journal which posted it on its website at 7:14. NJ apparently got it from a White House insider and promptly posted it on its website. When the President hugged Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, "Good speech," he responded, "Yeah, I don't have to give it now," acknowledging that it had been on the web for nearly two hours."

Spinning the State of the Union

Like we discussed in class yesterday, Republicans in the House are spinning the State of the Union before it happens tonight. The National Republican Congressional Committee issued a press release slamming the Obama White House for not creating jobs in its first two years.

President Obama claimed this week in a campaign video that his "No. 1 focus" this year will be "creating jobs."

"‘My No. 1 focus,' he said, ‘is going to be making sure that we are competitive, and we are creating jobs not just now but well into the future.'" (Jackie Calmes and Jeff Zeleny, "Obama to Press Centrist Agenda in His Address," The New York Times, 1/22/2011)

But Obama has promised to focus on the economy or has bragged about creating jobs every single month since being sworn-in to office. The gap between Obama's rhetoric and reality is 24 months old and counting:


"And I think we are past the crisis point in the economy, but we now have to pivot and focus on jobs and growth.And my singular focus over the next two years is not rescuing the economy from potential disaster, but rather jumpstarting the economy so that we actually start making a dent in the unemployment rate and we are equipping ourselves so that we can compete in the 21st century." (White House Press Conference, Los Angeles Times, 12/22/2010)

The Kill Switch

A controversial bill handing President Obama power over privately owned computer systems during a "national cyberemergency," and prohibiting any review by the court system, will return this year.

Internet companies should not be alarmed by the legislation, first introduced last summer by Sens. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine), a Senate aide said last week. Lieberman, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, is chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.


The revised version includes new language saying that the federal government's designation of vital Internet or other computer systems "shall not be subject to judicial review." Another addition expanded the definition of critical infrastructure to include "provider of information technology," and a third authorized the submission of "classified" reports on security vulnerabilities.


For their part, Lieberman and Collins say the president already has "nearly unchecked authority" to control Internet companies. A 1934 law (PDF) creating the Federal Communications Commission says that in wartime, or if a "state of public peril or disaster or other national emergency" exists, the president may "authorize the use or control of any...station or device."

"There is a little-known codicil in the Faber College constitution which gives the dean unlimited power to preserve order in time of campus emergency." -- Animal House

Presidential Communication

See the excerpt below from a New York Times story by Matt Bai. Agree or disagree?

It’s still the one night of the year when the American president can count on commanding the country’s attention in prime time, his best opportunity to pound home a message and push an agenda.

Yet there’s also something oddly retro about the State of the Union address that President Obama will deliver on Tuesday — something that belongs to the last century, like compact discs and appointment television. While the speech will give Mr. Obama an opportunity to extol his record on health care and financial regulation, it may also serve to remind us of how surprisingly little he has accomplished when it comes to bringing presidential communication into the broadband age.

That’s not to say the White House isn’t trying. In fact, the president distributed a video preview of his speech to supporters over the weekend. And Mr. Obama’s advisers have scheduled a series of interactive online events for the days after the speech, his second State of the Union, highlighted by a presidential interview with questioners on YouTube.

Answering questions online, however, really just amounts to the same kind of televised town hall that presidents have been doing since the dawn of the broadcast era, except that now you watch it on a different kind of screen. Like his predecessors, Mr. Obama interacts from time to time with a few highly motivated voters at such events, but he has yet to find a new way to make himself accessible or compelling to the wider electorate online.

Monday, January 24, 2011

He's Back

For those who loved Sports Night, The West Wing, or Studio 60 (and I suspect there are a few in the class) Aaron Sorkin is plotting a new show focusing on behind the scenes at a nightly cable news show.

Plus on of Kieth Olbermann's new gigs may be writing rants for the Sorkin show.

Here's the full interview. FYI, his next project is adopting Andrew Young's (John Edwards' aid) book to film.

It's a Media-opoly!

This cartoon appeared in the original March broadcast of the SNL episode, but was cut from the summer rerun. SNL producer Lorne Michaels told the New York Daily News he "didn't think it worked comedically." In an interview, Harry Shearer said "The truth is that Lorne wanted to continue working at 30 Rock."

News Is a Business

Historical nuggets

Friday, January 21, 2011

Spokesman's Spokesman

Today's Political Wire quote of the day seemed relevant.

"When the spokesman needs a spokesman, it's time to move on."

-- Andy Coulson, director of communications for British Prime Minister David Cameron, quoted by The Guardian, announcing his resignation over a "phone hacking scandal."

Onion News Network

The New York Times reports:

Has it seemed to you lately that the fake-news business has run out of gas? That Jon Stewart and certainly “Weekend Update” on “Saturday Night Live” have grown predictable, even a little desperate? Hang on; there’s a jump-start coming. The real question is whether your brain can handle the surge.

“Onion News Network,” a flashy phony news show from The Onion’s humor factory, makes its debut on IFC on Friday night, and it quickly reveals those forerunners to be sluggish by comparison. If the longstanding “SNL” segment is a sort of introductory course in wringing humor from headlines, and Mr. Stewart’s “Daily Show” is the advance-level class, “Onion News Network” is graduate school, requiring much quicker thinking and a greater tolerance for comfort-zone invasion.

Onion News Network - Coming To IFC January 21

Rescuing Photojournalism

Jed Perl writes in The New Republic: Yesterday’s Heroes

Can We Rescue Great Photojournalism From the Scourge of Sensationalism?

"The skepticism about photojournalism has become so pervasive that some counterbalance is needed, and so, I have been glad to see new work on the subject by Susie Linfield, who writes on cultural matters, and Peter Galassi, the curator of photography at the Museum of Modern Art. Neither Linfield nor Galassi has any interest in the old romantic view of the photojournalist as a prophetic voice. In a sense, their essential point is relatively modest, for what they are saying is that photojournalists, while not necessarily truth tellers, are not necessarily liars, either."
"Linfield’s new book—The Cruel Radiance: Photography and Political Violence (University of Chicago Press)—is a beautifully considered and unabashedly impassioned plea for the continuing moral relevance of photojournalism. Writing in direct response to ever-increasing doubts about the truthfulness and ethical significance of photojournalism, Linfield offers a defense of photojournalism that honors the photographers without turning them into saints or their work into sacred icons. On the subject of photojournalism, both Galassi and Linfield might be said to be disabused optimists."

“The earliest photojournalists,” Linfield observes in The Cruel Radiance, “expected images of injustice to push viewers into action; photographs were regarded not as expressions of alienation but as interventions in the world.” That optimism, she is perfectly aware, is no longer sustainable. But she argues that our skepticism should not become “an argument for not looking, not seeing, or not knowing, nor for throwing up one’s hands or shielding one’s eyes.”


We should not “drown in bathos or sentimentality,” Linfield insists, but instead “integrate emotion into the experience of looking.” We “can use emotion as an inspiration to analysis rather than foment an eternal war between the two.”

Thursday, January 20, 2011

New York Times Meetings

Mike Allen's "Playbook" feature in Politico is a great way to stay ahead of DC news. [You can get an email update.] Today's Playbook was some background on media decisionmaking:
N.Y. Times internal memo, “The New News Cycle”: “As an essential step in our reorganization, we will begin holding the morning meeting at 10 a.m. … and to conduct both it and the 4 p.m. meeting differently. … The 10 a.m. meeting will combine the current 9:45 Continuous News meeting and the broader 10:30 meeting, aiming both at Web coverage for the day and planning for the front page … The organizing thought is simple, focusing on a single news report that unfolds around the clock on the Web and is crystallized into a printed product at night. Our main goal is to create a conversational venue to discuss and plot coverage for the big news of the day. Until now, the discussion has been driven largely by what each desk hopes will front in the next day's paper. Now, we want the conversation to focus more intently on the big stories that have arisen overnight or in the morning — or are likely to develop as the day proceeds — and how we plan to pursue them for all of our publishing platforms. This should also be an opportunity to talk about how these stories will be handled on various blogs and in social media; representatives of photo, graphics, multimedia and video should be prepared to offer their contributions. …

“[W]e would like the morning to be vigorous news meeting, with the best minds there thinking collectively about how to go forward, rather than leaving each department in its own silo angling for the best play. Following that, we’ll ask each department what they see as their best offering for A1 for the following morning. These pitches should be brief, with copies of enterprise available. A best bets list for the paper will be distributed after the meeting. We will try our best to signal what pieces should be held for fronting later, what we'd like for the Web during the day what should run immediately in print. That list will serve as a starting point for the 4 p.m. meeting, at which we’ll ask the department representatives if their stories are shaping up as expected and whether other stories have risen to consideration, as well as how photo, video and graphics will fit into that coverage. Also, we want to use the 4 p.m. meeting to begin planning for the next day’s early morning home page. The focus here should be on enterprise stories, blog posts, videos or multimedia projects that are worth featuring in the early morning and on new stories that might be generated either overnight or early in the day. … Ian Fisher/Tom Jolly/Jim Roberts.”

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Young Staffers Who Track the News

The New York Times reports on DC staffers who track the news. One of them is Brandi Hoffine `06.

Bobby Maldonado has his morning routine down to a science. Efficiency and punctuality are key.

With the help of three alarm clocks, he gets up at 4 a.m., is showered and out the door in less than an hour, and scans his BlackBerry almost constantly as he makes his pretimed 12- to 13-minute trek to the Red Line Metro stop where he catches the first train downtown.

He knows exactly where to stand so he can get into the car that deposits him just steps from the escalator at the Farragut North station. “It’s an efficiency thing,” he explained, “so I don’t get stuck behind people, so I hit the crosswalk at the right minute.”

Cutting diagonally across Farragut Square, he arrives at his office at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on H Street just after 5:30 a.m. There, in a darkened cubicle, he scans the Internet for the day’s news and condenses it into a two-page memo that he shoots off to Thomas J. Donohue, the Chamber’s president, and other top executives before 8 a.m. He is never late.

Mr. Maldonado, 26, is one of the dozens of young aides throughout the city who rise before dawn to pore over the news to synthesize it, summarize it and spin it, so their bosses start the day well-prepared. Washington is a city that traffics in information, and as these 20-something staff members are learning, who knows what — and when they know it — can be the difference between professional advancement and barely scraping by.


A Democratic National Committee spokeswoman, Brandi Hoffine, rises between 5 and 6 a.m. for what she affectionately calls “Breakfast with Brandi”— the time she begins sending out news articles she sees as favorable to the committee’s agenda to her e-mail list of 500 or so reporters.

“We all work in environments where a 24-hour news cycle can very quickly become a 24-minute news cycle,” Ms. Hoffine said. “Being in a reporter’s in-box first, even by a few minutes, can make a big difference.”

WikiLeaks, the Daily Show, and Journalism

Michael Bugeja writes at Inside Higher Ed:

Satirist Jon Stewart and activist Julian Assange are symbols of a world without journalism — a largely online marketing-based, consumer-driven world at odds with principles of democracy and freedom.

Stewart is often considered a journalist because he holds people accountable when many metro media outlets no longer do so in their downsized newsrooms. "The Daily Show" does this often by following up on what newsmakers did or said in the past and then comparing that to current, contradictory actions and statements. Wikileaks purportedly holds people and governments accountable. It does so, however, by “WebThink.” Whereas responsible journalists scrutinize motives of tipsters and fact-check authenticity of cables, WebThink just dumps it all on the Internet and lets computer chips fly where they may.


"We need to challenge the notion that digital media and traditional journalism are somehow mutually exclusive," states Dick Doak, 42-year veteran of The Des Moines Register and vice chair of my Advisory Council at Iowa State University. "The digital revolution doesn't obviate the need for traditional journalism skills. It makes them more important than ever."

As evidence Doak cites WikiLeaks’ cables, calling them "a meaningless mass of information until the Guardian and The New York Times made sense of them, using traditional journalism techniques."

WikiLeaks, he adds, proves we need traditional journalism more than ever "to decipher and interpret the information overload."

Monday, January 17, 2011 and AOL

The New York Times reports:

City council meetings, high school football games and store openings may seem like small town news, but they are critical to AOL’s revival effort.

AOL’s is in nearly 800 towns. Warren Webster, left, president of Patch Media; Tim Armstrong, chief of AOL; and Jon Brod, president of AOL Ventures.

Over the last year and a half, AOL, the former Internet colossus, has spent tens of millions of dollars to build local news sites across the country through The idea is that the service would fill the gap in coverage left by local newspapers, many of which are operating on a string after declines in advertising revenue.

Patch has already set up shop in nearly 800 towns. By the end of this year, it expects that to be in 1,000 — each one with an editor and a team of freelance writers.

Click here for California Patch sites.

Issa and the Press

The New Yorker profiles Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), the new chair of the House Oversight Committee:

Issa has set up what his aides call Issa Enterprises, a highly organized effort to manage his image. Kurt Bardella, the spokesman, who is twenty-seven, and whom Issa calls “my secret weapon,” fiercely screens all interviews. Bardella has a reputation as one of the savviest young spokesmen on Capitol Hill, someone who understands the complicated new media environment.

Over lunch at Bistro Bis, a French restaurant near the Capitol, Bardella was surprisingly open in his disparagement of the media. He said, “Some people in the press, I think, are just lazy as hell. There are times when I pitch a story and they do it word for word. That’s just embarrassing. They’re adjusting to a time that demands less quality and more quantity. And it works to my advantage most of the time, because I think most reporters have liked me packaging things for them. Most people will opt for what’s easier, so they can move on to the next thing. Reporters are measured by how often their stuff gets on Drudge. It’s a bad way to be, but it’s reality.”

He marvelled that the Daily Beast recently reported that Issa was fond of referring to himself in the third person. The reporter who wrote the story, Howard Kurtz, had in fact been interviewing Bardella when he thought he was talking to the congressman on the phone. (Kurtz later said that Bardella didn’t indicate that he wasn’t Issa when they spoke.) “I think anyone who knows me well enough knows I’m far too fond of myself to abdicate my own identity in favor of someone else’s,” Bardella told me.

Bardella later added that he was dealing with a new twist in his relationship with the press. Now that Issa had been elevated to chairman of the Oversight Committee, he said, “reporters e-mail me saying, ‘Hey, I’m writing this story on this thing. Do you think you guys might want to investigate it? If so, if you get some documents, can you give them to me?’ I’m, like, ‘You guys are going to write that we’re the ones wanting to do all the investigating, but you guys are literally the ones trying to egg us on to do that!’ ”

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Media & the Tucson Shootings

A chapter of the Graber text analyzes media coverage of extraordinary events. At The New Republic, T.A. Frank offers a sober assessment of how the press erred after the Tucson shootings:

When disaster strikes, journalists have to write something about it—and write it fast. That means they have to take mental shortcuts, calling up established narratives and laying them out like old wrapping paper for new and more ambiguous facts. (Wife poisons husband. Revenge killing? Money killing? Self-defense killing? We stand at the ready with a lot of templates.) While the resulting gift isn’t always pretty, it’s generally good enough for deadline work.

But sometimes the shortcuts produce a journalistic stampede at the worst possible time. That’s what happened last weekend, when 22-year-old Jared Lee Loughner shot six people to death at an Arizona Safeway and gravely wounded many more, including Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. The dominant storyline in the press—one that persisted in the face of all the facts—was that right-wing hysteria and lunacy had given rise to Loughner’s atrocity. Only on Wednesday night, when President Obama delivered a speech that effectively told everyone to cut it out, was the stampede halted (one hopes). But it’s still worth reviewing how the nation’s leading periodicals descended into such mindlessness.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Where Americans Get Their News

The Pew Research Center reports:

The internet is slowly closing in on television as Americans’ main source of national and international news. Currently, 41% say they get most of their news about national and international news from the internet, which is little changed over the past two years but up 17 points since 2007. Television remains the most widely used source for national and international news – 66% of Americans say it is their main source of news – but that is down from 74% three years ago and 82% as recently as 2002.

The national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted Dec. 1-5, 2010 among 1,500 adults reached on cell phones and landlines, finds that more people continue to cite the internet than newspapers as their main source of news, reflecting both the growth of the internet, and the gradual decline in newspaper readership (from 34% in 2007 to 31% now). The proportion citing radio as their main source of national and international news has remained relatively stable in recent years; currently, 16% say it is their main source.

An analysis of how different generations are getting their news suggests that these trends are likely to continue. In 2010, for the first time, the internet has surpassed television as the main source of national and international news for people younger than 30. Since 2007, the number of 18 to 29 year olds citing the internet as their main source has nearly doubled, from 34% to 65%. Over this period, the number of young people citing television as their main news source has dropped from 68% to 52%.