Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Martha Stewart and Hallmark Cable Venture in the Cards?

NEW YORK - OCTOBER 22:  Mogul/media personalit...Image by Getty Images via Daylife
Broadcasting & Cable reports that talks are underway between Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia("MSLO") and Crown Media Holdings-owner of Hallmark Channel and Halllmark Movie Channel--concerning a new joint venture cable tv lifestyle network.

Talks are in the nascent stage, so its difficult to predict whether the outcome will be a new mega-company owned by the two entities or a more modest new cable channel, tentatively named Hallmark Home. Beginning in September, Hallmark will air the Mark Burnett-produced "Martha Stewart Show," which previously was a syndicated program. This week saw the debut of Stewart programming running seven hours daily on Hallmark, which is a lot of doilies and potpourri for a 24-hour viewing cycle.

Both companies would just as soon forget 2009, as Crown Media had a net loss of $22.5 million, and MSLO a net loss of $14.5 million. "TUOL" wonders if the Hallmark Movie Channel will air the "chicks in chains" movies featuring Linda Blair as a tribute to Stewart's brief incarceration in 2004.

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CNN Prime Time Ratings Continue to Plummet

Larry King during a videotaping of his Larry K...Image via Wikipedia
CNN ("Catastrophic News Numbers") has followed up its grim 4th quarter prime-time progamming ratings (see "TUOL" post 12/17/09) with an even more diminished audience, according to 1st quarter 2010 ratings figures reported in today's New York Times.

The Times story reports that in February, not only was CNN's prime time slate bested by MSNBC and Fox News, but also finished behind its own HLN network and CNBC, which received a boost from the Winter Olympics.  CNN personalities took it on the chin, with Larry King's audience down 43 percent for the quarter. King has a quarter of the viewership of Fox's Sean Hanity, routinely  loses to MSNBC's Rachel Maddow, and even is getting thumped by HLN's relative newcomer, Joy Behar.

The news isn't much brighter for Anderson Cooper, whose ratings dropped 42 percent in the first quarter, and more important, 46 percent among the 25- to 54-year-old viewer demographic that advertisers crave.  CNN's Campbell Brown's 8 p.m. program had its worst results ever in the 1st quarter among this viewer group.

Even CNN's previous morning dominance was overturned, with MSNBC's  caffeine-crazed "Morning Joe" beating CNN's "American Morning" telecast.  Meanwhile, Fox News' Bill O'Reilly, Glenn Beck and Greta Van Susteren all enjoyed a substantial ratings boost compared to the previous year's figures.

Might be time for CNN to ship Larry King's suspenders to the Smithsonian and stop dazzling itself with computer graphics and refocus its attention on content and personalities who can deliver it.

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Monday, March 29, 2010

Tribune Co.: Bankruptcy Is Expensive

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According to reports in The Chicago Tribune and The Am Law Daily Web site, more than $138 million in legal fees have been racked up since The Tribune Co. filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization proceedings 15 months ago, and an irate group of bondholders is asking a court to order banks that backed the leveraged buyout plan in 2007 that enabled former owner Samuel Zell to take the company private to repay $25 million used to cover the banks' legal fees.

A Tribune Co. subsidiary that did not file for bankruptcy covered the legal fees of banks involved in the Tribune LBO, which skirted the requirement that the bankruptcy court ok payments for professional fees. The $138 million in attorneys' fees represents about 25 percent of the media conglomerate's 2009 cash flow. U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Kevin Carey last year admonished attorneys involved in the case for hourly billing rates exceeding $1,000. Observers note that bankruptcy rates have risen roughly 10 percent annually over the last decade, and insolvency proceedings involving major corporations, such as Enron, United Airlines, and Lehman Bros. are costly affairs, so the legal fees to date for the Tribune bankruptcy are not out of line. Still, that's a tough case to make in view of one law firm that has billed the Tribune bankruptcy trustees $110,000 in photocopying costs.

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St. Louis News Guild Ok's Contract with 'Dispatch'

An Evening at St LouisImage by Storm Crypt via Flickr
With three-quarters of its members casting ballots, the St. Louis Newspaper Guild ended year-long negotiations by voting 132-54 to ratify a five-and-a-half year contract with the St. Louis Post Dispatch that offers less than idyllic terms.

The contract freezes pension contributions and eradicates retiree medical benefits for existing employees, offers a 6 percent cut in wages and requires three unpaid one-week furloughs over the next two-and-a-half years. On a positive note, a provision in the contract calls for a six-month moritorium on staff layoffs and would restore wages by 2.5 percent in each of the pact's last three years provided company revenues increased by at least 2 percent annually during that period.

The daily, founded in 1878, which is currentrly owned by Davenport, Iowa-based Lee Enterprises, has a daily circulation of approximately 240,000.

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Friday, March 26, 2010

Plain Dealer IDs Anonymous Poster on Website

The Plain Dealer's Editorial headquarters in D...Image via Wikipedia
Academics, media ethicists and others are weighing in on the firestorm created by Ohio's largest newspaper, the Advance Publications-owned Cleveland Plain Dealer, when it identified a blogger whose anonymous posts on cleveland.com included one that questioned the mental stability of a Plain Dealer reporter's relative.

A comment by "lawmiss" on the paper's Web site concerning the mental state of a relative of reporter James Ewinger was removed as violating the site's policy against personal attacks. Editors investigated and discovered "lawmiss" shared an Email address with Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Shirley Strickland Saffold, and noted that a handful of "lawmiss" posts commented on cases heard by Judge Saffold.

Judge Saffold denied sending the posts, but her daughter, Sydney Saffold, admitted to authoring at least a handful of the roughly 80 "lawmiss" comments found on the site. Journalism ethicist Bob Steele of the Poynter Institute criticized the Plain Dealer's conduct, noting that neither any threat of danger to anyone nor any inkling of judicial misconduct were in evidence to warrant uncloaking the anonymous blogger. Online privacy advocate the Electronic Frontier Foundation also took the media outlet to task for the "chilling effect on conversation" the revelation of  "lawmiss" might have.

On the other hand, Editor & Publisher commentator Shawn Moynihan backed the newspaper's action, saying the public's right to know trumped the right of "lawmiss" to hurl anonymous brickbats. The Plain Dealer defended itself by arguing the newsworthiness of someone using the Email address of a sitting judge to comment on issues of public concern.

"TUOL" sides with the Poynter Institute on this one. The First Amendment free speech/free press provision protects anonymous speech. Secondarily, "TUOL" is all for crusading newspapers, but gets a bit uncomfortable when the precipitating action that gets the newspaper's dander up is an attack on "one of its own." That's not what the old rubric about comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable is all about.

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PayWall Across the Pond

The TimesImage via Wikipedia
Beginning in June, London's The Times & The Sunday Times Web sites will charge for Internet access, according to the Associated Press.  Subscribers will be charged 1 pound ($1.49) a day or 2 pounds ($2.98) per week.

Print subscribers to the newspapers will not be charged to view the online editions, according to owner News International, whose parent company is Rupert Murdoch's News Corp,

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R.I. Restauranteur Serves Up Libel Suit Against DJ & Reporter

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Courtroom News Service (CNS) reports that politically connected Providence restauranteur Bob Burke, owner of Pot au Feu, has filed a defamation suit in Superior Court against WPRO-AM talkmeister Dan Yorke, reporter Katherine Gregg, and their respective employers, Citadel Broadcasting Co. and The Providence Journal.

Burke's eatery hosted the "Murphy's Law Luncheon" on St. Patrick's Day in 2009 for Ocean State solons headed by former R.I. House Speaker William Murphy, the District 26 Democrat succeeded last month by Gordon Fox. According to the complaint, Burke alleges the defendants ascribed to him what actually was Rep. Murphy's position that lawmakers' comments at the luncheon be "off-the-record."

Burke alleges that a column by Gregg wrongly attributed the off-the-record rule to him, which purportedly sparked an on-air rant by talk-radio provocateur Yorke against him. Burke alleges his reputation was harmed personally and professionally by the on-air attack in which Yorke purportedly called him "stupid," a "punk," a "mob actor," and a " manipulative piece of garbage," among other epithets, and invited Burke to "kiss my Irish ass."

"TUOL" has not yet reviewed the complaint. Such invective, which sadly passes for political discourse nowadays, rarely reaches the defamation threshold, but is considered opinion or rhetorical hyperbole. The high-profile plaintiff likely would be considered a public figure, rather than a private person, which also raises his burden of proving defamation.

Still, the restauranteur's lawsuit has given the local media something to chew on.

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Thursday, March 25, 2010

KY High Court Backs Paper on Open Records Law Request

Great Seal of the State of KentuckyImage via Wikipedia
In Central Kentucky News-Journal v. Hon. Doughlas M. George (Case No. 2009-SC-000018-MR), the Kentucky Supreme Court this week reversed the Kentucky Court of Appeals, ruling that the twice-weekly newspaper is entitled to sealed settlement agreements from two lawsuits filed by a teacher against the Campbellsville school district and the Taylor County school board.

Teacher Katherine Moss sued the school district, claiming she was sexually harassed, and the school board for not hiring her. The News-Journal, which is owned by Landmark Community Newspapers, LLC, sought a writ of mandamus requiring trial Judge Doughlas M. George to grant access to sealed confidential settlement agreements, which the Court of Appeals denied.

Kentucky's High Court said the agreements must be disclosed pursuant to Kentucky's Open Records Act (KRS 61.870 to 61.884). Justice Will Scott wrote the statute presumes a public interest in the "free and open examination  of public records." The school boards argued the Open Records Act's privacy exemption applied, but the Court noted that taxpayer money paid the premiums on the insurance policy out of which the school boards paid the settlement proceeds.

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'Clap' for Facebook

Map of County Durham, England, United Kingdom,...Image via Wikipedia
The London Telegraph (http://www.telegraph.co.uk) reports a claim by Prof. Peter Kelly, director of public health in Teesside, that  Facebook users are to blame for the spiraling rate of syphillis.

According to Dr. Kelly, reported cases of the venereal disease have increased fourfold in Teesside, Durham and Sunderland, where Facebook usage is highest in the U.K. Research indicates young people in these areas are 25 percent more likely to interact through social media networks than anywhere else in Great Britain. Kelly claims social networking sites, including Facebook, facilitate users meeting for casual sex, and suggests young women are particularly vulnerable.

Facebook has dismissed Dr. Kelly's theory as "ridiculous." Just to be safe, Facebook might consider a tutorial clarifying the meaning of "poking" a friend.

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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Appeals Court Unlocks FCC Ban on Media Co. Cross-Ownership

Logo of the United States Federal Communicatio...Image via Wikipedia
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit this week undid a stay it issued in 2003 concerning the FCC ban on cross-ownership by media companies.

Under the ban, media companies could not own television stations and newspapers in the same media market. When the FCC limits were enacted in 1974, several media companies that already owned newspapers and tv outlets in the same market were "grandfathered" in.

By statute, the FCC must review media ownership rules every four years. Besides the cross-ownership ban, the agency will also re-examine limits imposed on media companies concerning  how many radio and tv stations a company may own in a particular market.

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U.K. Proposes Reforms to Curb 'Libel Tourism' Traffic

The Parliament of the United Kingdom, the 'Mot...Image via Wikipedia
The Associated Press reports that Great Britain this week introduced proposed changes to its plaintiff-friendly libel laws that could be heard by the next Parliament convened after this Spring's election.

Suggested changes to the U.K. libel laws include:
  • preventing plaintiffs from suing numerous publications based on the same allegedly defamatory materials
  • establishing statutory public interest defenses to libel claims
  • imposing standards to determine whether just cause exists for foreign claimaints to initiate libel claims in English courts

The government also hopes to tighten restrictions in court rules pertaining to serving defendants in libel suits beyond England and Wales.  Critics blame England's current libel laws (see "TUOL" post 12/11/09) for impeding investigative journalistic efforts and creating a chilling effect on free speech.

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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Popeye in 3D? 'Well, Blow Me Down'

Popeye and Olive Oyl in the Fleischer Studios ...Image via Wikipedia
Variety reports that Sony Pictures Animation plans to employ cutting-edge CGI, 3D technology to resuscitate the squinting, pipe-smoking, spinach-munching Popeye the Sailor.

Avi Arad is on board to produce and writer Mike Jones is negotiating to adapt the tough palooka sailor to the big screen.  Popeye last appeared on celluloid in Robert Altman's  muscial-comedy Popeye (1980) featuring Robin Williams as the brawling sailor and Shelley Duvall as his S.O. Olive Oyl, which brought out the bomb squad to defuse.

Popeye, Olive, Bluto and Sweet Pea will all appear larger than life in the latest version. Baby boomers are calling the shots at Sony, which also plans to bring the Smurfs to the big screen, as if audiences didn't get enough of a blue fix from Avatar.

King Features Syndicate oversees Popeye, who initially was created by E.C. Segar in the Thimble Theater comic strip in 1929 and enjoyed tremendous box office popularity courtesy of animator brothers Max & Dave Fleischer beginning in the 1930s.  "TUOL" loved the Fleischer Popeye cartoons and is leary concerning how the politically incorrect Popeye will be transformed to appeal to present-day audiences. A spinach-eating vampire perhaps?

"TUOL" envisions Popeye reviewing the script and mumbling under his breath: "I can read readin' and I can read writin' and this is written rotten if you ask me. Och! Och! Och!"

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Low 'Marks' for Bertesmann in Harsh 2009 Economy

Random HouseImage by Alexander Smolianitski via Flickr
Media conglomerate Bertelsmann, whose holdings include RTL radio & television co. and publishing houses Gruener & Jahr and Random House, blamed the global economic downturn and an asset devaluation for a $111 million net loss in 2009.

In contrast, the media giant realized a $192 million profit in 2008. Overall, sales declined by 5 percent last year to $21.1 billion. A family trust is the principal owner of Bertelsman, though the company reported that shareholders would receive a total $81.2 million in dividends despite last year's net loss. 

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Monday, March 22, 2010

UPDATE: 2d Circ. Orders Federal Reserve Turn Over Loan Info to Media

NEW YORK - MAY 26:  People walk in front of th...Image by Getty Images via Daylife
In Bloomberg, L.P. v. Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (Case No. 09-4083-cv; 09-4097-cv), the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit last Friday rejected the argument by the Federal Reserve Board that it was exempt under exceptions to the Freedom of Information Act from having to turn over records to the news media concerning the $2 trillion emergency lending program.

The appellate court's three-judge panel upheld the decision of Chief Judge Loretta Preska of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, which ordered the Fed to produce the records to Bloomberg News pursuant to the media outlet's FOIA request [See "TUOL" posting 8/26/09]. The information involves loans made in April and May of 2008 by the Federal Reserve to quell the financial crisis consuming banks.  

The Second Circuit decision said FOIA favors disclosure and found the Federal Reserve had no basis for an exemption under the act. The Court suggested the Fed should look to Congress to amend FOIA if it believes the national interest would be served by such an exemption.

No word on whether the Fed intends to appeal the decision.

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High Court: Montana Solon Absolute Privilege Against Libel Claim

Source: http://www.usmint.gov/pressroom/index.Image via Wikipedia
The Montana Supreme Court unanimously ruled that lawmakers' remarks made during a legislative session are absolutely privileged against libel claims.

The High Court's 7-0  decision in Cooper v. Glaser (Case No. DA 09-0570 92009-0570; 2010 MT 55) relied on Article V, Sec. 8 of Montana's Constitution, which states in relevant part: "[a legislator] shall not be questioned in any other place for any speech or debate in the legislature." The Montana Supreme Court affirmed the lower court decision of  Judge Kathy Seeley of the Lewis & Clark County District Court of the First Judicial District.

The case was brought pro se by Robert Cooper against his neighbor, Rep. Bill Glaser (R-Huntley), whom he alleged branded Cooper a "kook" who allegedly had been institutionalized and imprisoned for threatening a military officer. Glaser's purported remarks, which did not identify Cooper by name, were made during a procedure that permits legislators to make personal comments regarding any topic during a legislative session.

In rejecting the libel claim initially brought by Cooper in July 2009, the Montana Supreme Court cited the importance of legislative immunity so as not to compromise the independence of lawmakers carrying out the will of the electorate.  The Montana High Court's embracing an absolute privilege defense against libel claims for legislators engaged in official duties has long been recognized by the U.S. Supreme Court (NY Times v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254 (1964)).

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Friday, March 19, 2010

ABC News: A New Low in Checkbook Journalism in Anthony Case

casey anthony 1Image by piggie:) via Flickr
Four months after two-year-old Caylee Anthony of Orlando, Fla., disappeared in June 2008, a Grand Jury handed down a first-degree murder charge against the toddler's mother, Casey Anthony. The toddler's remains were discovered  in December 2008.

The tragedy continues to unfold in a Florida courtroom this week as a judge is determining whether to declare the defendant  indigent, which would mean the state assuming most of the cost of her defense in the death penalty case. Here, the story takes a particularly lurid turn as Anthony's lawyers disclosed that of the $275,000 spent thus far in her defense, ABC News has footed $200,000 of the bill.

ABC News claims that in August 2008, the news operation licensed exclusive rights to certain photos and home videos of the Anthony family. Furthermore, according to court documents, ABC News paid  Casey Anthony's parents' hotel bill for a three-night stay at a Central Fla. Ritz-Carlton.

Although money changed hands a couple of months before Casey Anthony was formally charged, there is no escaping that ABC News paid a substantial sum to an individual suspected of killing her child and that the financial arrangement was not disclosed publicly until a judge compelled counsel to reveal the news organization's involvement in open court.

The litany against the practice of checkbook journalism is well-known in media critic, journalist and academic circles: it deprives media outlets that can't afford to pony up payment access to news; it encourages "lazy" journalism to buy a story rather than ferret it out with old-fashioned shoe-leather reporting; it taints the objectivity of the news outlet to have a vested interest in covering a story it paid for, and it further blurs the line between news and entertainment.

And, as in this instance, it also makes those who have a functioning moral compass nauseous to read about it.

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Thursday, March 18, 2010

Ex-Judge Wins $240k Libel Suit Against V.I. Daily

St Thomas, Virgin IslandsImage by Skellig2008 via Flickr
After a 12-day trial, an eight-member jury has awarded former Superior Court Judge Leon Kendall $240,000 in his libel case against The Virgin Islands Daily News, reports Media Law blogger Bob Ambrogi (www.legaline.com).

Kendall, who retired from the bench in 2009, was still a sitting judge when he brought suit in October 2007, against Daily News Publishing Co., and reporters Joy Blackburn and Joseph Tsidulko based on 16 articles and an editorial calling for Kendall to resign that appeared in the Daily News between 2005-2009. Among other issues, the Daily News was critical of Judge Kendall's handling of two criminal cases. The jury found in Tsidulko's favor, but against the paper and Blackburn.  The Daily News is expected to appeal the verdict.

Judge Kendall was represented by Boston litigator Howard Cooper, who is currently suing The Boston Herald for libel on behalf of his client, the rock group Boston's co-founder Tom Scholz (see "TUOL" post 3/18/10).

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'Boston' Rocker Sues Boston Herald for Libel

Tom Scholz, the keyboardist/guitarist/songwriter who co-founded the rock band Boston, has filed a defamation suit in Suffolk County (Mass.) Superior Court against the daily tabloid The Boston Herald and its "Inside Track" gossip columnists Gayle Fee and Laura Raposa, accdording to the Courtroom News Service(CNS).

The 23-page complaint, Donald Thomas Scholz v. Boston Herald, Inc., Gayle Fee & Laura Raposa (Case No. 10-1010) alleges defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress arising from articles that appeared in the daily in 2007 on March 15, March 16, and July 2. According to the complaint, the defendants allegedly wrote articles, including one under the headline "Pal's Snub Made Delp Do It," that blamed Scholz for the suicide of band vocalist Brad Delp in March 2007, and allegedly fabricated quotes by his widow Micki Delp in the "Inside Track" column. The complaint alleges Micki Delp demanded "Inside Track" retract the quotes attributed to her, but Fee purportedly refused to do so.

Scholz alleges the Herald articles "impute dishonesty, immorality, vice and dishonorable conduct to Mr. Scholz and injure Mr. Scholz in his trade or business." A 2008 defamation suit brought by Scholz against Micki Delp and her sister Connie Goudreau is still pending, CNS reports.

Representing Scholz is Boston attorney Howard Cooper, who bested the Boston Herald in 2005, scoring a more than $2 million libel verdict for Judge Ernest Murphy after the tabloid wrote an article alleging Judge Murphy harshly treated a teen rape victim in his courtroom. Cooper's success representing jurists in defamation suits has stretched to the Virgin Islands (see "TUOL" post 3/18/10).

Boston has sold more than 31 million albums worldwide and particularly shone during the 1970s and 1980s. Fans of the group's tunes may believe Scholz is just seeking "Peace of Mind," but based on the complaint and the attorney litigating it on his behalf, it's clear Scholz is looking for "More than a Feeling" from the Herald.

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A Marvel-ous Copyright Suit

NEW YORK - AUGUST 31: In this photo illustrati...Image by Getty Images via Daylife
Seven months after The Walt Disney Co. dropped $4 billion to acquire Marvel Entertainment (see "TUOL" post 9/1/09), the heirs of Marvel comics legend Jack Kirby have sued to terminate copyrights and reap the profits of Marvel's superhero creations.

The suit in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, Lisa R. Kirby et al. v. Marvel Entertainment Inc. et al. (Case No. 8:10-cv-00289-CJC-AN), seeks to terminate copyrights and cash-in on profits from comics icons such as The Incredible Hulk, X-Men, Spider-Man and Iron Man. During the '50s and '60s, Kirby, who died in 1994, worked alongside Stan Lee to build Marvel's superhero stable.

Marvel sued in January 2010, claiming the various superheroes who emerged from Marvel's lab were "works made for hire" owned by Marvel, the "author" pursuant to the 1909 U.S. Copyright Act (P.L. 60-349), which still governs works created before 1976, but otherwise has been superseded by the Copyright Act of 1976 (17 U.S.C. sec. 101 et seq.). The suit initiated by Kirby's children asks for declaratory relief, including the termination of copyrights, which if allowed, could translate into millions of dollars for the Kirby brood.

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ABC News Taps Amanpour to Host 'This Week'

BEVERLY HILLS, CA - OCTOBER 30:  CNN?s chief i...Image by Getty Images via Daylife
Barring a last-minute blow-up, ABC News is expected to install longtime CNN Chief International Correspondent Christiane Amanpour as host of its Sunday morning gabfest "This Week."

Amanpour, 52, who joined CNN as an entry-level assistant in 1983, has hosted a 30-minute interview series on CNN, immodestly titled Amanpour. She would succeed George Stephanopoulos, who has moved over to co-host ABC's Good Morning America.

Amanpour, an award-winning foreign correspondent, has previously been based in London and New York City, where she presently resides with her son and husband, a State Dept. spokesperson and former Asst. Secretary of State. Not known for her political reporting, Amanpour's ease strolling through war zones would likely smooth her transition to Beltway brawling in Washington, D.C.

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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

It Takes Brass Balls to Pursue Defamation Claim Against NBC Affiliate

Tradition symbol of pawnbrokers--three connect...Image via Wikipedia
WWBT-TV Channel 12, the Richmond, Va.-based NBC affiliate, is the target of a defamation suit brought by Jefferson Loan Office, a pawn shop that claims it was wrongly identified as underpaying customers for gold trade-ins in an undercover investigatory piece by the news station that allegedly confused the plaintiff with another pawn shop.

Courthouse News Service reports the suit stems from a Channel 12 expose on the practice of melting down gold jewelry. According to the plaintiff's complaint, Channel 12 anchor Sabrina Squire and reporter Curt Autry defamed Jefferson Loan Office by confusing it with Friedman's Loan pawn shop. The plaintiff alleges that undercover footage of a Friedman trannsaction purportedly showing customers being offered $75 for allegedly more than $200 worth of gold jewelry was wrongly attributed to Jefferson Loan Office.

Both pawn shops are located on Broad Street, but otherwise are unaffiliated. The complaint claims Autry concluded Jefferson customers were being "ripped off," based on the alleged Friedman footage. Moreover, the plaintiff accuses Channel 12 of never having appraised the jewelry it attempted to pawn in the story in any case.

Although Channel 12 ran a clarification of the story on its next day's 5 p.m. broadcast, Jefferson claims the station never apologized for the miscue. Jefferson Loan Office is seeking $1 million for the alleged damage to its reputation from the WWBT-TV story, broken down as $500,000 apiece for compensatory and punitive damages.

A significant suit, but one not likely to cause the NBC affiliate to go into hock should it ultimately result in an adverse ruling.

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Fewer Ads + Less Money=No News

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A study just released by the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism (PEJ) concluded that newspapers spend $1.6 billion less annually on reporting and editing than a decade ago.

The Pew Research Center also found that half of 37 publicly traded media companies for which data was available lost money last year. The findings are not surprising, given the PEJ study that showed newspaper ad revenues off  26 percent in 2009, while local tv and radio barely fared better, with revenues declining 22 percent. Magazine ad revenues dropped 17 percent, and even online ad revenues plunged 5 percent in 2009.  Media types looking to the Internet as a panacea will be distressed by the study findings that 80 percent of online news consumers admit they never, or rarely click on online ads.

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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A 'Skinless' Apple

SAN FRANCISCO - JANUARY 27:  Apple Inc. CEO St...Image by Getty Images via Daylife
Apple's core values in rejecting an iPhone application featuring nudity has planted seeds of discontent among German publishers.

The New York Times reports that Germany-based freelance photographer Sebastian Kempa was rejected by Apple when he sought an iPhone application related to his online exhibition, www.naked-people.de, Kempa photographs everyday people, with and without clothing (the online viewer "removes" the subjects' clothing by passing the computer mouse over the clothed version of the individual).

German publishers, including the editor of Der Spiegel magazine, bristle at the Calif.-based Apple setting objectionability standards worldwide. Publishers are looking to Apple's iPhone and iPad as a source of a steady revenue stream. The Assn. of  German Magazine Publishers plans to send a letter of complaint to Apple.

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Nation to Launch Media Blog

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The Nation has hired former Editor & Publisher Editor Greg Mitchell to write and edit the "Media Fix" blog, which is set to launch in April.

The blog promises to examine the best and worst of print, digital and broadcast media doings. Presently, the blog has a Twitter feed: @MediaFixBlog. "TUOL" welcomes another watchdog to the media kennel, but keep your mitts off our cool gavel logo.

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Monday, March 15, 2010

PEJ Survey: Online News Paywalls Hit a Brick Wall

nytimes-paywallImage by Peter Forret via Flickr
A recent online survey of more than 2,200 persons by the Project for Excellence in Journalism (PEJ)  yielded bad news for cash-strapped newspaper publishers hoping to generate revenue by posting online content behind paywalls.

According to the PEJ survey of 2,259 indivduals during December 2009-January 2010, only 19 percent expressed a willingness to pay for news content online. Worse, 82 percent of those queried who regularly visit specific news Web sites would search out alternative sites if their preferred site charged to view news content.
 The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus five percentage points.

The PEJ study revealed that if forced to choose, participants preferred a subscription service to a pay-as-you-go plan for their online news reading.

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