Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Beck's Bier

Glenn BeckImage via Wikipedia
TheBlaze(http://www.theblaze.com), the ubiquitous Glenn Beck's conservative news and opinion Web site, debuted Monday, one day after Beck's Restoring Honor rally White-out enshrouded Washington, D.C.

The Web site will be edited by former Breitbart TV co-founder Scott Baker.  Andrew Breitbart, of course, is the fellow behind the Shirley Sherrod and ACORN video scandal hoopla, so one would assume that Baker is skilled at overseeing the editing of  long videotapes into short incendiary video clips. Baker was an anchor for WTAE-TV in Pittsburgh for 13 years.

"Nothing Burns Hotter than the Truth" is the tagline for Beck's tangled Web entree. Beck said the flame image symbolizes a "burning truth" that is not consumed. It also can represent a destructive conflagration, but "TUOL" digresses.

Mediaite was the first site to report on Beck's latest project.  Today's home page of TheBlaze, besides Associated Press wire copy, includes stories headlined: HOAS Tread on Patriotic Symbols, NY Residents Don't Support Mosque at Ground Zero, Explicit Poetry GPS Phones Help Illegals and Ground Zero Imam: I've 'Always Been' a Jew and a Christian.

"TUOL" concedes that the Web site does represent a  technological advance over the blackboard, heretofore, Beck's preferred weapon of destruction.

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Monday, August 30, 2010

UPDATE: FCC Petitions 2nd Cir. for Review of Indecency Standards Ruling

swearing in cartoonImage via WikipediaThe Federal Communications Commission has petitioned for a rehearing en banc by the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit regarding the appellate court's July decision that the FCC indecency policy was unconstitutionally vague and violative of the First Amendment (See "TUOL" post 7/13/10).

The case, Fox Television v. FCC (Case Nos. 06-1760, 06-2750, & 06-5358) overturned the "fleeting expletives" FCC rule that subjected broadcasters to penalties for non-bleeped on-air expletives. Fox, CBS Broadcasting and others said the rule chilled 1st Amendment speech. U-2's Bono, Cher, and Nicole Ritchie at various times dropped F-bombs that were broadcast and resulted in fines.

A three-judge Second Circuit panel in July ruled the indecency policy under the Administrative Procedure Act [5 U.S.C. sec. 706(2)(A)] was arbitrary and capricious.  The FCC said in its petition that the ruling impedes the agency from enforcing federal statutory restrictions regarding indecent material and is seeking a rehearing of the case or that the full Second Circuit address the matter.

The FCC indecency restrictions cover the broadcast period from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. when children are most likely to be among viewers.

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Midwife Delivers $1m Libel Suit to New York Magazine

Image representing New York Media as depicted ...Image via CrunchBase
In Cara Muhlhahn v. Andrew Goldman & New York Media LLC (Case No. 10102846), a  Manhattan midwife is seeking $1 million in damages in a defamation suit filed in the Supreme Court of New York against New York magazine and a journalist over a 2009 article entitled "Extreme Birth."

The seven-page complaint alleges that the article "contained statements that were fabricated or based on unverified sources as well as allegations about which there were obvious reasons to doubt the accuracy or truth thereof." The plaintiff claims the article portrayed her as reckless. The defendants have filed a motion to dismiss the complaint, arguing the statements at issue were not susceptible to a defamatory meaning as they either constituted opinion or were accurate statements concerning the plaintiff's purported divergence from medical opinion.

The case has been written about on the Web sites of Jezebel and the  NY Observer.

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CJR Uses FOIL to Get G-O-V Emails

David PattersonImage by ianqui via FlickrApproximately 2,000 emails among the news media, former NY Gov. David Patterson's press flack Peter Kaufmann,  and deputy press secretary Melissa Shorenstein are the target of a lawsuit filed by Columbia Journalism Review under New York's Freedom of Information Law ("FOIL") [Pub. Off. Law Sec. 87 et seq.].

CJR reporter Clint Hendler (Disclosure: "TUOL"'s co-panelist on a discussion of anonymous bloggers on N.H. Public Radio's The Exchange 11/17/09,  http://www.nhpr.org/node/27862) originally sought the government emails following the "integrity"-based resignations of Kaufmann and Shorenstein in March 2009, concerning allegations that gubernatorial aide David Johnson was involved in a domestic violence incident. The governor's office has refused to produce the electronic correspondence, citing the reporter's privilege of NY's shield law[Civil Rights Law Art. 7, Sec. 79-h(a)(6)] and the presence of commercially sensitive information as the basis for withholding the emails.

A NY law firm is representing CJR pro bono.
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A Lawsuit Facebook Doesn't 'Like'

Image representing Facebook as depicted in Cru...Image via CrunchBaseAgence France-Presse reports that a lawsuit filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court seeks cash damages from social media behemoth Facebook for allegedly violating California law that prohibits commercially using minors to endorse products and services.

The lawsuit contends that parental or guardian consent is required before minors can click on Facebook's thumbs-up  "Like" icon to endorse online advertising content.  An attorney whose firm participated in filing the action accused Facebook of deriving illegal profits by charging advertisers for the use of minors' names and photographs. State law holds that minors cannot give legal consent.

Facebook plans vigorously to contest the lawsuit that it dismisses as meritless.

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Friday, August 27, 2010

With Staff Cuts, USA Today Looks to Tomorrow

LONG BEACH, CA - JULY 16:  A USA Today newspap...Image by Getty Images via @daylifeAnother 130 positions will be slashed from the business and editorial side this fall at Gannett Co.'s USA Today, a 9 percent reduction of the McLean, Va.-based daily's 1,500-member work force, according to an Associated Press story.

The AP account says USA Today, the nation's second largest newspaper after The Wall St. Journal, will shift its emphasis from its print edition to platforms including mobile devices, IPads, the Internet, and other digital forums. The re-organization will involve creating "content rings," including USA Today Sports, Breaking News, Your Life, Travel, Investigative, Tech, Personal Finance, Washington/Economy, National, World, Aviation, Autos, Entertainment and Environment/Science.

Gannett Co.'s stock has plunged nearly 80 percent over the past four years as circulation of its flagship daily has declined to an average 1.83 million compared to 2.3 million in 2007. Ad pages are off nearly 50 percent from four years ago.(See "TUOL" posts 6/24/10 & 2/12/10.)

On the positive side, the thinner USA Today slips more easily under chain hotel guest room doors nowadays.

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Bloggers Find Philly Taxing

The skyline of Pennsylvania's largest city Phi...Image via WikipediaPhiladelphia CityPaper reports that the City of Brotherly Love is not showing much love toward bloggers by requiring them to fork over $300 for a business privilege license.

The Philadelphia Dept. of Revenue (DOR) sent out scads of letters to bloggers informing them of the need for the license and advising them that any profits their blogs generate (snicker, snicker) are subject to taxation. Irrespective of the amount of revenue, if any, actually received, the willingness of bloggers to accept ads qualifies them as businesses in the eyes of the DOR.

Sounds like the makings of another revolution in Philadelphia.

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Thursday, August 26, 2010

U. Colo. May Shutter J-School

Camera (newspaper)Image via WikipediaThe Boulder Daily Camera reports that the Univ. of Colorado may pull the plug on its traditional School of Journalism and Mass Communication ("SJMC").

The University's j-school presently enrolls 647undergrads, 58 master's students and 26 doctoral candidates in its journalism program. The SJMC boasts 28 full-time faculty members, and approximately 30 instructors and 13 staffers. Were the regents to vote to shut down the SJMC, tenured faculty who did not retire or resign would have to be re-assigned to another academic department and retrained if necessary, but adjuncts would likely experience layoffs.

The Daily Camera reports that Chancellor Phil DiStefano has officials reviewing the school under the regents' discontinuance policy.  In any case,the school would remain open until current journalism enrollees complete their degree programs.

Under consideration is a restructuring that would better prepare students for workplace entry into digital journalism. The SJMC's external advisory committee has recommended closing the school and shifting some of its programs to the Alliance for Technology, Learning & Society Institute to further that goal. Also under study is merging the j-school with other disciplines to open a broader "school of information."

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Health Journos: Heal Thyselves

NEW YORK - APRIL 17:  (FILE PHOTO) Pedestrians...Image by Getty Images via @daylifeLogo of Pfizer Incorporated.Image via WikipediaFifteen journalists are Washington, D.C.-bound this October to attend a National Press Foundation-sponsored  four-day seminar concerning the latest research and developments in treatment of various forms of cancer, including breast, prostate and cervical, according to Shots, a National Public Radio blog.

Nothing wrong with journalists staying abreast of the latest scientific research.  The problem is the bill for the all-expenses paid seminar is being footed by Groton, Connecticut-based pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, Inc., everyone's favorite Lipitor and Viagra dispenser, but also the payer of  $2.3 billion in 2009 to settle civil and criminal allegations that it illegally marketed the since-withdrawn pain-killer Bextra, the largest health care fraud settlement in U.S. history.

Pfizer claims its aim in providing a grant for the seminar is to improve press coverage about cancer, and that no prid quo pro is expected from attendees. The National Press Foundation (NPF) chooses the speakers for the seminar, who are not paid to address the scribes, though Pfizer is given the floor at the opening of the seminar to discuss why it is sponsoring the program. Still, the NPF insists the seminar presentation will be fair and balanced.

The ethics code of the Society of Professional Journalists wags fingers at journalists who accept free travel and perks.  On the other hand, in this era of skeleton editorial staffs, sagging circulation and diminished advertising, newsroom budgets provide little in the way of continuing education for reporters.

The seminar, then, is a classic case of situational ethics in the face of a potential conflict of interest.  If journalists attending the event feel a conflict and experience discomfort that lasts for four hours or more, they should contact their media ethics professors or "TUOL."

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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

9th Cir. Revives Preacher's Libel Suit Against Stossel, 20/20

NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 13:  Journalist John Stoss...Image by Getty Images via @daylifeIn its 21-page opinion in Frederick K.C. Price v. John Stossel et al. (Case No. 09-55087), the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has revived a defamation suit brought by a preacher against the ABC newsmagazine 20/20 and then correspondent John Stossel.

U.S. District Court for the Central District of California Judge R. Gary Klausner had tossed the case brought by the founder of the Crenshaw Christian Center based on a 2007 20/20 broadcast, finding the allegedly libelous statements by the defendants "substantially true." The offending clip of a sermon  by television evangelist Price quoted him as saying: "I live in a 25-room mansion. I have my own $6 million yacht. I have my own private jet, and I have my own helicopter."

ABC subsequently issued an apology and retraction when it came to light that Price was sermonizing on the topic of greed about a hypothetical individual, who though financially healthy, was spiritually unfulfilled.  As a matter of  fact, Price certainly hasn't taken a personal vow of poverty, as he wears an $8,500 watch, drives a Rolls Royce, resides in an 8,000-square-foot home valued at $4.6 million, and travels in a jet owned by the Church, according to court records.

Nevertheless, writing for the appellate court, Judge Mary Schroeder reinstated the defamation claim, framing the underlying issue thusly: "Journalists and publishers risk a defamation action when they put words in a public figure's mouth...The issue in this case is whether there are similar risks when a network television program broadcasts a statement actually made by a public figure, but presents the statement in a misleading context, thereby changing the viewer's understanding of the speaker's words."

Judge Schroeder noted:  "Where the published quotation contains a material alteration of the meaning conveyed by the speaker, the published quotation is false."  She added: "Here, the context in which Price's words were presented materially changed the words' meaning."

Although Price refers to himself as a "prophet of prosperity," creating a wrong impression about an individual could harm his reputation and is actionable as defamation.  It's possible that ABC's profile of the prophet could turn into a total loss for the network.

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UPDATE: Calif. App. Ct. to LA Times: 'Your Photos Are Ready'

The Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments t...Image via WikipediaLos Angeles Superior Court Judge Hilleri Merritt's order barring publication of  Los Angeles Times photographer Al Seib's courtroom pictures of homicide defendant Alberd Tersargyan has been thrown out by the California Court of Appeal. (See "TUOL" posts on 8/11/10 & 8/6/10.)

In a unanimous opinion written by Judge Sanjay T. Kumar, the appellate court ruled Judge Merritt's ban was an unconstitutional prior restraint that violated the First Amendment.The appeals court said the record failed to show that Tersargyan's right to a fair trial would be impeded by publication of the photos.
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Katie Bar the Door: CBS Evening News' Ratings Plummet

Cropped headshot of Katie CouricImage via WikipediaDespite live reports from Afghanistan by anchor Katie Couric, the CBS Evening News scored its lowest ratings in 20 years, since the Nielsen Co.'s modern ratings system began, according to a New York Times story.

The CBS Evening News averaged 4.89 million viewers last week, compared to NBC Nightly News' 7.42 million and ABC World News' 6.51 million viewers, the Times story reported. Viewership has eroded for all three network news programs in recent years, but because CBS is mired in third place, it is more of a lightning rod for low ratings  stories.Doubtless, talking heads on cable news shows and media critics may point to the paltry ratings as evidence that American tv watchers have lost interest in the protracted Afghanistan conflict, which may have some validity, but is an over-simplistic conclusion ( a specialty of cable tv talking heads).
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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

National Journal Taps Cooper as Managing Editor

Yet another thieving criminal liar is rescued ...Image by Eleventh Earl of Mar via FlickrVeteran Washington, D.C. newsman and former TIME Magazine scribe Matthew Cooper has been named Managing Editor of The National Journal.

The Atlantic-Media owned Journal lured Cooper away from the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission for whom he was writing a book about the nation's economic collapse.  Cooper is forever linked with former New York Times writer Judith Miller as the two journalists held in contempt of court for their initial refusal to testify in the Valerie Plame leaks case that ultimately sent Dick Cheney's & Karl Rove's loyal aide Lewis "Scooter" Libby to the hoosegow. Cooper utlimately appeared before the Grand Jury and also testified at Libby's trial.

Besides TIME, Cooper has toiled for Newsweek, The New Republic and Washington Monthly.

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Will Supreme Court Drink In College Paper Alcohol Ban 1st Amendment Case?

College Drinking SongsImage by ThisIsIt2 via FlickrThe Virginia chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union has petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the 2-1 vote of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Educational Media Co. at Virginia Tech, Inc. et al. v. Susan R. Swecker, Commissioner, Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission et al, (Case No. 08-1798) that alcohol advertisement restrictions didn't violate two college newspapers' First Amendment rights, according to an Associated Press story. (See "TUOL" post April 12, 2010.)

The Cavalier Daily and The Collegiate Times claimed they lost $30,000 in advertising revenue because of  Alcohol Beverage Control Board regulations [3 Va. Admin. Code secs. 5-20-40(A) & (B)(3)] that prohibit the use of the term "happy hour," ban references to specific cocktails, and forbid beer, wine and mixed drink ads in student-operated publications except within the context of a restaurant ad.

AP said the ACLU filed the High Court petition Monday, arguing that the ban on non-deceptive advertising was unconstitutional and did not advance "important societal goals." The appellate court said the ABCB regs passed constitutional muster because they were narrowly tailored to curb underage and excessive drinking by college students and therefore, a permissible restriction on the papers' commercial speech rights.

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'Open Channel D' as in Damages

Rare children's storybook based upon The Man f...Image via WikipediaA Los Angeles County Superior Court jury, following a two-week trial,  has awarded $7.3 million to Anchor Bay Entertainment in its fraud case against Lindsay Dunlap & Ember Entertainment concerning the '60s tv classic spy series The Man from U.N.C.L.E., as reported by the Website THR, Esq.

Anchor Bay filed suit in October 2007, including counts alleging fraud, intentional misrepresentation and breach of contract in its 18-page complaint. The plaintiff claimed Dunlap represented to it that she held the rights to the hit spy series that ran from 1964-1968 and made international stars of Robert Vaughn (Napoleon Solo) and David McCallum (Illya Kuryakin).

Anchor Bay, Starz Media's DVD distribution unit, gave Dunlap $500,000 for U.N.C.L.E. masters and another $125,000 for DVD extra footage pursuant to a 2005 contract. M.G.M. produced the show chronicling U.N.C.L.E.'s battle against the evil organization T.H.R.U.S.H., but Warner Bros. TV subsequently acquired the program. Warner sent a cease and desist letter asserting its ownership rights to Anchor Bay as the plaintiff was readying the release of  U.N.C.L.E. DVDs.

Call it "The Ember Affair" and cue Jerry Goldsmith's catchy theme.

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Monday, August 23, 2010

Time Warner Ditching UK Periodicals?

Time WarnerImage via WikipediaThe New York Post reports that Ipc Media, Great Britain's largest magazine group, is undergoing a strategic review by parent Time Warner that will lead to the jettisoning of some niche titles and the possible unloading of the entire magazine division.

Time Warner acquired Ipc Media  in 2001 for $1.7 billion from venture capitalist Cinven. Reportedly, niche periodicals Railway, Guitar & Bass and Web User are already slated to be sold and Loaded may be unloaded to Vitality Publishing.

Industry observers say it's not outside the realm of possibility that Time Warner will get out entirely from under the financial strain of owning the magazine group. Ipc titles include Horse & Hound, Now, Chat, Look, and Nuts.
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Pa. High Court: Unseal Grand Jury Docs Probing Pol

Five of seven judges seats in the Supreme Cour...Image via WikipediaA ruling by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania Western District will unseal grand jury documents involving a probe of a state senator and her sister concerning allegations that paid legislative staff engaged in campaign work for the senator and another sister who serves as a justice on the Supreme Court, according to a story by the Associated Press.

The petition for review filed by PG Publishing Co., publisher of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (No. 33 WM 2010), and a similar petition filed by WPXI, Inc. television station (No. 45 WM 2010), sought to overturn Allegheny County Court of  Common Pleas Judge John Zottola's refusal in March to allow a Post-Gazette reporter access to documents related to the investigation of Sen. Jane Orie and her sister Janine, purportedly because of a Supreme Court order. Justice Joan Orie Melvin did not participate in the court's decision.

Judge Zottola wrongly sealed all the documents in the case, the Supreme Court ruled, and must conduct proceedings to determine which documents should be unsealed and made accessible to the press. Jane and Janie Orie are awaiting trial on the charges that they used paid members of Sen. Orie's staff to perform campaign work for Sen. Orie and Justice Orie.
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Warner Bros. v. Magic X: Where the Rubber Meets the Road

Magic wand Harry PotterImage via Wikipedia
The Cantonal Court in Schwyz (Switzerland) is expected to decide in the coming weeks whether to ban a product registered in 2006 with Swissreg, the Swiss Federal Institute of Intellectual Property.

The product is the target of a copyright infringement claim by Warner Bros., overseer of the blockbuster Harry Potter film franchise, against manufacturer Magic X. The product? Harry Popper condoms.

As reported by the Website THR, Esq. (http://thresq.hollywoodreporter.com) and the online edition of The Daily Telegraph (www.Telegraph.co.uk), the Popper prophylactic's package boasts a cartoon condom adorned in Harry Potter-type glasses holding a magic wand.

Warners is breaking out the big guns to try to cancel the condom company's trademark registration, but counsel for Magic X insists their product is wholly unrelated to author J.K. Rowling's money-making boy wizard.  The battle has been waged throughout Europe, with Warners having successfully prosecuted its claims in Austria and Germany to date.

Despite its opposition to copyright infringement, the health-conscious staff of "TUOL" advocates protected sex, even if it means wearing Harry Popper condoms, to avoid getting "hog warts."

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Thursday, August 19, 2010

Iceland Goal: 'Fantasy Island' for Journalists?

Coat of arms of IcelandImage via Wikipedia
Agence France Presse reports that Iceland's parliament in June unanimously approved the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative ("IMMI")[http://www.immi.is], a freedom of information bill that the European island nation envisions will create the world's strongest shield to protect journalists and whistleblowers.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is one of IMMI's biggest boosters. Iceland parliament member Birgitta Jonsdottir hopes the IMMI protection afforded investigative reporters and their confidential sources will turn Iceland into a "transparency haven" that will attract journalists to Iceland, much as countries that are tax havens draw wealthy citizens.  Jonsdottir, a self-proclaimed "anarchist" (though "TUOL" bets a krona she observes state holidays), said IMMI is a response in part to previous censorship in August 2009, when public broadcaster RUV was enjoined from airing a report on one of Iceland's largest banks that went bust a year later, helping to push the country to the brink of bankruptcy.

IMMI is expected to take effect in about a year and a half, as its enactment requires changing about 13 laws currently in force.  "TUOL" doubts that journalists will be lured to the North Atlantic Ocean kingdom, particularly if it will require them to learn how to spell Reykjavik, Raykjovic, Rakervic, never mind.
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OCR Reporters 'Face' Their Readers

Orange County RegisterImage by DannySan via Flickr
The Santa Ana, Calif.-based Orange County Register, a Freedom Communications, Inc. publication, has decided that each staff-bylined story will be accompanied by a head shot of the Register reporter who wrote it.

 The rationale behind the move, according to the daily's editor, is to "promote our talented writing staff." Unfortunately, as with most moves taken by newspapers nowadays, the decision is not journalistic, but based on marketing, specifically, a suggestion from the MORI research firm.

The plan is to have a mug shot of the reporter, free of props, appear next to the byline accompanying the article.  OCR staffers face an uphill battle trying to convince editors that a flask is not a prop, but rather, a necessity.

Register readers will learn soon enough why the ink-stained wretches generating their news opted for print journalism, rather than television reporting (just kidding; "TUOL" knows that everyone in California is good-looking). Wonder if there will be an exception made for cloak-and-dagger investigative reporters, who probably consider their smiling puss a detriment to going undercover.

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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Why Cloak-and-Dagger Journalists Need to Read Their Own Publication

Croydon, LondonImage by Mark Grealish via Flickr
Across the Pond, from whence Monty Python sprang, comes an amusing story in The Guardian concerning its ink-stained, red-faced brethren at The Croydon Advertiser.

Seems an intrepid Advertiser reporter went undercover--no pun intended--posing as a "john" to expose--still no pun intended--a brothel operating as a massage parlor. The results of the reporter's probe--slight pun intended--appeared in a story under the headline: Sinister brothel uncovered next to charity office, proving that charity begins at home (if your home is a house of ill-repute).

Ah, but here's the rub. Had the fearless scribe turned to page 52 of The Croydon Advertiser, he would have found an ad for the same "fantasy massage" parlor he went to great lengths to uncover. The Croydon Community Against Trafficking ("CCAT") alleges the brothel has regularly promoted itself in the Advertiser for years, and that the CCAT previously has flagged the enterprise to the newspaper.

In a spin worthy of a politician's shill, the editorial director of  Advertiser parent Northcliff  Media's south-east weeklies issued a statement that although the Sexual Offences Act of 1956 proscribes operating a house of prostitution, it is not against the law to accept advertisements for brothels.

Still, the Advertiser may want to address its advertising policy at its next board-ello meeting.
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'We Donate, You Decide'

Image representing News Corporation as depicte...Image via CrunchBaseThe Rupert Murdoch-owned News Corp., parent of Fox News, The Wall St. Journal, The New York Post and other media entities, and its political action committee, News America Holdings, have contributed $1 million to the Republican Governors Assn.("RPA"), The New York Times reported in a story first-broken by Bloomberg News.

Campaign finance trackers deemed the $1 million contribution one of the largest political donations ever given by a media organization.  A News Corp. spokesperson said the RPA's stance on low taxes and economic growth, rather than its political affiliation, was the basis for the contribution.  News Corp. has donated to Republican and Democratic causes and candidates in the past, but never in such a large sum.

The News Corp. spokesperson said the media conglomerate's wall separating editorial and business decisions would ensure that the political contribution does not influence political news coverage. Viewers of Fox News might wonder whether sentries at the "wall"  have a standing order to  "detain all Democrats."
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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Appeals Court: Pa. School Board Wrongly Avoids the Sunshine

Allegheny County Courthouse and Jail, PittsburghImage by Cornell University Library via FlickrA three-judge appellate panel in Pennsylvania has sided with the Trib Total Media, Inc.-owned Valley News Dispatch in finding that the Highlands School District violated the Commonwealth's Sunshine Law when it met in executive session to discuss a tax assessment appeal with shopping center representatives.

Commonwealth Court Judge Patricia A. McCullough wrote that the shopping center reps should not have had a "private audience" with elected officials to lobby the board to support their position concerning the tax issue. The appellate court said the nonpublic meeting did not fall within the open meetings Sunshine Law exemption that preserves private litigation strategy sessions with one's attorney because the shopping center reps were adversaries. The appeals court also rejected the school district claim that a public meeting would discourage the use of alternative dispute resolution.

The case began last June when a Valley News Dispatch reporter was barred from the executive session discussion of the tax assessment litigation, even though counsel for both parties and the shopping center reps were allowed to attend. The trial court rejected the newspaper's claim that the non-public meeting violated the Sunshine Law (Pa. Code Sec. 701 et seq.).

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Monday, August 16, 2010

Supervisor Moves Forward Against Anonymous Bloggers

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette BuildingImage via WikipediaKudos to www.SuffolkMediaLaw.com newsletter for flagging a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette story last week involving Forward Township Supervisor Thomas DeRosa's successful pursuit of the identities of six anonymous bloggers whom he alleges defamed him on the online bulletin board, www.elizabethboro.com.

Court of Common Pleas Judge R. Stanton Wettick, Jr. ordered  information about the posters be turned over to the township supervisor, who claimed in a lawsuit filed last November that the anonymous comments accusing him of corruption impugned his reputation. The American Civil Liberties Union, which interceded on the online bulletin board's behalf, released the six bloggers' IP (Internet Protocol) addresses to DeRosa's counsel, which will enable the supervisor to petition the posters' respective Internet Service Providers to release the names.

The ACLU does not plan to appeal Judge Wettick's ruling.
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Worcester Daily Meter Is Running

Telegram & GazetteImage via WikipediaThe New York Times reports that the online edition of its sister publication, The Worcester Telegram & Gazette next week will launch a metered paywall system.

Although subscribers to the print edition will continue to have free access to online content, others will be allotted 10 free local articles a month before a subscription fee kicks in.  Online readers can opt for a $1 day pass or a $14.95 monthly subscription for complete access to online local news content.
The New York Times plans to unveil its own metered paywall system for its online edition early next year.
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