Friday, August 31, 2012

Ebook Publishers 'E-void' Antitrust Trial with Settlement Offer

Simon & Schuster
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A federal judge must still approve the proposal, but three ebook publishers have offered to kick in a total of  $69 million to settle an antitrust suit that alleges they attempted to fix ebook prices.

Attorneys general of 54 states and the District of Columbia filed suit in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, State of Texas, et al. v. Hachette Book Group et al. (Docket No. 12-cv-6625), claiming that Hachette, along with HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster, conspired to "raise the retail price of electronic books"  in violation of the Sherman Act [15 U.S.C. sec. 1] and the Clayton Act [15 U.S.C. secs. 12-27]. The publishers' settlement proposal would reimburse consumers who purchased ebooks from April 1, 2010, to May 12, 2010, at purportedly unreasonably elevated prices, in amounts ranging from 25 cents to $1.32 a book.

If the proposed resolution is accepted by the court, repayment would begin 30 days later. Besides the $69 million to reimburse consumers, the publishers would also bear the burden of legal fees and costs of $7.5 million. Tip of the hat to Courthouse News Service for their coverage of the class action suit.
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Thursday, August 30, 2012

UPDATE: Judge Nixes Facebook 'Sponsored Stories' Suit Settlement Deal

Facebook logo Español: Logotipo de Facebook Fr...
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Earlier this month, United States District Court for the Northern District of California Judge Richard Seeborg withheld his blessings from the proposed $20 million settlement in Fraley v. Facebook (Case No. 5:11-cv-01726), a putative class action suit arising from Facebook's Sponsored Stories ads.

Under the proposed settlement, Facebook would revise its Statement of Rights & Responsibilities to give members more of a voice in how their personal information is used and agree to dispense $10 million in cy pres payments among various children's, electronic privacy and consumer advocacy groups. Judge Seeborg caught the case after presiding Judge Lucy H. Koh recused herself the day before the settlement hearing (see "TUOL" post 7/12/12). Plaintiffs contend that the Sponsored Stories ads violate California's Right to Publicity ("ROP") statute [Calif. Civ. Code sec. 3344] (see "TUOL" post 12/22/11).

Judge Seeborg refused to sign off on the settlement agreed-to by the parties in part, because it allows for $10 million in legal fees, but nary a penny for the Facebook users purportedly harmed by the Sponsored Stories ads. The $10 million that would be distributed to the various nonprofit advocacy groups is based on ROP, which assesses $750 in statutory damages per infraction. Judge Seeborg said the parties failed to justify the cy pres payments to the groups merely on the argument that it would be unfeasible to divvy up the amount among the "injured" Facebook users.

The court invited the parties either to modify the proposed settlement or to resubmit the resolution with further legal arguments about why it should be approved. Stay tuned.

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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Newhouses Advance on Trimming Dailies to Tri-Weeklies

The Star-Ledger
The Star-Ledger (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The Newhouse family-owned Advance Publications is embracing the model that converts daily newspapers to thrice-weekly publications, with The Syracuse Post Standard next in line and several northeastern papers in peril, The New York Post "Media Ink" column reports.

Beginning January 1, 2013, a new entity, the Syracuse Media Group, will oversee and a Post Standard that will publish Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday, according to the Media Ink column. The Newhouse media conglomerate would not confirm whether a similar fate awaits some of its Northeast dailies, including the (Newark) Star Ledger, Trenton Times, Jersey Journal and Staten Island Advance. Entrenched Star Ledger  union contracts with pressmen and truckers may slow, but not stop, the three-times-the-charm publishing juggurnaut.

The Star Ledger was "TUOL"'s morning read during the devoted staff's formative middle school and high school years, so stay tuned for updates on whether the Ledger will suffer the same fate as the New Orleans Times Picayune.
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When Google Pulls into Germany, German Consumers 'Putsch' Back

A Google sign from their campus in Mountain Vi...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The Federation of German Consumer Organizations ("FGCO") has threatened to sue Internet giant Google on September 4, unless the Mountain View, California-based company stops dispensing users' personal data without their consent, the India Times reports.

The FGCO issued a cease and desist letter to Google, which it claims automatically shares users' information with third-party applications without obtaining the users' explicit permission, according to the Times article. Google has run afoul of Germany's strict privacy laws before, as the German government previously compelled Google to offer its citizens the right to opt out of the company's Street View mapping program (see "TUOL" post 10/22/10).
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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

6th Circ.: Ok YouTube Death Threat Song Lands Singer in 'Sing-Sing'

Seal of the United States Court of Appeals for...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
In U.S. v. Franklin D. Jeffries II (Case No. 11-5722), the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit has upheld the criminal conviction of an Iraq/Afghanistan war veteran whose YouTube music video threatened the life of an unidentified judge set to hear a child custody visitation dispute in which Jeffries was embroiled were the unnamed judge to issue an adverse ruling.

In a 20-page decision written by Judge Jeffrey S. Sutton, the appellate court said the vehicle for delivering a death threat was unimportant if a reasonable person perceived the threat as genuine. According to accounts in the Knoxville News Sentinel and the ABA Journal Law News Now blog, Franklin Delano "Dale" Jeffries, a former Army sergeant, sang and rapped a warning that his next court date in a visitation battle with his daughter's mother had better be his last.

"If I have to kill a judge or a lawyer, or a woman, I don't care, cause this is my daughter we're talking about," Jeffries sang. His lyrics also included the phrase: "You don't deserve to be a judge and you don't deserve to live." As a songwriter, the defendant was less Cole Porter than Cole Younger, or more Frankenstein than Jule Styne.

Knox County Chancellor Mike Moyers was slated to hear the custody case in July 2010, the News Sentinel reported, but federal authorities intervened after Jeffries posted his ditty on YouTube and Facebook, and also forwarded it to a state senator and a local television station.

He was sentenced to 18 months in prison. Jeffries was released earlier this year, but has since been sentenced to a year in prison by United States District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee Judge Thomas W. Phillips for cocaine use and issuing threats of suicide and murder on Twitter, so he's apparently turned his creative juices toward a new medium, at least.

Jeffries' attorneys claimed their client's song was a failed attempt at humor, and in any case, constituted a means of releasing stress that was protected by the First Amendment. No dice, said the Sixth Circuit. "[O]ne cannot duck (the law)," Judge Sutton wrote, "merely by delivering the threat in verse or by dressing it up with political and protected attacks on the legal system."

For the immediate future, it looks as if Jeffries' repertoire of songs may be confined to Prisoner of Love, Jailhouse Rock and the country & western classic: They May Put Me in Prison, but They Can't Stop My Face from Breakin' Out.

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Monday, August 27, 2012

It's About Times: Bolsters SEO Capabilities
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The New York Times has unloaded, its south-headed search engine optimization ("SEO") investment, to Barry Diller's IAC/InterActive Corp. for $300 million in cash, The Wall St. Journal reported today.

The Times doled out $410 million in 2005 to acquire, but took a $195 million write-down on its investment last month. IAC also owns  the SEO, and outbid SEO, which offered $270 million to the Times earlier this month, according to the Journal story. Ask draws 87 million unique monthly visitors, compared to About's 52 million, comScore indicates (way more than "TUOL", but who's counting?).

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Egypt Relaxes Censorship--Jailed Journo Released

CAIRO, EGYPT - JUNE 24: Egyptians celebrate th...
(Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)
Jailed independent newspaper editor-in-chief of el-Dustour, Islam Afifi, has been set free by Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi pending the outcome of sedition charges against him, the Vancouver Sun reports.

El-Dustour is owned by the leader of the Waft party, which opposes Morsi. Afifi is accused of slandering Morsi and harming the public interest through his writings, according to the Sun article. Soon after an Egyptian court ordered Afifi bound over until his trial next month, Morsi issued a law prohibiting the jailing of journalists charged with media-related crimes.

What appears to be an easing of censorship may not be the case as Afifi can find himself back in stir if convicted of the charges in September. A Pyramid scheme of another sort, perhaps.
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Friday, August 24, 2012

Search Warrant Affidavits Public Records, SJC Rules

The Quincy Patriot Ledger building, located at...
The Quincy Patriot Ledger building (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court this week, in Com. v. George Prescott Publishing Co., LLC (Case No. 11062), ruled that police affidavits supporting search warrants must be produced under the Commonwealth's Public Records Law (G.L. c. 66, sec. 10).

Siding with the Quincy Patriot Ledger, which sought a State Police affidavit involving alleged sexual misconduct by a prominent real estate developer allegedly involving a minor, the SJC rejected arguments by the developer's counsel that his client's right to a fair trial would be compromised and by authorities, who contended that G.L. c. 41, sec. 97D was controlling and shielded the affidavit from production. That statute exempts rape and sexual assault reports, along with conversations between police and victims, from production under the Public Records Law. A Quincy District Court judge had sealed the document, prompting the daily to appeal.

The SJC frowns on impounding documents and cited in its opinion well-established case law treating search warrants and supporting documentation as presumptive public records. The high court's ruling voiced confidence in trial judges' ability to balance First Amendment concerns against a criminal defendant's right to a presumption of innocence.
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Not So Fast: Chicago Trib Still Hasn't Crossed Bankruptcy Finish Line

CHICAGO, IL - JUNE 07: The Tribune Tower, head...(Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Kevin J. Carey this week granted a stay of his confirmation order last month that would enable The Chicago Tribune to emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy (see "TUOL" post 7/16/12), but for the "time out" to continue, creditor Aurelius Capital Management ("ACM"), which is appealing the media conglomerate's reorganization plan, must post a $1.5 billion bond by August 29, the Tribune reports.

It's uncertain whether junior creditor ACM has the will or the way to rustle up the bond money to continue its appeal of the reorganization plan that gives senior creditors ownership of the Tribune Co. The conglomerate, which filed for bankruptcy in December 2008 (In re Tribune Co., Case No. 08-bk-13141), has  rung up more than $400 million in attorneys' fees wending its way through insolvency.

If the ACM appeal fizzles and the stay is lifted, the Tribune Co. must still garner FCC approval of its transfer of its television and radio properties, which include WGN-TV, to the new owners. According to the Tribune article, the conglomerate also must secure  $1.1 billion in debt financing and a credit line.
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Thursday, August 23, 2012

Barry Diller Sues BarryDriller

Barry Diller planned on anchoring a new Paramo... (Photo credit: Wikipedia)Pity the docket and courtroom clerks at the United States District Court for the Central District of California, who are trying not to confuse separate Barry Diller and BarryDriller lawsuits.

A little more than a week after a copyright and trademark infringement suit, Fox Television Services, Inc. et al. v. BarryDriller Content Systems Plc (Case No. 12-cv-6921), was filed in the federal court in Los Angeles (see "TUOL" post 8/14/12), along comes Barry Diller v. BarryDriller Content Systems Plc (Case No. 12-cv-7200). Diller, one-time head of Paramount Pictures and Fox and an investor in Aereo, a rival of the defendant that also streams broadcast television signals on Internet-enabled devices, has sued the defendant, which is owned by Alki David, for cybersquatting, alleged violation of his right to publicity, and for trademark abuse under the Lanham Act [15 U.S.C. sec. 1125].

As reported in The Los Angeles Times, THR, Esq. and elsewhere, Diller accuses David's company of implying a false endorsement by him by adopting the name "BarryDriller."  The Complaint alleges the defendant is using his name in its business to: "(1) associate their service with Plaintiff and (2) mislead the public into believing that Defendants' service has been judicially sanctioned." The Complaint immodestly refers to the plaintiff as one of the best-known business leaders in the U.S. Diller is asking Judge Margaret M. Morrow for punitive damages and injunctive relief against the Defendant.

The concerned staff of "TUOL" hopes for the sake of the court's personnel that no litigation ensues over the Estate of comedian Phyllis Diller, as "TUOL" already has had its fill-er of Diller & Driller lawsuits.

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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

UPDATE: MN Appeals Court Tosses $60K Verdict Against Blogger

Map of Minnesota highlighting Hennepin CountyHennepin County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)In its 14-page decision this week in Jerry L. Moore v. John Hoff a/k/a Johnny Northside (Case No. A11-1923), the Minnesota Court of Appeals reversed and remanded a trial judge's denial of a blogger's motion for judgment as a matter of law ("JMOL"), and overturned a $60,000 jury verdict on a tortious interference with contract claim on First Amendment grounds.

As previously reported here (see "TUOL" post 3/15/11), following a three-day trial in March 2010, a seven-member Hennepin County Jury awarded Moore, one-time director of the Jordan Area Community Council, $35,000 in lost wages and $25,000 emotional distress damages after the University of Minnesota terminated him from its Urban Research & Outreach/Engagement Center. Although Moore's defamation claims against Hoff based on the latter's June 2009, posts in his community development blog, The Adventures of Johnny Northside, went nowhere, the jury blamed Hoff's published remarks for Moore's dismissal.

Hennepin County District Court Judge Denise Reilly denied Hoff's  JMOL motion. At issue on appeal was whether a nondefamatory statement could underlie a tortious interference with contract claim and whether sufficient evidence existed to support the jury's tortious interference verdict without infringing on Hoff's First Amendment-protected blog posting.

Proving a tortious interference with contract claim requires the existence of a contract about which the alleged tortfeasor knows and intentionally, without justification, procures its breach, causing damages to the plaintiff. In a decision written by Judge Jill Flascamp Halbrooks, the Appeals Court ruled that a party cannot be held liable for tortious interference of contract for imparting truthful information to a third party.

"Because a tortious interference claim cannot be based upon true information and because the record does not contain sufficient evidence of conduct separate and distinct from Hoff's constitutionally protected speech to sustain the verdict," Judge Halbrooks wrote, "we conclude that the district court erred by denying Hoff's motion for JMOL. We therefore reverse and remand for the district court to enter judgment for Hoff."

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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

ABC News Retracts Cancer Claim in Director's Suicide

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 26:  (L-R) Directors...(Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)When 68-year-old British-born film and television director/producer Tony Scott committed suicide last Sunday by jumping off a bridge in San Pedro, California, the public wondered what possessed such a Hollywood success story to do so.  ABC News rushed in to provide a possible explanation by attributing to an unnamed source that Scott was battling an inoperable brain tumor.

Vanity Fair, People and the Huffington Post, among other media outlets,  ran with the ABC News scoop. Only it turned out, just as it previously erroneously reported that the Aurora, Colo., movie theater gunman who went on a shooting spree was a member of the Colorado Tea Party, ABC News got it wrong again.

The network has conceded that it was unable to confirm the report that Scott, the director of films such as Top Gun (1986), Crimson Tide (1995), Enemy of the State (1998) and Unstoppable (2010) and of tv hits The Good Wife and Numb3rs, suffered from cancer. Credit Deadline Hollywood for upending the ABC News miscue by reporting that Scott's widow had told police he did not have brain cancer. Scott's brother, Ridley Scott, is also a prominent Hollywood figure who directed Alien and frequently collaborated with his sibling on tv projects.

ABC News has updated its report. The network continues to overlook the third component of the old journalism adage: "Get it first, get it fast, get it right."
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Myanmar Loosens Yoke on Journalists

English: State seal of Myanmar adopted in 2008.(Photo credit: Wikipedia)Local journalists in Myanmar no longer have to submit their articles pre-publication for government approval, the Southeast Asian nation's Information Ministry announced yesterday.

According to accounts by Reuters and the Associated Press, President Thein Sein, who began to relax restrictions on press freedom last year, has ended the pre-publication approval practice that was in place for the nearly 50 years of military rule in the former Burma.

Before popping the champagne bottles in celebration of Myanmar's embracing concepts espoused by the First Amendment, however, it's worth noting that the nation still prohibits private daily newspapers and requires journalists post-publication to submit their work to the Press Scrutiny Dept., whose task it is to ensure publishing laws are not broken, which invites pervasive self-censorship. Lest we forget, the Committee to Protect Journalists last year reported Myanmar jailed a dozen journalists (see "TUOL" post 12/9/11).

Still, like new parents with a camcorder, it's worth acknowledging Myanmar's "baby steps" for posterity.
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Monday, August 20, 2012

Journos Fight Over Hosting Dull Events

Bob Schieffer, chief Washington correspondent ...Bob Schieffer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)It's much less amusing, and the backstage gossip is less juicy than the Leno-Conan-Letterman dust-up over who would handle Tonight Show hosting duties, but the moderator picks by the Commission on Presidential Debates ("CPD") last week set off a battle royale among snubbed journalists just the same.

Mainstream was the byword of the CPD choices of CBS' Bob Schieffer, PBS' Jim Lehrer and CNN's Candy Crowley to host the presidential gabfests and ABC's Martha Raddatz to handle the vice-presidential debate. Fox News was shut out because of negative signals from the Obama camp, so we'll have to look elsewhere for comic relief.  Likewise, the Romney camp made faces regarding the possibility of tapping MSNBC talent, and the CPD skirted selecting from among Big 3 network anchors Brian Williams, Diane Sawyer and Scott Pelley to avoid ruffling the feathers of whichever 2 would have been bypassed, according to accounts in The New York Times and's TV Newser blog.

Although Crowley is the first woman to moderate a presidential debate in two decades, the CPD selections elicited lack-of-diversity brickbats from the National Association of Black Journalists and Spanish language broadcaster Univision. Also grumbling, with justification, is PBS' Gwen Ifil, a "fresher face" than Lehrer, who anticipated helming a presidential debate, having previously moderated a vice-presidential debate.

The CPD is introducing a new debate format that is broken down into six 15-minute blocks during which candidates are allotted two minutes apiece to respond to questions. The four moderators selected are all credible, though the expertise of Raddatz, a former reporter in "TUOL"'s stomping ground of Boston, is in Pentagon goings-on and foreign affairs, whereas the November election is decidedly focused on domestic issues.

If the debates were truly debates instead of affairs in which candidates spew well-rehearsed talking points buoyed by a pep rally audience while press members lie in the weeds waiting for what they can afterward declare a "gaffe" by one of the candidates, the moderator kerfuffle might actually mean something.  The staff of "TUOL" would rather see tag-team moderating by Rachel Maddow, Jon Stewart, and Bill Maher versus Bill O'Reilly, Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh, so at least there would be some entertainment value to the ponderous events.

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Thursday, August 16, 2012

9th Cir. Rejects Mag's 'Fair Use' Claim in Publishing Pop Star's Wedding Pix

Seal of the United States Court of Appeals for...(Photo credit: Wikipedia)In a 2-1 decision, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit this week in Monge et al. v. Maya Magazines, Inc. et al. (Case No. 10-56710) reversed a lower court ruling that accepted a gossip magazine's fair use defense in publishing without permission a Latina pop star's wedding photos.

As reported by the ABA Journal Law News Now blog, the 47-page decision written by Justice M. Margaret McKeown ruled against Maya's TVNotas magazine, which in 2009 published the private Las Vegas wedding photos of actress/singer Noelia Lorenzo Monge to Jorge Reynoso that purportedly were provided to the defendants by the couple's sometime chauffeur/bodyguard in 2007. The lovebirds sought to keep the marriage on the Q-T to preserve Monge's sexy single star image.

The defendants offered a fair use defense to the plaintiffs' copyright infringement claim, arguing the photos of the celebrity were newsworthy, but Justice McKeown wasn't buying it. "Waving the news-reporting flag is not a get-out-of-jail-free card in the copyright arena," she wrote. According to Justice McKeown, "Maya's effort to document its expose does not automatically trump the couple's rights in its unpublished photos."

In a stinging dissent, Justice Milan Smith, Jr. argued the majority's opinion would have allowed Tiger Woods to assert copyright privilege over his notorious sexting messages and former U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner to prevent media use of his Tweeted crotch photos.  According to the dissent, the majority ruling "undermine(s) the free press and eviscerate the principles upon which copyright was founded. Although newsworthiness alone is insufficient to invoke fair use, public figures should not be able to hide behind the cloak of copyright to prevent the news media from exposing their fallacies."
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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Gray Lady Reaches Across the Pond & Medium for New CEO

English: Mark Thompson, Director-General of th...(Photo credit: Wikipedia)After an eight-month search, The New York Times has tapped 55-year-old Mark Thompson, BBC Worldwide's Director General since 2004, to be its new CEO, the paper announced today.

In a letter to staffers, Publisher Arthur Sulzberger, Jr. acknowledged in the newspaper's selection of broadcasting executive Thompson, who has presided over the BBC's global and digital expansion: "Our future is on to video, to social to mobile. It doesn't mirror what we've done. It broadens what we are going to do."

Thompson will join the Times in November and take a seat on the paper's board of directors. The Gray Lady has not had a CEO since December 2011, when Janet Robinson was ungently pushed out the door after butting heads with company executives. The Times last month reported an $88 million net loss for the Second Quarter of 2012 compared to a year ago, but, on the bright side, noted a jump in digital subscriptions to more than 509,000.

Thompson, a graduate of Merton College at University of Oxford, joined the BBC in 1979 as a production trainee and had become its director of television by 2000.
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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

'Streaming Mad' Fox Files Copyright & Trademark Suit Against BarryDriller

English: Official seal of the U.S._District_Co... (Photo credit: Wikipedia)An offensive against television streaming services was launched last week in the United States District Court for the Central District of California via a four-count, 17-page complaint, Fox Television Services, Inc. et al. v. BarryDriller Content Systems PLC (Case No. 12-cv-6921), that alleges copyright and trademark infringement.

According to accounts by CNN Money and THR, Esq., the plaintiffs claim the signal of  KTTV, Fox's Los Angeles affiliate, is being streamed by the defendant without permission. The complaint alleges the defendant is capturing live broadcast programming and then copying the programming and streaming it over the Internet where the public may view it on Web-enabled devices.

The plaintiffs are seeking monetary damages and injunctive relief against the defendant streaming service, which set up shop on August 7 under the aegis of Alki David. BarryDriller charges users $5.95 monthly to transmit the free tv signals to subscribers' personal antennas.

On the East Coast, free tv broadcasters and content owners are waging war against the digital  tv streaming service Aereo (one of whose financial backers is media maven Barry Diller). A New York judge rejected an injunction request against Aereo in a case that turns, in part, on the issue of whether Aereo's one-on-one streaming transmittal to an individual's miniature antenna constitutes public broadcasting.
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Monday, August 13, 2012

Clear Channel Conglomerate Swallows Classic New York City AM Station

WOR Logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)The New York Times reported today that Clear Channel Communications, Inc., the largest radio station owner in the U.S., will add WOR-AM to its stable of 850 properties.

The Times article said 50,000-watt, WOR-AM 710 on the dial, New York City's oldest operating broadcaster, will be the sixth New York City outlet owned by Clear Channel, though its first AM signal. Terms of the sale of WOR, which began broadcasting in 1922, were not disclosed.

The station has been owned by Buckley Broadcasting Corp. since 1989. The talk station's roster of talent includes former Governors David Patterson (N.Y.) and Mike Huckabee (Ark.), right-wing bomb-thrower Michael Savage and John Gambling (Disclosure: Gambling, the son of long-time WOR mainstay John Gambling Jr. of "Rambling with Gambling" fame, was a big dog at Boston University's WTBU-AM  in the early '70s at the same time as the ever-youthful staff of "TUOL" also toiled there on crazy late-night programs).

Other Clear Channel owned stations in New York City include WHTZ-FM "Z100", a Top 40 station, and WLTW-FM "Lite FM." WOR-AM ranked 19th in the July Arbitron ratings with 626,000 listeners, according to the Times article.
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Travel Gets Googlized

Image representing Google as depicted in Crunc...Image via CrunchBaseThe Wall St. Journal reported today that Frommer, a cadillac brand of travel guides, is being unloaded by publisher John Wiley & Sons, Inc. to Google, Inc., the Mountain View, Calif.-based search engine and owner of much of the universe, for an undisclosed sum.

Google has yet to determine whether to make Frommer an online-only presence or to continue to publish print versions of the travel guide, according to the Journal article.  Also under consideration is blending Frommer in with restaurant review maven Zagat Survey, LLC, which Google purchased in September 2011.
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'GPS' Host Loses Direction--Suspended by CNN/Time for Plagiarism

Time Magazine (September 13, 2010) ...item 2.....(Photo credit: marsmet541)Add Fareed Zakaria to the list of prominent media types tripped up by allegations of plagiarism.

The ubiquitous 48-year-old Zakaria, who hosts CNN foreign-affairs program GPS, is a Washington Post columnist and a Time Magazine editor at-large, admitted his recent Time column on gun control mirrored a more in-depth article on guns in America by Harvard University historian Jill Lepore that appeared in the April 23, 2012, issue of The New Yorker.

Zakaria's indiscretion was flagged by the NewsBusters conservative Web site and further disseminated by media columnist Jim Romanesko on his blog. Zakaria has been suspended indefinitely by CNN and for at least a month by Time pending further review of his past work. Both are Time Warner properties.

In reports by the Associated Press and The New York Times, Zakaria was quoted as saying: "I made a terrible mistake. It is a serious lapse and one that is entirely my fault. I apologize unreservedly to her, to my editors at Time, and to my readers."

Zakaria, who holds degrees from Harvard and Yale, was taken to task earlier this year for delivering a commencement speech at Harvard very similar to one he previously gave at Duke University. The staff of "TUOL" thought the commencement flap a bit of a tempest in a teapot as both speeches were his words and views speakers who ride the college commencement gravy train as somewhat like touring stand-up comics who perform basically the same routines at clubs around the country. There are a limited number of ways, after all, to tell fresh-faced grads headed toward unemployment or Starbucks barista training to "make a difference."

Plagiarism, however, is no laughing matter to this blog. Laziness is a common factor in the offense, and often in the case of new journalists, ignorance plays a part, whereas hubris often is the downfall of more prominent media figures. Whatever the cause, it's theft and a fireable offense in the eyes of "TUOL."

It's sad to see an intelligent individual such as Zakaria take the walk of shame that author/science writer Jonah Lehrer took last month (see "TUOL" post 7/31/12) and  that cost Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Sari Horwitz her job at the Washington Post last year (see "TUOL" post 3/23/11).
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Friday, August 10, 2012

Two Italian Journos Jailed & Fined for Criminal Libel

Flag of the Autonomous Region Trentino-South T...(Photo credit: Wikipedia)A reporter and an editor for Alto Adige, an Italian newspaper published in Bolzano in south Tyrol, were slapped with a four-month jail sentence and fined 15,000 euros ($18, 441) for criminal libel based on a 2008 article that defamed a Bolzano provincial counselor, The Guardian reports.

Orfeo Donatini, who wrote the article, and his editor, Tiziano Marson, were convicted of criminal libel for alleging that Sven Knoll attended a neo-Nazi summit four years ago. Alto Adige based its article on a police report that also was the subject of an article in the nationwide daily L'Espresso, according to the Guardian article.

After an initial acquittal, the matter was reviewed and the defendants were found guilty by a Bolzano tribunal. A London-based human rights group, eager to challenge Italy's criminal libel penal code provisions, has taken up the cudgel on the journalists' behalf
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Thursday, August 9, 2012

Magazines' Last Stand at the Newsstand?

Magazines to read (Photo credit: Longzero)Half-year figures are in from the Audit Bureau of Circulation (ABC) and newsstand sales for periodicals overall are grim.

As reported by Women's Wear Daily's Web site, Conde Nast flagship magazines Vogue and Vanity Fair respectively experienced 16.5 percent and 18.8 percent declines in newsstand sales, according to ABC unaudited Rapid Report data. Newsstand sales at InStyle dropped 4.5 percent and People StyleWatch plunged 3 percent. Holding one's own is what passes for good news for print magazines nowadays, so Conde Nast's W Magazine's 2.2 percent slippage in sales compared to the first half of 2011 is almost cause to pop the champagne corks.

Meanwhile, reported this week on circulation figures for digital-replica magazines, which doubled their market share in North America last year. Digital replicas overall account for 1.7 percent of the industry, up from less than 1 percent a year ago.

No surprise to learn that the largest circulation among digital replica magazines are found in Game Informer Magazine, Maxim and Cosmopolitan.
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Wednesday, August 8, 2012

'The Bitch is Back': Sir Elton John Sues Times of London for Libel

WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 23:  (L-R) Sir Elton Joh...(Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)Where once he was a Victim of Love (1979), Sir Elton John has filed a writ in London's High Court alleging Rupert Murdoch's Times of London has made him a victim of defamation.

According to accounts by the PressGazette journalism weekly ( and TheWrap (, John is suing based on a series of Times articles, including a June 21, 2012, piece entitled "Secrets of the tax avoiders." The articles, according to the complaint, link the Rock legend to former Ingenious Media CEO Patrick McKenna, suggesting McKenna was John's accountant and advised him on how to skirt taxes.

The complaint alleges the Times published a four-line correction stating only that McKenna was not John's accountant, but that the retraction did not suitably overcome the prominent placement in the daily of the original stories. Of course, as John is well aware, for newspapers, Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word (1976). John, concerned that the adverse publicity will discourage donors to the Elton John Aids Foundation and other charitable entities with which he is involved, is seeking damages, aggravated damages and injunctive relief in the libel plaintiff-friendly English court. The Times may be wondering what to do When the Money's Gone (1995).

The music groupies at "TUOL" can't help but wonder if during his concert tour in the States next month Sir Elton might alter his song list to perform Saturday Night's Alright for Suing and Don't Let the Times Go Down on Me.

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Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Commission Goes Fishin' for IDs of Memphis Daily Online Posters

Commercial Appeal on Union Avenue in Memphis, ... (Photo credit: Wikipedia)The Shelby County (Tenn.) Commission yesterday voted 8-5 to endorse subpoenaing the E.W. Scripps. Co.-owned Memphis Commercial Appeal (MCA) to determine the identities of anonymous posters on the daily's Web site,  the MCA reported.

The lion's share of 1,200 online comments following the MCA story about the subpoena vote were critical of the Commission, according to the daily. Commission attorneys in June filed a motion in federal court to derail referendums by six county municipalities seeking separate school districts.

The Commission contends referendum supporters want to create discriminatory white-majority suburban school districts from the newly formed unified school system, and argue that knowing the identities of anonymous bloggers who made racially charged comments in the online edition of the MCA will enable the body to discover whether the same critics backed legislators who sponsored bills advancing the referendums.

Strangely enough, Shelby County Commissioners didn't consult this blog before Monday's vote, but the ever-eager to help "TUOL" staff nevertheless is happy to opine: What were you guys thinking? 

Sticking a governmental nose into the operations of  a daily newspaper and betraying the privacy interests of thousands of readers who choose to share their opinions anonymously on the flimsy premise that the identities of a handful of the fake-monikered commenters might pertain to the Commission's referendum litigation goes beyond a mere "fishing expedition" all the way to a full fleet of Japanese trawlers on a frenzied tuna run.

Worse than going overboard, the Commission has gone over-broad in its request, to the detriment of MCA readers and the First Amendment.

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Monday, August 6, 2012

YouTube With a Dash of 'Woodstein'?

Español: Logo Vectorial de YouTube (Photo credit: Wikipedia)Google-owned YouTube will collaborate with the Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR) to launch the I Files channel that will air investigative news videos, reports.

CIR will edit the videos that will be produced by worldwide contributors ranging from the New York Times and the BBC to Al Jazeera. The channel also will be an outlet for independent reporters and producers.

 YouTube is the platform for the I Files channel that is funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. According to the article, the channel already has 10 videos in the pipeline.
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