Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Is the Tribune Co. Getting Out of the Newspaper Biz?

The Gothic Revival Tribune Tower in Chicago
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The Tribune Co. has hired investment bankers Evercore Partners and its own minority owner, JP Morgan Chase, to scope out potential buyers for the media conglomerate's newspaper holdings, the company's flagship daily, The Chicago Tribune, reported today.

The Tribune Co., which emerged from a four-year arduous and costly Chapter 11 bankruptcy last December (see "TUOL" post 1/2/13), has become more broadcast-centric, and is therefore willing to unload the Chicago Trib, along with the Los Angeles Times, Hartford Courant, Baltimore Sun and its other newspaper properties.

Besides JP Morgan Chase, the Chicago-based media company is owned by senior creditors Angelo, Gordon & Co. and Oaktree Capital Management.
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NY App. Court Affirms Dismissal of Journo's Libel Suit

An issue of Harper's from 1905
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
In Farber v. Jefferys et al (2013 NY Slip Op. 01044), the N.Y. Appellate Division last week upheld Supreme Court Judge Louis B. York's dismissal of a defamation claim by journalist/author Celia Farber against HIV/AIDS researcher Richard Jefferys.

Beginning in the 1980s, Farber covered the AIDS epidemic for Spin Magazine and subsequently wrote several books on the subject. A lightning rod, she stirred controversy in a 2006 Harper's Magazine article that attacked AIDS activists, drawing rebukes from activists and researchers of the disease.

Semmelweis Society International honored her for the Harper's piece, prompting Jefferys to email the organization, alleging that Farber was a liar and had misrepresented published papers on the topic and doctored quotes, according to the plaintiff's Complaint. Judge York granted a summary judgment motion dismissing her complaint.

The appellate panel agreed with Judge York that Farber had failed to meet the elevated burden of proof of actual malice to sustain her defamation claim because, regarding the HIV/AIDS controversy, she was a limited public figure who "voluntarily injected herself into the controversial debate on whether HIV causes AIDS with a view toward influencing the debate." The court found that she failed to prove by clear and convincing evidence that the defendants knew or should have known the alleged offending statements were false or made with gross irresponsibility.

Additionally, the court ruled that Jefferys purportedly calling Farber a liar was not actionable as defamation, but rather, constituted opinion. "[E]ven if plaintiff were correct about her work," the court wrote, "she can point to no evidence that would establish actual malice or gross irresponsibility."

Tip of the hat to the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press ( for flagging this decision. When it comes to journalists, actual malice is a better shield than a sword.
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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Buffetting the Newspaper Industry

English: Jing Ulrich and Warren Buffett.
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Maybe Warren Buffett was given a DVD of Citizen Kane for Christmas. Whatever the reason, the billionaire's appetite for acquiring newspapers at a time when the industry is distressed continues to grow.

The Guardian ( reported that Buffett's BH Media Group has purchased the Tulsa World, Oklahoma's second largest daily, along with the city's most popular Web site,, for an undisclosed sum from the Lorton family, which has owned the paper since 1917.

 BH Media Group's newspaper-buying frenzy includes the media conglomerate's purchase of 63 newspapers from Media General last year (see "TUOL" post 5/17/12) and its purchase the previous year of the Omaha World Herald (see "TUOL" post 11/30/11), the company's largest daily. Only the group-owned World Herald and the Richmond Times-Dispatch are larger than the Tulsa World's 95,000 daily circulation.

According to the Guardian story, BH Media Group's buying spree now has it owning newspapers, magazines and online publications in nine states.
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Monday, February 25, 2013

NY Times Heralds Change of International Daily

English: Official logo of the International He...
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Sometime this Fall, the International Herald Tribune, the English language daily that is sold in more than 160 nations, will be re-dubbed the International New York Times and a revamped Web site will be rolled out, the New York Times reported today.

The daily, which is printed at 38 sites worldwide, debuted in 1887, thanks to founder James Gordon Bennett, Jr., as the European edition of The New York Herald, later becoming The New York Herald Tribune in 1959.

After that paper folded, The Washington Post and New York Times rescued the European daily in 1967 and renamed it The International Herald Tribune, formally becoming co-owners in 1991. The Times bought out the Post's interest in 2003.

The Times article said the paper's masthead would undergo change as well.  "TUOL"'s worldly staff has always relied on the Trib during European sojourns to keep abreast of how its beloved New York Yankees and Boston Celtics are faring and to subdue bouts of homesickness.
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Friday, February 22, 2013

Michigan Dailies Bracing for Massive Layoffs in April

The Macomb Daily
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Unless new owner 21st CMH Acquisition Co. retains them, more than 840 Journal Register Co. workers, including 131 editorial staffers, could lose their jobs in April, the Michigan Live ( blog reports.

Four dailies, including the (Royal Oak) Daily Tribune, The Macomb Daily, The Oakland Press and The (Mount Pleasant) Morning Sun, along with numerous weeklies statewide, are part of the beleaguered Journal Register Co. ("JRC") stable.  For the second time in four years, the media conglomerate last September filed for bankruptcy court protection.

The Yardley, Penn.-based JRC, which is owned by New York-headquartered Digital First Media, reportedly was acquired for more than $122 million by 21st CMH Acquisition Co., an Alden Global Capital LLC affiliate. Michigan Live reported that JRC outlined in a letter to Michigan's Workforce Development Agency its plan to terminate its personnel sometime in mid-April when 21st CMH is expected to complete its acquisition.

Reportedly, JRC is urging the new owner to rehire the staff it is cutting loose, but the final decision regarding how many of the 840-plus workers are retained rests with CMH Acquisition Co.
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Cooked Peacock: NBC Sinks to 5th in Key Viewer Group

A 3D "glass effect" version of the P...
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
For the first time since tv ratings sweeps history, NBC sank to fifth place among viewers in the 18- to 49-year-old demographic group that advertisers crave, Deadline Hollywood ( reported.

 NBC "second season" shows such as 1600 Penn and Do No Harm landed with a thud in their debuts (the latter has since been cancelled for doing so much harm) and rival network CBS got a massive ratings boost from the Super Bowl, but that doesn't lessen the blow of finishing behind the fourth-place Spanish-speaking network, Univision.

Watch for some tweaking in the Peacock Network's ad campaign: "More viewers are watching NBC than the Emergency Broadcast Signal!"
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Thursday, February 21, 2013

New York Times Looking to Unload Papers 'en Mass.'

English: Headquarters of The Boston Globe news...
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The Gray Lady apparently is weary of  long-distance relationships, as Reuters, AdWeek and others are reporting that The New York Times wants to sell The Boston Globe and The Worcester Telegram & Gazette.

The Times has enlisted the aid of Evercore Partners to advise on the sale of the properties in its New England Media Group, which include the Globe, Telegram & Gazette, the two dailies' Web sites and GlobeDirect, a direct mail marketing company.

Newspaper industry analysts expect the Times to take a bath in the deal. One analyst, according to Reuters, thought the purchase price for the Globe, New England's largest daily newspaper, might be in the $150 million range, a far cry from the $1.1 billion the Times paid to acquire the broadsheet in 1993.

The Times' Media Decoder Blog reported that the Times rejected a $35 million offer to sell the Globe in 2009, the AdWeek article stated.  The 360 or so souls in the Globe newsroom are understandably antsy, while media prognosticators are reveling in the parlor game of identifying the Globe's suitors.  Times CEO/President Mark Thompson said the Times wants to concentrate on its own brand and journalism as explanation for why his paper wants to end what at times has been a trying marriage.

The Globe is "TUOL"'s local newspaper, and the devoted staff, which currently is exasperated by increasingly late delivery of the paper, expects a local buyer to step to the forefront, rather than an out-of-state entrepreneur or media conglomerate.

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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Revolving Door--The Sequel

President Barack Obama speaks with White House...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
David Axelrod, senior advisor and senior strategist during President Barack Obama's 2008 and 2012 campaigns, has signed on as a contributor to NBC News and theMSNBC cable network, just a week after  former Obama press secretary Robert Gibbs did the same.

Axelrod, who turns 58 this week, recently was named director of the Institute of Politics at the University of Chicago, his alma mater, and a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Harris School of Public Policy. The Chicago-homesick "TUOL" staff remembers way back when Axelrod toiled as a political writer for The Chicago Tribune.

If Fox News has served as a haven--or witness protection program, depending on one's political viewpoint--for former GOP presidential aspirants, ranging from Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum to recently hired Herman Cain, then NBC News and MSNBC is fast becoming the retirement community for Obama Administration refugees. Meanwhile, broadcast and print journalists by the bushel-full ponder voluntary buyout offers.
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'So Long Dad' O'Brien: Anchor Expected to Leave CNN

Soledad O'Brien
 (Photo credit: jdlasica)
Soledad is Spanish for solitude. The New York Post is reporting that CNN morning anchor Soledad O'Brien may soon have plenty of "alone time" as she appears on her way out at CNN as part of the cable news network's personnel shake-up under new boss Jeff Zucker.

O'Brien, who has hosted Starting Point in the a.m. since January 2012, is being supplanted by Erin Burnett, who will take her place alongside recent CNN arrival Chris Cuomo, according to the Post article. O'Brien, who left NBC for CNN in 2003, has helmed documentaries such as Black in America and formerly hosted American Morning.

The Post indicated O'Brien's departure, in part, stems from her being miffed about not receiving a long-promised Prime Time slot on CNN. The network did not respond to the Post article.
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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Holmes Wreckers: Conan Doyle Estate Copyright Challenged

Arthur Conan Doyle Español: Arthur Conan Doyle...
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The lawsuit is afoot.

In a case that is far from elementary, the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division will hear Leslie S. Klinger v. Conan Doyle Estate, Ltd. (Case No. 1:13-cv-01226) in which a Sherlock Holmes aficionado and co-editor of a compilation about the Great Detective has filed a 20-page Complaint for Declaratory Judgment questioning the copyright claims of the Estate of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Holmes' creator.

According to articles by bloggers THR, Esq. and, Klinger and Laurie R. King, his co-editor of  A Study in Sherlock: Stories Inspired by the Sherlock Holmes Canon (Random House, 2011), contend in their complaint that the fictional sleuth and his trusted colleague Dr. John H. Watson are in the public domain, no longer protected by federal copyright laws [17 U.S.C. secs. 101 et seq.].

The plaintiff is seeking clarification in advance of a new compilation, In the Company of Sherlock Holmes, to which prominent mystery writers, including Michael Connelly and Sara Paretsky, are contributing. Klinger, author of the Annotated Sherlock Holmes, wants a declaratory judgment from the federal court that the copyright on Holmes, whose first appearance in print was in 1886, has expired, so that the Conan Doyle Estate Ltd. is not entitled to licensing fees.

Under current U.S. copyright law, the author's exclusive right to benefit from his work lasts for the life of the author plus 70 years or 95 years post-publication, whichever is earliest. To stave off copyright infringement litigation, Random House coughed up a license fee to the author's estate when A Study in Sherlock was published, but Klinger is drawing a line in the sand reagarding In the Company of Sherlock Holmes.

Doyle, a Scottish physician (1859-1930) whose love/hate relationship with Holmes once caused him seemingly to kill off the eccentric crime-solver, wrote most of the Holmes adventures between 1887 and 1927, beginning with A Study in Scarlet. As the THR, Esq. post notes (the crackerjack "TUOL" staff is math-averse), any of the Holmes tomes pre-dating 1923 are probably in the public domain.

Complicating matters for the plaintiff--his Prof. Moriarty, if you will--is a 2004 ruling by Senior Judge for the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York Naomi Reice Buchwald that concluded nine of 60 Holmes adventures by Doyle were still shielded by copyright.

 Klinger has acknowledged that some of Doyle's works are still protected, but argues that the characters, including Holmes and Watson, themselves are completely established in the stories already in the public domain and fair game for authors who want to use them in stories today.  For example, according to the THR, Esq. post, because reference to Watson as a army veteran appeared 127 years ago in A Study in Scarlet, an author today who wanted to write about Dr. Watson's military exploits could do so without having to pay the Conan Doyle Estate. Elements of the characters may still possibly be subject to copyright restrictions, however.

As Holmes once posited: "[W]hen you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth."

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Reader's Digest: Humor In Solvency

Reader's Digest
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
To pare its debt by $465 million, the owner of the venerable Reader's Digest magazine has filed for Chapter  11 bankruptcy for the second time in the past five years, Bloomberg News reported.

In re RDA Holding Co., Inc. (Docket No. 13-22233), filed in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York, revealed the company that publishes the 91-year old Reader's Digest ("RD") claims both assets and liabilities of more than $1 billion. A victim of declining ad revenues and shifting public taste toward electronic news media outlets, RD last filed for bankruptcy protection in 2009 (See "TUOL" post 8/17/09).

The magazine, which was founded by DeWitt and Lila Wallace, was acquired in 2007 by the Ripplewood Holdings LLC private equity firm for $1.6 billion, according to the Bloomberg News article.  Under a proposed restructuring backed by Wells Fargo & Co., senior notes totaling $465 million would be converted to equity, thereby reducing RDA Holding Co.'s debt by 80 percent and allowing it to emerge from insolvency with $100 million in debt.

RD's Web site boasts that its readership worldwide exceeds 25 million.
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Friday, February 15, 2013

2012 Hazardous Year for Journos

Hafez al-Assad. Taken sometime before April 1987.
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) released its annual Attacks on the Press report this week, which recorded the highest number of journalists jailed last year since CPJ began tracking such data in 1990.

As reported by the Huffington Post, the CPJ survey revealed 232 journalists incarcerated last year. Another 70 journalists were killed in the line of duty, a 43 percent increase over 2011 figures. Twenty-eight journalists, alone, were killed in Syria last year.

 The CPJ also compiled a 10-nation "Risk List" that cited countries in which reporters were at risk of losing their lives or their freedom. Somalia, Pakistan, Ecuador, Vietnam, Ethiopia, Brazil, Russia, Turkey, Iran and Syria made the list.
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UPDATE: Calif. Appeals Court Allows Ryan O'Neal Libel Suit to Proceed

English: American actor Ryan O'Neal Български:...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the 7-page decision, Ryan O'Neal v. Craig Nevius (Case No. B238640), the California Second Appellate District Court has ruled the actor and long-time boy friend of the late Farrah Fawcett may proceed with his defamation case against a producer who alleged he stole an Andy Warhol painting from the actress' estate.

As reported by the THR, Esq. blog, the appellate court upheld an earlier trial court finding that denied the defendant's attempt to dismiss O'Neal's complaint under the state's anti-SLAPP law [Calif. Code Civ. Proc. sec. 425.16], ruling: "There is at least minimal merit to the defamation claim to satisfy the evidentiary standard to defeat an anti-SLAPP motion."

O'Neal sued Nevius for defamation and intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress, seeking more than $1 million damages. (See "TUOL" post 7/18/11). Both Good Morning America and Star Magazine reported--purportedly based on information provided by Nevius--that after Fawcett died of anal cancer in 2009, O'Neal concealed a Warhol portrait of her valued at $30 million in his home that was uncovered after daughter Tatum O'Neal repeated the allegation in her autobiography, Found. The University of Texas, to which Fawcett bequeathed her art collection, sued O'Neal to recover the silkscreen portrait that he insists is his.

The appellate decision sends the case back to the trial court.

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Unhappy Meal: 1st A Advocates Fret Over Judge Ordering Lawyer to Remove McDonald's Facebook Posts

English: A pile of McDonalds Chicken McNuggets...
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Free speech advocates are worried about Wayne County (Mich.) Circuit Court Judge Kathleen MacDonald's order regarding an attorney's Facebook posts criticizing a controversial settlement in a lawsuit involving fast food giant McDonald's, the Detroit Free Press reported this week.

McDonald's reached a $700k settlement with attorneys in a class action suit that claimed one of the fast food company's franchise restaurants in eastern Dearborn sold non-halal McNuggets and McChicken sandwiches to observant Muslims that it represented as being halal, which to Islam, is akin to kosher to Judaism. The tentative agreement would disburse $25k to the lead plaintiff in the class action, $150k to the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn, $275k to a Detroit-based Muslim health clinic, with the remainder going toward attorneys' fees, according to the Freep article. Those opposed to the resolution argue the proceeds should be shared among Muslims who consumed the alleged non-halal meat in violation of the tenets of their faith.

Chief among those critics is Dearborn attorney Majed Moughni, who posted on his Dearborn Area Community Members("DACM")' Facebook page that the resolution of the suit smacked of a backroom deal, and invited supporters of his position to click the "Like" icon and share their comments. Judge MacDonald lowered the boom on Moughni, branding his posts as "materially false, deceptive and misleading," and accusing him of  "deliberate and abusive conduct which has created a likelihood of confusion of class members" that undermined the court.

Judge MacDonald ordered Moughni to remove his Facebook posts, prominently display copies of the actual settlement on Facebook, provide contact information concerning those who "Liked" his posts, and not to contact class members or putative class members about the case or the settlement. Moreover, she barred Moughni from discussing the case with the news media without first obtaining her written approval.  Her Order was in response to a motion filed by attorneys involved in the settlement who argued Moughni's posts were defamatory and clouded information vital to class members. Judge MacDonald earlier dismissed a lawsuit brought by Moughni on behalf of individuals who purportedly consumed the alleged non-halal offerings. He filed a complaint after receiving upward of 1,300 "Likes" on his site, according to the Freep.

Before Judge MacDonald's ruling, the Freep article stated that Moughni's now-dormant DACM page attracted 20,000 views weekly. It's not clear-cut that the breadth of Judge MacDonald's Order violates Moughni's First Amendment rights, because it is permissible for a court to bar attorneys from making statements that are materially false. That said, requiring Moughni to obtain her written permission before speaking to the news media about the case certainly has the appearance of  an unconstitutional prior restraint on free speech.

Not to confuse fast food franchise slogans, but Judge MacDonald in no uncertain terms has let attorney Moughni know you can't have it your way.
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Thursday, February 14, 2013

Proposed Hawaii Anti-Paparazzi Law Makes Photogs Shutter

Steven Tyler

The Hawaii Senate is expected soon to vote on a proposed anti-paparazzi bill that already has been approved by the Aloha State's Senate Judiciary Committee, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press Web site ( reported.

Aging rockers Steven Tyler of Aerosmith and Mick Fleetwood of Fleetwood Mac testified on behalf of the proposed measure, which would enable individuals on their private property to sue photographers for invasion of privacy if snapped while participating in "personal or family activities." The bill bans the use of telephoto lens and cutting edge camera and recording devices to view individuals on private property.

The bill closely resembles California's Anti-Paparazzi Act enacted in 1999 [Calif. Civ. Code Sec. 1708.8]. The National Press Photographers Assn. and the RCFP are among media organizations who condemned the proposed statute as being violative of the First Amendment.

With the strong backing of Tyler & Fleetwood, "TUOL" believes it only fair that the 1981 Hawaii Legislature should decide the bill's fate.
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Comcast Completes NBC Universal Purchase a Year Early

Logo of Comcast Latina: Insigne Comcast
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Philadelphia-based cable giant Comcast paid Fairfield, Conn.-based General Electric $16.7 billion this week to purchase the remaining 49 percent interest in NBC/Universal, a year ahead of the planned completion of the acquisition (see "TUOL" post 9/2/11), according to accounts by Bloomberg News, and others.

The deal, expected to be finalized by the end of March, fattens GE's bank account by $12 billion, includes a $4 billion debt guarantee from Comcast, $700k in preferred stock and another $1.4 billion to acquire real estate, including NBC's 30 Rockefeller Plaza building and CNBC's Englewood Cliffs, N.J., headquarters.

Comcast takes on the NBC broadcast network, cable networks Bravo, USA Network and MSNBC, as well as Universal Studios and the Universal theme parks. According to the Bloomberg News article, NBC Universal's enterprise value has jumped to $39.1 billion from $37.5 billion when Comcast initially gobbled up 51 percent of the entertainment company.

As a Comcast subscriber, "TUOL" may have something further to say about the merger in the future, on a weekday, between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m.
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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Plagiarist's Palaver Pays Plenty

Jonah Lehrer - Pop!Tech 2009 - Camden, ME
(Photo credit: poptech)
Confession is good for the soul, but sometimes, it's also good for the bank account, Jonah Lehrer learned.

The New York Times reported that Lehrer was paid a $20,000 honorarium by the Knight Foundation, which sponsored a community journalism conference in Miami yesterday at which Lehrer delivered a speech about his plagiarism-derailed career that was streamed live online.

The New Yorker fired Lehrer last summer and the publisher of his book, Imagine: How Creativity Works (2012) pulled the book off shelves after it was revealed that Lehrer had made up quotes attributed to legendary folk singer Bob Dylan (see "TUOL" post 7/31/12).

According to the Times article,  Lehrer told the attendees: "I am the author of a book on creativity that contains several fabricated Bob Dylan quotes," and "I committed plagiarism on my blog, taking without credit or citation an entire paragraph from the blog of Christian Jarrett." Lehrer's introductory elevator speech needs a little work.

Apparently using his own words, Lehrer pledged to the audience that if were ever to write professionally again, he would tape and transcribe his interviews and make the transcripts available to interview subjects who requested them. Writing, however, is hard work, whereas there is easy money to be made on the mea culpa lecture circuit.
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Oiling the Revolving Door

President Barack Obama talks with White House ...
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Robert Gibbs, senior advisor to President Barack Obama's 2012 campaign, has been hired as a contributor to MSNBC and NBC News, Politico reported.

The 41-year-old Auburn, Alabama, native was the 28th White House press secretary, serving in that role for President Obama from 2009 to 2011. Gibbs' association with President Obama dates back to 2004. He also served early on as press secretary during now-Secretary of State John Kerry's 2004 presidential campaign.

Gibbs joins a long list of former White House shills who have crossed-over into the news media once they stop taking flak from the White House Press Corps, including Tony Snow (Fox News), Clinton White House Communications Director George Stephanopoulos (ABC News), Pierre Sallinger (ABC News), Bill Moyers (PBS) and Dana Perino (Fox News), though, to be fair, some of them were making a return trip.

Not surprisingly, public skepticism spikes whenever a former presidential spokesperson appears as a talking head on a network to offer informed, "objective" commentary about an opposition party's position or representative. It doesn't thrill lifetime journalists either to see these ex-shills begin their ink-stained wretch career on the top rung of the news media ladder.
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Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Good News: Not All Newspapers Are Tanking

English: Columbia University, New York City, s...
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Citing a Pew Research Center study released yesterday entitled Newspapers Turning Ideas into Dollars: Four Revenue Success Stories, the Columbia Journalism Review brightened the day for ink-stained wretches everywhere by reporting on four daily newspapers actually turning a profit.

The Naples (Fla.) Daily News [circ. 44,876], Santa Rosa (Calif.) Press Democrat [circ. 53,292], The (Salt Lake City) Deseret News [circ. 91,638] and The Columbia (Tenn.) Daily Herald [circ. 12,744] followed different paths to operating in the black, but all displayed "real leadership, ability to communicate that vision and commitment to editorial quality," Pew Associate Director Mark Jurkowitz told CJR.

Revenue grew the past two years at the Naples Daily News after its sales force was overhauled, while the Santa Rosa Press Democrat launched Media Lab, a digital agency providing online marketing services, the Pew study revealed. A half-dozen revenue-boosting ideas were rolled out by the Columbia Daily Herald, and the Deseret News owes its profitability to producing a national print edition, honing its editorial identity and creating a digital company, according to the Pew study.

The ever-sunny "TUOL" staff is delighted to report that not all the economic news concerning the newspaper industry is bleak--just most of it.
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Monday, February 11, 2013

Ill. Court Shields Anonymous Online Griper from Realty Co.

Image representing Yelp as depicted in CrunchBase
Image via CrunchBase
Yelp! account holder Diana Z., Chicago, IL can retain her aura of mystery thanks to an Appellate Court of  Illinois ruling denying a realty management company's efforts to identify the unidentified critic blasting it for charging her rent collection late fees.

In Brompton Building, LLC v. Yelp! Inc. (2013 WL 416185), the management company, whom the anonymous Diana Z. mistakenly identified as managing the apartment building in which she lived, sought to identify its critic pursuant to Illinois Supreme Court Rule 224, which states that a "person or entity who wishes to engage in discovery for the sole purpose of ascertaining the identity of one who may be responsible in damages may file an independent action for such discovery."

As reported by prominent Chicago social media lawyer Evan Brown in his law firm's online newsletter, the Appellate Court affirmed a trial court's denial of the Rule 224 petition. The appellate court ruled that the plaintiff failed to show how it was damaged by the Yelp! poster, and noted the statements at issue were non-actionable opinions, rather than assertions of fact.
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Spouse Slayer's Lawyer Sues Trib, Defense Team Colleague

Tribune Building Chicago.
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The Tribune Co. and AOL Patch are among the defendants in a defamation lawsuit filed by attorney Joel Brodsky against one-time defense team colleague Steven Greenberg in the high-profile Drew Peterson spousal murder case, the Chicago Tribune reported last week.

Brodsky filed a complaint, including counts alleging defamation, false light invasion of privacy and violation of Illinois Deceptive Trade Practices, in Cook County Circuit Court, based on a letter written by Greenberg published by the Chicago Tribune that the plaintiff claims portrays him as incompetent and untruthful.

Peterson, a former Bollingbrook (Ill.) police officer, was convicted of murdering his third wife, Kathleen Savio, in 2004 (see "TUOL" post 1/11/10). Brodsky, who withdrew from co-representation with Greenberg of Peterson, contends the latter's letter purportedly fixes blames on him for the unsuccessful defense, according to the Tribune article.
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Friday, February 8, 2013

Mass. Again Ponders Shield Law: Will 3 Times Be the Charm?

State House
 (Photo credit: brentdanley)
Article 16 of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights predated the Framers of the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment recognition of the importance of a free press.  Yet, Bay State solons perennially come up short when it comes to enacting a shield law to protect journalists from having to disclose confidential sources to authorities.

Perhaps persistence will have its rewards, as Rep. Alice Peisch (D-Wellesley), whose proposed Free Flow of Information Act stalled last year (see "TUOL" post 3/1/12), has again introduced a shield law bill, co-sponsored by Rep. Josh Cutler (D-Duxbury), a former editor of the Duxbury Clipper, reports the MetroWest Daily News.

The latest measure encompasses student journalists and "any entity that is in the regular business of gathering and disseminating news or information to the public by any means." It also includes an exemption in cases in which a journalist's testimony would disclose "imminent acts of harm."

The shield law-lovin' staff of "TUOL" has been reporting on this issue for awhile (see "TUOL" post 2/19/10), and being headquartered in the Cradle of Liberty, is profoundly embarrassed that Massachusetts seems unable to join the 40 states and the District of Columbia that have enacted shield laws.
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Thursday, February 7, 2013

Periodicals Plunge in Single-Copy Sales Second Half of 2012

 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Single-copy sales of magazines sank 8.2 percent over the second half of 2012, according to figures released by the Alliance for Audited Media (, formerly known as the Audit Bureau of Circulations.

Paid subscriptions during the period inched up less than 1 percent, according to the AAM figures. Baby boomers should take heart--AARP the Magazine (not to be confused with AARP, the opera) had the highest total paid and verified circulation, and Better Homes and Gardens and Game Informer also placing in the top five.

On the list of top 25 consumer magazines in the U.S. by single copy sales, the good news is that stalwarts Cosmopolitan topped the list and People came in fourth. The bad news is that in the second half of 2012, compared to the same period a year earlier, Cosmo was off 18 percent, and People, 12 percent, in single copy sales.
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Deleting Copy Editors

English: President George W. Bush speaking at ...
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
When the intrepid "TUOL" staff broke in its first reporter's notebook decades ago, the conventional wisdom was that copy editors led a better-paying, blessed existence of more regular work hours and  greater job security than journalists in the field.

If those halcyon days ever existed, they're gone, as a post this week cited a survey of 985 publications by the American Society of News Editors (ASNE) that revealed that one-third of copy editors employed in 2007 no longer hold those positions. An ASNE newsroom poll released last April tallied 5,675 working copy editors in 2012, compared to 10,676 copy editors in 2002, a mind-numbing 46 percent drop-off.

Moreover, the once widely held perception that copy editors were part of the management team is gone, as the position often is viewed as a prime target by cost-cutters looking to compensate for declining ad revenues and shrinking circulation. It is commonplace nowadays for newspaper chains, such as GateHouse Media, to consolidate the copy editor function of multiple papers at one location (see "TUOL" post 1/18/12) or for smaller papers to outsource copy editing to larger papers (see "TUOL" post 3/10/10).

Incidentally, that the ink-stained wretches of "TUOL" opted for reporting in the field instead of perching at the copy desk was not foresight so much as an inability to sit still for long stretches.

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Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Prognosticator Morris Has More Lives than a Cat, but not at Fox

Fox News Channel
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Political ouija board enthusiast Dick Morris, no longer red-faced over his unequivocal forecast of a Mitt Romney landslide victory in last November's presidential election, is out as a commentator for Fox News, the Washington Post reported.

True to form, the 63-year-old Morris didn't predict being jettisoned by Fox News, which apparently believes it is sufficiently covered in divorced-from-reality political prognostication by keeping Karl Rove on the payroll.  Fret not about the future of the former mainstay on The O'Reilly Factor and Hannity conservative gabfests, as the Washington Times reports that Morris will appear on Piers Morgan's talk show on CNN tonight and is bringing a steamer trunk and several suitcases with him. "TUOL" sees a Dick Morris hologram in CNN's future.

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