Friday, July 31, 2009

Disney 3Q Earnings Drop: Snow White Sees Red

Image representing The Walt Disney Company as ...Image via CrunchBase

Stung by the ABC Network's 34 percent decrease in third-quarter operating income, combined with sagging home entertainment sales and decreased theme park attendance, The Walt Disney Co. has reported a 25 percent decrease in earnings for the third quarter.

Theme park spending declined 9 percent to $2.8 billion. Disney, which owns ABC, ESPN, and numerous television and radio stations and publishing houses, also saw its film studio operating income sustain a $12 million loss compared to the same period last year.

The company's stock (NYSE: DIS) is trading today at 25.33 a share, down 3.9 percent. It's getting to be a small world after all, though the company is buoyed by ESPN's acquisition of the rights to air Premier League football matches in the United Kingdom and its plans to expand its Hong Kong theme park and possibly branch out into Shanghai.

There is no truth to the rumor that 2 of the 7 dwarfs have been laid off or that Dumbo may be euthanized as a cost-savings measure.
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Thursday, July 30, 2009

Will t.o.night Keep Canadians from Sleeping in the Subway?

TTC Subway mapImage by Sweet One via Flickr

Come September, late afternoon and rush hour subway commuters in Toronto will have a new, free publication to read while jostling for seats (with Canadian politeness, of course). With an initial press run of 100,000, t.o.night will be distributed at transit stations between 3:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.

The paper will largely rely on newswire stories and funnel most of its content from the Canadian Press and from Blog T.O. and other local blogs, according to its managing editor. Fewer than 20 people will staff the publication, which will emphasize news, entertainment and to-do lists on magazine paper in a format designed for holding in one hand. t.o.night will compete against giveaways, the Metro and 24.

Reviewing several "TUOL" posts these past three months yields numerous items featuring print journalists lamenting about declines in readership, sagging ad revenues, staff cutbacks, under-selling news content and the search for that "certain something" that will breathe new life into newspapers. Along comes t.o.night--a free newspaper with a lean news staff, little advertising, and publishing canned wire stories that crowded subway riders can watch for free on CNN with beer in hand as soon as they get home.

The search for the magic bullet continues.
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William Paley, Not Sarah Palin, Is the Radio Giant

Sarah Palin in Carson City, Sep 13 2008Image via Wikipedia

Inside Radio reported this week that former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin was testing the waters for a possible nationally syndicated radio talkfest, but Broadcasting & Cable columnist Paige Albiniak debunks that rumor and suggests that Clear Channel, the largest radio conglomerate in the U.S., is on record as having no interest in hiring Gov. Palin because of concerns that she could not sustain a three-hour gabfest, unlike other Conservative stalwarts, such as Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck (though Beck fills long stretches of "dead airtime" with uncontrollable weeping).

Whether Gov. Palin could improvise on the radio for 15 hours a week like Don Imus or Howard Stern is beside the point. The truth of the matter is that anyone who has heard Gov. Palin speak knows she couldn't work for an organization that has the word "Clear" in the company name. Also, she would never take a job in radio because it would be too difficult to justify her wardrobe expenditures.

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Hawaii County Council 'Leis' Low After Sunshine Law Breach

Hawaii state flagImage via Wikipedia

Hawaii Third Circuit Court Judge Ronald Ibarra has issued a temporary restraining order against the Hawaii County Council, barring it from carrying out its governing functions, until the council rectifies its breach of the Aloha State's Sunshine Law (Chapter 92 H.R.S.).

In response to a lawsuit filed by West Hawaii Today, Judge Ibarra ruled that a quorum of the Council violated the open meeting law by engaging in private talks concerning the Council's own reorganization. Judge Ibarra's Order prevents the Council from taking official government actions, but does not take effect until August 5, to allow the Council to remedy the situation.

The Council has called a special meeting for Aug. 4 at which it will cancel irs reorganization and rehear
in open session any measures the quorum improperly acted on, including the selection of board officers.

Book 'em, "Ron-o."

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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Wrong 'Guess': Jeans Mogul Gets Stone-Washed in Defamation Verdict

Guess Jeans ModelImage by newagecrap via Flickr

Guess Jeans co-founder and prospective California gubernatorial candidate Georges Marciano must pay a total of $370 million to five former Guess Jeans employees, said a Los Angeles Superior Court jury following a week-long damages trial in a defamation case.

In late 2007, Marciano sued the five ex-employees, including a receptionist, office manager and computer technician, alleging they were pilfering his Emails and personal information and conspiring to sell artwork and wine from his collection (Georges Marciano et al. v. Joseph Fahs et al., Case No. BC375824), and the former employees countersued for defamation. Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Elizabeth A. White tossed Marciano's lawsuit and struck his answer to the counterclaims, imposing the sanctions because he repeatedly failed to appear at his deposition and was otherwise uncooperative during pretrial proceedings.

The former employees won their case by default once Marciano's response was struck. In a bench trial, last May, Judge White found Marciano liable for defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Marciano had sent Emails and letters to authorities and others accusing the five individuals of malfeasance.

The jury awarded each of the cross-complainants roughly $69 million in compensatory damages and $5 million in punitive damages. Meanwhile, Marciano has filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, Western Division against Judge White, accusing her of violating his constitutional rights (Georges Marciano v. Hon. Elizabeth A. White et al. Case No. cv09-3437).

Marciano co-founded Guess in 1982 with his three brothers, who bought him out in 1993 for $240 million. Guess introduced stone-washed jeans to the U.S. For the first quarter of fiscal year 2010, Guess?,Inc. (NYSE:GES) reported net earnings of $32.5 million, down nearly 32 percent from first quarterly earnings a year ago.

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Journalism Kids of the Famous Get Job in a Huff

David AxelrodImage by talkradionews via Flickr

Drawing on his vast experience as a reporter for his college newspaper, the 22-year-old Colorado College graduate survived a grueling personal interview with the editor-in-chief and outshone competing journalists on an editorial test to land the editorship of the news organization's latest showcase.

It's a real-life Horatio Alger story for the editor of The Huffington Post's Denver news site that goes live in September--Ethan Axelrod. You may know his dad--David Axelrod, former Chicago Tribune reporter currently serving as Senior White House Advisor to President Barack Obama.

Arianna Huffington, who boasts that her Website is more participatory than old-fashioned journalism publications, is notorious for not paying bloggers who contribute to the success of The Huffington Post. Ethan Axelrod joins the growing list of celebrity scion scribes at The Huffington Post, including Liz Hanks (Oscar-winner Tom's daughter) who was HuffPo associate living editor in 2007-2008; Elyssa Spitzer (Gov. Elliot's kid), a HuffPo intern; and Nicholas Graham (of The Washington Post-owning Grahams).

Hey, it's not as if there are any laid-off veteran journalists available who could do the job.

That eerie sound coming from the Journalism Afterlife is David Halberstam, Edward R. Murrow, and Walter Cronkite weeping.
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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

P2P Copyright Infringement Trial Going Downhill for Downloader

Image representing RIAA, Recording Industry As...Image via CrunchBase

The second music downloading lawsuit to go to trial among the 18,000 such claims brought by the recording industry against end-users began inauspiciously for the 25-year-old Boston University grad student defendant who has not denied downloading 30 copyrighted tunes from the KaZaA peer-to-peer network in 2004.

In an unusual Email Order to the parties at 1:37 a.m., U.S. District Court Judge for the District of Massachusetts Nancy Gertner rejected the key "fair use" argument advanced by Joel Tenenbaum's lead counsel, Harvard Law Prof. Charles Nesson, which may prove a death blow to the defense in the case (Capitol Records, Inc. v. Noor Alaujan, Case No. 03-cv-11661; Sony BMG Music Entertainment et al. v. Joel Tenenbaum, Case No. 07-cv-114446).

As a prelude to her full opinion to come, Judge Gertner wrote: "Tenenbaum proposes a fair use defense so broad that it would swallow the copyright protections that Congress has created. Indeed, the Court can discern almost no limiting principle: His rule would shield from liability any person who downloaded copyrighted songs for his or her own private enjoyment."

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has recently shifted its emphasis from suing end-users, often college students of limited means, to trying to deter Internet Service Providers who offer the connections of KaZaA-type services to the end users. Nevertheless, the RIAA prevailed in the first trial of a P2P infringement case against a Minnesota woman in June who was ordered to pay $1.92 million to the Vivendi-owned Universal Music Group for illegally downloading 24 songs. Many of the 18,000 claims have been resolved by the defendants settling with the music companies by forking over damages in the range of $2,000 or $3,000.

If the five men and five women who make up the jury in the Tenenbaum case should find against him and award statutory damages, Judge Gertner has indicated that she may hold a post-trial hearing to ensure that the award is not excessive. Each of the 30 allegedly illegally downloaded songs could result in damages ranging from $750 to $150,000 (for "willful infringement"), so that in a worst-case scenario, were Tenenbaum to lose, he could face a $4.5 million judgment.

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College Journalists 'Practice' on College, Expose Illegal Meeting

Seal of Colorado State University (Trademark o...Image via Wikipedia

Colorado State University (CSU) was founded in 1870--six years before Colorado attained statehood--as an agricultural college, but it was "digging" by CSU's student newspaper that uncovered an improper gathering of CSU's board of governors in violation of the state's open meeting laws.

CSU's campus publication, The Coloradoan, along with daily newspaper the Pueblo Chieftain, and online news outlet the Colorado Independent, sued CSU under the state's Sunshine Law (Sec. 24-6-402 C.R.S.) to force the university to shed light on the closed-door, decision-making process that resulted in the selection of Joe Blake as Chancellor. Colorado District Court Judge Stephen Schapanski ruled CSU's board of governors met illegally, which prompted the board to settle the open meeting law litigation by releasing audiotapes of the meeting at which Blake was selected and paying the media outlets' legal fees, which totaled $19,000.

According to an account in the Pueblo Chieftain, the May 5, 2009, audiotape of the CSU board of governors' meeting included a discussion about naming fellow board member Blake the lone finalist for the Chancellor slot, at which Chair Doug Jones decried lawmakers' efforts to open up the selection process as "un-Christian." In all, the CSU board met in violation of the Sunshine Law on three occasions during April and May of this year.

CSU offers among its undergraduate programs of study Communications Studies and Technical Journalism. In this case, it was student journalism that "technically" provided a teaching moment for CSU officials on the importance of adhering to the law.
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Monday, July 27, 2009

Weakened USA Today to Launch Weekend USA Today

LONG BEACH, CA - JULY 16:  A USA Today newspap...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

Ceding the public's changing reading habits, Gannett Co. next week will debut an online version of USA Today that duplicates the print version and tacks on interactive and exclusive content.

Additionally, the long-time five-day daily is launching USA Today Extra, a Saturday/Sunday edition, that will be accessible to online and print subscribers only. The electronic replica of the print version of USA Today will be available daily at 5:30 a.m. EST. Subscribers will receive an Email alert concerning the online version's availability.

The electronic addition either may be read online or downloaded for later reading. Subscription rate for the 52-week electronic version is $99. An eight-week trial subscription runs $9.95 and renews every four weeks for an additonal $.9.95.

No word on whether the online edition of USA Today will one-up its color weather map with lightning and thunder special effects.
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Friday, July 24, 2009

UPDATE: California Schemin'

The cover of the 1985 Bantam edition.Image via Wikipedia

It's getting harder by the day to be a 90-year-old recluse, J.D. Salinger is finding.

Fredrik Colting, whose pen name is John David California, has asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit to overturn U.S. District Court Judge Deborah Batts' ruling earlier this month that Colting's novel, "60 Years Later:Coming Through the Rye," infringed on the copyright of Salinger's 1951 classic "Catcher in the Rye" (See "TUOL" post 7/2/09). Publication of Colting's tome, which occurred in England a few months ago, has been derailed by Judge Batts.

Unless the Second Circuit reverses Batts' ruling, California will be hard-pressed to match the 35 million copies Salinger's tale of alienated youth has sold.
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Texas Court Rules Online Reporter Merits Journalist Safeguards

Six Flags Over TexasImage by mulf via Flickr

A Texas appellate court has reversed a trial court's denial of an online reporter's motion to dismiss a libel claim against him, and in so doing, ruled that the online writer was entitled to Texas' statutory protections accorded to journalists.

In its decision in Joe Kaufman v. Islamic Society of Arlington et al, (Case No. 2-09-023CV), the Court of Appeals for the Second District at Fort Worth rejected the defendants' argument that as a writer on the Internet, Kaufman was not a journalist who could avail himself of the Texas law that affords news media members an automatic right to pretrial appeals of First Amendment-related claims.

In determining that Kaufman was eligible for the journalist safeguards, the court noted that the statutory language of Texas' shield law against compelling the disclosure of confidential sources specifically encompasses the electronic media, and cited factors supporting its conclusion that Kaufman was a journalist, including the frequency of his writing, his journalistic background and notoriety outside the parameters of the allegedly defamatory article, and the broad readership and independence from Kaufman of Front Page Magazine, the online journal that published the article at issue.

Kaufman wrote an article for Front Page Magazine on September 28, 2007, entitled "A Fanatic Muslim Family Day,"concerning a "Muslim Family Day" promotion planned for October 14, 2007, by amusement park Six Flags Over Texas in Arlington. Kaufman alleged that Muslim organizations participating in the event had ties to terrorist organizations. A graphic accompanying the article included the Six Flags logo, an outline of the State of Texas and the word "jihad" in dripping red letters. The article stated that Six Flags "will be invaded by a radical Muslim organization that has physical ties with the Muslim Brotherhood and financial ties to Hamas." It accused groups involved in Muslim Family Day with having conceived an "original and appealing way to spread anti-Western hatred."

Front Page Magazine, with a readership of 500,000, focuses on politics and terrorism and is published by the David Horowitz Freedom Center. The court tossed the libel claim because it said the defendants failed to demonstrate that the allegedly defamatory statements were specifically about them.

A sound ruling from a media law standpoint. It depends on one's viewpoint, however, as to whether Six Flags sponsored a Muslim Family Day or that Front Page Magazine has a half-million followers is the scarier proposition.

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Thursday, July 23, 2009

'Transparent' Obama Admin's Opaque Policy on Releasing Lists

WASHINGTON - NOVEMBER 10:   U.S. President Geo...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

President Barack Obama, whose campaign pledged transparency and promised to shine a light on the daily workings of government, has so far continued his predecessor's battle against releasing lists of influential visitors to the White House, and been less forthcoming than President George W. Bush in disclosing the members of their respective Supreme Court Judicial candidate's hearing prep teams.

In 2006, President Bush provided the names of 38 individuals who helped now Justice Samuel P. Alito, Jr., steel himself for the grilling he received at his nomination hearings. Those who helped Justice Alito rehearse his insightful answers to questions from Senators ("I won't speculate about an issue that may come before the Court") included former Solicitor General Theodore Olson and White House Asst. Counsel Benjamin Powell. Sen. Russ Feingold (D.-Wisc.), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, had requested such a list.

In contrast, an Email from a spokesperson for the Obama Administration said no such list would be forthcoming of individuals who helped Supreme Court Nominee Sonia Sotomayor prepare her insightful answers to questions from Senators ("I won't speculate about an issue that may come before the Court"). The Email cited no statutory basis or presidential privilege to support its stance, other than to state: "'fly-on-the-wall' stories aren't our style."

Meanwhile, the Secret Service has invoked the so-called "presidential communications privilege" oft-relied on by President Bush, as its grounds for refusing to produce a list of health industry executives who visited the White House. A government watchdog group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) requested of the Secret Service information concerning representatives of drug manufacturers, doctors and health insurers with whom the White House has met regarding its health care reform proposals. CREW plans to file suit against the Obama Administration for the release of the visitor logs. See "TUOL" 6/16/09 regarding CREW lawsuit for the release of White House visitor logs since January 2009.

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ESPN Bans NY Post Reporters Over Andrews Nude Pix

ESPN reporter Erin Andrews at the 2007 Georgia...Image via Wikipedia

ESPN, which last night finally gave permission to its on-air reporters to acknowledge a lawsuit against Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger brought by a female former executive casino host at Harrah's Lake Tahoe that includes accusations of sexual assault and battery, false imprisonment, and defamation among the 12-count, 36-page complaint arising from an alleged incident in July 2008, has banned reporters from The New York Post from appearing on its programming because of the tabloid's coverage of the Peeping Tom who illegally videotaped ESPN reporter Erin Andrews while she stood nude in front of her hotel room mirror.

The Post, which usually doesn't turn up on the paragons of print journalism lists alongside Le Monde and The New York Times, ran, along with its news account of the invasion of Andrews' privacy, nude photo stills from the voyeuristic video.

Okay, now that you've looked at the Post Website, ESPN officials said New York Post employees will not be appearing on its programs because reproducing the nude images of Andrews "went well beyond the boundaries of common decency in the interest of sensationalism."

Meanwhile, ESPN has been criticized in the news media and accused of attempting to shield the reputation of the Super-Bowl winning quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, and trying to curry favor with the National Football League, whose games are regularly broadcast on ESPN, by not reporting on the lawsuit (Docket No. cv09-02222, 2d Judicial District Court of Washoe County, Nevada) when it was filed, other than allowing its Pittsburgh affiliate to mention it.
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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Bad Day at Black Rock

Cropped and modified photo of Dan RatherImage via Wikipedia

New York Supreme Court Judge Ira Gammerman yesterday breathed new life into former CBS anchor Dan Rather's $70 million lawsuit against CBS and Viacom.

Judge Gammerman restored the fraud claim in Rather's complaint that he previously tossed in September 2008, on the basis that the 75-year-old Rather could not prove damages arising from the defendants' conduct. Additionally, Gammerman ordered the defendants to turn over more than 3,000 documents to Rather's attorney as part of discovery.

Rather's counsel believe the documents may reveal evidence of efforts by CBS to influence the panel that investigated a controversial "60 Minutes" report about former President George W. Bush's Air National Guard record, which led to Rather's dismissal. Defense counsel unsuccessfully argued attorney-client privilege in attempting to avoid turning over documents, including Emails between the investigating panel and the law firm of K & L Gates that performed investigatory work for panel members.

Rather sued in September 2007, alleging his reputation and career were damaged by the panel's unfavorable report, which Rather said was biased. Former Attorney General and Republican Gov. of Pennsylvania Richard Thornburgh and ex-Associated Press head Louis D. Boccardi were panel members who examined the "60 Minutes" report.

Judge Gammerman accepted the fraud count in the amended complaint because Rather alleged damage, namely, a reduction in earnings since he lost his post as CBS Evening News Anchor and "60 Minutes" correspondent. Rather currently produces "Dan Rather Reports" for cable channel HDNet.

CBS and Viacom attorneys are expected to appeal Judge Gammerman's ruling.

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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

GOP Gets 'Folked'-- Settles Jackson Browne Suit

WASHINGTON - OCTOBER 23: Jackson Browne speaks...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

Jackson Browne has settled his lawsuit against Sen. John McCain, the Republican National Committee and the Ohio Republican Party involving their use of his hit song "Running on Empty" during the 2008 presidential campaign without his permission.

Jackson brought suit in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California on August 14, 2008, alleging copyright infringement, violation of the Lanham Act by implying his endorsement, and violation of his right of publicity through the use of his voice in a political advertisement (Case No. cv08-05334). In February, the Court rejected the defendants' motion to dismiss the suit, which they claimed chilled free speech and invoked the "fair use" exception to the copyright laws.

Neither side disclosed the settlement amount received by Browne, but the defendants issued an apology, which said in part: "We apologize that a portion of the Jackson Browne song 'Running on Empty' was used without permission."

The use by political campaigns of copyrighted music delves into murky legal ground delineating the respective reach of commercial speech and political speech. Browne, a political activist known for his opposition to nuclear power, insisted his suit was not a partisan attack against the GOP, but rather, an effort to enforce the intellectual property rights of artists.

Given the outcome of the election and the party's nominee, the GOP should have bypassed "Running on Empty" and selected from Jackson Browne's discography "The Pretender," " Redneck Friend," or "Doctor, My Eyes."

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UPDATE: Some Positives in McClatchy Second Quarter Report

New York stock market indexImage via Wikipedia

The McClatchy Co., owner of 50 daily newspapers, doubled its earnings compared to second quarter results a year ago, the media conglomerate announced today.

McClatchy earned 50 cents a share or $42.2 million net income compared to 2008 second quarter figures of 24 cents a share and $20 million profit respectively. Although the company bettered the forecast of Wall St. analysts and media naysayers, they're not uncorking the champagne at the company's Sacramento headquarters just yet as there was plenty of bad news to go around.

Reported advertising revenue of $283.7 million was down 30 percent from a year ago and total classifieds were down nearly 41 percent. McClatchy executives promised not to violate bank covenants in 2009, even if there is no uptick in advertising revenues over the remainder of 2009.
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Monday, July 20, 2009

McClatchy Co. To Release 2nd Q. Results Tuesday

The Sacramento BeeImage by djdau via Flickr

The McClatchy Co., will release second quarter earnings results in a conference call tomorrow, as some analysts speculate the media conglomerate may be embarking on a new chapter--Chapter 11.

The bankruptcy card, already played by the Tribune Co., is one option facing McClatchy, which continues to suffer from declining ad revenues in the down economy. Darkening the bleak picture is the more than $2 billion in debt the Sacramento, Calif.-based company is carrying, largely from its 2006 acquisition of Knight-Ridder. Bondholders recently eschewed efforts by the company to restructure its obligations to reduce its debt by $900 million, with only 9 percent of the bondholders willing to go along.

McClatchy owns 50 daily newspapers, including The Miami Herald, The (Columbia, SC) State, The Anchorage Daily News, and The Sacramento Bee, along with weekly newspapers and a 15 percent stake in Careerbuilder, among its holdings. Ad revenues sank 30 percent in the first quarter and were down 18 percent for all of 2008. McClatchy stock (MNI) is trading at 50 cents a share today.

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Friday, July 17, 2009

Will 'Banner' Waive Critiquing Mayor After City Loan?

SOTC 2009Image by christianrholland via Flickr

The day after Harvard Law Prof. Charles Ogletree purportedly lined up a dozen backers willing to pony up to pull the financially strapped Bay State Banner out of publication limbo, the good news keeps on coming for the 44-year-old newspaper that serves Boston's African-American community.

The Banner, with its estimated weekly circulation of 34,000, is in line to receive up to $200,000 in loans from the Boston Local Development Corp., a private nonprofit fund overseen by the Boston Redevelpment Authority, designed to aid small businesses in financial need, with the blessings of Mayor Thomas Menino. The Mayor defended the action as supporting a "business that is very important to the minority community." Earlier this month, Publisher Melvin Miller suspended publication and laid off a dozen employees in response to the precipitous decline in advertising revenues that is plaguing the entire newspaper industry.

However well-intentioned, the appearance of a cozy arrangement between a government entity and a news media outlet is troubling. Mayor Menino, already the longest-serving Mayor in Boston's history, is facing a re-election bid in November against three challengers. The Mayor's relations with Boston's black community have not always been smooth, and political cynics might suggest that the Banner bailout could bolster Menino's profile among African-Americans and offset any potential loss of voters in the Asian community who might favor mayoral candidate and city councilor Sam Yoon.

In May 2009, The Carrboro Citizen, in Chapel Hill, NC, asked municipal officials for a loan to stay afloat (see "TUOL" post 5/22/09) and the same issues I objected to there, apply to the Banner case. A news media outlet cannot be the "watchdog" over government when it is dependent on government officials to take it out for a walk. Any Banner editorial supporting a position taken by Menino, fairly or unfairly, might be perceived as "payback."

Moreover, Boston and Massachusetts revenues are woefully below previous estimates, so helping the Banner and other worthy private enterprises should take a backseat to more pressing needs that affect Bostonians, such as health care, runaway foreclosures, homeless, and the like.
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Thursday, July 16, 2009

London Gallery in Copyright Row with Wikipedia

Lawyers for The National Portrait Gallery in London have fired off a letter to the powers that be behind the Wikipedia encylopedia Web site, warning that England's copyright laws were breached when an individual downloaded more than 3,300 high resolution images of drawings, paintings and photographs from the Gallery's database and uploaded them into an archive of free-to-use images on Wikipedia.

Derrick Coetzee, the volunteer Wikipedia uploader who did the deed in March 2009, also uploaded the letter from the Gallery's counsel threatening suit for copyright infringement. Reproductions of works of art are not copyrightable in the U.S. where Coetzee resides, but such photos may be copyrighted under English law, the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

The Wikimedia Foundation did not remove the images, despite being asked to do so by the Gallery's attorneys in April 2009.The Gallery's attorneys claim that Coetzee circumvented the technical measures put in place to protect the high resolution images. Though ordering in their letter that Wikipedia immediately expunge the purportedly purloined images from its Web site, the Gallery's attorneys left open the virtual door of possibly permitting Wikipedia to feature low resolution copies of the Gallery's exhibits.

Created in 2001, Wikipedia, a multi-lingual free-content based encyclopedia, boasts nearly 3 million articles and more than 850,000 uploaded files on its site as of July 15. The National Portrait Gallery dates back to 1856 and includes among its founding trustees former Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli and the Gallery's prime mover, the 5th Earl Stanhope.You can look it up at Wikipedia, but would be better off going to the Gallery's own Web site,

'The Donald' Trumped in Libel Suit

Donald TrumpImage by ping ping via Flickr

The signature moment of NBC's "The Apprentice" comes when Donald Trump points his index finger at some hapless MBA-toting whiz kid and sneers: "Yaw Fyed." The 63-year-old real estate developer can probably better relate to how the mogul wannabes feel after N.J. Superior Court Judge Michele M. Fox yesterday threw out "The Donald's" $5 billion libel suit against author Timothy O'Brien and publisher Time Warner Book Group, Inc.

Trump sued in January 2006, concerning the defendants' October 2005, book, "TrumpNation: The Art of Being The Donald," in which O'Brien, now editor of The New York Times Sunday business section, relied on three confidential sources to gauge Trump's worth at between $150 million and $250 million. Trump countered his total assets in 2005 were closer to $5 billion or $6 billion, and claimed the defendants' book, which sold roughly 17,000 copies, damaged his reputation and credit standing with lenders.

In a 2007 deposition concerning the case (Trump v. O'Brien, Time Warner Book Group L-545-06), Trump lowered his net worth estimate to $4 billion plus, whereas a 2009 article in The Wall St. Journal placed the number at $788 million based on an appraisal performed in 2005 by Deutsche Bank.

Judge Fox read her decision from the bench in a conference call to lawyers, finding that O'Brien reasonably believed his figures were correct and that Trump did not produce verifiable numbers to show that O'Brien's estimates were false. Judge Fox ruled that Trump failed to show by clear and convincing evidence that O'Brien published the financial information with actual malice. Additionally, she held that O'Brien, as author, was an independent contractor thereby precluding a finding of vicarious liability against the publisher, Time Warner, for O'Brien's actions.

Trump decried U.S. libel law and indicated he would appeal Judge Fox's dismissal of his libel suit. No word from either Trump's mouthpiece or hairpiece.

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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Wash. Appeals Court to Review 'Accurate' Libel Case

SEATTLE - MARCH 16:  The cover of the last eve...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

A three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals in Washington is expected to review the merits of a defamation action brought by crane operator Warren Yeakey against the Seattle Post-Intelligencer following an 11-page order by Eric Schmidt, commissioner of Division II of the appellate court, citing an "obvious error" by the trial judge.

Yeakey sued the Post-Intelligencer in November 2008, based on a series of front-page articles involving a fatal construction site accident in which Yeakey was the operator of the crane that collapsed and killed a man. One of the articles at issue reported Yeakey's prior convictions for drug-related crimes. Although the reporting on the convictions was accurate, the defamation complaint alleges that the Post-Intelligencer thereby implied that Yeakey was responsible for the construction site accident.

Attorneys for Hearst Communications, Inc., the Post-Intelligencer's owner, twice were unsuccessful in their efforts to get the trial court to throw out the libel claim, arguing that the truthfulness of the articles was an absolute defense.

Commissioner Schmidt was more sympathetic in his Order, writing that "The law in Washington does not recognize a claim for defamation by implication based on a juxtaposition of true statements. No set of facts exists that entitles Yeakey to relief."

The order merely found the trial judge's denial of the defendant's motion to dismiss erroneous, but does not dismiss Yeakey's claim. Meanwhile, the Post-Intelligencer stopped printing a paper version earlier this year and is now available online only.

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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

AP Settles IP Suit with AHN Media at the Wire

The Associated Press Building in New York City...Image via Wikipedia

Associated Press and AHN Media have issued a joint press release announcing the resolution of AP's intellectual property lawsuit against All Headline News filed January 14, 2008, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

Under the terms of the settlement, AHN fessed up to numerous instances of improper use of AP's news content and expression without the wire service's consent and agreed to pay an undisclosed sum to AP. As part of the accord, AHN also acknowledged that AP's claim of tortious misappropriation of "hot news"[a quasi-property right to breaking news] had been recognized in other jurisdictions as a viable cause of action and deemed applicable to the present action by U.S. District Court Judge P. Kevin Castel.

AP, a news agency that employs more than 3,000 reporters worldwide who generate content for newspaper, radio, tv, and Internet portal subscribers, originally sued AHN for, among other claims, trademark infringement, unfair competition under the Lanham Act, breach of contract, and misappropriation of "hot news." Before the parties turned to private mediation leading up to the settlement and dismissal of the suit, the Court tossed the trademark infringment and unfair competition counts.

AP had accused AHN of rewriting AP stories and putting its name on them and redistributing the content without the AP name and copyright management information. The digital arena has become a battleground for Associated Press, which has aggressively pursued news aggregators and bloggers to preserve its intellectual property rights.
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BusinessWeek Blowout:: Wanna Buy a Magazine?

McGraw-Hill's 1990s logoImage via Wikipedia

Attention bargain-hunters--instead of plunking down several dollars at the newstand for the latest issue of BusinessWeek, head over to McGraw-Hill Companies, hand them $1, and they may sell you the 80-year-old magazine outright.

McGraw-Hill, an educational publisher and owner of Standard & Poor's rating agency, confirmed it "is exploring strategic options for BusinessWeek," which is the corporate-speak equivalent of posting a "Fire Sale" sign. According to the Financial Times, McGraw-Hill retained investment bank Evercore to unload BusinessWeek, which according to BusinessWeek's Website, has more than 4.8 million readers worldwide served by 155 editorial employees in its New York headquarters and 31 correspondents at 17 bureaus in the U.S. and throughout the world.

The latest figures from the Publishers Information Bureau hold the key--ad pages for the venerable business journal are down 36.8 percent for the first-half of 2009. The Financial Times reports that McGraw-Hill in April released numbers showing a 76.4 percent decrease in first quarter operating profits from its information and media division, which encompasses Platts, JD Power & Associates, and BusinessWeek.

Identifying a potential buyer is the latest parlor game in the Manhattan publishing scene. The Financial Times, as well as Jon Fine, a blogger BusinessWeek, roll out the usual suspects, from Time, Inc., and Conde Nast, to Bloomberg, LP, Pearson Publishing, and Morningstar founder Joe Mansueto, owner of Fast Company and Inc. magazines.

The Financial Times queried bankers who believe a buyer may emerge from among Mansueto Ventures, Platinum Equity (owner of the San Diego Tribune), or OpenGate Capital, which recently landed TV Guide for $1, a likely purchase price for BusinessWeek. Some analysts note that BusinessWeek generates roughly 2 percent of McGraw-Hill's total revenues while generating a small loss, so that its divestiture from McGraw-Hill's portfolio would have a minor impact.

With readers' changing habits and the recessionary economy's impact on traditional media nationwide, BusinessWeek, like its counterparts, Fortune and Forbes, ironically may find itself reporting on its own imminent demise.
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Monday, July 13, 2009

Daily Express Settles Libel Suit with Kate Beckinsale

Kate Beckinsale at the Live Free or Die Hard (...Image via Wikipedia

The Daily Express, which immodestly calls itself "The World's Greatest Newspaper," has forked over 20,000 pounds ($30,000) to English actress Kate Beckinsale and will pay her legal fees to resolve her libel suit regarding the upcoming film version of "Barbarella."

The Daily Express apologized to the actress, who turns 36 in two weeks, for a story that ran last month suggesting that she had been passed over by a studio and was "heartbroken" she had failed to land her dream role as 41st Century astronaut Barbarella. Academy Award-winning actress Jane Fonda survived with career intact, despite performing a gravity-defying striptease, when she starred in the original 1968 "Barbarella: Queen of the Galaxy," which was directed by her then husband Roger Vadim.

According to Beckinsale's lawsuit, she was never in discussions to star in the movie remake and was embarrassed and harmed by the Express article that claimed she was snubbed and lost the role to "Charmed" co-star Rose McGowan. Her attorneys argued that the article fostered the impression that Beckinsale's career was in decline.

Ironically, Beckinsale's film credits include "Nothing But the Truth" (2008), a credo The Daily Express has been slow to embrace. England's libel law is more plaintiff-friendly than its U.S. counterpart, where celebrities are hard-pressed to prove that media defendants publish falsehoods about them with "actual malice."

In contrast, Beckinsale scored $30,000 for the "embarassment" caused by the Express article. Movie viewers who saw Beckinsale in "Underworld: Rise of the Lycans" (2009) and "Van Helsing" (2004) might be surprised to learn she was so easily embarrassed.
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Gannett Paper in Cincinnati Sees Red

Cincinnati chiliImage by joyosity via Flickr

Plunging ad revenues and a dropoff in circulation prompted Gannett Co., Inc., last week to slash 101 jobs at The Cincinnati Enquirer.

The Enquirer, founded in 1841, has a daily circulation of approximately 193,300 and a Sunday circulation of 272, 700, according to Editor & Publisher. The paper's total workforce before the latest round of cutbacks is between 800 and 920. Among the casualties was the staff of CinWeekly. The free arts and entertainment tabloid targeted readers in their 20s and 30s and was distributed mostly through newsboxes and other venues throughout Cincinnati.

Cincinnati's chilly reception to traditional media mirrors that of cities nationwide coping with the recession.
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Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Biggest Boobs at Fox 61 TV?

The station's news open.Image via Wikipedia

Forty-year-old Shelly Sindland, a news anchor and the most senior reporter at Tribune Co.-owned Fox 61 TV( in Hartford, Ct., has filed a sex and age discrimination complaint with the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities and the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging that the station gave preferential treatment to young female reporters and fostered a hostile work environment.

In her complaint, Sindland, a 14-year veteran at Fox 61(WTIC-TV), recounts a Jan. 30, 2009, meeting of anchors and reporters at which news director Bob Rockstroh allegedly attributed a bounce in ratings on Friday newscasts to a female reporter wearing tight shirts, purportedly referencing "Big Boob Fridays," to which station general manager Rich Graziano allegedly remarked: "hey, whatever works." Her complaint further alleges that during a photo shoot of news personnel in February 2009, that female anchors allegedly were told to be more "sexy."

In a July 7 post on her personal blog, Sindland said she filed suit "for my daughter as well as the other women at the television station both young and 'old.'" The Tribune Co. has not responded publicly to the complaint.

If the purported penchant for pulchritude is proved, it will give a whole new meaning to the concept of "balanced" news. Fox 61 is the most-watched evening newscast in the market, and it is doubtful that ratings will sag with disclosure of Sindland's employment discrimination claim.

Counted among the Fox 61 news team are reporters named French, Hardin, Frank, Hancock and Furey. Coincidence? We report, you decide.

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