Friday, January 29, 2010

Disney Breaks Miramax: 7 Years of Bad Luck to Follow?

Miramax FilmsImage by tchuntfr via Flickr
The Walt Disney Co. has turned out the lights on its Burbank, Calif.-based subsidiary Miramax Films, eliminating 80 jobs and bringing an end to the one-time indie film hitmaker.

Disney bought Miramax, which was founded in 1979 by Harvey & Bob Weinstein, in 1993, but has reduced the studio's film output in recent years.  At its height, Miramax produced a spate of  critically acclaimed movies, including Chicago, Shakespeare in Love, Clerks, The English Patient, Pulp Fiction, sex, lies & videotape, and The Crying Game.

According to a story in the United Kingdom-based The Guardian, six studio movies are in the can and ready for release.  Get ready for Pirates of the Caribbean: the Weinsteins Walk the Plank.
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UPDATE: Toledo Blade Challenges Judge's Courtroom Closure

First page of Constitution of the United StatesImage via Wikipedia
The Block Communications-owned The Toledo Blade has filed a complaint for an original writ of prohibition with the Ohio Supreme Court urging the state high court to overturn as an unconstitutional prior restraint Henry County Judge Keith P. Muehlfeld's order prohibiting the news media from reporting on a manslaughter trial in an open courtroom until a jury has been impaneled in the trial of a co-defendant. [See "TUOL" post 1/21/10.]

The action, The State of Ohio ex rel. The Toledo Blade Co. v. The Court of County Pleas of Henry County, Ohio & The Hon. Keith P. Muehlfeld claims that Judge Muehfeld's gag order in  The State of Ohio v. David E. Knepley & Jayme Schwenkmeyer runs afoul of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, as well as the Ohio Constitution.

In Craig v. Harney, 331 U.S. 367, 374 (1947), the Supreme Court noted that what transpires in open court is public property that judges can't suppress, edit or censor. In the seminal case of Nebraska Press Assn. v. Stuart, 427 U.S. 539 (1976), the high court ruled that what occurs in a public hearing is not subject to judicial prior restraint.

Preserving the presumption of innocence and protecting the fair trial right of the accused is paramount in our criminal justice system, but as Judge Muehlfeld is likely soon to learn, it must be done without infringing on the constitutional rights of the public and the press to see the justice system in action.

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UPDATE: Play It Again Sam

curt anderson interview AliImage via Wikipedia
Just as heavyweight champs Muhammad Ali and Smokin' Joe Frazier mixed it up in three historic bouts, Internet music downloader Jammie Thomas-Rasset and the Recording Industry Association of America are ready to have at each other again.

As "TUOL" blogged earlier this week (see "TUOL" post 1/26/10), Chief Judge Michael Davis of the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota allowed the RIAA seven days within which either to accept his reduction of the RIAA's judgment against Thomas-Rasset from $1.92 million to $54,000, or to request a new trial on the issue of damages.

Reportedly, the defendant rejected an offer of settlement that would have had her contribute $25,000 to a charity devoted to struggling musicians, so the RIAA has opted for a third trial on the damages issue. Once the dust has settled, defense counsel reportedly will challenge the constitutionality of statutes that provide for significant assessment of damages for file-sharing violations.

So like Frazier v. Ali, Thomas-Rasset v. RIAA will have a trilogy of fights.  The principal difference, in the humble opinion of "TUOL," is that in the music downloading battle, it's hard to root for either fighter.
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Thursday, January 28, 2010

Allentown Sues Daily & State Agency Over Records Disclosure Order

The Morning CallImage via Wikipedia
The city of Allentown, Pa. is suing The Morning Call, a Tribune Co.-owned daily newspaper, and the Commonwealth's public records office that ordered the city to release public documents requested by the paper under Pennsylvania's right-to-know law (Act 3 of 2008).

The suit filed in Lehigh County Court is in response to an initial request by Call reporter Jarrett Renshaw that sought Email messages and schedules for Mayor Ed Pawlowski, Managing Director Ken Bennington and Joyce Marin, director of the Department of Community and Economic Development. The city argued compliance required prepayment of $898 to cover the cost of redacting and photocopying 3,592 pages.

The public records office decided the city failed to justify the need for redacting the public records and that even if such an action were required, why it could not be performed electronically in less time and at lower cost. The agency agreed to review its initial ruling, but declined the city's request for a new hearing and recusal of the hearing officer, whom the city believes is biased because she used to work for a prominent Pennsylvania media lawyer with an active right-to-know law case load.

Act 3 of 2008, which took effect in January 2009,  presumes government documents are public records. With apologies to Billy Joel: "Well, we're waiting here in Allentown for the Pennsylvania (records) we never found..."
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Appeals Court Sides with Santa-Barbara News-Press in Labor Dispute

Union members picketing outside the National L...Image via Wikipedia
A four-year-old labor dispute between editorial staff and Santa-Barbara (Calif.) News-Press owner/publisher Wendy McCaw  involving alleged biased reporting took an upward turn for the latter following a decision this week by the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in James J. McDermott, Regional Director of Div. 31 of the NLRB for and on behalf of the NLRB v. Ampersand Pub., LLC d/b/a The Santa-Barbara News-Press (Case No. 08-56202).

The appellate court voted 2-1 to uphold U.S. District Court for the Central Dist. of Calif. Judge Stephen V. Wilson's rejection of eight fired editorial staffers' attempt to be reinstated. According to a report in The Los Angeles Times,  the turmoil started when five editors resigned in 2006 in protest over alleged biased reporting.

Reporters soon left the paper in droves. The conflict escalated after editorial members joined a division of the Intl. Brotherhood of Teamsters. Eight journalists were fired, and the union prevailed in an unfair labor practices complaint before the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). McCaw appealed the board's decision and Judge Wilson ruled that her and the newspaper's First Amendment rights outweighed the labor issues involved. The 9th Circuit panel agreed.
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Newsday Web Content Fee Hits a (Pay) Wall

MELVILLE, NY - APRIL 22:  The Newsday headquar...Image by Getty Images via Daylife
For The New York Times and other print journalism leviathans moving toward charging Web site visitors to view content, comes grim news from a Long Island daily's experiment with pay walls.

Newsday, for which the Dolan family. paid $650 million, along with another $4 million for a redesign and launch of the paper's Web site (, has yielded 35 subscribers since it erected a pay wall last October. To receive unfettered access to the site, subscribers pay $5 a week or $260 a year, which means the Dolans have grossed $9,000 on their $4 million investment.

Subscribers to the print edition and to the Dolan/Cablevision-owned Optimum Cable receive free access to the Web site. According to Nielsen Media Online, traffic to Newsday's Web site dropped in December to 1.5 million unique visitors, from 2.2 million unique visitors in October before the pay wall went up. Piling on the misery, Newsday reportedly lost $7 million during the first three quarters of 2009. And last week, employees rejected a proposed 10 percent pay cut by a vote of 473-10.

The only solace to the Dolans is that next to Newsday, owning the NY Knicks doesn't seem so bad.

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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Court Slashes Judgment Against Internet Song Sharer

Image representing RIAA, Recording Industry As...Image via CrunchBase
Chief Judge Michael Davis of the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota has reduced by 97 percent the $1.92 million verdict obtained by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) in June 2009, against a Minnesota woman in the first trial of a P2P infringement case.

In Capitol Records, Inc., Sony BMG Music Entertainment, Arista Records, LLC, Interscope Records, Warner Bros. Records, Inc., and UMG Recordings, Inc. v. Jammie Thomas-Rasset (Case No. 0:06cv01497-MJD-RLE), Judge Davis deemed "monstrous" the $80,000 per song Thomas-Rasset was assessed for illegally downloading 24 songs, and remitted the sum to $2,250 per tune for a total judgment of $54,000.

Thomas-Rasset was charged with pirating nearly 2,000 tunes, but the RIAA sought damages only for 24 tracks, including those by artists such as Gloria Estefan, Green Day, Def Leppard and Aerosmith. Judge Davis amended the judgment but denied the defendant's motion for a new trial. Judge Davis said that notwithstanding the deterrent effect of a mammoth judgment, "statutory damages must still bear some relation to actual damages." Under U.S. Copyright law [17 U.S. C. sec.504(c)], statutory damages can range from $750 to $30,000 per illegally downloaded song, which can jump to $150,000 per transgression if deemed "willful."

The RIAA has seven days from Judge Davis' decision to accept the amended verdict or to seek a new trial to set damages. Judge Davis said the amended judgment assessed the defendant remains "significant and harsh."

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Monday, January 25, 2010

Delaware House Committee Adds Teeth to FOIA

Map of DelawareImage via Wikipedia
Delaware's Freedom of Information Act ("FOIA")[29 Del. C. Secs. 10001-10005] may soon impose a time limit within which state government agencies must respond to document requests.

State Rep. Brad Bennett (D-Dover) introduced H.B. 300 that requires agencies to respond to document request within 10 business days.  If additional time is necessary because the request is voluminous, the records are archived, or the agency wants to consult with counsel, a response must still be forthcoming within the 10-day deadline stating additional "reasonable" time is required. Many states impose a 5-day or 7-day FOIA requestcompliance deadline, but the proposed Delaware time period is half the 20 days permitted under the federal FOIA [5 U.S.C. sec. 552].

Passage of the measure by the House Administration Committee means the full House will vote on H.B. 300. Delaware's FOIA presently fixes no time frame for agencies to answer public requests, which has led to charges of foot-dragging by state agencies in complying with FOIA demands.
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UPDATE: Chicago Judge Bounces Libel Claim Against Tweeting Tenant

Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...Image via CrunchBase
Cook County (Ill.) Circuit Court Judge Diane Larsen last week dismissed a defamation claim brought last July by Horizon Group Management, a Chicago-based property firm, against former tenant Amanda Bonnen concerning a tweet she sent to her 20 followers.

Last May, Bonnen, who has since closed her Twitter account, tweeted in response to a leaky roof in her former Horizon-managed residence: "Who said sleeping in a moldy apartment was bad for you? Horizon realty thinks it's okay." Horizon sued for defamation, claiming her public tweet constituted libel per se.

Judge Larsen disagreed, dismissing the claim with prejudice, holding the tweet was too vague to meet the libel standard.  Horizon faced a significant challenge, not only in proving Bonnen made a false statement of fact that harmed Horizon's reputation, but also in showing that a tweet satisfied the "publication" element of defamation.

Bonnen dodged a bullet, but the still unsettled area of defamation in the social media arena is fraught with peril. For example, had some of Bonnen's small cadre of followers "re-tweeted" her message, would that have exposed them to libel liability? Devoted "TUOL" readers know that a mere 140 characters could cause a lot of trouble in the hands of a careless Twitterer.

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Obama: 'Periodical President'

Barack Obama delivers a speech at the Universi...Image via Wikipedia
Today's Washington Post features a puff piece about the various individuals and information sources on which President Barack Obama relies in formulating policy. No surprises concerning trusted individuals in the president's sphere, including First Lady Michelle Obama and advisors Rahm Emmanuel and David Axelrod. Axelrod reveals that President Obama reads magazines "like crazy," including Sports Illustrated, The Economist, Rolling Stone and The New Yorker.

Not much of susbstance here, but "TUOL" was taken by the contrast of the current chief executive's reading habits, compared to those of his predecessor, President George W. Bush, who stopped reading his favorite magazine, Highlights, because he became frustrated when he couldn't find the hidden spoon or bunch of bananas in the drawing.
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Friday, January 22, 2010

Nashville Brass: Tennessean Donations to Convention Center

The TennesseanImage via Wikipedia
Journalism ethics faculty tired of citing the infamous L.A. Times profit-sharing Sunday supplement deal with The Staples Center, home of the Lakers, as an example of  a conflict of interest now have a fresh example, courtesy of the Gannett paper, The (Nashville) Tennessean.

Though it's not unusual for newspapers editorially to boost taxpayer-funded projects that might better the community, the problem arises when journalistic watchdogs put their money where their mouths are. Witness the proposed $585 million Nashville Music City Center convention center that The Tennessean endorsed in a Sunday editorial, two days before elected officials gave a thumbs-up to the project.

It turns out that The Tennessean made three $5,000 contributions to a group backing the Center, which newsroom editors claim was news to them. Executive Editor Mark Silverman expressed surprise to the alternative weekly Nashville Scene at the news of his paper's largesse. Impartiality still takes a hit, even when a newspaper claims it was not motivated editorially by a business decision by its owner.

Visitor fees and taxes are expected to cover $40 million annually in construction debt through 2043 for the Music City Center.  At the same time the Gannett paper was donating to the convention center cause, it was laying off 150 employees in a cost-savings measure.

Looks as if The Tennessean had a tin ear on the Music City Center project.

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National Enquirer Hopes to Ride Sen. Edwards to a Pulitzer Prize

John Edwards official Senate photo portrait.Image via Wikipedia
Barry Levine, executive editor of The National Enquirer, told Washington Post Media Critic Howard Kurtz that the supermarket tabloid deserves the coveted Pulitzer Prize for its coverage of the sex scandal that derailed the political career of former Democratic presidential candidate and one-term U.S. Senator from North Carolina, John Edwards.

The Enquirer initially reported in 2007 that Sen. Edwards, the photogenic star litigator and John Kerry's vice-presidential running mate in the 2004 presidential election, engaged in an extramarital affair with his campaign videographer, Rielle Hunter. Edwards dismissed the allegations as "tabloid trash" at the time, but fessed up to Nightline in August 2008, that he was romantically involved with Hunter.

Nevertheless, Edwards continued to deny another Enquirer story that said he was the father of Hunter's child, again branding the Enquirer a "supermarket tabloid," and noting that the timing of events precluded him from having sired Hunter's baby. Apparently, Edwards has as much difficulty with math as morality, as he admitted to NBC correspondent Lisa Myers this week that he indeed was the father of Hunter's child. By the way, Edwards' wife, Elizabeth, was battling cancer during the course of her husband's escapades.

Although The Washington Post did report about allegations that Edwards' former campaign chair paid Hunter a considerable sum that allowed her to leave North Carolina and relocate to a multi-million dollar home in Santa  Barbara, Calif., which is the subject of a federal grand jury probe into possible illegal campaign payments, The National Enquirer pretty much had the sex scandal story to itself. It's unclear whether the Enquirer can get its submission to the Pulitzer committee by the February 1 deadline, but as Enquirer readers no-doubt know, the Pulitzer judges are in reality, hostile pod-sucking aliens from the planet Zebulon in human form, so the tabloid's chances of winning are slim anyway.

The Enquirer, which routinely engages in "checkbook journalism" by paying sources for stories, a practice eschewed (though sometimes followed) by the so-called mainstream traditional media, has a successful track record of scoops, including Rev. Jesse Jackson's "love child" story in 2001 and Rush Limbaugh's prescription drug woes story in 2003.

As for Sen. Edwards, his political platform may or may not be correct that economically there are "2 Americas," but there certainly is one special place in Hell for preening, pathological prevaricating, playboy politicians.
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[Off the] Air America Media Dissolves

former WLIB logo, as an Air America Radio affi...Image via Wikipedia
 Air America Radio debuted in 2004 as a progressive network alternative to Rush Limbaugh, G. Gordon Liddy, and other conservative stalwarts dominating the airwaves and chronicled in Hot Air by Washington Post Media Columnist Howard Kurtz.

Although never dominant, Air America at its height had more than 100 radio outlets across the nation and boasted established "names" including now-U.S. Sen. Al Franken (D.-Minn.) and actress/comic Janeane Garofalo, and soon-to-be stars such as Rachel Maddow.

It all came to a crashing ending this week as Air America Media ceased live programming Jan. 21 and will disappear from the airwaves entirely Jan. 25 as it undergoes Chapter 7 bankruptcy dissolution. Ownership blamed the dramatic drop in local and national advertising revenues that has plagued the industry as a whole, but Air America's history was turbulent before the nation's recent economic downturn. 

Air America filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York in 2006 and soon after, was purchased by Green Family Media.  Full-time employees with more than 6 months' tenure will receive severance packages.

Other notable hosts over the network's brief six-year existence included Ron Reagan, Jr., "Lionel", Jerry Springer, Joy Behar, and Richard Belzer.

Liberal listeners will have to make do with NPR, and oldies, jazz, and classical stations.

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Thursday, January 21, 2010

Ohio Judge Bars Press Coverage of Jury Selection in Murder Trial

Courtroom #4Image by Padraic. via Flickr
Henry County (Ohio) Judge Keith P. Muehlfeld has restricted press coverage in the involuntary manslaughter case of 13-month-old Kamryn Gerkin the same week that the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the defendant's conviction in a Georgia drug trial because the public was excluded from the courtroom during the jury selection process.

Judge Muehlfeld has left the door to his courtroom unlocked, but has banned the press from reporting on the trials of the toddler's mother Jayme Schwenkmeyer and her boyfriend David Knepley until the jury is seated. Judge Muehlfeld also issued a gag order against attorneys and witnesses preventing them from speaking to the news media pre-jury selection.  An autopsy performed on the toddler allegedly revealed the presence of multiple toxic drugs, including oxycodone.

Judge Muehlfeld's well-intentioned, but ham-fisted, attempt to prevent the jury pool from becoming tainted by prejudicial pretrial publicity is particularly egregious in that it occurred the same week in which the High Court held in a 7-2 decision in Presley v. Georgia (Case No. 09-5270) that jury selection in criminal trials is presumptively open under the First and Sixth Amendments to the Constitution.

In Richmond Newspapers  v. Virginia, 448 U.S. 555 (1980), Justice Warren Burger wrote the majority opinion holding that the First Amendment guarantees all citizens the right to attend criminal trials. "TUOL" prescribes a daily constitutional for Judge Muehlfeld consisting of a brisk walk to the law library where he can re-read the Bill of Rights.
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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Uri Geller Playing Mind Games With CNN

Uri Geller in Moscow (Russia)Image via Wikipedia
Telepathy and psychokinesis are all well and good, but 63-year-old Uri Geller has decided to employ libel-friendly English courts in his battle against cable network CNN over allegations that he profited financially from participating in a highly charged 2003 documentary about late pop legend Michael Jackson.

Geller sued CNN for defamation arising from an interview on The Larry King Show with Jackson's dermatologist, Dr. Arnold Klein, in which Dr. Klein allegedly accused Geller of exploiting his relationship with Jackson for personal gain by participating in the documentary famous for Martin Bashir's interview with Jackson in which Jackson ceded he shared his bed with children, but denied any sexual relationship with minors. The interview sparked a California police probe that resulted in Jackson being accused of child molestation of a 13-year-old boy. Jackson was acquitted of the charges in a 2005 trial.

Counsel for the Israeli-born Geller, who may be as skilled in bending words as his client is in bending spoons, maintains Geller was not enriched financially by his participation in the documentary.
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President Obama Takes to the Tweets in Haiti

WASHINGTON - JANUARY 18:    U.S. President Bar...Image by Getty Images via Daylife
The American Red Cross reports that during a visit to their disaster operations center in Haiti, President Barack Obama, accompanied by First Lady Michelle Obama, joined the Twitter generation and sent his first-ever tweet.

Although his presidential campaign made effective use of Facebook, Twitter and other social media outlets, President Obama personally was a neophyte when it came to limiting himself to 140 characters.  Reportedly, the President pressed the "Send" button to dispatch the following message: "President Obama and the First Lady are here visiting our disaster operation center right now."

Admit it; you thought the tweet might be more along the lines of: "What did I do in a past life to deserve Harry Reid?"

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Monday, January 18, 2010

MediaNews Group's Colorado Rocky Finances

Seal of the United States bankruptcy court. Ch...Image via Wikipedia
The insolvency beat goes on for ad revenue-strapped, circulation-starved newspaper conglomerates with the announcement that  Denver-based MediaNews Group, Inc. ("MNG") will shortly file a pre-approved Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

The financial restructring plan, which affects Affiliated Media, Inc., an MNG holding group, will give lenders an 80 percent ownership stake in the entity and leave current management intact, though shareholders will lose the value of their holdings. In return for the 80 percent equity, principal lenders, headed by Bank of America, will reduce MNG's existing debt to $165 million from its current approximate $930 million. Reportedly, 95 percent of the media giant's lenders and 91 percent of its bondholders have signed off on the restructuring plan.

The proposed bankruptcy package does not involve individual MNG newspapers, just the Afilliated Media holdings. Among MNG properties are The Oakland Tribune, The Berkshire Eagle, The Salt Lake Tribune, The St. Paul Pioneer Press, The Detroit News, and The Denver Post.

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Friday, January 15, 2010

Fla. Paper Fights Judge's Order Banning Blog Coverage of Murder Trial

An IBM Thinkpad R51 laptopImage via Wikipedia
It suddenly went dark for the 1,309 people following The Jacksonville (Fla.) Times-Union blog coverage of the murder trial of three men charged with the shooting death of 8-year-old DreShawna Davis in 2006.

Circuit Judge L. Page Haddock ordered a Times-Union reporter to stop using a laptop computer to cover the trial because it was a "distraction" both to him and the jury. Since a 1979 Florida Supreme Court ruling, a single pooled video camera has been used to cover high-profile cases, but the decision pre-dated the Internet.

The Times-Union reporter blogged the opening statements in the trial before being ordered to shutdown his laptop.  The newspaper plans to appeal Judge Haddock's order.
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Fourth Circuit Says Consumer Web site Entitled to CDA Immunity

Seal of the United States Court of Appeals for...Image via Wikipedia
The Web site is immune from claims of defamation and interference with advantageous business relations for 20 postings concerning a class-action suit against an auto dealer under the Communications Decency Act of 1996 ["CDA",47 U.S.C. sec. 230(c)(1)], according to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.

In Nemet Chevrolet Ltd. & Thomas Nemet d/b/a Nemet Motors v., Inc. (Case No. 08-2097), the 4th Circuit said the Web site was an "interactive computer service," not an "information content provider," and thus, was entitled to protection under Sec. 230(c)(1), which provides: "No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider." 

The plaintiffs argued that the structure and design of the Web site and the Web site's participation in preparing 20 consumer complaints at issue exempted the defendant from CDA immunity. The appellate court, in upholding U.S. District Court Judge for the E.D. of Virginia Gerald Lee's allowance of defendant's motion to dismiss, said the plaintiffs' allegations were conclusory and failed to intimate contributed to the allegedly fraudulent nature of the 20 comments at issue.
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Morris Publishing Group Bankruptcy Bound

Logo of Morris CommunicationsImage via Wikipedia
Augusta, Georgia-based Morris Publishing Group, which counts The Augusta Chronicle and The Florida Times-Union among its 13-daily newspaper empire, plans to file a pre-packaged Chapter 11 bankruptcy next week after it was unable to secure approval from 99 percent of its creditors to a debt swap.

Morris seeks to secure $100 million in new notes to retire an outstanding $278 million debt. If the bankruptcy court approves the plan, the existing debt will be extinguished and creditors will receive a share in the $100 million debt.

Other Morris dailies include The Juneau (Alaska) Empire, The Topeka (Kan.) Capital-Journal and The Savannah (Ga.) Morning News. The company also publishes weeklies, magazines and shoppers.
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Thursday, January 14, 2010

UPDATE: What's the Frequency Dan?

NEW YORK - JULY 23:  Former CBS Evening News a...Image by Getty Images via Daylife
Former CBS Evening News Anchor Dan Rather's dead $70 million breach of contract suit against the Eye Network (See "TUOL" post 9/29/09) will stay dead.

The N.Y. Court of Appeals yesterday denied Rather's motion for leave to appeal the dismissal of his case by the Appellate Division of the NY Supreme Court (Motion No. 2009-1196). Rather was assessed $100 costs and necessary reproduction disbursements. Not sure what HDNet is paying the former network news star, but Rather is probably good for it.
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'Bleak House': The Story of 2009 Magazine Ad Revenues

Magazines to read
If you were shocked that Mark McGwire used steroids and never saw the ax falling on Jay Leno's prime time foray, you may be surprised by the Publishers Information Bureau 2009 magazine revenues report that reflects a near 26 percent decline in ad pages and revenues plummeting by 18 percent compared to the previous year. Try visualizing the loss of 58,340 advertising pages and the pall cast over an entire industry.

Since 2007, when  PIB began its quarterly tracking of ad pages and revenues, 10 of 11 quarters have seen shrinking numbers. In fact, only 18 consumer magazines reported ad page gains in 2009, chief among them, People's Style WatchOk!, Bonnier, Saveur, and Family Circle. Hardest hit were boating magazines and Architectural Digest.

Read it and weep, but for Heaven's sakes, at least read it.
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UPDATE: Supreme Court Extends Stay Blocking Videocast of Prop 8 Trial

WASHINGTON - SEPTEMBER 29:  Members of the US ...Image by Getty Images via Daylife
If you want to view the constitutional challenge to Proposition 8 banning gay marriage (Perry v. Schwarzenegger, Case No. 3:09-cv-02292) unfolding in a California courtroom since Monday, you better hurry up and book a flight to San Francisco, because it's not playing on YouTube.

The U.S. Supreme Court yesterday voted 5-4 to extend the stay of U.S. District Court Judge Vaughan Walker's order that would have permitted real-time broadcast streaming of the trial imposed Monday  [see "TUOL" post 1/11/10]. The trial is likely to end before further consideration of the plan that would have transmitted audio and video of the trial via YouTube and the court's Web site to other courthouses nationwide can occur.

Dissenting justices of the unsigned opinion were Sonia Sotomayor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, John Paul Stevens, and Stephen Breyer. Breyer deemed it "inappropriate, as well as unnecessary" to interfere with local judicial administration, and wrote that "the public interest weighs in favor of providing access to the courts."

The majority of the High Court bought into the argument of those seeking to freeze Judge Walker's order that broadcasting the trial would cause "irreparable harm" that could include intimidation and harassment of  witnesses opposed to gay marriage.

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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Botched Blackwater Prosecution Transcripts Nearing Publication

SALT LAKE CITY - DECEMBER 8:  Former Blackwate...Image by Getty Images via Daylife
Barring a Justice Dept. plea to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit for a stay of U.S. District Court Judge Ricardo Urbina's Jan. 7 order, transcripts and exhibits from the three-week hearing concerning the prosecution of five former Blackwater Worldwide security guards that Judge Urbina dismissed last month (US v. Paul A Slough et al, Misc. Action No. 10-0005) will soon  be available for review in your friendly local newspaper.

Judge Urbina set February 2 as the release date of  redacted versions of the parties' post-hearing memoranda and briefs, along with exhibits and hundreds of pages of transcripts of the testimony of 25 witnesses at the previously sealed hearing. The hearing was sealed to protect the defendants' rights as it relied heavily on grand jury minutes and immune statements from the security guards. Judge Urbina dismissed the criminal charges against the defendants in December because of the prosecution's misuse of immunized statements from the guards taken during a Sept. 2007 probe of a shooting death  that occurred in Nisour Square, Iraq.

The Washington Post submitted a request for access to the court materials on Jan. 4, and the Associated Press followed suit the next day.  Prosecutors and defense counsel have a noon deadline today to submit redacted versions of their pretrial and postrial papers.

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Read Now, Pay Later...

Brother Can You Spare A Dime?Image by Doug Greenberg via Flickr
Time was when magazine journalists fretted about "bingo" or "idiot" subscription cards falling out of magazines and annoying subscribers when readers opened the periodical to peruse their painstakingly detailed articles.

Nowadays, magazine writers  are more concerned about finding a forum for their lengthy works and getting paid for their efforts. "The News Frontier" Jan. 11 column featured on the Web site of  the Columbia Journalism Review offers a prime example, or a cautionary tale, depending on your viewpoint, of this phenomenon, in the case of "Finding Dolly Freed," written by award-winning author Paige Williams, currently executive editor of Boston magazine.

Freed achieved notoriety in 1978 when she published Possum Living: How to live well without a job and with almost no money, a "how-to" guide that tracked the lifestyle she and her father lived in rural Pennsylvania. Freed dropped out of the public eye following multiple tv appearances and an award-winning documentary about her.  The re-issuance of her book caught the attention of Williams, a former Nieman fellow and National Magazine Award winner, which resulted in a 6,000-word profile of Freed and her philosophy. Williams flew to Houston to meet with her subject in preparing the piece.

Here's the rub: despite her pedigree, Williams was rejected by one publication after another, including The New Yorker, New York Times Magazine, and Texas Monthly, which led to her self-publishing the piece on a Web site created for her,, that archives other articles of hers as well.

Visitors to the Web site will find the following message in a sidebar to the article: "Finding Dolly Freed" is a piece of independent journalism that cost more than $2,000 to produce. To help the writer recoup her expenses and perhaps bank a small paycheck, please click here and pay whatever amount you'd like. Think of it as Radiohead journalism! Thank you in advance." Visitors so inclined are then led to a Pay Pal page.  Thus far, she has drawn 3,000 unique visitors, but received contributions from 34 readers totaling $423.

Makes it easier to understand why journalists ranked 184 on the list of the 200 worst jobs (see "TUOL" post 1/7/10). Incidentally, the devoted "TUOL" staff won't receive a plugged nickel for this post or any other illuminating tidbit, but that discussion is for another day, dear readers.

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