Friday, March 29, 2013

America's Most Wanted Unwanted by Lifetime

America's Most Wanted
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Looks as if the quarter-century run of America's Most Wanted ("AMW"), hosted by John Walsh, may be drawing to a close, as TV exclusively reported that Lifetime Television has decided not to renew the crime-busting reality show.

According to TV Guide, Lifetime is developing a pilot, John Walsh Investigates, that also would feature a blend of victim advocacy and crime-busting. Meanwhile, AMW may look for another network sugar daddy to support it.

AMW debuted on Fox in 1988, where it ran (like a fugitive from justice) for 24 seasons before Lifetime picked it up in December 2011. After 44 episodes on Lifetime, the last original episode aired on October 12, and based on the paltry ratings, the show couldn't get arrested.

According to the TV Guide article, AMW over the years assisted law enforcement in tracking down 1,202 fugitives worldwide. The show is distributed by Twentieth Television.

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CNN Assembles Cast for A.M. Show Spring Debut

Post Production editing offices in Atlanta.
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Ratings-starved CNN, which will debut its new New York-based morning show sometime this spring, yesterday announced the team who will helm the program, the Huffington Post reported.

Chris Cuomo, who joined CNN two months ago after serving as co-anchor of ABC's 20/20 and as the network's chief law and justice correspondent, will co-host the morning show alongside Kate Bolduan, CNN's Congressional correspondent and Situation Room co-host.  Michaela Pereira, former anchor of KTLA 5 Morning News in Los Angeles, will handle the morning program's news anchor duties, according to the Huffington Post article.

CNN President Jeff Zucker kvelled about the program's "dynamic team."  Of course, every morning show crew that has ever existed has been labeled a dynamic team, even Steve Doocy, Gretchen Carlson and Brian Kilmeade of Fox & Friends on the Fox News Channel (a/k/a  The Cartoon Network), but Zucker was executive producer of the highly successful Today Show on NBC for 16 years, so "TUOL"'s morning radio-listening staff will cut him some slack.

CNN has not divulged the name of its exciting new morning show, but based on the ratings of its other non-newscast programming, it might consider Poison or Morning Sickness.
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Thursday, March 28, 2013

Sporting News Flirts with U.K. Digital Rights Co. While Paring Staff

The Sporting News photo of Jay Hughes
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The American City Business Journals Inc. ("ACBJ")-owned Sporting News is teaming up with U.K. digital rights company, Perform, on a near-$6 million venture based in New York, Reuters wire service reported today.

Meanwhile, The Sporting News, a 127-year-old brand that in its print magazine incarnation was known as the "Bible of Baseball" before it expanded its coverage to other sports in the 1960s, is slashing its budget, reportedly trimming a dozen editorial slots, according to Web site.  Among the prominent sports journalists axed were former New York Times reporter Clifton Brown, soccer writer Brian Straus and one-time Boston Globe sportswriter Lisa Olson.

According to Reuters, Perform is kicking in $1.4 million to ACBJ's $4.6 million initial investment in their joint venture. Perform Sporting News Limited ("PSNL") will own 65 percent of PSNL, and ACBJ will have a  35 percent stake in the venture, which Perform may acquire for $65 million up to 2017, Reuters reported.

Perform acquires online rights to sporting events and distributes video clips and live content for a price to newspaper Web sites and other groups, including bookmakers. 

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UPDATE: 'Boston' Rocker Scholz Loses Boston Herald Libel Suit

Brad Delp -Sepia
 (Photo credit: DSMJ)

Suffolk County Superior Court Judge Frances A. McIntyre yesterday dismissed the defamation lawsuit brought by Tom Scholz, co-founder and keyboardist/songwriter of legendary rock band Boston, against the Boston Herald and two of its gossip columnists based on allegations concerning the March 2007, suicide of the band's lead singer, Brad Delp, according to reports in the Boston Globe and Boston Herald.

Scholz sued the tabloid in 2010 for defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress, alleging that Fee & Raposa, who penned the Herald's Inside Track gossip column, implied he was to blame for Delp taking his own life, by quoting Delp's former spouse Micki, who said the singer was despondent over Boston's long-ago breakup and subsequent changes in the band (see "TUOL" posts 9/15/11 & 3/18/10). Scholz claimed the defendants made up the quotes attributed to Micki Delp and suggested that personal problems contributed to Delp killing himself, including his fiancee's purported infidelity and the discovery that Delp allegedly secreted a camera in the bedroom of his fiancee's younger sister.

In the 24-page opinion in Donald Thomas Scholz v. Boston Herald, Inc., Gayle Fee  & Laura Raposa (Case No. 10-1010), Judge McIntyre wrote that Scholz could neither prove nor disprove what prompted Delp to commit suicide, and "[a]ny views on the subject necessarily would be opinions." That is critical in defamation cases, which are rooted in false statements of fact, because, as Judge McIntyre noted, "an opinion cannot be false; the free expression of opinion on any matter of public interest is constitutionally protected by the First Amendment. Therefore, the publication by these media defendants of their opinion about the cause of Delp's suicide is not vulnerable to a claim of defamation."

Although acknowledging that Delp's suicide was a "private tragedy," Judge McIntyre wrote that "for the public who cared about him during his life, his death was an issue of public concern." The Herald account of the decision noted that the court rejected Scholz's assertion that the defendant columnists fabricated remarks attributed to Micki Delp. Among the alleged defamatory statements was a headline, "Pal's snub made Delp do it; Boston rocker's ex-wife speaks."

Boston's 1976 debut album sold 17 million copies, the second-biggest debut in U.S. rock history, according to the Globe article. The band's hits included Don't Look Back and Peace of Mind.

Scholz's counsel said his client has yet to decide whether to appeal Judge McIntyre's decision. If he decides to pursue an appeal, as a public figure saddled with the heightened defamation burden of proof of actual malice, Scholz is going to have to show by More than a Feeling that his reputation was sullied by false assertions.
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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Paywalls Across the Pond

Logo of The Daily Telegraph, a British newspap...
. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The Telegraph Media Group, owner of The Daily Telegraph, has announced the U.K. daily will become the first national general interest paper to erect a metered paywall for its digital edition.

Visitors will be able to view 20 free articles a month before being offered two subscription packages; one that charges 1.99 pounds a month ($3.01) or 20 pounds annually ($30.25), and a comprehensive "full digital pack" for 9.99 pounds a month ($15.11) or 99 pounds a year ($149.75) that also includes tablet access to the Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph and loyalty club membership (complete with secret decoder ring?). Under either option, subscribers will enjoy a one-month free trial. No start-up date for the paywall was indicated.

Meanwhile, The Sun, also expects to be charging visitors to view its online content sometime this year. The tabloid's online edition's monthly users are tenfold its print edition readership. The Pearson PLC-owned Financial Times has already enjoyed success in the U.K. with a metered paywall system.

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Rusty GateHouse Media Headed Toward Pre-Packaged Bankruptcy Filing?

English: GateHouse Media headquarters in Perin...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Debt-ridden Fairport, N.Y.-based newspaper chain GateHouse Media Inc., which owns newspapers and shoppers in 21 states and boasts a workforce of more than 4,000, is considering filing a pre-packaged bankruptcy in response to a looming $1.2 billion debt, the Wall St. Journal reported this week.

GateHouse, which is owned by Fortress Investment Group LLC, includes in its stable of more than 300 small daily and weekly papers the (Quincy, Mass.) Patriot Ledger, Norwich (Conn.) Bulletin and Utica (N.Y.) Observer-Dispatch. The chain has enlisted Houlihan Lokey investment bank and a law firm specializing in restructuring to achieve its goal of eliminating the crushing debt, the Journal article noted.

GateHouse was delisted from the New York Stock Exchange in 2008 because of its shaky financial picture, which includes a $30 million drop in sales last year compared to 2011 figures. Fortress, a prominent creditor, bought GateHouse in 2005 for more than $500 million.
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CBS Joins Lionsgate in TV Guide Network Ownership

TV Guide Network
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
CBS Corp., which already enjoys the largest viewership among U.S. commercial tv networks and boasts ownership of premium cable channel Showtime, has purchased a 50 percent stake in the 32-year-old TV Guide Network ("TVGN") from JP Morgan Chase & Co.'s One Equity Partners.

CBS will share ownership of TVGN with Lionsgate Entertainment, which bought TVGN in 2009 for a reported $241.6 million (later unloading a 49 percent share to One Equity Partners), a heftier price tag than the roughly $100 million CBS doled out for its half-share, according to accounts in the Los Angeles Times, Bloomberg News and Web site. TVGN, which reaches 80 million homes, has made an awkward shift in the past four years from a combination of infomercials and scrolling grid of tv program listings, to the grid and reruns of enterainment programming such as Who's the Boss?, Designing Women and Dharma & Greg. Far from "must-see" television, though in fairness, has been robust, growing to more than 25 million monthly online visitors, according to

Lionsgate is the force behind cable tv hits, including Weeds, Mad Men and Nurse Jackie.

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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

UPDATE: Readers Digest Submits Chapter 11 Plan to Bankruptcy Court

Logo used from about 1963 until 2007 (January ...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
RDA Holding Co., publisher of the 91-year-old Reader's Digest magazine, last week submitted its proposed Chapter 11 reorganization plan to United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York Judge Robert Drain.

As reported here (see "TUOL" post 2/19/13), in In re RDA Holding Co., Inc. (Docket No. 13-22233), Judge Drain will have to approve the plan that 70 percent of noteholders accepted last month that converts into new equity $231 million in notes, roughly 80 percent of the troubled publisher's debt, according to an article by Bloomberg News. About $244.9 million in notes is being considered a general unsecured claim under the proposed plan, Bloomberg reported.

The plan is hazy about how creditors to the tune of $380 million will be repaid. In the interim, RDA Holding Co. secured a $105 million debtor-in-possession loan from lenders organized by a Wells Fargo & Co. unit. Reader's Digest, which claims assets and liabilities exceeding $1 billion, also filed for bankruptcy in 2009 (see "TUOL" post 8/17/09).

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Anthony Lewis: 1st Amendment Loses Its Best Friend

Cover of "Gideon's Trumpet"

Pulitzer-Prize winning columnist and author Anthony Lewis died yesterday at age 85 from renal and heart failure.

Lewis, a champion of the First Amendment, spent more than three decades as a columnist for the New York Times, penning his last Abroad at Home column December 15, 2001. He also is the author of several important law-related books, including Gideon's Trumpet, about the U.S. Supreme Court decision, Gideon v. Wainwright, that found the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments mandated states appoint counsel for indigent criminal defendants, Make No Law, concerning the New York Times v. Sullivan High Court ruling that elevated the burden of proof on public officials bringing defamation claims against media defendants, and Freedom for the Thought that We Hate:  A Biography of the First Amendment.

The humble staff of "TUOL" was honored to have spoken with Lewis many times over the years at functions at Suffolk University Law School, New England Law Boston and the Massachusetts Bar Association (his spouse, Margaret Marshall, is the former Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court) and to have shared a meorable lunch with him when he came to speak to the staff's journalism students at Boston University's College of Communication. Lewis was the personification of class--a soft-spoken, witty, opinionated but humble, charming man with an English accent yet!

The First Amendment had no stauncher ally and the journalism field, sadly, has few today who measure up to his standards.

Rest in peace, Tony.
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Monday, March 25, 2013

Golden Gate Bridge Meets SF Chronicle Paywall

USS San Francisco (CA-38) entering San Francis...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The Hearst Corp.-owned San Francisco Chronicle has erected a paywall for its digital edition, but will remain free to visitors, the daily announced today.

According to a report by, digital-only subscribers will be able to access online content for as little as $12 a month, though for the same price, readers can get online access plus home-delivery of the Sunday paper.  For $3.60 per week, subscribers may have digital access to plus Friday through Sunday delivery of the paper edition, and $5 a week will net Monday through Sunday delivery along with online access, reported.

Mark Adkins, president of the Chronicle and, wrote in a letter to readers: 

"Subscribers to the new website will find the newspaper's unrivaled content with brilliant photos, an uncluttered format and the familiar design of the Chronicle. Premium stories and columns will update and change with the news throughout the day. Subscribers also will have full access to the Chronicle's most enduring legacy — its columnists."
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Friday, March 22, 2013

Movie of a Lifetime Draws Judicial Interest

 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
When you turn on cable tv tomorrow night at 8 p.m. with a bowl of microwave popcorn and tune in Romeo Killer: The Christopher Porco Story on Lifetime Television, take a moment to thank the New York Supreme Court Appellate Division (3rd Department) for your night of entertainment.

Acting on an emergency motion from Lifetime, an A+E Networks subsidiary, the appellate division stayed an injunction issued Tuesday by Supreme Court Judge Robert Muller, who granted convicted killer Christopher Porco's request on the grounds that the true-crime pot-boiler violated Porco's privacy. Specifically, New York Civil Rights Section 51, allows an individual whose right-to-publicity is violated to seek a remedy if his "name, picture, portrait or voice is used...for advertising purposes or for the purposes of trade without the written consent first obtained."

Lifetime raised its First Amendment dander over judicial prior restraint and argued it was entitled to show the film starring 29-year-old Matt Barr of House Bunny and American Pie Presents Band Camp fame because of its newsworthy subject--the story of Christopher Porco, a guy who killed his father and attempted to murder his mother. Judge Muller believed the work was too fictionalized an account to warrant such protection.

The THR, Esq. Web site originally reported the story. The appellate court gave Porco until April 10 to show cause why Judge Muller's injunctive order shouldn't be lifted, a bit of a head-scratcher because the two-hour film is airing on March 23.

Meanwhile, Lifetime is making the most of the dust-up, advertising the movie as the "Lifetime Original Movie Chris Porco doesn't want you to see." On its Web site, Lifetime Television claims it is "committed to offering the highest quality entertainment and information programming, and advocating a wide range of issues affecting women and their families." Lifetime's commitment includes airing the series Army Wives, Hoarders and Project Runway.

Generally, when convicted felons initiate invasion of privacy suits over news media outlets reporting on their past crimes in retrospectives, courts are unsympathetic, taking the position that the camera-shy plaintiffs could avoid unwanted attention by not robbing banks or engaging in other socially unacceptable behavior.

On second thought, instead of thanking the New York Appellate Division for upholding the First Amendment, you might want to take stock and address why you're home on a Saturday night eating microwave popcorn and watching half-baked ripped-from-the-headlines tv movies.
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City Councilors' City-Related Emails & Texts Public Records, Calif. Judge Rules

Seal of the City of San Jose for fair use to i...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The San Jose City Council  at its meeting next week will address whether to appeal a Santa Clara County Superior Court judge's ruling this month that the councilors' city business-related emails and text messages from their personal accounts must be disclosed under California's Public Records Act ("CPRA") [Govt. Code Secs. 6250-6276.48].

According to an Associated Press article, the ruling by the presiding judge in a lawsuit brought by environmentalist Ted Smith subjects the councilors and other elected and public officials to CPRA, meaning that they must retain records of city business-related communications on their private devices and produce the data on request. Under Sec. 6252(e) of the Act, records include all public business-related communications, "regardless of physical form or characteristics, including any writing, picture, sound or symbol, whether paper...magnetic or other media." The CPRA includes electronic records as subject to public review (Sec. 6253.9(a)(g)).

San Jose officials are worried the judge's decision could extend to the personal email and social media accounts of the city's more than 5,000 employees, which would compliance with CPRA onerous and pose invasion of privacy problems.

The AP article reported that 26 states consider private emails about government-related affairs public records subject to disclosure.
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UPDATE: Federal Judge: Electronic Clipping Service Infringed on AP Copyright

Seal of the United States District Court for t...
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
In The Associated Press v. Meltwater U.S. Holdings, Inc. (Case No. 12-cv-1087), United States District Court for the Southern District of New York Judge Denise Cote this week granted AP summary judgment, holding that the defendant news aggregator infringed on the wire service's copyrighted material without paying licensing fees.

AP last year filed suit against SanFrancisco-based Meltwater, a subscriber-only electronic clipping service whose corporate clients track reporting about themselves and their industries, alleging copyright infringement and hot news misappropriation. (See "TUOL" post 2/16/12.) According to a Reuters wire service story, Judge Cote ruled for AP and denied Meltwater's summary judgment motion, with one exception, in her decision, which has not yet been released to the public.
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Thursday, March 21, 2013

Proposed Aussie Media Laws Go Down Under

English: Ambassador Bleich with Prime Minister...
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Australia's Parliament today dealt an embarrassing blow to Labor Party Prime Minister Julia Gillard by striking down the lion's share of strict media law reforms proposed by Communications Minister Stephen Conroy, according to reports in The New York Times and The Hollywood Reporter.

Gillard, the country's first female PM elected three years ago, was unable to rally lawmakers to support the proposals, which included creating a Public Interest Media Advocate to oversee news outlets' (particularly print and online media) self-regulatory bodies and to approve media mergers.

The reforms were a response both to the Murdoch publications phone hacking scandal that sullied the U.K. and recommendations from a panel helmed by retired federal judge Ray Finkelstein that reviewed Australian media practices that concluded government oversight of print and online media, including the power to prosecute media companies, was warranted.

Predictably, the heads of many Australian media conglomerates condemned the proposals as unconstitutional and an affront to democratic principles. Among those who testified before the Senate were the top honchos from Fairfax Media, Seven Media Group, News Limited, Nine Entertainment and Ten Network.

Lesser aspects of Conroy's reform package gained solons' approval, including license fee rebates for commercial tv broadcasters who satisfy increased local content requirements. The Times article quoted a Griffith University journalism prof who said the derailed media law proposal was fairly watered-down and not at all a threat to press freedom in Australia.

The defeat ensures that Thursday will not be a G'day for Prime Minister Gillard.
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Layoffs Rock Washington Examiner; Weekly Magazine & Website in the Offing

Day 348: Aaahhh!! Real Monsters
 (Photo credit: quinn.anya)
The free, right-wing daily Washington Examiner newspaper will morph into a weekly magazine and a Website in June, but will do so with 87 fewer employees, the paper's owner, Denver-based Clarity Media Group, Inc. ("CMG") announced this week.

According to accounts in the Baltimore Business Journal and Washington City Paper, the Examiner, which is published in Springfield, Virginia, and circulated throughout the greater Washington, D.C. area, will shift its focus to political news and drop local news coverage.  The pink-slipped staffers from the editorial, advertising and business departments, will continue to work at the Examiner through its last print edition on June 14, a few days before the weekly magazine and daily Web site versions debut.

Management, including editor Stephen G. Smith, executive editor Mark Tapscott and digital managing editor Jennifer Peebles will stay on after the transformation, according to the Baltimore Business Journal article. The target audience for the revamped Examiner includes government employees and professionals from academia, politics and public affairs.

The nine-year-old CMG is owned by Philip Anschutz, and includes the Neo-Conservative "Bible" Weekly Standard magazine in its stable. Another of its publications, The Baltimore Examiner, shut down four years ago after a two-year run.
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Did Jane Goodall's New Book 'Ape' Other Works?

Jane Goodall 3
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Seeds of Hope is the new book co-authored by conservationist/animal activist Dame Jane Goodall and Gail Hudson, but according to The Washington Post, some of the "roots" of Seeds were pulled from other sources without attribution.

Initially discovered by a Post book reviewer, the daily allegedly uncovered at least a dozen passages in Seeds of Hope that lacked footnotes or attribution, and in some instances, appeared verbatim on Web sites. Additionally, the Post raised questions about the authenticity of  interviews and quotes that appear in the book.

The book, for example, attributes a quote to a purported interview with botanist Matt Daws, but the same quote appeared in a 2009 article on the Gardens Web site, and Daws responded to a Post email that he did not recall ever speaking to Goodall. The book also includes unattributed passages from the Choice Organic Teas Web site, an institution that contributes to the Jane Goodall Institute, according to the Post article.

Grand Central, publisher of the book, which lacks end notes or a bibliography, promised to add credits in subsequent editions of Seeds of Hope. The 78-year-old Goodall, best-known for her 45-year study of wild chimpanzees in Tanzania's Gombe Stream National Park, emailed the Post that she was "distressed to discover that some of the excellent and valuable sources were not properly cited, and I want to express my sincere apologies."

When it comes to book research, as the old adage says: "Monkey see, monkey cite."
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Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Mark of the 'Z' Meets Mark of the 'C' in Zorro Suit

English: Douglas Fairbanks protects his leadin...
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Zorro ("The Fox"), the fictional heroic alter ego of foppish California nobleman Don Diego de la Vega battling oppressors in the Spanish colonial era, has entertained readers and viewers in stories, movies and television for nearly a century.

This month, the swashbuckling hero portrayed in film by actors including Douglas Fairbanks Sr., Tyrone Power, George Hamilton and Antonio Bandaras, and in a Disney tv series by Guy Williams, starred in a lawsuit filed in the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington. In Robert W. Cabell v. Zorro Productions, Inc. et al., the author of a musical based on the swordsman filed a complaint seeking declaratory judgment, cancellation of federal trademarks, injunctive relief and monetary damages.

Cabell alleges his 1996 musical tribute, Z--The Musical of Zorro, is based on Zorro creator Johnston McCulley's The Curse of Capistrano (1919) and Douglas Fairbanks Sr.'s silent classic The Mark of Zorro (1920).  According to his Complaint, reported by Courthouse News Service and THR, Esq., Cabell secured licensing for performance of his musical in Germany (nothing like multiple stabbings and shootings to get German audiences whistling as they leave the theater), but was purportedly confronted with threats of litigation by Zorro Productions, Inc. head John Gertz.

In support of its claim that Zorro has entered the public domain, Caball's Complaint cites a federal judge's footnote in a 2001 case from the United States District Court for the Western Division of the Central District of California, Sony Pictures v. Fireworks Entertainment (156 F.Supp.2d 1148 (2001)), that states: "It is undisputed that Zorro appears in works whose copyrights have already expired, such as McCulley's story, 'The Curse of Capistrano' and Fairbanks' movie, 'The Mark of Zorro.'"

The plaintiff's Complaint alleges the defendants have "fraudulently obtained federal trademark registrations" for various Zorro marks and "built a licensing empire out of smoke and mirrors." Long-time favorite fictional heroes, from Tarzan (see "TUOL" post 2/17/12) to Sherlock Holmes (see "TUOL" post 2/19/13) have been the subject of intellectual property lawsuits in recent times.

Rather than consume precious court time, "TUOL" suggests the parties settle their dispute with epees--the Z-Man would have wanted it that way.
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Daily Variety R.I.P.

We're in Daily Variety today!  Happy Birthday,...
 (Photo credit: Steve Woolf)
Unable to compete with the free-access Web sites of competitors The Hollywood Reporter and Dateline Hollywood, the last print edition of The Daily Variety--once deemed "Hollywood's Bible"--rolled out this week, ending a near 80-year run, The Los Angeles Times reported.

The "Dream Industry" hasn't seen the last of Variety, as a free-access, recently revamped Web site is available, and a spanking new version of the Weekly Variety, a 108-year-old weekly, premieres next week, according to the Times article.

Variety earned $6 million last year, compared to the more than $30 million it brought in in 2006. Auto parts magnate Jay Penske acquired the publication for $25 million from Reed Elsevier last year (see "TUOL" post 10/10/12). To borrow a phrase from the entertainment tabloid, advertising revenues and print circulation have hardly been "boffo" since.
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Summer Job: WaPo Building Digital Paywall

 (Photo credit: kieren mccarthy)
As reported here previously (see "TUOL" post 12/7/12), the Washington Post confirmed yesterday that it will unveil a metered paywall for its digital edition this summer.

Subscription rates are still being finalized, but the daily reported yesterday that Web site visitors will be able to access 20 free articles a month before being asked to pony up. Print edition subscribers, a vanishing breed, will have unlimited access to the digital version.

The Post also will offer unlimited viewing online  to students, military personnel, government employees and school administrators if they access the Web site from their respective school or workplace. All visitors will continue to receive free access to section lead pages, classifieds and the homepage, according to the Post article.

According to the article, the Post Web site attracts 1.4 million D.C. visitors among its total monthly 20 million visitors. The Post has been rocked by dwindling circulation and advertising revenues in its print version, suffering a 14 percent drop in ad revenues and an 8.9 percent decline in daily circulation to 462,228, based on Alliance for Audited Media figures.

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Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Russian Minister of (Mis)Information Berates Journalism Students

Red Square in Moscow
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
At a Moscow State University-sponsored conference entitled, Journalism: Social Mission and Profession, Alexei Volin, Deputy Minister of Communications and Mass Media, delivered the antithesis of a "pep talk" to nascent journalists, the Web site reported.

Emphasizing that journalism is a business and not a mission, Volin told students: "The task of a journalist is to make money for those who hired him, and this can only be done if you become interesting to listeners and readers." Continuing his unspirational speech, Volin added: "Journalists should always keep in mind that their task is not to make the world better or lead humanity along the right path."

No doubt, faculty squirmed when Volin told them that lecturers who didn't adhere to these precepts were committing a crime. During a Q. & A. following his address, Volin, asked how he believed the audience would react to his message, replied: "I don't care about your reaction." Doesn't sound like a guy who hung around for the reception.

Journalists who attended the lecture expressed concern to iMediaEthics that the Kremlin increasingly has been adopting a hard line toward Russian press freedom. Making a guy like Volin a Minister of Communication is like hiring Mel Gibson to be your company's Diversity Officer or putting  Dick Cheney in charge of Recycling.
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SJC: No Right to Audiotape Where Trial Transcript Available

Coat of Arms of Massachusetts. Official, adopt...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
A documentarian was not entitled to an audiotape of court proceedings where he was able to acquire an official trial transcript, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled yesterday in Commonwealth of Massachusetts v. Winfield (Docket No. 11288).

"Where an official record of the proceeding is available to the public," Justice Ralph Gants wrote, "a presumption of public access to an unofficial record is more likely to generate public confusion than to aid public understanding."

Filmmaker Steve Audette invoked the First Amendment and a common-law right of access to public courtroom records as he sought a copy of the court stenographer's backup audiotape of the proceedings in the trial of Somerville Police Officer Keith Winfield, who was convicted in 2007 of raping and burning an infant niece for whom he was babysitting. Audette's documentary will examine, among other issues, Winfield's continued assertion of his innocence.

As reported by the Universal Hub blog, the SJC ruled that the official trial transcript, a copy of which Audette purchased, and not the audio recording used to prepare the transcript, is the official judicial record.
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Monday, March 18, 2013

Cause & Effect: 'Thinner' Newscasts + Newspapers=Fewer Readers & Viewers

at the Pew Research Center
 (Photo credit: eszter)
The annual State of the News Media report by the Pew Research Center Project for Excellence in Journalism reflects the consequences of pared down tv newscasts and shrinking newspapers--a disappearing audience.

According to an Associated Press account of the Pew study, which surveyed 2,000 consumers earlier this year, fewer and/or less complete news stories prepared by financially strapped media outlets prompted nearly a third of those questioned to abandon a news outlet as an information source. Local television newscasts took it on the chin in the Pew study, which found only 28 percent of adults under age 30 questioned regularly watch local news, compared to 42 percent in 2006. As for the newscasts themselves, Pew noted 40 percent of the content concerned weather, traffic and sports. Government coverage by local tv newsrooms has dropped by 50 percent since 2005.

The Pew survey hits keep on coming: newspaper newsroom employment shrank 30 percent from its peak in 2000 to fewer than 40,000, the lowest figure since 1978, the AP story noted.

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DOJ Probing WSJ Over Alleged Fortune-Sharing with Chinese Officials

Deng Xiaoping
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The New York Observer is reporting that the U.S. Dept. of Justice is investigating a whistleblower's allegations that Chinese government officials received gifts from the News Corp.-owned Wall St. Journal in exchange for information used in articles in Rupert Murdoch's national business daily.

An inquiry by outside attorneys and auditors commissioned by News Corp. dismissed the allegations as baseless, the media conglomerate said in a written statement. The company questioned whether the alleged whistleblower might be a Chinese government agent retaliating against the WSJ for its coverage, and noted how the recent hacking of The New York Times and other news media outlets was suspected to be the work of  Chinese government agents as a reprisal against negative reporting.

Could be the Chinese government propaganda machine trying to sully and intimidate the foreign press into writing non-critical stories about the regime.  On the other hand, given Murdoch's phone hacking scandal in the U.K,, it may be hard to find a horse to root for in this race.
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Gray Lady 'Having Some Work Done': NYT Restructuring

English: New York, New York. Newsroom of the N...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
As part of its brand-strengthening strategy, The New York Times at the end of this month will restructure into digital, print and advertising divisions, according to an internal staff memo cited by Bloomberg News.

The Gray Lady will tear down the wall between its corporate operations and the New York Times Media Group, the Bloomberg article reported, as Media Group CFO Ronald A. Caputo will head up print operations, former chief advertising officer Denise Warren will command digital products and corporate side CFO Jim Follo will stay put.

Advertising revenue and circulation hits on the print edition side have prompted the Times to cast off, plan a restructure of the International Herald Tribune (see "TUOL" post 2/25/13), and look for a buyer for its stable of New England newspapers, including The Boston Globe and Worcester Telegram-Gazette (see "TUOL" post 2/21/13). The Times, however, has enjoyed some success with paywall subscriptions for its digital edition.
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Parliament Expected to Pass Press Regulatory Package

English: US President Barack Obama and British...
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Embattled English Prime Minister David Cameron dodged a potentially embarrassing parliamentary defeat when U.K. lawmakers Monday agreed in prinicple on a compromise  package that introduces controls on the country's scandal-crazed press, Reuters news service reported.

The proposed legislation that has garnered support from Cameron's Conservative Party and  lawmakers from the opposition Labour and Liberal Democrats would impose fines of up to one million pounds ($1,511,253) on offending journalists, force newspapers to publish prominent apologies and create a press regulator. Parliament was spurred on by Rupert Murdoch's News of the World press phone hacking scandal that led to hearings in 2011-2012 and a report in November 2012, by Lord Justice Leveson that recommended, among other reforms, replacement of the Press Complaints Commission by an independent regulator with sharper teeth.

Before legislators from the three major parties ironed out whether the proposed legislation would create a press regulator and how members of the overseer would be selected, Parliament was scheduled to vote Monday on Cameron's proposal, under which the press was more self-regulatory.  Cameron had argued his  proposed measure was more sensitive to the importance of a free press, but critics claimed the package was watered-down and a reflection of the too-cozy relationship between politicians and the press.

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