Friday, June 28, 2013

Star-Ledger Gives a N.J. 'Or Else' Ultimatum to Unions

Unless it exacts more than $9 million in concessions from unions, Advance Publications-owned The (Newark) Star-Ledger, the Garden State's largest newspaper and the nation's 16th largest daily, will cease publication by the end of 2013, Publisher Richard Vezza warned staffers in a letter this week.

Vezza said the Star-Ledger expects at least to match last year's $19.8 million in losses in 2013. His letter sets a Sept. 27 deadline to reach a settlement with unions that would involve their giving up the roughly $9 million the daily claims it could bank through outsourcing. Blaming sagging ad revenues and declining circulation that have plagued newspapers industry-wide, as well as the unique devastation wreaked on the N.J. economy by Hurricane Sandy, the Star-Ledger earlier this year shrank its newsroom workforce by 10 percent by slashing 34 jobs (see "TUOL" post 1/18/13).

Advance Publications is privately held by the Newhouse family and is not required to disclose publicly its earnings figures. The Star-Ledger (the household paper with which the devoted staff of "TUOL" grew up) has a daily circulation of more than 340,000, 160,000 of whom are digital subscribers, and a Sunday readership of more than 432,000, 140,000 of those being online viewers.

Management previously employed The Sopranos-like "or else" negotiating tactics in 2008 to win buyouts and concessions from drivers and mailers unions in 2008. Editorial staffers in the Star-Ledger newsroom are not unionized.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

'Crossfire' Redux

English: Newt Gingrich
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When NBC Universal/ Today Show wunderkind Jeff Zucker took the helm of CNN (see "TUOL" post 11/30/12), he promised fresh programming and a Prime Time shake-up of the cable news network mired in poor ratings (see "TUOL" posts 5/3/12, 3/30/10).

According to a story by's TV Newser blog, cutting-edge tv apparently means reviving Crossfire (Crossfire 2.0?), the political debate program that anchored CNN for more than two decades before it was cancelled in January 2005.

The TV Newser item about the political gabfest announced the talking heads who will appear on the program. On the political right will be S.E. Cupp, currently on MSNBC's The Cycle and a contributor to The Blaze, and Georgia's own perennially unsuccessful GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich, a veteran of Congress and marriage. On the left, will be one-time Obama White House adviser Van Jones and former Obama campaign consultant Stephanie Cutler. The audience, meanwhile, will likely be on Fox, MSNBC and the Food Network.

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Ludacris Litigation: Hip Hop Star Defends Against Copyright Infringement Rap

English: Christopher Bridges (Stage Name "...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

New Zealand tv station Web site and the World Wide Entertainment Network are reporting on a copyright smackdown involving two Illinois-bred rappers, Ludacris and MarVo.

The 35-year-old Champaign, Ill. native Ludacris (nee Christian Brian Bridges), who has thrived in the business, film (Fast & Furious series) and music worlds, is accused of appropriating the tune, Sex Room, by Chicago hip hop artist MarVo.  According to the Complaint, MarVo alleges he and producer Kajun worked on the ditty (not Diddy; that's Sean "Puff  Daddy" Combs) in 2009 before Kajun purportedly sold the track without MarVo's permission, to Ludacris who released Sex Room in 2010 as a duet with Trey Songz, That's the same year Ludacris released the singles My Chick Bad and How Low. (Media law and Funk are "TUOL"'s strong suits.)

MarVo is looking for damages from both Ludacris and Songz concerning Sex Room. The Complaint alleges the final release of the song features many of MarVo's original lyrics.

"TUOL" heard about this lawsuit by Word of Mouf (2001). Always like to start the day with a little ludicrous Ludacris humor.

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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Federal Judge Awards Daily Costs for Quashing Subpoena of Journalist

Men and a woman reading headlines posted in st...
(Photo credit: The Library of Congress)

United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts Judge Richard G. Stearns last week in Louise Durand v. Massachusetts Department of Health et al. (Case No. 1:12-cv-10630) took the unusual step not only of quashing a defendant's subpoena of a journalist, but also of awarding the newspaper $8,200 in costs spent defending against the subpoena.

In a two-page ruling, Judge Stearns said Dr. Theresa Harpold, a defendant in a medical negligence claim, failed to show The (Brockton) Enterprise reporter Alex Bloom was the only possible source of specific  information allegedly important to her defense to warrant compelling Bloom to testify. To overcome a reporter's qualified privilege to preserve information provided by confidential sources, Judge Stearns wrote, "a party must show that the summons of a journalist to a deposition is not frivolous, that the information sought is critical to the merits of the claim at issue, and that other sources for the information are not available."

Dr. Harpold is one of several defendants in the malpractice suit brought by plaintiff Louise Durand, a nursing supervisor for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Department of Public Health, who alleges Dr. Harpold abused her authority by signing an order that caused Durand to undergo an involuntary psychiatric evaluation that purportedly proved unnecessary. Relying on confidential sources, Bloom wrote an article in January 2013, about the Complaint in The Enterprise. Lawyers for Dr. Harpold sought Bloom's testimony to learn the identity of Bloom's source, whom they suspected was the plaintiff.

Kudos to the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press ( for keeping "TUOL" apprised of this case in our stomping grounds while our devoted staff was away on vacation last week.

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Are Turkish Leaders Anti-Social?

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan an...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Free speech advocates and social media proponents are on edge concerning comments by Turkish leaders hinting at new measures that would restrict use of Twitter and other social media platforms, according to a recent article by World

Two weeks ago, Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan condemned microblogger Twitter as a provocateur spreading misinformation, suggesting the platform and "market speculators" were culprits behind recent riots in the country. Meanwhile, Ali Sahin, Deputy Chair of the AK Party, was quoted as saying: "A false tweet is more dangerous than a bomb. Social Media regulation is a must."

Though other government officials have said the country is only considering legislation to bolster security against cyberterrorism, academics and analysts are among those pushing back against stricter social media regulation, according to the World Bulletin article.

Savas Bozbel, law school dean at International Antalya University, argued that Turkey's Criminal Code already can handle social media defamation, and warns that any ham-fisted government attempts to regulate microbloggers will backfire and increase citizens' social media usage.

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Monday, June 24, 2013

Oregonian Reportedly Slashes Quarter of Its Staff; Reduces Home Delivery

The Oregonian newspaper building, since demoli...
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Ninety-five employees, including 45 newsroom staffers, are being pink-slipped at the Advance Publications, Inc.-owned The Oregonian, according to a report by Willamette Week. The layoffs amount to nearly 25 percent of the newsroom's 175 employees.

Among those who lost their jobs are environmental reporter Scott Learn, home & gardens writer Bridget Otto and editorial columnist David Sarasohn, according to the Willamette Week article. The Oregonian is shifting its emphasis to its digital edition, paring back home delivery of its paper version to four days a week--Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Reportedly, Oregonian Publisher N. Christian Anderson informed staffers in a letter that as of October 1, the company will launch Oregonian Media Group ("OMG") to handle print and digital content, along with marketing, while another entity, Advance Central Services Oregon, will oversee human resources, IT, production, distribution and finance for OMG.

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From 'Spin Cycle' to Washed Up: Howard Kurtz Joins Fox News Watch

Cover of "Spin Cycle"

Howard Kurtz, former long-time Washington Post media critic and current host of CNN's Reliable Sources, will anchor Fox News Watch beginning July 1 and will also serve as an on-air analyst and online columnist for Fox News, reports.

The 59-year-old Brooklyn native has not had the best of years. Reportedly, CNN had no plans to renew Kurtz's contract. Last month, Kurtz was dumped by The Daily Beast ("TDB") for whom he was Washington bureau chief, because of his error-laden reporting about NBA player Jason Collins coming out as gay and because of what TDB perceived was his excessive time commitment to an outside venture, The Daily Download.

Kurtz, a one-time fave of "TUOL," is the author of The Fortune Tellers, Spin Cycle, Media Circus and Hot Air, the latter of which focuses on right-leaning talk radio. Now Fox News chief Roger Ailes, whom Kurtz has interviewed on numerous occasions, is his boss.

It remains to be seen whether Kurtz will be able to ply what he considers his stock and trade--independent media criticism--for Fox.
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Friday, June 14, 2013

An Unruly Break

The item below was this blog's 1,703rd post. Time to recharge the batteries of "TUOL"'s summer-minded staff. The Unruly of Law will resume posting the week of June 24. Until then, stay off of the Internet and your cell phone--NSA staffers need a vacation, too.

Fox News Network Sued by Widow Whose Husband's Suicide Was Inadvertenty Telecast

English: FOX News Channel's Shepard Smith anch...
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
A woman this week in Maricopa County (Ariz.) Superior Court sued Fox News Network, News Corp. and Fox Entertainment for intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress after coverage of an 80-mile car chase involving her husband and police ended with his suicide being inadvertently telecast, according to a Courthouse News Service article.

Studio B with Shepard Smith broadcast portions of the police pursuit of JoDon Romero in Phoenix and the surrounding area on September 28, 2012, according to Plaintiff Angela Rodriguez's complaint. During one segment, Romero emerged from his vehicle, racing through the desert brandishing a gun. Despite Smith's instructions to "get off," according to the complaint, coverage didn't break off, and because of the alleged failure to delay the broadcast, Romero's fatal self-inflicted gunshot wound aired nationwide. The complaint cites Smith's on-air apology for the inadvertent footage of the suicide.

According to Rodriguez's complaint, her children suffered post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms after seeing the footage on YouTube that classmates purportedly discussed in school. The complaint seeks punitive and compensatory damages for the children, who Rodriguez claims have been too depressed to attend school since viewing their father's shooting.
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New Media Law Weakens Ecuadoran Broadcast Journalism

Ecuador's president-elect Rafael Correa.
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ecuador's National Assembly today is expected to approve a measure proposed by President Rafael Correa that will significantly diminish the influence of private broadcast journalists, according to an article by the Agence France Presse wire service.

The proposed law will redistribute control of the South American republic's airwaves, allocating one-third shares to private media, community radio and television, and state media. Presently, private media dominates, with shares of 85 percent in radio and 71 percent in television, the AFP article reported.

Correa, who aggressively has sued journalists and news organizations under the country's slander laws (see "TUOL" post 2/17/12), has ruled Ecuador since 2006, and his party, in last month's election, gained an absolute majority in the National Assembly.

Under the proposed media law, a new regulatory agency would be created to sanction and fine organizations that refuse to correct published information.
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Thursday, June 13, 2013

Shh!: EFF Wins FOIA Motion in FISC Case

Hugh D'Andrade's design to commemorate Electro...
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The old does-a-tree-falling-in-the-woods-make-a-sound? conundrum has got nothing on the nonprofit online free speech advocate Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), which crowed in a press release that it had successfully argued a motion in a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) action in the super-secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) regarding National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance.

What isn't so clear in this hush-hush alphabet soup that purportedly involves the first disclosed victory by a non-government party before the FISC is what exactly EFF has won. It's not easy to brag about the mouthful of the court's decision in In re Motion for Consent to Disclosure of Court Records or in the Alternative a Determination of the Court's Rules on Statutory Access Rights (Docket No. Misc. 13-01).

According to the EFF announcement, FISC said it was ok to disclose publicly a previous FISC opinion that purportedly said facets of NSA snooping under Sec. 702 of the FISA Amendments Act were unconstitutional. The victory, while not Pyrrhic, isn't exactly gratifying either, because FISC didn't actually order the opinion itself to see the light of day. Rather, the court merely ruled that FISC rules in and of themselves do not interfere with the disclosure of an opinion.  In other words, according to the EFF, FISC soundly rejected the argument by the Department of Justice (DOJ, if you can stand another acronym) that the Executive Branch's hands are tied by FISC procedural rules when it comes to releasing an opinion.

The court's ruling, along with a motion by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) asking FISC to open the court's interpretation of Section 215 to public view, may be found on the public docket recently created by the FISC.

Given the PRISM and NSA phone call monitoring stories currently dominating the news cycle, you might want to think twice before sharing EFF's giddy celebratory news with your posse online or via cellphone.
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Look Out Belo: Gannett Buys TV Giant in Philosophical Shift From Print to Broadcasting

Deutsch: Das Verwaltungsgebäude der Belo Corp....
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

McLean, Virginia-based media conglomerate Gannett Co., the nation's largest owner of newspapers, seeing the writing on the wall, is acquiring Dallas-based Belo Corp.,which will make Gannett the fourth-largest owner of network television outlets, according to reports by Reuters and Gannett flagship newspaper, USA Today.

The sale is slated for completion by the end of the year, pending antitrust approval, FCC blessings and the ok of two-thirds of Belo's shareholders, the latter of which is a fait accompli, as Belo's directors and executive officers, holders of 42 percent of outstanding shares, already have given the deal their thumbs up.

Gannett, which counts USA Today,  the Detroit Free Press and The (Louisville) Courier-Journal among its stable of 82 newspapers, will nearly double its television holdings to 43 stations with the addition of Belo's 20 stations, nine of which are in the country's largest markets. Gannett expects to reach almost one-third of U.S. households with the acquisition.

As the newspaper industry continues to take on water with declining circulation and shrinking ad revenues, Gannett, which draws most of its revenue from print, is seeking a makeover. Once finalized, the transaction will enable Gannett to derive almost two-thirds of its pre-tax, pre-interest earnings from its combined digital and broadcast segments.

Belo Corp. previously saw the light in 2008 when it severed its broadcasting holdings, which range from KVUE-TV in Austin and KGW-TV in Portland, Ore., to KMOV-TV in St. Louis, from its newspaper assets, which were spun off into the publicly traded A.H. Belo Corp.

Directors of both companies unanimously approved the $2.2 billion deal, which involves Gannett forking over $1.5 billion in cash and assuming $715 million in debt from Belo.
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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Web Ads Displayed, but Ignored, Study Says

Image representing comScore as depicted in Cru...
Image via CrunchBase
Companies doling out serious scratch for prominent online display ads will be distressed to learn that 46 percent of visitors to Web sites don't even see the ads, according to a new study reported in Ad Age.

ComScore's Validated Campaign Essentials ("VCE") tracking service found viewability of online ads by Web visitors was nothing to write home about, ComScore chair Gian Fulgoni told attendees this week in New York City at the Advertising Research Foundation Audience Measurement 8.0 Conference, Ad Age reported. Twenty-two of the nation's 25 largest advertisers subscribe to the VCE service.

Adhering to the minimum standard endorsed by the Media Rating Council and Making Measurement Make Sense(3MS), Comscore measures viewability by considering an online ad viewable if a minimum 50 percent of pixels are visible to a site visitor for at least a half-second. The Ad Age article noted the importance of viewability to companies, citing how a 40 percent jump in viewability of digital ads by Kellogg yielded a 75 percent increase in sales life from online advertising.

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August Debut for Al Jazeera America Network

Logo of the network
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Al Jazeera America ("AJA") will launch sometime during the week of August 24, Ehab al Shihabi, executive director of international operations for the Qatari government-funded broadcaster announced, according to Broadcasting & Cable magazine.

Based in New York City, AJA, which will feature 11 hours of rolling news programming, also unveiled some of its prime time lineup, including Real Money, hosted by Ali Velshi, a newsmagazine program styled after 60 Minutes and America Tonight, which will offer analysis of major issues. Al Jazeera acquired the Current TV cable network earlier this year (see "TUOL" 1/3/13) to broaden its reach to viewers across the nation through cable and satellite. Presently, Al Jazeera English's audience is  largely confined to New York City and Washington, D.C.

Also in development at AJA are sports and entertainment programming, as well as a morning show. The news operation has yet to name a president, according to the Broadcasting & Cable article.
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Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Can't Tell Tribune Co. Suitors Without a Scorecard

English: Downtown Chicago, Illinois at night. ...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
As former denizens of Chicago, the devoted staff of "TUOL" keeps close tabs on the embattled Tribune Co., blogging when the media conglomerate unveiled plans to unload its newspaper holdings (see "TUOL" post 2/27/13) and when the company emerged from a bloody four-year Chapter 11 bankruptcy (see "TUOL" post 1/2/13).

Therefore, "TUOL" is grateful to the Orange County Register ("OCR") for its update today about the would-be suitors for the Trib Co.'s metro dailies, including the flagship Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, Baltimore Sun and Hartford Courant. Industry analysts expect the conglomerate to divest itself of its revenue-starved print properties by the end of the year, so that it can focus on its broadcasting component. The company has enlisted investment bankers Evercore Partners and JP MorganChase to sniff out would-be buyers and assess the available options.

The OCR article is most interested in the fate of the Los Angeles Times, the nation's fourth-largest newspaper with a combined print and digital readership of more than 653,000, and counts among its courters, OCR's owner, Freedom Communications CEO Aaron Kushner, whose 2100 Trust investment arm snatched up the OCR in 2012.

Thus far, the most controversial possible suitors are David Koch and Charles Koch, a/k/a the Koch Brothers, holders of sixth place on the 2013 Forbes Magazine billionaires list, arch-conservative major funders of Tea Party and Libertarian political groups and tormenters of small, furry mammals (that may not be true). The Koch duo has not specifically mentioned the Tribune Co. stable of dailies, but has been widely quoted in the media as being expressly interested in jumping into the newspaper biz. An L.A. Weekly story in March, according to the OCR piece, linked the Kochs to the LA Times, which has helped to mobilize unions, liberal activists and others to protest such a move and to seek online contributions to purchase the Times before the Kochs can.

Another conservative boogeyman in the eyes of liberals everywhere, Rupert Murdoch, executive chair of News Corp., no doubt would like to add Tribune Co.-owned dailies to his trophy collection that includes The Wall St. Journal, Times of London and New York Post, but may run afoul of FCC cross-ownership rules in his quest.

The OCR article notes a local Los Angeles moneyed trio, known as the "3Bs," who at the very least, would like to snatch the LA Times, if not all the Tribune Co. dailies. The group consists of former LA deputy mayor Austin Beutner, Ron Burkle and Eli Broad.  Although his initial interest appears to have waned, the OCR piece includes among the potential suitors Douglas Manchester, owner of the U-T San Diego.

Were the Tribune Co. newspapers to be sold individually, possible buyers mentioned include billionaire Warren Buffett, who is building up newspaper holdings (see "TUOL" posts 2/26/13, 5/17/12) and may wish to add the (Allentown, Penn.) Morning Call. Also, the OCR suggests Chicago Sun-Times owner Wrapport, Ltd., might be interested in acquiring the rival Chicago Tribune, but "TUOL" believes that is off-base, particularly because the Sun-Times has its corporate hands full paying its printing bills to the Tribune (see "TUOL" post 4/2/13).

In the end, it's all a parlor game, akin to political pundits who already have Hillary Clinton and Marco Rubio facing off in the 2016 presidential election, but the staff of "TUOL" will continue to monitor the fate of the Chicago Tribune, which, though hardly beloved, is at least familiar.

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Cower of London: Times Slashes 20 Editorial Positions

The London Times
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Shrinking circulation and vanishing ad revenues apparently are a problem across the pond, too, as the News Corp.-owned Times of London announced 20 editorial staffers are being pink-slipped, according to a story in The Guardian (

Citing the scheduled end-of-the-month break-up by News Corp. of its newspaper, book publishing, television and film entities into two separate companies, acting Times Editor John Witherow warned that News International, publisher of the Times and Sunday Times, no longer can rely on receiving subsidies from better-performing media outlets, such as the tabloid Sun with its daily page 3 pinup of topless young women, according to The Guardian article. 

The layoffs will reduce the Times editorial staff by just under 10 percent. Witherow dismissed talk of any merger of the editorial staffs of the Times and Sunday Times. Times' newspapers sustained total losses of 28.7 million pounds ($44,760,993) for the fiscal year ending July 1, 2012, compared to a year earlier, when red ink added up to 11.8 million pounds ($18,408,120).

Roughly a hundred editorial positions were eliminated in 2011 by the Times and Sunday Times combined.

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Monday, June 10, 2013

Appeals Court Backs Govt. Refusal to Turn Over Document in FOIA Case

English: DC Court of Appeals court seal
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
A unanimous three-member panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit last Friday in Center for International Environmental Law v. Office of the U.S. Trade Representative et al (Case No. 12-5136) reversed a trial court ruling, and sided with the government invoking Exemption 1 of the Freedom of Information Act to withhold releasing a one-page document.

The Center for International Environmental Law ("CIEL") sought documents relevant to unsuccessful trade treaty negotiations involving the U.S. and other nations concerning the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas during the '90s and early 2000s. The defendant agency refused to produce a document addressing how the U.S. in the treaty would interpret the phrase in like circumstances, citing Exemption 1 to the FOIA [5 U.S.C. sec. 552(b)(1)], which says the Act is inapplicable to matters that are “(A) specifically authorized under criteria established by an Executive order to be kept secret in the interest ofnational defense or foreign policy and (B) are in fact properly classified pursuant to such Executive order."

In ruling against CIEL, the appellate court said it was reasonable for the government to withhold a document that could hinder future treaty negotiations. Judge A. Raymond Randolph chided the trial judge, writing that courts generally are "in an extremely poor position to second guess" government agencies who argue national security and foreign policy goals are compromised when classified information is disclosed.

The appeals panel looked back to President George Washington's refusal to share with Congress documents regarding treaty negotiations with Great Britain to support its decision. The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and 32 media organizations submitted a brief supporting CIEL.

No word on whether the petitioner plans to appeal the ruling to the full DC Circuit Court of Appeals.

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Friday, June 7, 2013

Boston Marathon Bombing 'Bag Men' Front Page Photo Sparks Libel Suit Against NY Post

New York Post
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A defamation suit against the News Corp.-owned tabloid New York Post has been filed in Suffolk County (Mass.) Superior Court by two men who appeared in a page one photo at the peak of the police manhunt for the Boston Marathon bombers.

According to articles by Reuters and the National Law Journal, 24-year-old Yassine Zaime and 16-year-old Salheddin Barhoum are suing the Post for defamation, invasion of privacy and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The two Moroccan emigres, avid running enthusiasts, watched participants near the finish line in the Boston Marathon in April, but left two hours before rigged pressure cooker explosive devices detonated, killing three and wounding hundreds of spectators.

According to the plaintiffs' complaint, the two men voluntarily went to their respective local police stations to answer questions about their presence at the race after learning that a photo of them was circulating on various social media sites. The complaint states that on April 18, the same day police purportedly exonerated them, a photo of the two men appeared on page 1 of the Post with the headline: "Bag Men: Feds seek this duo pictured at Boston Marathon."

The lead sentence of the Post story that day began: "Investigators probing the deadly Boston marathon bombings are circulating photos of two men spotted chatting near the packed finish line, the Post has learned."  Inside pages depicted two more photos of the plaintiffs, in one of which, a plaintiff's head was circled in red and captioned: "Cops are seeking these two men (above) who were spotted near the site of the Boston blasts."

Later that same day, the FBI released photos of  two Chechen brothers authorities identified as suspects in the bombing, Tamarlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the former of whom died in a firefight with police and the latter of whom remains in custody.

"The plaintiffs were not suspects and were not being sought by law enforcement," the complaint alleges. "The Post had no basis whatsoever to suggest that they were, especially in light of a warning on Wednesday to news media, by federal authorities, to exercise caution in reporting about this very matter."

The complaint further alleges: "The front page would lead a reasonable reader to believe that plaintiffs had bombs in their bags, that they were involved in causing the Boston Marathon bombing."

For its part, the Post maintains it never identified the two men as "suspects," but rather, as two men whom police wanted to find. Included in the Post story on April 18 was a sentence that read: "It was not immediately clear if the men in the law-enforcement photos are the same men in the surveillance videos."  The Post has not published an apology to Zaime or Barhoum.

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Saudi Prince Sues Forbes for Libel Over Low Placement on Rich List

The Savoy Hotel, London.
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
England's recent defamation law reforms (see "TUOL" post 4/29/13) will be put to the test by billionaire Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, whom The Guardian Web site ( reports has sued Forbes Magazine for allegedly under-reporting the extent of his wealth.

The 58-year-old Alwaleed, whose Kingdom Holding investments include swanky hotels the Savoy in London and New York City's Plaza, filed a libel suit in London's High Court against Forbes Editor Randall Lane, along with the business magazine's publisher and two of its reporters. Apparently, Forbes' annual Rich List assessed the Prince's worth at $20 billion, whereas Alwaleed pegs his fortune at closer to $30 billion, and claims Forbes is "demonstrably biased" against Saudi Arabian businesses.

Forbes, according to The Guardian article, said members of the Prince's inner circle lobbied the magazine for higher placement on the Rich List for Alwaleed, who, apparently finds little solace in the fact that his private Boeing 747 jet is equipped with a solid gold throne that no doubt affords him ample leg room. The magazine reported that it calculated Kingdom Holding's worth based on the value of its investments, rather than its stock price on Saudi Arabia's Tadawul stock exchange.

The Prince faces an uphill challenge as England, once decried as the principal destination for libel tourism, will require him to prove that he suffered, or is likely to suffer, serious financial harm as a result of the allegedly libelous lower placement on the Rich List. If he somehow manages to do that, Forbes will look to the SPEECH (Securing the Protection of our Enduring & Established Constitutional Heritage) Act signed into law by President Obama in 2010 that shields U.S. citizens and businesses against foreign libel judgments that run afoul of First Amendment tenets.

That Alwaleed would get his royal knickers in a twist and incur the costs of a quixotic libel suit alleging his reputation was harmed because a media defendant underestimated his wealth may not warrant higher placement on Forbes' Rich List, but certainly is evidence to the staff of "TUOL" that he has too much money for his own good.
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Thursday, June 6, 2013

Report Predicts 4 More Years of Newspapers Hemorrhaging Ad Revenues

Ad Age Down
(Photo credit: swanksalot)

The good news is that digital versions of newspapers are beginning to attract more readers. The bad news, according to the annual PricewaterhouseCooper's Global Entertainment and Media Outlook report ("GEMO") released this week, is that newspapers' revenues overall will continue to plunge through at least 2017.

According to an Ad Age article about the report, even in the face of climbing circulation figures, declining advertising at a compound annual rate of 4.2 percent means overall newspaper revenues are forecast to drop at a combined annual growth rate of 2.9 percent between 2013-2017.

The Ad Age piece cites Newspaper Association of America 2012 figures showing newspaper Web sites attracted more than 100 million unique visitors. The GEMO report predicts a 9.7 percent compound annual growth rate in digital advertising over the next four years that, unfortunately, will largely be negated by a 7.8 percent compound annual drop-off in print edition ads.

Digital newspaper ads are expected to generate $5.5 billion in revenues by 2017, compared to $12.8 billion in print ads, according to the GEMO study.
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Vegas Billionaire Adelson Hits 3 Lemons in Subpoena Bid of WSJ Reporter's Notes

English: Photo of Sheldon Adelson, chairman of...
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
New York Supreme Court Justice Donna M. Mills this week quashed a subpoena by attorneys for 79-year-old casino magnate Sheldon Adelson seeking notes and phone records of Wall St. Journal ("WSJ") reporter Kate O'Keefe arising from a defamation action against former Adelson employee Steven Jacobs.

In her four-page decision in Motion to Quash Subpoena Duces Tecum on behalf of The Wall St. Journal v. Sheldon Adelson (Matter No. 100270/13), Justice Mills found that the WSJ was protected by Article 1, Sec. 8 of the New York Constitution as well as the state's shield law [N.Y. Civil Rights Law sec. 79-h]. Adelson "failed to overcome the qualified privilege for non-confidential newsgathering material," Justice Mills wrote, in dismissing the subpoena.

Under the state's shield law that protects a journalist from having to disclose confidential sources and information, a party seeking such material must satisfy a three-pronged burden that the information is: 1)highly relevant, 2)vital to the party's legal claim, and 3)unavailable through any other reasonable means. Adelson contended his Florida defamation complaint against Jacobs that alleges Jacobs accused him of condoning prostitution, necessitated obtaining the WSJ notes and communications over a three-year period involving Jacobs and O'Keefe, who wrote an article concerning the prostitution claim against Adelson. In a separate Nevada action, Jacobs has brought an employment case against Adelson.

Justice Mills wrote that Adelson "has not shown why he is entitled to the material sought."  The Las Vegas mogul's streak of bad luck, which included tossing away millions of dollars in campaign contributions to support failed GOP candidates Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney, apparently has not run its course.

No word yet on whether Adelson plans to appeal Justice Mills' ruling. Tip of the hat to the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press ( Web site for reporting on this case.

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Wednesday, June 5, 2013

UPDATE: WaPo Paywall Rollout Begins Next Week

 (Photo credit: kieren mccarthy)

The Washington Post Co. today announced it will begin a several-week-long phase-in of a metered paywall for its online edition next Wednesday.

Online visitors will have access to 20 free articles before being offered options ranging from $9.99 a month for desktop and mobile access to digital content to a $14.99 Digital Premium package that offers access to WaPo's custom apps.  The daily has been slow to join the 300 plus newspapers nationwide in putting up a paywall (see "TUOL" post 12/7/12), and still doesn't have its heart really in it, based on the liberal giveaways.

Not only will home delivery customers of the paper edition have complimentary access to WaPo's digital offerings, but also students, teachers, military personnel, government employees and school administrators will have unlimited free access to the online version while in their respective workplace and school. Moreover, the daily's home page, section front pages, classified ads and videos will be free to all visitors.

Presently, the Post has a first-year, $3.16 a month Sunday-only digital subscription available that increases to $7.40 a month after the trial period.
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UPDATE: Press Freedom in Burundi Staggered by Enactment of Repressive Media Law

Pierre Nkurunziza
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Proclaiming that the news media will be professionalized and that his war-torn nation will benefit from journalists being prohibited from inciting violence, Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza this week put into effect a repressive media law passed by the National Assembly last April (see "TUOL" post 4/5/13), according to reports by BBC News and

The new measure supplants a 2003 law and among its provisions, mandates journalists, irrespective of their professional experience, possess a university degree, compels reporters to disclose their confidential sources, bars reporting on issues, including public safety, national security, morality and the national economy, and subjects offenders to fines ranging from $2,000 to $6,000 and criminal penalties of up to a maximum life imprisonment.

Free press advocates, including New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists("CPJ") and Human Rights Watch ("HRW"), and France-based Reporters Without Borders ("RWB") all condemned the new law as a major setback to press freedom. Burundi is recovering from the aftermath of a decade-long civil war sparked by the assassination of its first democratically elected president that claimed more than 300,000 lives.

Nkurunziza, an insurgent leader during the civil war, was elected in 2005 and re-elected in 2010, though opposition leaders boycotted the most recent election. According to the BBC News report, the African nation's National Communication Council ("NCC") on May 31 imposed a one-month ban on an online forum of the Iwacu newspaper because the NCC claimed readers critical comments ran afoul of the law by endangering national unity.

"This is a black day for freedom on information in Burundi," proclaimed the RWB Web site.

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Tuesday, June 4, 2013

No 'Puppy Love' Lost Between Al Fayed & Anka

Paul Anka at the 2007 North Sea Jazz Festival
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Harrods department store magnate Mohamed Al Fayed wants long-ago teen idol Paul Anka's autobiography My Way pulled off the shelves, and is seeking punitive damages from the Lonely Boy crooner, Courthouse News Service reports.

The billionaire's decision to drop Anka, so to speak, has taken the form of a multiple count complaint in Los Angeles County Superior Court, including claims alleging defamation, false light invasion of privacy and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Al Fayed alleges My Way co-authors Anka and David Dalton, along with defendants St. Martin's Press, MacMillan Publishers, Holtzbrink Publishers, the Daily Mail, Associated Newspapers and DMG Media, harmed him by portraying his late son, Dodi Al Fayed, as a cocaine-abusing, womanizing deadbeat who welched on a loan from Anka.

Dodi Al Fayed died in a Paris car crash on August 31, 1997, along with Diana, Princess of Wales. Condemning My Way as sensationalized, the plaintiff's complaint accuses Anka of trading on Dodi Al Fayed's name and the public's fascination and love affair with Princess Diana to boost sales of his book. The complaint claims Anka wrote that he lent Dodi $150,000 after U.S. Customs Agents allegedly seized money Dodi purportedly tried to smuggle into the States. The complaint alleges that Mohamed Al Fayed covered the sum that Dodi failed to repay, which the book purportedly portrays as "hush money" paid to Anka when he called the plaintiff and allegedly threatened to go to the police.

My Way was serialized last March, excerpts of which appeared in The Daily Mail newspaper in the U.K. Generally speaking, the dead can't be libeled, so Mohamed claims My Way harms his reputation by falsely suggesting he was "in agreement with Anka's outrageous assessment of Dodi's purported poor character as a criminal, womanizing, drug-using deadbeat who lived beyond his means and who had to have 'Daddy' come to his rescue, even to the extent of an alleged willingness to pay 'hush money.'"

Don't expect to hear Put Your Head on My Shoulders or Having My Baby piped into Harrods' elevators anytime soon.
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Price Tag for Hulu Continues to Rise

Image representing hulu as depicted in CrunchBase
Image via CrunchBase
El Segundo, Calif.-based pay-TV service DirecTV reportedly is one of three suitors waving more than $1 billion at the owners of Hulu, LLC in hopes of wresting away the on-demand streaming video Web site, according to a Bloomberg News report.

Hulu's owners, News Corp., Comcast and Walt Disney Co., may be tempted by the sweetened pot to unload Hulu after their previous IPO and auction efforts came up short. Hulu airs webisodes, trailers, clips and other advertising-bolstered content from movie studios and cable and commercial networks.

The Bloomberg News article noted the other two seven-figure bidders besides DirecTV, the nation's second-largest pay-tv company, have not yet been identified.  Other companies who have tendered offers to acquire Hulu include Time Warner Cable, Inc., Yahoo! Inc. and private equity firm KKR & Co.

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Monday, June 3, 2013

Marijuana Mags Ask Fed Court in Colo. to Bale Them Out in 1st Amendment Suit

Cameron Makes The Cover Of High Times Magazine
(Photo credit: ex_magician)

A trio of magazines promoting marijuana use last week filed suit in the United States District Court for the District of Colorado to stop enactment of a state law that would restrict access of the journals to persons under age 21.

Colorado voters last November passed Amendment 64 legalizing recreational use of marijuana by adults.  Gov. John Hickenlooper last Tuesday signed into law H.B. 13-1317, scheduled to take effect in July, that mandates non-marijuana stores to keep cannabis-related magazines "behind the counter in establishments where persons under twenty-one years of age are present," traditionally the vaunted location where Hustler and other adult magazines dwell in clear plastic wrapping.

Arguing the measure illegally restricts content and violates their First Amendment rights, High Times magazine, joined by The Hemp Connoisseur and The Daily Doobie (no, really...) rolled into federal court seeking an injunction, according to a report by the Associated  Press. Other pot regs approved by Gov. Hickenlooper would ban cartoon characters and like images from being used in advertising that might influence children to ensure marijuana isn't marketed to minors.

Counsel for the magazines correctly noted that Amendment 64 elevated marijuana to the same level of legality as alcohol and that access to magazines such as Food & Wine is not restricted. Colorado has 20 days in which to respond to the suit.

Never one to cast stoners, "TUOL" generally approves of First-Amendment boosting suits, but is better-versed in grass roots movements than in movements rooted in grass.

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