Monday, April 21, 2008

WSJ managing editor to step down?

Sources at Dow Jones & Company Inc. say that Marcus Brauchli, managing editor of The Wall Street Journal, is submitting a letter of resignation, with his departure to be announced as early as Tuesday morning. Time magazine reported that the separation is said to be amicable and Brauchli is likely to stay with the company in a yet-to-be-determined capacity. One source says a search is already underway for the next managing editor.

A spokesman for News Corp., which owns Dow Jones and the Wall Street Journal, had no comment.

Brauchli (pronounced Brock-lee) started at Dow Jones as a copyreader in 1984 and rose through the ranks from foreign correspondent to global news editor, overseeing the paper's successful Asian and European redesigns in 2005. He was named to the paper's top job almost exactly a year ago, replacing Paul Steiger, who had held the job since 1991. Brauchli received a standing ovation in the newsroom when his appointment was announced and was viewed as someone who would safeguard the paper's credibility in the face of Rupert Murdoch's ultimately successful attempt to purchase Dow Jones.

Sources say that Brauchli tried to find a middle path between the paper's traditionalists and Murdoch's new vision for the paper.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

'Knotty Boy' due for an in-Quest

Give a man enough rope and the results can be surprising. The pre-dawn Central Park arrest of the toothy, booming-voiced media personality Richard Quest got the NY Post in punster mode, casting aspersions on the 'Kinky' CNN network and leaving readers wondering what sex toy can possbly fit inside a bad boy's boot. :

This is CNN? Kinky!
CNN personality Richard Quest was busted in Central Park early yesterday with some drugs in his pocket, a rope around his neck that was tied to his genitals, and a sex toy in his boot, law-enforcement sources said.
Quest, 46, was arrested at around 3:40 a.m. after a cop spotted him and another man inside the park near 64th Street, a police source said.
The criminal complaint against Quest said the park was closed at the time - something Quest should have known because of all the signs saying "Park Closed 1 a.m. to 6 a.m."
Quest was initially busted for loitering, the source said. Aside from the oddly configured rope, the search also turned up a sex toy inside of his boot, and a small bag of methamphetamine in his left jacket pocket.
It wasn't immediately clear what the rope was for.
The criminal complaint says the officer at the scene was able to ID the drug because of "his prior experience as a police officer in drug arrests, observation of packaging which is characteristic of this type of drug, and defendant's statements that . . . 'I've got some meth in my pocket.' "
He was charged with loitering and criminal possession of a controlled substance. His unusual get-up didn't lead to a lewdness charge because he wasn't exposing himself, the police source said.
Quest's unidentified companion was given a summons for not carrying any identification, the source said.
Quest's lawyer, Alan Abramson, had a much more innocuous version of events.
"Mr. Quest didn't realize that the park had a curfew," Abramson said. He was simply "returning to his hotel with friends."
At a hearing in Manhattan Criminal Court, Quest agreed to undergo six months of drug counseling in return for an "adjournment in contemplation of dismissal," which means the misdemeanor charges against him will be dropped and the case sealed if he stays out of trouble and completes his drug program.
He was released with no bail after spending most of the day behind bars.
Abramson predicted after the hearing that "the case will be dismissed." He declined to answer questions.
Quest, known for his hollering antics and stunts on the cable news network and its international counterpart, declined comment, as did a CNN spokeswoman.
On his official CNN bio, the network calls him "one of the most instantly recognizable members of the CNN team."
"He has become one of the network's highest profile presenters," and his "dynamic and distinctive style has made him a unique figure in the field of business and news broadcasting," the network's Web site says.
He was reportedly once offered a position for the English-language version of the controversial Al Jazeera network, but said he turned it down because being gay and Jewish, he didn't think it would be a good fit.
Additional reporting by Adam Buckman

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Cameraman felled by tank shell in Gaza

Thousands of Palestinians, including journalists and members of rival political movements, marched Thursday through the streets of Gaza City at the funeral procession of a cameraman killed covering an Israeli-Palestinian battle.

Fadel Shana, a 23-year-old TV cameraman with the Reuters news agency, was among 20 Palestinians killed in fighting Wednesday — the bloodiest day in Gaza in more than a month. Shana was struck, along with two bystanders, as he filmed Israeli tank movements off in the distance. Three Israeli soldiers had been ambushed earlier that day inside the strip.

Shana’s body was wrapped in a bloodied Palestinian flag as fellow journalists marched alongside carrying his broken camera and bloodstained flak jacket. The marchers waved Palestinian flags and carried small posters of Shana posing with his camera.

“Fadal Shana, goodbye, the victim of the truth,” the posters said.

Click here to see Fadal's final footage. It's sobering.

Footage released by Reuters shows Mr Shana filming a tank positioned a few hundred yards away in the distance, over the Israeli border.

The film shows a tank firing its shell, which explodes causing the picture to go blank as the camera is thrown from Mr Shana's hand.

It then cuts away to a film made by another cameraman positioned nearby, which shows the devastation left by the shell, including two youths who had been passing the scene lying dead in the road. The IDF has not confirmed that they were resonsible for the young journalist's death. The foreign press association in Jerualem is pressing for an investigation.

(cross posted on Israelitybites)

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Gimme Rewrite! Brutish editors vs easily bruised writers

In his latest Time Magazine essay, Michael Kinsley sounds off about the foibles of writers and editors in the battle of the ages. (Hat tip Dion Nissenbaum for spotting this enjoyable rant.)

Like the detectives and the prosecutors on Law & Order, two very different groups of people are responsible for the words that fill the world's magazines and newspapers. There are the writers, who produce the prose, and the editors, who do their best to wreck it.

Writers are sensitive souls--generally intelligent and hardworking but easily bruised. Treat them right, though, and you will be rewarded. Writers shape words into luminous sentences and the sentences into exquisitely crafted paragraphs. They weave the paragraphs together into a near perfect article, essay or review. Then their writing--their baby--is ripped untimely from their computers (well, maybe only a couple of weeks overdue) and turned over to editors. These are idiots, most of them, and brutes, with tin ears, the aesthetic sensitivity of insects, deeply held erroneous beliefs about your topic and a maddening conviction that any article, no matter how eloquent or profound or already cut to the bone, can be improved by losing an additional 100 words.

If you're lucky, your editor will have lost all interest in your article by the time you produce it, and on the way to a fancy expense-account lunch, he will pass it along unmolested to the copy editors (apprentice fiends, with intense views about semicolons). If you are not lucky, your editor will take a few minutes to ruin the piece with moronic changes and cloddish cuts before disappearing out the door.

I didn't always feel this way. (And even now, nothing here should be construed to apply to the editors of TIME, who edit with the care of surgeons, the sensitivity of angels and the wisdom of the better class of Supreme Court Justices.) I have spent most of my professional life as an editor. When editors get together, they complain about writers with the same passion that writers bring to complaining about editors.

Writers, they say, are whiny, self-indulgent creatures who spend too much time alone. They are egotistical, paranoid and almost always seriously dehydrated. Above all, they are spectacular ingrates. Editors save their asses, and writers do nothing but bitch about it.

"If anyone saw the original manuscript from ..." (and you can insert the name of your favorite Pulitzer Prize-winning writer here) "... that guy wouldn't get hired to
clean the toilets at the Stockholm Public Library. Say, the Pulitzer is the one they give away in Scandinavia, isn't it? I better remember to change that in a piece we're running. The stupid writer says it's the Nobel. What would they do without us?"

Editors are selfless, editors believe. They labor in anonymity and take their satisfaction vicariously. The writer gets all the glory. He gets the big bucks. He gets invited to the parties, the openings, the symposia, while the editors toil at their desks turning the writer's random jottings and pretentious stylistic quirks into something resembling English prose. But that's O.K. Editors don't mind. They say, "Have a lovely time at that writers' conference, and we'll have the rewrite done when you get back." ("And your laundry too, you unappreciative bastard," they mumble under their breath.)

When I was an editor, I reasoned like an editor. But these days I am a full-time writer, and I have put away the editorial mind-set. Now I say, before you criticize writers, you should write a piece in their shoes.

Did you say paranoid? Is it paranoid to wonder why an editor hasn't returned your calls for two weeks, even though she has been sitting on your piece for four? Did you say egomaniacal? What self-respecting egomaniac would put up with the enraging powerlessness of the freelance writer, totally dependent on the whims of half-literate editors for a pathetic drip-drip-drip of income. Oh, for a regular paycheck and health care, so you wouldn't have to suck up to some jerk of an editor for the next mortgage payment. ("Yes, I see. You want it to be iambic pentameter with internal rhymes. I've never read an analysis of the political situation in Pakistan done that way before. What a good idea!")

So this is an apology to any writers I may have treated callously over my years as an editor. If I didn't answer your e-mail, I'm sorry. If the check was late or the amount less than agreed on, please forgive me. If I shut my office door, turned off the lights and hid under the desk when I heard you coming, I deeply regret such childish behavior.

On the Internet, they don't have editors. Or they don't have many. Writers rule, and a thought can go straight from your head onto the Net. That used to sound hellish. Now it sounds like heaven.

Monday, April 14, 2008

The Daily Show 04/10/08 - Fox News special tribute

Marilyn Monroe Fellatio tape recovered from FBI?

The NY Post has an exclusive on a $1.5m porno tape that J Edgar Hoover supposedly kept in a vault, determined to prove that JFK or his brother was being serviced by the blonde bombshell, on her knees. Faces are not shown, but a telltale mole is recognizable. Not only is the illicit copy of the black and white footage x-rated, it's still classified! The 'Hardcore Marilyn' story goes:

Some really like it hot.

In the sordid tradition of peddling raunchy video footage of celebrities a la Paris Hilton, a long-buried sex movie of Marilyn Monroe recently hit the market, a top collector told The Post.

An illicit copy of the steamy, still-FBI-classified reel - 15 minutes of 16mm film footage in which the original blond bombshell performs oral sex on an unidentified man - was just sold to a New York businessman for $1.5 million, said Keya Morgan, the well-known memorabilia collector who discovered the film and brokered its purchase.
The footage appears to have been shot in the 1950s. When it came to light in the mid-'60s, then-FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover had his agents spend two weeks futilely trying to prove that Monroe's sex partner was either John F. Kennedy or Robert F. Kennedy, according to declassified agency documents and interviews, Morgan said.
The silent black-and-white flick shows Monroe on her knees in front of a man whose face is just out of the shot.
He never moves into the shot, indicating that he knew the camera was there, but Monroe never looks at the lens, said Morgan, who saw the footage.
Morgan said he discovered the film while doing research for a documentary on Monroe, after talking with a former FBI agent who told him about a confidential informant who tipped G-men to the existence of the film in the mid-'60s.
The feds eventually confiscated the original footage - but not before the informant made a copy of it, which is what was just sold by his son, Morgan said.
There are heavily redacted, declassified FBI documents talking about a "French-type" film.
They state the informant "exhibited [to agents] a motion picture which depicted deceased actress Marilyn Monroe committing a perverted act upon a unknown male," Morgan said.
The informant was with at least one mobster at the time, the documents state.
According to the documents, "Former baseball star Joseph DiMaggio in the past had offered [the informant] $25,000 for this film, it being the only one in existence, but he refused the offer.
"Source advised that [redacted name of the mole] informed them that he had obtained this film prior to the time Marilyn Monroe had achieved stardom."
Morgan said he got the deceased informant's name from the former FBI agent who tipped him off to the flick - and was floored after he found the mole's son in Washington, DC, and the man retrieved a film canister from a safe-deposit box and spooled it up.
"You see instantly that it's Marilyn Monroe - she has the famous mole," Morgan said.
"She's smiling, she's very charming, she's very radiant, but she's known for being radiant," he said. "She moves away, and then it [the footage] stops."
Last month, he brokered its sale, leading the informant's son to a wealthy New York businessman who wants to keep this unseemly part of Monroe's past buried.
"He said he's just going to lock it up," Morgan said.
"He said, 'I'm not going to make a Paris Hilton out of her. I'm not going to sell it, out of respect.' "

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Lonely Planet's Bad Trip- a backpack of lies?

The Lonely Planet guidebook empire, bought last year by the British Broadcasting CorpCorporation (BBC), is reeling from claims by one of its authors that he plagiarised and made up large sections of his books and dealt drugs to make up for poor pay, The Sunday Telegraph reports.

Thomas Kohnstamm also claims in a new book that he accepted free travel, in contravention of the company's policy.

His revelations have rocked the travel publisher, which sells more than six million guides a year.

Mr Kohnstamm, whose book is titled Do Travel Writers Go To Hell?, said yesterday that he had worked on more than a dozen books for Lonely Planet, including its titles on Brazil, Colombia, the Caribbean, Venezuela, Chile and South America.

In one case, he said he had not even visited the country he wrote about.

"They didn't pay me enough to go Colombia,'' he said.

"I wrote the book in San Francisco. I got the information from a chick I was dating - an intern in the Colombian Consulate.

"They don't pay enough for what they expect the authors to do.''

An email to management, posted on the company's authors' forum, describes Mr Kohnstamm's book as "a car crash waiting to happen''.

"Why did you (management) not understand that when you hire a constant stream of new, unvetted people, pay them poorly and set them loose, that someone, somehow was going to screw you?'' author Jeanne Oliver wrote.

Ms Oliver, an experienced travel writer having written for Lonely Planet on eastern Europe, France, Germany and Greece, admitted to sending the email, but did not wish to comment further.

Other writers believe some practices described in the book are widespread. Lonely Planet forbids their authors from accepting gifts or discounts.

Another email, sent in the name of Lonely Planet chief Janet Slater, states that Mr Kohnstamm's books were all being urgently reviewed.

The email said: "If we find that the content has been compromised, we'll take urgent steps to fix it. Once we've got things right for travellers as quickly as we can, we'll look at what we do and how we do it to ensure as best we can, that this type of thing never happens again.''

Lonely Planet publisher Piers Pickard told The Sunday Telegraph that the company's urgent review of Mr Kohnstamm's guidebooks had failed to find any inaccuracies in them.

Lonely Planet has rejected the fabrication claim. Piers Pickard, speaking on behalf of the publishers, said Kohnstamm's claim about the book on Colombia were "disingenuous" because he was hired to write about the country's history, not to travel there to review accommodation and restaurants. That work was done by two other authors.

"Thomas' claims are not an accurate reflection of how our authors work," Pickard told the AP.The author holds a masters degree in Latin American studies and has written more than a dozen books for Lonely Planet and contributed to other travel sections.

Lonely Planet publishes more than 500 titles, mostly travel guides. In the BBC Worldwide bought a 75 percent share in the company.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Cyberspace riddled with 'Black Holes'. Really.

Want to know why your editor did not get that file you just emailed? Clara Moskowitz, on LiveScience, explains. As an excuse, it's a little geekish, but it turns out that cyberspace is riddled with black holes.

You’re pounding the keyboard, double-clicking away, sighing and grumbling, but to no avail: That devilish little hourglass icon refuses to give way to the Web site you’re trying to reach. Most Internet users have encountered trouble reaching online destinations, but they often attribute the problem to their wireless network cutting out or a server momentarily going down.

Sometimes, though, the problem is more mysterious. At any given moment, messages throughout the world are lost to cyber black holes, according to new computer science research.

Ethan Katz-Bassett, a graduate student in computer science at the University of Washington, and his advisor, Arvind Krishnamurthy, designed a program to continuously search for these strange internet gaps, when a request to visit a Web site or an outgoing e-mail gets lost along a pathway that was known to be working before. To make sure the black holes they detect are not simply due to a problem with the end user or the host server, they look for computers that can be reached from some, but not all, of the Internet, meaning the issue must be occurring en route.

"We were astounded when we did an initial four-month study and we saw how many problems there were," Katz-Bassett told LiveScience. "It seemed infeasible that this could be happening so often. They’re definitely more common than we thought."

Now the team constantly monitors the Web for black holes and posts a map of where the problems are around the world at any given moment. They hope their data will help Internet service providers track down the route of problems experienced on their networks.

"Network administers are definitely interested in it," Katz-Bassett said. "I think we need to do more analysis of the data and see where exactly these problems are occurring. It would be interesting to come up with predictions about where problems were most likely to occur."

The scientists named their monitoring system Hubble after the Hubble Space Telescope, which can also detect black holes, albeit the astrophysical kind. They hope their data will help improve the consistency of the Internet, where we increasingly entrust vital information.

"I think we would like it to be more reliable," Katz-Bassett said. "It’s orders of magnitude less reliable than the telephone network right now. I think it should be pretty possible to get it closer."

The researchers will present their findings at the Usenix Symposium on Networked Systems Design and Implementation being held next week in San Francisco. The project was funded by the National Science Foundation.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Journalists, Truth, and Why It Matters

Bill Moyers, a veteran journalist who still is garnering awards, speaks inspirationally about 'journalism's basic lessons'.

The job of trying to tell the truth about people whose job it is to hide the truth is almost as complicated and difficult as trying to hide it in the first place. We journalists are of course obliged to cover the news, but our deeper mission is to uncover the news that powerful people would prefer to keep hidden.

Unless you are willing to fight and re-fight the same battles until you go blue in the face, drive the people you work with nuts going over every last detail to make certain you've got it right, and then take all of the slings and arrows directed at you by the powers that be - corporate and political and sometimes journalistic - there is no use even trying. You have to love it and I do. I.F. Stone once said, after years of catching the government's lies and contradictions, "I have so much fun, I ought to be arrested." Journalism 101.

... Temptation to co-option is the original sin of journalism, and we're always finding fig leaves to cover it: economics, ideology, awe of authority, secrecy, the claims of empire. In the buildup to the invasion of Iraq we were reminded of what the late great reporter A.J. Liebling meant when he said the press is "the weak slat under the bed of democracy." The slat broke after the invasion and some strange bedfellows fell to the floor: establishment journalists, neo-con polemicists, beltway pundits, right-wing warmongers flying the skull and bones of the "balanced and fair brigade," administration flacks whose classified leaks were manufactured lies - all romping on the same mattress in the foreplay to disaster.

Five years, thousands of casualties, and hundreds of billion dollars later, most of the media co-conspirators caught in flagrante delicto are still prominent, still celebrated, and still holding forth with no more contrition than a weathercaster who made a wrong prediction as to the next day's temperature. The biblical injunction, "Go and sin no more," is the one we most frequently forget in the press. Collectively, we don't seem to learn that all it takes to transform an ordinary politician and a braying ass into the modern incarnation of Zeus and the oracle of Delphi is an oath on the Bible, a flag in the lapel, and the invocation of national security.

There are, fortunately, always exceptions to whatever our latest dismal collective performance yields. America produces some world-class journalism, including coverage of the Iraq War by men and women as brave as Ernie Pyle. But I still wish we had a professional Hippocratic Oath of our own that might stir us in the night when we stray from our mission. And yes, I believe journalism has a mission.

Walter Lippman was prescient on this long before most of you were born. Lippman, who became the ultimate Washington insider - someone to whom I regularly leaked - acknowledged that while the press may be a weak reed to lean on, it is the indispensable support for freedom. He wrote, "The present crisis of Western democracy is a crisis of journalism. Everywhere men and women are conscious that somehow they must deal with questions more intricate than any that church or school had prepared them to understand. Increasingly, they know that they cannot understand them if the facts are not quickly and steadily available. All the sharpest critics of democracy have alleged is true if there is no steady supply of trustworthy and relevant news. Incompetence and aimlessness, corruption and disloyalty, panic and ultimate disaster must come to any people denied an assured access to the facts."

So for all the blunders for which we are culpable; for all the disillusionment that has set in among journalists with every fresh report of job cuts and disappearing news space; for all the barons and buccaneers turning the press into a karaoke of power; for all the desecration visited on broadcast journalism by the corporate networks; for all the nonsense to which so many aspiring young journalists are consigned; and for all the fears about the eroding quality of the craft, I still answer emphatically when young people ask me, "Should I go into journalism today?" Sometimes it is difficult to urge them on, especially when serious questions are being asked about how loyal our society is to the reality as well as to the idea of an independent and free press. But I almost always answer, "Yes, if you have a fire in your belly, you can still make a difference." I remind them of how often investigative reporting has played a crucial role in making the crooked straight. I remind them how news bureaus abroad are a form of national security that can tell us what our government won't. I remind them that as America grows more diverse, it's essential to have reporters, editors, producers and writers who reflect these new rising voices and concerns. And I remind them that facts can still drive the argument and tug us in the direction of greater equality and a more democratic society. Journalism still matters.

But I also tell them there is something more important than journalism, and that is the truth. They aren't necessarily one and the same because the truth is often obscured in the news. In his new novel, The Appeal, John Grisham tells us more about corporate, political and legal jihads than most newspapers or network news ever will; more about Wall Street shenanigans than all the cable business channels combined; more about Manchurian candidates than you will ever hear on the Sunday morning talk shows.

For that matter, you will learn more about who wins and who loses in the real business of politics, which is governance, from the public interest truth-tellers of Washington than you will from an established press tethered to official sources. The Government Accountability Project, POGO, the Sunlight Foundation, Citizens Against Government Waste, Taxpayers for Common Sense, the Center for Responsible Politics, the National Security Archive, CREW, the Center for Public Integrity, just to name a few - and from whistleblowers of all sorts who never went to journalism school, never flashed a press pass, and never attended a gridiron dinner.

Ron Ridenhour was not a journalist when he came upon the truth of My Lai. He was in the Army. He later became a pioneering investigative reporter and - this is the irony - had trouble making a living in a calling where truth-telling can be a liability to the bottom line. Matthew Diaz and James Scurlock, whom you honored today, are truth-tellers without a license, reminding us that the most important credential of all is a conscience that cannot be purchased or silenced. So I tell inquisitive and inquiring young people: "Journalism still makes a difference, but the truth matters more. And if you can't get to the truth through journalism, there are other ways to go."

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

It's Pulitzer Time: WashPost Sweep for violence and violins. Dylan gets a gong.

Pulitzer Prizes: 2008 Winners

Public Service: Dana Priest, Anne Hull and photographer Michel du Cille of The Washington Post for their coverage of the deteriorating conditions of Walter Reed Medical Center

Breaking News Reporting: Staff of The Washington Post for their coverage of the Virginia Tech shooting rampage

Investigative Reporting: Walt Bogdanich and Jake Hooker of The New York Times for their stories on toxic ingredients in medicine and other products imported from China

Investigative Reporting: Staff of the The Chicago Tribune for their exposure of faulty governmental regulation of toys, car seats and cribs

Explanatory Reporting: Amy Harmon of The New York Times for her coverage of the dilemmas and ethical issues that accompany DNA testing

Local Reporting: David Umhoefer of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for his stories on the skirting of tax laws to pad pensions of county employees

National Reporting: Jo Becker and Barton Gellman of The Washington Post for their examination of Vice President Dick Cheney's influence on national policy.

International Reporting: Steve Fainaru of The Washington Post for his series on private security contractors in Iraq that operate outside many of the laws governing American forces

Feature Writing: Gene Weingarten of The Washington Post for his feature on a virtuoso violinist Joshua Bell, who, as an experiment, played during for commuters in the subway during rush hour. Widely disparaged as a set-up stunt by OldSkool reporters, but definitely written for the ages. Weingarten, a columnist who writes "Below the Beltway" (ouch) quipped

"While this award is technically not for my columns but for my feature writing," Weingarten said, "I consider it an endorsement of the excellence of absolutely everything I do: humor writing, parallel parking, lovemaking, etc.

"So in that regard, using the same bold, broad-brush logic, I think all the clients of my column have a right to claim that they, too, won the Pulitzer Prize today."

Commentary: Steve Pearlstein of The Washington Post for his columns exploring the nation's economic ills

Criticism: Mark Feeney of The Boston Globe for his reviews of visual arts, including film, photography and painting

Editorial Writing: No Award

Editorial Cartooning: Michael Ramirez of Investor's Business Daily

Breaking News Photography: Adrees Latif of Reuters for his photograph of a Japanese videographer who was fatally wounded during a street demonstration in Myanmar

Feature Photography: Preston Gannaway of the Concord Monitor for her photographs of a family coping with a parent's terminal illness

Fiction: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

Drama: August: Osage County by Tracy Letts

History: What Hath God Wrought by Daniel Walker Howe

Biography: Eden's Outcasts by John Matteson

Poetry: Time and Materials by Robert Hass
Poetry: Failure by Philip Schultz

General Nonfiction: The Years of Extermination by Saul Friedlander

Music: The Little Match Girl Passion by David Lang

Special Citation: Bob Dylan (!)

Thursday, April 3, 2008

The Shape of World News

Here's brilliant graphic concept by Nicolas Kayser-Bril and Gilles Bruno , first featured on the French website L'observatoire des Medias. It's worth clicking the link to compare dailies and websites to contrast the scope of their reporting throughout a full year. The maps swell and contort according to the attention given each country, as shown in the samples below of The Australian and London's the Daily Mail. (Hat tip to Online Journalism Blog for the link.) It would be enlightening to also have a map that shows the attrition of foreign news bureaus.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Stretch Sarkozy? A Bisexual 007? Jungle Penguins? April Fools

Believe everything in the news, even in this age of spinmeisters ? Oops. You may have been stung by these seasonal spoofs, reported by Agence France Presse.

Media around the world regaled their audiences with stories of stretched French presidents and bisexual James Bonds on Tuesday, proving the tradition of April Fool's jokes was alive and kicking.

Britain's Daily Telegraph printed pictures of penguins apparently flying to the Amazon, while many papers ran a spoof story saying luxury carmaker BMW had invented a model that electrocuted dogs which tried to relieve themselves against its wheels.

Australian radio station 2UE marked April 1 by reporting that the pope would conduct a special mass for homosexuals during his visit Down Under in July.

The British press combined jokes with a little French-bashing -- light-heartedly ignoring pleas for closer cross-Channel cooperation from President Nicolas Sarkozy during his state visit last week.

The president's diminutive stature was the butt of an April Fool in the Sun tabloid.

Under the headline "Docs to Stretch Sarkozy," it said the president -- who wore built-up heels, in contrast to his ex-model wife Carla's flat shoes, in London -- "is to have pioneering stretch surgery in a bid to make him taller."

"The patient is stretched on a traction bed for several hours and calcium supplements are injected in the bone shafts near the joints," it quoted French government spokesman "Luc Bigger" as saying.

The Sun even provided photos and a "How it Works" graphic showing a man on a torture-style bed.

Playing on France's reputation for sophistication, the Guardian reported that Prime Minister Gordon Brown had enlisted Carla Bruni-Sarkozy to give Britons lessons on style.

"Continental good taste and sophistication should be a birthright for all, says PM," headlined the left-leaning daily, getting in a satirical dig at Brown's regular promises of ever-greater rights for everyone.

There were also plans to encourage British parents "to serve small volumes of red wine with meals to children as young as seven or eight," it said, in a piece bylined Avril de Poisson -- a play on the French for April Fool.

Other British newspapers got in on the act -- the tabloid Daily Star said rugged James Bond star Daniel Craig wanted 007 to "swing both ways", while the Daily Express said one of London's best-known monuments, Big Ben, was using a digital clock while its traditional timepiece was repaired.

The Telegraph meanwhile said Adele penguins had amazed documentary makers "by taking to the air and flying to warmer climes when the weather closed in."

In France, the national football team's coach Raymond Domenech gave fans a fright by saying in a video blog that his team had decided to give the Euro 2008 championships a miss.

"We have given this a lot of thought, and it was tough because it's been a busy season for the players -- but what's the point of taking a French team to the Euro if it's not competitive?" Domenech asked.

"The best is just to say 'We're not going'. We've let FIFA know already. I prefer to prepare quietly for the (2010) World Cup," he quipped.

And French sports daily L'Equipe ran a full-page spoof advertisement by carmaker Citroen introducing a "Universal Steering Wheel" -- capable of switching from left- to right-hand driving positions at the touch of a button.

The ad quoted a "secret" report showing that drivers from Britain and continental Europe had trouble when forced to drive on the "wrong" side of the road.

But the British weekly New Scientist took a new tack on the tradition by publishing stories on its website that seemed so bizarre that they could only be April Fools, but were in fact genuine.

One was a study by pair of Italian physicists who came up with a quantum explanation for poltergeists -- the ghostly phenomenon whereby objects fly around the room, apparently of their own accord. Another was about how surgery could transform your arms into wings.

"They are April Fools that aren't," the magazine told AFP, as comments piled up on its website from baffled and occasionally irritated readers.

Also, check out the LA Times foolery posing as a "Newy new new shiny wiki wow Main Page Bunkwiki for a few chuckles. Click here