Monday, March 31, 2008

Newsweek axed 111 staffers last week

Newsweek is trimming very close to the bone, as disclosed by this informed media blog, on Radar.

Among those leaving are some of the magazine's best-known, most-admired and longest-service critics, including David Gates, David Ansen and Cathleen McGuigan. Harold Shain, a former president of the magazine, is also departing.
146 staffers were offered the chance to leave the magazine, with as much as two years of their current salary as a departing bonus, depending on their age and length of service. The package also includes pension sweetners and the chance to continue health insurance coverage until the age of 65. More staffers than expected accepted the offer
Few of the folks who accepted the buy-out are foreign correspondents, and with so many staffers now departing by the end of the year(like rats off a sinking ship?), some new hires are expected.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Wash Post splurges $66,000 on lawyer's pad

Footnoted biz blog tells us: at a time when newspaper companies are struggling for their very survival, the $66K “housing allowance” that Washington Post Co. (WPO) spent to provide General Counsel Veronica Dillon with a place to live in Washington, seems like something straight out of the final season of The Wire.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Cicada Films accused of recklessness, bringing death to their tribal 'stars'

Reality Shows can be dangerous to one's health. The Times of London's Alexi Mostrous reports how a television crew shrugged off warnings that their random sneezes were a potential kiss of death to four member of a remote Peruvian tribe, all but one mere children. This is feral beastliness in the extreme.

Amazonian tribes have called for film and television crews to be banned from their territories after a British production company was accused of starting a flu epidemic that killed four members of a remote Indian people.

Indigenous communities blamed a researcher from Cicada Films, based in London, for infecting members of the isolated Matsigenka tribe while scouting for a reality television show called World’s Lost Tribes.

Four members of the Matsigenka are thought to have died, three of them children. The Native Federation of River Madre de Dios and Subsidiaries, which represents local tribes, called for film crews to be banned.

In a statement, Cicada said it “emphatically denied” that its staff had done anything wrong. “When we arrived we found local people already ill with symptoms and signs of respiratory disease,” a spokesman said. “The researcher and his guide did not visit the area where the deaths are said to have occurred and no deaths occurred amongst the individuals they met.”

Glenn Shephard, a US anthropologist who has studied the Matsigenka for 20 years, said: “I warned [Cicada] specifically that their visit to the isolated villages of the Cumerjali could pose a health risk to the people.”

The Matsigenka tribe, who traded with the Incas 500 years ago, are spread out across southeastern Peru.
Here's the logo of the unfortunate film company, based in London.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Sixty years

This historic montage is part of the buildup to the PeaceMaker game which has captivated Izzy Bee and others who've had a chance to play it on a fast connection, especially people who have lived through some of the "game scenarios". I wish they'd have a separate Hamas and Fatah factions; without this, the game seems a little out of date. Wonder if Olmert , Abbas, Blair and Rice ought to try their hands at this before the real thing blows up in our faces.

Peace Maker: Gameplay for Global Gain?

Cyber war-gaming exercises by Israeli intelligence helped inspire a new kind of computer game, aiming at conflict resolution between Israelis and Palestinians. If that happens, we'll all be winners. This game has won accolades and was developed by young Israelis, Americans and Palestinians on the drawing board at Carnegie-Mellon U. It's downloadable online, and worth it.
Izzy Bee recommends it!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

WSJ scooped on Bear Stearns buyout

Slate's Jack Shafer reports:

Rupert Murdoch has promised that his Wall Street Journal will be a tidier, briefer, and more general read, one that concentrates on breaking news. And in the opening weeks of his ownership, the newspaper has largely conformed to that vision, as I commented in January. But in broadening the Journal, is Murdoch taking the newspaper's eye off the franchise, namely business news? This morning's (March 24) New York Times scoops the Journal with an Andrew Ross Sorkin Page One piece about JPMorgan negotiating to quintuple its offer for Bear Stearns. Murdoch can't be happy about getting trounced on the month's biggest business story. By softening the Journal's editorial focus, isn't he making this sort of humiliation inevitable? Imagine being the editor on the receiving end of a phone call from the rotten old bastard, demanding to know why his paper got creamed on a beat that it is supposed to own. …

Monday, March 24, 2008

Texting while walking can be hazardous to your health

An East London street has record cell phone texting injuries. Thick as a Brick Lane...

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

That speech about blacks and whites under the red, white & blue: pure Obama

Soundbite constraints make it tough to assess the campaigns in America. To combat this, is circulating Barack Obama's incredible speech about race in America. Its honesty and genuinely moving phrases were parsed over by most newscasts: media soundbites really missed the point.

You can watch or read the whole speech here

If you're busy, here's a highlight from the speech:

"We have a choice in this country. We can accept a politics that breeds division, and conflict, and cynicism. We can tackle race only as spectacle—as we did in the OJ trial—or in the wake of tragedy, as we did in the aftermath of Katrina—or as fodder for the nightly news.

"We can play Reverend Wright's sermons on every channel, every day and talk about them from now until the election, and make the only question in this campaign whether or not the American people think that I somehow believe or sympathize with his most offensive words.

"We can pounce on some gaffe by a Hillary supporter as evidence that she's playing the race card, or we can speculate on whether white men will all flock to John McCain in the general election regardless of his policies.

"We can do that.

"But if we do, I can tell you that in the next election, we'll be talking about some other distraction. And then another one. And then another one. And nothing will change.

"That is one option. Or, at this moment, in this election, we can come together and say, "Not this time." This time we want to talk about the crumbling schools that are stealing the future of black children and white children and Asian children and Hispanic children and Native American children. This time we want to reject the cynicism that tells us that these kids can't learn; that those kids who don't look like us are somebody else's problem. The children of America are not those kids, they are our kids, and we will not let them fall behind in a 21st century economy. Not this time.

"This time we want to talk about how the lines in the Emergency Room are filled with whites and blacks and Hispanics who do not have health care; who don't have the power on their own to overcome the special interests in Washington, but who can take them on if we do it together.

"This time we want to talk about the shuttered mills that once provided a decent life for men and women of every race, and the homes for sale that once belonged to Americans from every religion, every region, every walk of life. This time we want to talk about the fact that the real problem is not that someone who doesn't look like you might take your job; it's that the corporation you work for will ship it overseas for nothing more than a profit.

"This time we want to talk about the men and women of every color and creed who serve together, and fight together, and bleed together under the same proud flag. We want to talk about how to bring them home from a war that never should've been authorized and never should've been waged, and we want to talk about how we'll show our patriotism by caring for them, and their families, and giving them the benefits they have earned.

"I would not be running for President if I didn't believe with all my heart that this is what the vast majority of Americans want for this country. This union may never be perfect, but generation after generation has shown that it can always be perfected. And today, whenever I find myself feeling doubtful or cynical about this possibility, what gives me the most hope is the next generation—the young people whose attitudes and beliefs and openness to change have already made history in this election.

"There is one story in particularly that I'd like to leave you with today—a story I told when I had the great honor of speaking on Dr. King's birthday at his home church, Ebenezer Baptist, in Atlanta.

"There is a young, twenty-three year old white woman named Ashley Baia who organized for our campaign in Florence, South Carolina. She had been working to organize a mostly African-American community since the beginning of this campaign, and one day she was at a roundtable discussion where everyone went around telling their story and why they were there.

"And Ashley said that when she was nine years old, her mother got cancer. And because she had to miss days of work, she was let go and lost her health care. They had to file for bankruptcy, and that's when Ashley decided that she had to do something to help her mom.

"She knew that food was one of their most expensive costs, and so Ashley convinced her mother that what she really liked and really wanted to eat more than anything else was mustard and relish sandwiches. Because that was the cheapest way to eat.

"She did this for a year until her mom got better, and she told everyone at the roundtable that the reason she joined our campaign was so that she could help the millions of other children in the country who want and need to help their parents too.

"Now Ashley might have made a different choice. Perhaps somebody told her along the way that the source of her mother's problems were blacks who were on welfare and too lazy to work, or Hispanics who were coming into the country illegally. But she didn't. She sought out allies in her fight against injustice.

"Anyway, Ashley finishes her story and then goes around the room and asks everyone else why they're supporting the campaign. They all have different stories and reasons. Many bring up a specific issue. And finally they come to this elderly black man who's been sitting there quietly the entire time. And Ashley asks him why he's there. And he does not bring up a specific issue. He does not say health care or the economy. He does not say education or the war. He does not say that he was there because of Barack Obama. He simply says to everyone in the room, 'I am here because of Ashley.'

"'I'm here because of Ashley.' By itself, that single moment of recognition between that young white girl and that old black man is not enough. It is not enough to give health care to the sick, or jobs to the jobless, or education to our children.

"But it is where we start. It is where our union grows stronger. And as so many generations have come to realize over the course of the two-hundred and twenty one years since a band of patriots signed that document in Philadelphia, that is where the perfection begins."

tales of commissioning editors..

Chris Wheal, UK freelancer extraordinaire, reminisces about Fleet Street's commissioning editors:
I honestly worked on Accountancy Age once with a Loveday Cumming.
There was another sub with the surname Knight-Rider and I was asked
to step in help sub (because I could and knew Quark) when the chief
sub phoned in sick. When they said it was because he had dislocated
her arm putting her bra on, I just assumed that, as the new
freelance, I was the butt of all the jokes and none of it was to be
believed. But sure enough she turned up the next day with her arm in
a sling and it had all been true.
Oh happy days.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Five years on the ground, five years deeper into the shit, and pages from the annals of war

Looking to the past for a clue to the future is something rarely done in America's live-in-the-moment improv society. If only someone in charge had looked in the card catalog of the military's back publications, we all could have been spared years of grief and the erosion of America's reputation as a New World power protecting liberty and justice for all. The vintage booklet shown above is part of the "intelligence" we had on file for six decades before Bush's blunder.
Were you covering the six million anti-war marchers protesting against an unnecessary war five years ago? Have you been embedded and did you roam Baghdad and Basra before the insurgency got so out of hand?
If you are shocked but not awed by recent military adventurism, have a look at this very personal website about a GI Jane's Iraqi guide saved from WWII. It's like a gentle I-told-you-so from the grave. Quite sobering.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Deja Vu from Doonesbury

The NY Observer has resurrected this cartoon from 16 years ago, back when Bill Clinton was campaigning in the Democratic primaries and being embraced by the media. Sound familiar? Have you drunk the Kool-aid yet?

Friday, March 14, 2008

Today's Pi - Day, folks

Rounding out the week before the onset of the ides of March comes the geek holiday of Pi-Day, calculated fun for number-crunchers everywhere.
So to celebrate squaring the circle and a mathmatical triumph, do have a "slice of pi": 3.1415926535 8979323846 2643383279 5028841971...
and, regarding the photo above (courtesy of the Beeb) here's pi in your eye.

The NY Times Science correspondent, John Tierney, goes full circle to suggest ways to mark today:

If this is 3/14, it must be Pi Day. In fact, it’s the 20th anniversary of the first Pi Day, a feast that began at the San Francisco Exploratorium and has been rightfully spreading in a great circle around the world. Here are some ways to celebrate it and win a prize from the Lab:

1) Enjoy a piece of pie precisely at the Pi Second, 1:59:26 p.m. (3/14/1:59:26).

2) Calculate the value of pi by tossing needles on a sheet of lined paper — or, much simpler and quicker, watching your computer toss the needles and do the computation for you. Here’s a cool applet tha calculates pi before your very eyes by using Buffon’s Needle, an 18th-century math problem named after the Comte de Buffon.

You can also do this calculation using frozen hot dogs instead of needles, but it’s more of a production.

3) Compose a pi-ku or other poem about pi — and win a pie of your choice if you submit the best one here at the Lab. The Exploratorium has gathered a few genres on its Pi Day site, including the limerick:

If inside a circle a line
Hits the center and goes spine to spine
And the line’s length is d
The circumference will be
d times 3.14159

You can submit a traditional haiku about pi like this one:

Unending digits . . .
Why not keep it simple, like
Twenty-two sevenths?

Or, for the ambitious, you can try a pi-ku that’s both a haiku and a mnemonic device in which the number of characters in each word equals the value of the corresponding digit of pi. Here’s an example that enables you to derive 11 digits of pi (3.1415926535) by counting the number of characters in each of the 11 words:

Let C over D
(Wheel perimeter on height)
Equal its value.

Then, for the real purist, there’s a new form of pi-ku proposed by Ian Chillag of NPR: Instead of the 5-7-5 syllable pattern of haiku, honor pi with lines of 3, 1 and 4 syllables. Like:

Why is pi
As pie is round?

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Chortles in Oz about 'Harry's War'

The cheeky Australian cartoonist Nicholson pokes fun at the British royals and the popular reaction to princely heroics during the "Harry's War"-- a sojourn in Afghanistan which was brought to a sudden halt after the press blabbed about the soldier prince's general whereabouts.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Economist: spit-shining the NY news

Here's the headline of the week, from the Economist:

Spitzer swallows?

HIS pride, at any rate: New York Governor Eliot Spitzer has been caught on tape arranging a rendezvous with a high-class prostitute. Mr Spitzer today issued an apology to his family and staff, saying he was "disappointed that I failed to live up to the standard I expected of myself". Those with a taste for irony can read the then–attorney general waxing indignant in the wake of a 2004 prostitution bust here.

Global empathy for the wife and three teenage daughters, who may be a tad po'd about the $80,000 blown on callgirls by Dad.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Tony Blair to teach at Bush's alma mater

He's still Tony to his diplomat croniess, but American students will call him Professor Blair. According to the Agence France Presse, the former British Prime Minister has accepted a Yale position. As Middle East envoy, Blair has been uncommonly silent about the mayhem in Gaza that left 126 Palestinians dead overfive days as well as the shooting spree inside the Yeshiva in Jerusalem. This may explain why he's biting his tongue:

Former British prime minister Tony Blair is to take up a post teaching at Yale, one of the top educational institutions in the United States, the university said Friday.

Blair, who stepped down as prime minister last year after 10 years in power, was to lecture on faith and globalization as the Howland Distinguished Fellow, and would start in the next academic year, the university said.

His work at the university would relate to the work of his Tony Blair Faith Foundation, which he is due to launch later this year.

"The appointment of Mr. Blair provides a tremendous opportunity for our students and our community," Yale President Richard Levin said in a statement.

"As the world continues to become increasingly interdependent, it is essential that we explore how religious values can be channeled toward reconciliation rather than polarization.

"Mr. Blair has demonstrated outstanding leadership in these areas and is especially qualified to bring his perspective to bear. We are honored that he is planning to join the Yale community," he added.

According to British media reports, Blair would continue in his role as special envoy to the Mideast Quartet working towards Palestinian statehood, a role that reportedly takes up around 10 days of every month.

There has also been speculation that Blair could be made the future EU president, a role enshrined in the European Union's reforming Lisbon Treaty that the 27 member states hope to ratify by the end of the year.

However, some members are known to oppose his candidacy partly due to his role in supporting the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Former holders of Yale's Howland fellowship include composer Ralph Vaughan Williams, BBC journalist Alistair Cooke and late Indian leader Indira Gandhi.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Moore's Arlington grave shot wins top prize

Getty's award-winning photographer, John Moore, has won another prize, this time for best magazine image, awarded by the U of Missouri Pictures of the Year International competition.

In his own words, Moore, a former wire photographer who also won World Press kudos for his image of Benazir Bhutto's assassination in the street of Rawalpindi, tells the story behind his poignant picture of an army ranger's fiancee in mourning last Memorial Day at Arlington National Cemetery.

Mary said that they had planned to get married after Jimmy’s four years of service were up next year. “We loved each other so much,” she said. “We thought we had all of the time in the world.”

Later on, I passed by and she was lying in the grass sobbing, speaking softly to the stone, this time her face close to the cold marble, as if whispering into Jimmy’s ear.

Some people feel the photo I took at the moment was too intimate, too personal. Like many who have seen the picture, I felt overwhelmed by her grief, and moved by the love she felt for her fallen sweetheart.

After so much time covering these wars, I have some difficult memories and have seen some of the worst a person can see - so much hatred and rage, so much despair and sadness. All that destruction, so much killing. And now, one beautiful and terribly sad spring afternoon amongst the rows and rows of marble stones - a young woman’s lost love.

I felt I owed the Arlington National Cemetery a little time - and I think I still do. Maybe we all do.
...from John Moore's blog on Getty Images website