Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Superman vs the Newspaper Apocalypse

Hmmm...this cartoon is the last gasp from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer's David Horsey, before it all went down. The moral, folks: even Superman gets the no news blues and he writes for a fictional newspaper, the Daily Planet!

Friday, March 27, 2009

No Hard copy? After 101 years, Christian Science Monitor goes online only

Karen Tumulty blogs over at Time.com about the demise of the Christian Science Monitor. The powers that be have taken it off life support and now there is only a cyber-edition of this plain-speaking paper. (I always enjoyed overhearing the explanations its foreign correspondents used to devise for government press officers who erroneously believed it to be some obscure church newspaper. And the paper broke some worthwhile scoops over the years. It did not tend to exaggerate, and many stringers got their chops reporting for the CSM. Do they still have Christian Science Reading Rooms? If so, they better install wi-fi.

Just over a century ago, in 1908, an 86-year-old woman looked at the dismal state of journalism around her and decided to do something to fix it. Mary Baker Eddy (pictured below) started the Christian Science Monitor not to further the doctrine of the church that she had founded, but because there was a need, as her first city editor John L. Wright put it, for a daily paper that would "place principle before dividends, and that will be fair, frank and honest with the people on all subjects and under whatever pressure — a truly independent voice not controlled by commercial and political monopolists."

Today, you hear calls for the same improvements in the media, which has come to be dominated again by those "commercial and political monopolists." And even worse, by the unsentimental and value-free dictates of their share prices. That's why it is ironic and sad that this marks the final day that Eddy's newspaper will exist, at least in its daily print form, as a publication "to injure no man, but to bless all mankind." I have a copy of the final edition--at only 24 pages, a thin version of its former self--on my desk. (You can download it here, though it doesn't quite feel the same.) I think that if Mary Baker Eddy were here today, she would tell us that somewhere out there is a business model that can sustain quality journalism. We all wish the Monitor well as it seeks to find that model in its new online incarnation.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Did You Know?

Infotech tidbits for hacks and not just nerds!

Friday, March 20, 2009

10 little white lies you hear about the future of newspapers

Hat tip to invisible inkling, an astute blogger:

1. Print is dead.
2. Journalism is dying.
3. Paid online content will save newspapers.
4. No one will pay for online news.
5. You haven’t tried anything.
6. You should try everything.
7. We’ve tried everything.
8. We’ve certainly tried that before, and it didn’t work then, so it won’t work now.
9. This is all corporate media’s / Google’s / Craig’s / Bush’s / Obama’s / the economy’s / the Internet’s / journalists’ / management’s / education’s fault.
10. No one will miss newspapers when they’re gone.


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Standards fall in celebrity reporting of Natasha Richardson's health crisis

The 'Ghost of Edward Murrow' scolded a NY publication for crass and premature obit of Natasha Richardson, 45 and just taken off life support, according to the Lost Boy blogger:
“Time Out’s credibility was declared brain dead today. The site suffered a horrific fall when rushing to get the scoop on the personal tragedy of a fine actress and her family, and according to anyone with a clue, will not recover.”

Fox News Network also got a tongue lashing for their intrusive coverage, which was hardly fair and balanced... ghoulish is more like it.
This Feral Beast doubts that the actress's brain damage was caused by "a freak ski accident" or could have been avoided by wearing a helmet on the bunny slope. Let's await professional medical opinion from a physician who has examined her, if the family chooses to make this public. It is possible that the fall on the slopes was caused by something like an aneurysm in the brain, which soon manifested as a severe headache and then coma.
Too sad.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Hollywood Stunned as Murdoch Shakes Up His Fox Network

The Daily Beast's Kim Masters scoop on the surprise removal of Peter Liguori as chairman of Fox Broadcast—and his replacement with Peter Rice, the man behind Slumdog and Little Miss Sunshine ran on he Daily Beast.

It was a rare pleasure on Thursday to call some of Hollywood’s most plugged-in players and hear them express undisguised drop-dead shock at all the high-level changes that Rupert Murdoch has wrought in his News Corp. entertainment empire.
“Holy shit,” exclaimed the head of one of the biggest talent agencies upon learning of all the recent upheaval at the company. That pretty much summed up the sentiment all around town.
Sources say the long knives may also be out for entertainment president and ex-NBCer Kevin Reilly, who has apparently clashed with prickly Preston Beckman.
The recent departure of Murdoch’s number two, Peter Chernin, seems to have tipped the dominoes at the media giant. As predicted here last week, the two co-chairmen of Fox’s film studio, Jim Gianopulos and Tom Rothman, have been promoted to run all “Los Angeles based creative production units.” That means they add the company’s television-production operation to their portfolio.
But that’s not the stunner. On Thursday, Peter Liguori, the chairman of Fox Broadcasting, was unceremoniously axed after three years at the network. His surprise replacement is Peter Rice—the smooth and very successful head of the Fox Searchlight art-house label. The unexpected—and impressively unleaked—announcement took Hollywood by storm since Rice entirely lacks television experience (but not ambition).
Rice, 42, is a smart and well-regarded Brit who managed to turn out a string of massive hits—Napoleon Dynamite, Little Miss Sunshine, Slumdog Millionaire—at a unit that was founded to make smaller movies for a specialized audience.
The fact that he was awarded the network job has led many of the industry’s best tea leaf readers to conclude that Rice is in line to ascend to even greater heights. He will have a chance to learn television before making the next upward move, which would follow the script written by Chernin during his long tenure at the company.
“Peter Rice is going to hunker down and learn a new business,” says a prominent producer. And then this observer, not normally given to hyperbole, adds, “He’s going to become rapidly the most powerful executive in Hollywood.”
That perception is shared by many inside the company. “Around here he’s called ‘The Chosen One,’” says one executive. “I’ve also heard ‘The Anointed.’”
Amazingly, even the most acid Hollywood observers have nothing bad to say about Rice (though if they did, you can be sure they’re not going to say it now). “There’s nobody with his record,” marvels a well-known producer, also not usually prone to hyperbole. His low-key style and impeccable manners hold obvious appeal for Murdoch, who is said to loathe Hollywood self-indulgence.
Former Fox studio chairman Bill Mechanic, who made no secret of his disdain for Chernin, has nothing but praise for Rice, who worked for him during his tenure at the studio. While Rice is now strongly associated with the “art-house” niche, Mechanic says he established himself as a strong executive in the main film division, where he was involved with such hits as X-Men and Moulin Rouge. “There was nothing niche-y” about that,” Mechanic says. He adds that when he put Rice in charge of Fox Searchlight, “I had to talk him into working in a niche.”
For the record, Mechanic believes the Hollywood chatterers are reading too much into Rice’s new job. Moving people around is not unusual for Murdoch. “He doesn’t think there’s anything that idiosyncratic about any business,” he says. But it's probable that the void left by Chernin's departure will make for interesting times at Fox for some time to come. Chernin presided over many executives who were good at their jobs but lacked diverse experience, observes a high-level insider, which “kept him very safe in his job and kept everybody from climbing all over each other.”
His departure leaves a void in the company. Obviously a number of other people have come out ahead in this reorganization, notably Gianopulos and Rothman; and Tony Vinciquerra, who will be Rice’s boss at the network (at least on paper). Vinciquerra is a numbers-cruncher who has been running the cable networks and has now added the broadcast network to his portfolio. He has no background as a creative executive though he might be tempted to try it out now.
Obviously, the biggest loser is Liguori, who was thrown to the curb by Fox. But sources say the long knives may also be out for entertainment president Kevin Reilly, who recently left his job at NBC after a long bout of internecine warfare. Apparently Reilly has clashed with prickly Preston Beckman, who runs the network’s scheduling and who Murdoch literally keeps on speed-dial. Another insider says Mike Darnell, the feisty and successful head of “alternative programming” (like American Idol and Hell’s Kitchen), has battled with Reilly as well.
“Kevin’s done a good job but he still hasn’t pulled out a ratings monster,” says a Fox insider. “Every development executive is only as good as the shows they develop. Dollhouse, (which Reilly had been a big supporter of) hasn’t done very well. Kevin was the one who wanted Joss Whedon.”
Reilly has held his job at Fox for only eighteen months, during which he had to contend with the writer’s strike. Nasty, brutish and short—that is the life of a network president.
While succession issues at News Corp. troubled Wall Street even before Chernin’s abrupt departure, the 78-year old Murdoch seems willing to leave the number two job at News Corp. vacant for the moment. Directly reporting to him now are Gianopulos and Rothman; Vinciquerra; Fox Interactive chief Peter Levinsohn; and Roger Ailes, who oversees the Fox News Channel and local Fox television stations across the country. And what of Murdoch's 36-year-old son James, currently overseeing operations in Europe and Asia? Rumors that he would be called in to take Chernin’s job have proved unfounded—at least for now. “I think Rupert’s going to keep him in Europe for a while,” says a well-placed Fox executive. “And I think James wants to stay there.”

Kim Masters is also the author of The Keys to the Kingdom: The Rise of Michael Eisner and the Fall of Everybody Else.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Top Ten of Folding American Newspapers - acc to TIME Magazine

Over the past few weeks, the U.S. newspaper industry has entered a new period of decline. The parent of the papers in Philadelphia declared bankruptcy, as did the Journal Register chain. The Rocky Mountain News closed, and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, owned by Hearst, will almost certainly close or only publish online. Hearst has said it will also close the San Francisco Chronicle if it cannot make massive cuts. The most recent rumor is that the company will lay off half the editorial staff. Still, that action may not be enough to make the property profitable.
One new publication which was launched on a wing and a prayer and a leap of faith, and is expected to succeed even in these troubled times is Mega-Church Evangelist Rick Warren's new "Purpose Driven Connection". Go figure.

24/7 Wall St. has created a list of the 10 major daily papers that are most likely to fold or shutter their print operations and only publish online. The properties were chosen on the basis of the financial strength of their parent companies, the amount of direct competition they face in their markets and industry information on how much money they are losing. Based on this analysis, it's possible that 8 of the nation's 50 largest daily newspapers could cease publication in the next 18 months.

1. The Philadelphia Daily News. The smaller of the two papers owned by Philadelphia Newspapers LLC, which recently filed for bankruptcy. The company says it will make money this year, but with newspaper advertising still falling sharply, the city cannot support two papers, and the Daily News has a daily circulation of only about 100,000. The tabloid has a small staff, most of whom could probably stay on at Philly.com, the Web operation for both of the city dailies.

2. The Minneapolis Star Tribune has filed for Chapter 11. The paper may not make money this year, even without the costs of debt coverage. The company said it made $26 million last year, about half of what it made in 2007. The odds are that the Star Tribune will lose money this year if its ad revenue drops another 20%. There is no point for creditors to keep the paper open if it cannot generate cash. It could become an all-digital property, as supporting a daily circulation of more than 300,000 is too much of a burden. It could survive if its rival, the St. Paul Pioneer Press, folds. A grim race.

3. The Miami Herald, which has a daily circulation of about 220,000. It is owned by McClatchy, a publicly traded company that could be the next chain to file for Chapter 11. The Herald has been on the market since December, but no serious bidders have emerged. Newspaper advertising has been especially hard-hit in Florida because of the tremendous loss in real estate advertising. The online version of the paper is already well read in the Miami area, Latin America and the Caribbean. The Herald has strong competition north of it, in Fort Lauderdale. There is a very small chance it could merge with the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, but it is more likely that the Herald will go online-only with two editions, one for English-language readers and one for Spanish.

4. The Detroit News is one of two daily papers in the big U.S. city badly hit by the economic downturn. It is unlikely that it can merge with the larger Detroit Free Press, which is owned by Gannett. It is hard to see what would be in it for Gannett. And with the fortunes of Detroit getting worse each day, cutting back the number of days the paper is delivered would not save enough money to keep the paper open.

5. The Boston Globe
is, based on several accounts, losing $1 million a week. One investment bank recently said the paper is worth only $20 million. The paper is the flagship of what the Globe's parent, the New York Times, calls the New England Media Group. The Times has substantial financial problems of its own. Last year, ad revenue for the New England properties was down 18%. That is likely to continue or get worse this year. Supporting larger losses at the Globe will become nearly impossible. Boston.com, the online site that includes the digital aspects of the Globe, will probably be all that remains of the operation.

6. The San Francisco Chronicle.
Parent company Hearst has already set a deadline for shuttering the paper if it cannot make tremendous cost cuts. The Chronicle lost as much as $70 million last year. Even if the company could lower its costs, the Northern California economy is in bad shape. The online version of the paper could be the only version by the middle of 2009.

7. The Chicago Sun-Times
is the smaller of two newspapers in the city. Its parent company, Sun-Times Media Group, trades for 3 cents per share. Davidson Kempner, a large shareholder in the firm, has dumped the CEO and most of the board. The paper has no chance of competing with the Chicago Tribune.

8. The New York Daily News is one of several large papers fighting for circulation and advertising in the New York City area. Unlike the New York Times, the New York Post, Newsday and Newark's Star-Ledger, the Daily News is not owned by a larger organization — real estate billionaire Mort Zuckerman owns the paper. Based on figures from other big dailies, it could easily lose $60 million or $70 million, and has no chance of recovering from that level.

9. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram is another big daily that competes with a larger paper in a neighboring market — in this case, Dallas. The parent of the Dallas Morning News, Belo, is probably a stronger company than the Star-Telegram's parent, McClatchy. The Morning News has a circulation of about 350,000, while the Star-Telegram has just over 200,000. The Star-Telegram will have to shut down or become an edition of its rival. Putting them together would save tens of millions of dollars a year.

10. The Cleveland Plain Dealer
is in one of the economically weakest markets in the country. Its parent, Advance Publications, has already threatened to close its paper in Newark. Employees gave up enough in terms of concessions to keep the paper open. Advance, owned by the Newhouse family, is carrying the burden of its paper plus Condé Nast, its magazine group, which is losing advertising revenue. The Plain Dealer will be shut or go digital by the end of next year.

Open Platform-Open Sesame

Is this the way fwd in these aggregate/aggravating news cucless? London's leftie rag, the Guardian (often known as the Grauniad for its idiosyncratic subbing) inaugurates a new era with Open Platform. Bloggers can weave the Guardian's content for free into "the fabric of the internet", if you carry their ads. Don't miss the Guardian Datablog...tells how comment is free, facts are sacred...and have been since before the founding of The Manchester Guardian