Saturday, March 27, 2010

Jeremy Scahill: 'We're At a Ground Zero Moment to Save Real Journalism

This year's Izzy Award Winner was interviewed recently on Alternet by Byard Duncan. Hat tip to Truthout for the links.
(One point often overlooked is that in the 24 hour news cycle, in order to cover 'the Long Wars' of George Bush on two disparate fronts, most American media outlets paid exorbitant amounts for security, for insurance, for required training courses in gas mask and kevlar vest use, to fly correspondents in and out of war zones,and to maintain staffs of fixers and translators. These unprecedented costs, required since late 2001, could not be sustained. War coverage cost without end sent print journalism into its downward spiral just as much as internet aggregates and the loss of ad income did. Celebrity Obsession by consumers anxious for distraction and unwilling to read more about US defeats and/or loss of prestige is another factor.)
But let the I.F. Stone honoree hold forth:

The winner of the second annual Izzy Award, named after muckraking journalist I.F. Stone, discusses independent media and this critical moment in journalism.

On March 24, 2010, the Park Center for Independent Media at Ithaca College, in Ithaca, NY announced that award-winning independent journalist Jeremy Scahill would receive the second annual "Izzy Award." The Izzy, which is named after the legendary muckraker I.F. Stone, celebrates outstanding achievement in independent media. Last year's winners were Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! and Glenn Greenwald of

Scahill is a two-time Polk Award winner, and a regular contributor to The Nation, Democracy Now! and AlterNet. His book, Blackwater: the Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army, is an international bestseller. In 2009, he published dozens of stories detailing Blackwater's secret presence in Pakistan; its involvement in 2007's Nisour Square massacre; and its CEO's alleged complicity in murder.

"The judges chose Scahill for his relentless efforts in 2009 to push these issues into mainstream debate," said Jeff Cohen, director of the Park Center for Independent Media. "We are awed by Scahill's success, and also by the sheer number of outstanding candidates for the award this year; both reflect the growing importance of independent media in our country."

Scahill, a Puffin Foundation Writing Fellow at The Nation Institute, will appear at Ithaca College on April 19 to receive his award. AlterNet's Byard Duncan caught up with him Wednesday morning to discuss the award and the future of independent journalism
Click here to read the Q-A.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

RIP Margaret Moth, shooter extraordinaire

The legendary CNN camerawoman has died of colon cancer at age 59. Think talent and verve - an antepodian Chrissie Hynde crossed with Margaret Bourke White. Rest in Peace.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A hundred jobs cut at NY Times newsroom

The New York Times plans to eliminate 100 newsroom jobs — about 8 percent of the total — by year’s end, offering buyouts to union and non-union employees, and resorting to layoffs if it cannot get enough people to leave voluntarily, the paper announced on Monday.

Richard Perez-Pena blogged about how the program mirrors one carried out in the spring of 2008, when the paper erased 100 positions in its newsroom, though other jobs were created, so the net reduction was smaller. That round of cuts included some layoffs of journalists — about 15 to 20, though The Times would not disclose the actual figure — which was the first time in memory that had happened.

The paper has made much deeper reductions in other, non-newsroom departments, where layoffs have occurred several times. But the advertising drop that has pummeled the industry has forced cuts in the news operation as well. The newsroom already has lowered its budgets for freelancers and trimmed other expenses, and employees took a 5 percent pay cut for most of this year.

Nearly all papers in the metropolitan region have been cutting their news operations for years, and some have fewer than half as many people in their newsrooms as they did in 2000.

The Times’s news department peaked at more than 1,330 employees before the last round of cuts. The current headcount is about 1,250; no other American newspaper has more than about 750.

The Times will mail buyout packages to the entire newsroom staff on Thursday. The employees have 45 days to decide whether to apply for the buyout. Under the Newspaper Guild contract that covers most newsroom employees, buyouts generally offer three weeks’ salary for each year of service.

In a note to the news staff, Bill Keller, the executive editor, wrote: “As before, if we do not reach 100 positions through buyouts, we will be forced to go to layoffs. I hope that won’t happen, but it might.”

“I won’t pretend that these staff cuts will not add to the burdens of journalists whose responsibilities have grown faster than their compensation,” he wrote, adding, “Like you, I yearn for the day when we can do our jobs without looking over our shoulders for economic thunderstorms.”

Times executives said this year that they did not anticipate the news staff shrinking in 2009, except through attrition, but that nothing was certain. In fact, the 5 percent pay cut was meant to forestall any staff reductions.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Unreliable Sources - John Simpson's memoirs

The bulky Beebster bashes Rupert Murdoch and looks forward and back into the world of British hackdom. His "Unreliable Sources" sounds like an excellent and weighty read. See the review in today's Guardian.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Old Skool screed scribbler bashes new media pundit

James Camp of mediaite holds forth on Leon Weiseltier's Sullivan Smackdown. Is Leon a tad anti-Semantic

What is striking about all this is how it inverts our expectations of conduct in old and new media. Typically – stereotypically – one goes online to read rants, raves, the gung-ho and the bozo of the opinion-makers. Whereas one looks to the old media – magazines, journals, newspapers – for understatement, decorum, moderation. Rickety as it may be, the general assumption is that print journalism is more accountable than its online cousins. Yet in this instance, the opposite holds. The man in print is the mudslinger, the paranoiac, the screed-scribbler; while the blogger ends up looking not only right but restrained, old-fashioned, even. And we are able to judge this easily enough for ourselves — we don’t have to take it on authority — precisely because of that most bewitching novelty of the net, the hyperlink.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Grousing freelancers in UK consider one-day strike

here are a few common freelance grumbles which are behind a proposed strike:

1. Tumbling rates. The Telegraph, for example, now pays just pounds 250 per
thousand words. Half of what the going rate was a few years back. This means low quality features and low quality news, both of which will depend ever more heavily on press releases. Plus poorer freelancers (in both senses of the word).
2. Payment according to click. There is a horrifying new trend where
bloggers' fees depend on how many readers their piece attracts, which
quite clearly means that they will tend to write sensational bits of
opinion which go heavy on key phrases like "fellatio". The medium
will profoundly influence the message.
3. A startling lack of courtesy from commissioning editors. My own
example: I wrote a 1,600 word piece for the Telegraph Review section
and filed it five weeks ago. Since then I have heard not a peep
despite four emails chasing up.
4. Late payment.
5. Commissioning a certain amount of words, printing a cut-down version
and then paying only for the reduced version. This trick was played on
me by the New Statesman.
6. Simply not paying. Esquire took eighteen months to pay me for a
piece, and only then after the NUJ got heavy with them.
7. Extra low payments for blogs. The Guardian offered me ?85 for a five
hundred word opinion piece (for their Comment is Cheap section). This
sticks in the craw a lttle when you consider that the site is
completely plastered in advertising and also that Guardian MD Carolyn
McCall takes home over a million quid a year.

We need to stand up and protest against this new shoddy treatment, and
a strike is the way to do it. Freelances also need to meet up and
talk. The computer has separated us; hence the meeting in the pub.

It's time to fight back, and the best way to do that is to sit in the
pub all afternoon, combining protest and merriment in time-honoured
fashion. Solidarity!

Hat tip to Tom Hodgkinson from Quality Street

Variety Lays Off Film Critic

In today's journalism, that's the way the cookie crumbles. Seniority makes no difference. In his first post-Oscars column, headlined This thumb's for you, legendary film critic Roger Ebert uses his space in the Chicago Sun-Times to lambast Hollywood trade paper Variety for firing Todd McCarthy, a film critic there for the last 31 years. He was dismissed Monday as the industry publication announced that it would switch its policy to only publish movie reviews on a freelance basis as a cost-cutting measure. Ebert argues that as the chief critic for Variety and its longest-tenured staffer, McCarthy became “the bellwether of a film's future.” Ebert also writes that Variety could be signaling the end of an era for film commentary: “The glory days of the famous Variety critics are finished.”
Read it at Roger Ebert’s Journal. Hat tip to Tina Brown's Daily Beast for the link.