Dec
09
2011

Why Is PBS Telling Us That Profit Is Journalism's Friend?

PBS has a website called MediaShift, billed as "Your Guide to the Digital Media Revolution." Based on an alarming post this week headlined "Tear Down the Wall Between Business and Editorial!" (12/7/11), the revolution looks rather revolting. The piece is written by Dorian Benkoil, who "handles marketing and sales strategies for MediaShift, and is the business columnist for the site"–a job description that suggests that PBS has already torn down the wall between business and editorial, since those responsibilities would seem to put you in a constant position of conflict of interest. (He earlier worked as "a liaison between the […]

Nov
22
2011

Does the Lie in Mitt Romney's TV Ad Matter?

Huffington Post reporterJon Ward did what reporters should do when covering political campaign ads. He told readers, at the top of his story, that the new Mitt Romney ad was based on a lie: The 60-second Romney ad quoted Obama as saying, "If we keep talking about the economy, we're going to lose." It sounds like Obama is talking about his own chances in 2012. But it's actually a clip of Obama mocking his 2008 opponent, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz), for not wanting to talk about the economy in the final stretch of that election. McCain's response to the collapse […]

Nov
18
2011

Public TV's Biz Show Now Owned By….

The public TV show Nightly Business Report has gone through some serious changes over the past year or so–sold by the public station that had produced it for years to a somewhat mysterious private company run by an entrepreneur whose been the subject of various controversies and lawsuits. The show's been sold once again, and the new owner of public television's premier business newscast is… an investment firm called Atalaya Capital Management. And why not, really.

Sep
21
2011

We Can't Talk About Class Because We Can't Talk About Why We Can't Talk About Class

In the L.A. Times today (9/21/11), media reporter James Rainey asks a very important question: In a week that saw the number of people in poverty hit a half-century high and President Obama propose a tax increase on those with million-dollar incomes, will America and the American media finally dig in for a serious conversation about class? And his evaluation of the media's performance on wealth-and-poverty issues accords with what FAIR has found when we've looked at the coverage (Extra!, 9-10/07, 6/10). Here's Rainey's take: Even though economists say the gap between haves and have-nots has been building for three […]

Jun
21
2011

'We Are a Profit-Driven Industry'

"I mean, we are a profit-driven industry. And if you want the most eyeballs, you have to go with the thing that people are most talking about. But if you're trying to do a quality program, then maybe you have got to go with Iraq and Iran." –Politico's Julie Mason, explaining the amount of coverage of Anthony Weiner (CNN, 6/19/11) UPDATE: Jim Romenesko reports that Gannett will be laying off 700 employees: That's about 2 percent of the workforce, according to Gannett US Community Publishing division president Bob Dickey. 'The economic recovery is not happening as quickly or favorably as […]

May
27
2011

NPR Journalists Worry About (Some) Money

NPR ombud Alicia Shepard has a piece (5/25/11) about internal discomfort with a recent $1.8 million grant from the George Soros-connected Open Society Foundation. Shepard writes: The money is for a worthy purpose. NPR is using the two-year grant as seed money to start a local-national initiative, known as the Impact on Government project. Eventually, the plan is to have two public radio reporters in every state keeping tabs on state government issues that are woefully under-reported by the media. This is to be a multi-media project for radio, the Web and social media. It's hard to argue against the […]

May
24
2011

PBS's New Plan: More Intrusive Ads

The public broadcasting newspaper Current (5/18/11) reports that public television–you know, the non-commercial outlet–will start airing more commercials: The move could be controversial for the network, which has traditionally prided itself on offering uninterrupted programming over its 40-year history. PBS will begin breaking into programs with underwriting and promo spots four times per hour on an experimental basis beginning this fall, it told station members at the PBS National Meeting here. PBS corporate communicationsofficial Anne Bentley issued a response that actually begins, "We are always looking at ways to improve the viewer experience." It goes on to say that "It […]

May
19
2011

Why Did Olbermann Really Leave MSNBC?

Keith Olbermann popped up on the David Letterman show and gave one reason–perhaps one big reason–why he left MSNBC. As transcribed by MediaBistro's TVNewser (where you can also watch the video): At some point in the last few years that I have been doing the news in the way that I do, it has occurred to me that the best place to continue doing the news in that way would be to do it at a place that is just in the news business and nothing else. It doesn't also own an amusement park in Orlando, it doesn't have outdoor […]

May
17
2011

David Gregory's Factcheck Fail on Show's Sponsor

Labor journalist Mike Elk (In These Times, 5/16/11) made an excellent point after watching NBC host David Gregory interview Newt Gingrich on Sunday's Meet the Press (5/15/11). Elk wrote: Speaking yesterday on Meet the Press, Republican presidential candidate and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) said that "the Obama system of the National Labor Relations Board [NLRB] is basically breaking the law to try to punish Boeing and to threaten every right-to-work state." While Meet the Press host David Gregory vigorously challenged Newt Gingrich on details of his personal life, he failed to challenge Gingrich on his false […]

Mar
23
2011

USA Today's Advertiser-Friendly Future

A condensed version of an AP story (3/23/11) about USA Today's new business plan: The nation's second-largest newspaper is expanding its coverage of advertising-friendly topics, designing content for smartphones and tablet computers and refreshing the look of its print edition, whose circulation has fallen by 20 percent over the past three years…. For readers, it means lots of travel tips, gadget reviews, sports features, financial advice and lifestyle recommendations. Top editors say investigative journalism will also be emphasized…. Even as it publishes more stories aimed at attracting advertisers, USA Today is promising to produce more hard-hitting coverage from an expanded […]

Oct
22
2010

LA Public TV, Direct From–WHOSE Studios??

The L.A. Times has an interesting piece (10/22/10) about KCET, the local PBS affiliate that is bolting from PBS because it says it can't afford to pay the fees PBS wants to charge them. What happened is that KCET, for a little while at least, was very good at raising corporate money; the PBS fee formula required them to pay more as a result, even though that corporate underwriting was supposed to be used for producing programming. Who did the money come from? Oil giant BP.So much money that, as the Times noted, "in gratitude KCET bosses renamed their historic […]

Sep
15
2010

Do Paid-For Local TV Segments Violate the Law?

Los Angeles Times columnist James Rainey (9/15/10) takes a look at "experts" appearing on local newscasts who are actually paid spokespeople for commercial interests–without viewers being made aware of this fact. He focuses on "toy expert"Elizabeth Werner, who makes appearances on local stations to talk up new products–on behalf of a company paid by toy manufactures to doso. Her employer, DWJ Television, saysit tells TV stations that companies are footing the bill for her promotional appearances.If that's true, then the burden is clearly on the stations to tell viewers about this connection. Rainey argues that it's the law, too: Federal […]

Aug
24
2010

Conflicts and Transparency at the Washington Post

Washington Post ombud Andy Alexander devoted his August 22 piece to lauding how the paper handles storiesabout its parent company and itsvarious business entanglements–which, as he explains, are rather extensive. The Washington Post Co. owns Newsweek, several television stations, and the Kaplan company, which runs the for-profit Kaplan University,the subject of recent critical media reports. As Alexander put it: The list of Washington Post Co. holdings and interests is extensive, and the relationships are complex. Whenever a news story discusses investment giant Berkshire Hathaway or its chief executive, Warren E. Buffett, it must note that he is a Post Co. […]