Archive for January 7th, 2005

Dan Gillmor noticed a Reuters report, picking up on the Business Week cover story mentioned here earlier today, saying that the NYTimes might be, may be, maybe, charging their 18.5 million unique monthly Internet users.
Dan asks: Would you pay?
I already pay for the paper edition. Doing that is much cheaper than owning three computers which is how many we’d need so we could all read our favorite sections each morning — and the online version doesn’t give the crossword or free anyway!
And yes I do pay for Salon, but not for WSJ.

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Just as record companies are attempting once again to kill off the payola/indpendent promoter system, the same persistant virus has been revealed to be hitting the news and commentary side of the media.

Rightwing spokesman, Armstrong Williams, has been shown to have been paid $240,000 by the US Department of Education [conservatives note this is your tax money too] to shill for No Child Left Behind. (see USA Today’s story).

The contract, detailed in documents obtained by USA TODAY through a Freedom of Information Act request, also shows that the Education Department, through the Ketchum public relations firm, arranged with Williams to use contacts with America’s Black Forum, a group of black broadcast journalists, “to encourage the producers to periodically address” NCLB. He persuaded radio and TV personality Steve Harvey to invite Paige onto his show twice. Harvey’s manager, Rushion McDonald, confirmed the appearances.

Williams says he was a strong believer in the NCLB to begin with, but that didn’t stop him for entering into a contract which seriously compromised his integrity. I am now glad to say that a full course in ethics is required at UNC’s Journalism School. I hope that Williams and others will take time to check out the classes and take a similar course themselves.

But Williams is only half the equation. Departments of government do have a duty to educate about their work but this project executed with too much secrecy became propaganda — not openness.

As USA Today reports:

Williams’ contract was part of a $1 million deal with Ketchum that produced “video news releases” designed to look like news reports. The Bush administration used similar releases last year to promote its Medicare prescription drug plan, prompting a scolding from the Government Accountability Office, which called them an illegal use of taxpayers’ dollars.

This is the kind of thing that was corrupting the music industry and should not be coming from government. The Clinton Administration was not immune from this kind of behavior as local reporter Fiona Morgan told us in Salon in January 2000.


Editor and Publisher reports that the Tribune Media Services is also questioning the columns that Williams wrote for their syndicate.
Four of his Right Side columns were in favor of NCLB.

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The good news is that since I installed AuthImage for comments I’m no longer spending as much time deleting Texas Hold’em comment spam than I spend writing articles.

The bad news is that AuthImage is sometimes a bit of a strong gatekeeper not allowing posts for perfectly wonderful people who can read and type the code just right. It seems that once AuthImage decides you are not authorized you are in comment limbo for a while. There is nothing that I can see in the code that would cause this issuing of small exiles to commenters; I’ve been sent into comment exile myself.

If you want to comment and AuthImage decides that you can’t, just drop me a note with your comment and I’ll make sure your comment gets added sooner or later. Send to jones@unc.edu or hit me with IM as smalljones.

UPDATE I suspect that AuthImage is not happy about being in a web-server-cluster environment. If so that would explain a lot.

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Collegue and ever alert observer, Phil Meyer, writes to say that the New York Times and its future arethe cover story on the current Business Week. Further, the future is red but not rosy. Not all of the Times’ troubles are tied to their mismanagement and missing oversight of reporters like the infamous Jason Blair. Many are the problems of a paper-based information source trying to make the move to the Internet. More people read the NYTimes than ever and more of us read it on the Net (disclosure: I get the paper edition too, but end up reading a good bit of the paper on the Net anyhow). The question is as always: Where is the Money? This is no small question since good journalism requires good money — unless you are me blogging in the public interest :->

The B-Week article ends:

The New York Times, like all print publications, faces a quandary. A majority of the paper’s readership now views the paper online, but the company still derives 90% of its revenues from newspapering. “The business model that seems to justify the expense of producing quality journalism is the one that isn’t growing, and the one that is growing — the Internet — isn’t producing enough revenue to produce journalism of the same quality,” says John Battelle, a co-founder of Wired and other magazines and Web sites.

Today, Sulzberger faces an even bigger challenge than when he took charge of the Times in the mid-1990s. Can he find a way to rekindle growth while preserving the primacy of the Times’s journalism? The answer will go a long way toward determining not only the fate of America’s most important newspaper but also whether traditional, reporting-intensive journalism has a central place in the Digital Age.

Now those are real challenges. Does Christensen’s Innovator’s Dilemma point to any answers?

In related news news, Phil points out that a lack of standards and a lack of copyeditors makes the Times less readable. For example, he says: “I wrote to the Times ombudsman to complain about Maureen Dowd’s affection of the British spelling of “whine.” She uses “whinge,” which will stop an American reader in his or her tracks. I was told that every op ed writer is entitled to use the spelling and grammar of his or her choice.”

As anyone who has read this blog knows too well, copyeditors can make a real positive difference. I miss them. They help make me sound smarter.

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