Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Who do you trust?

What an understatement.

It's from a Harvard study.
Key among the findings according to E&P:
• 64% of those polled do not trust press coverage of the presidential campaign.
• 88% believe that campaign coverage focuses on trivial issues.
• 84% believe that media coverage has too much influence on American voting choices.
• 92% say it is important that the news media provide information on candidates’ specific policy plans, but 61% say the media does not provide enough coverage of policy plans.
• 89% say it is important to hear about candidates’ personal values and ethics, but 43% say there is not enough coverage of personal values and ethics.

Instead, those surveyed claimed they were getting "exactly the type of campaign coverage that they want the least," the report found.

Seventy percent of those polled said coverage of negative ads was not important and 65% said the media provided too much coverage of them; 67% say that coverage of “gotcha” moments — candidates’ embarrassing incidents and mistakes — was not important and 68% say there was too much coverage of those moments.
Unlike Editor & Publisher, I know how to link.

What E&P missed because Greg Mitchell, the editor of E&P is still having those anti-war flashbacks to the 60s.

The national leadership index asks the question, "How much confidence do you have in the leadership of the following sectors?" (Pg 3)
1 = None at all 4 = Great deal

Military = 3.15
Medical = 3.02
Supreme Court = 2.90
The bottom? The press = 2.26 (lower than the White House)

Top key findings the study highlighted?
•The only sectors of leadership in which Americans have more than a moderate amount of confidence are military and medical leadership
• For the third year in a row, military leadership inspires the most confidence and leadership in the press the least confidence

SECTION 2 , titled, "Memo to the Press" (pg 4)

Leaders in the press have inspired less confidence than leaders in any other sector during each of the three years of the National Leadership Index (2005-2007). Given the central role of the news media in covering presidential politics, Americans were asked how they felt about media coverage of the 2008 campaign.
64% did not trust
34% trust

A total of 1,207 respondents were interviewed.
The interviews were conducted from September 4 –17, 2007. Calls were made weeknights
from 5:30 p.m.–9:00 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays from noon–6:00 p.m. in each local
time zone. The response rate was 23%.

In other words, 77% of the people hung up on them or declined to participate.

How come polls never ask the really important question, "Do you trust polls?" Perhaps because they're afraid of the answer. The refusal rate answers the question.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Bad News

Are these stories related, or what???!!!

From Editor & Publisher, the Dutch-owned, self-described, "America's Oldest Journal Covering the Newspaper Industry" is news of some changes at the LA Times.

'LA Times' Creates Reader Representative's Blog
Editor James O'Shea said, "The ongoing changes reflect The Times overarching goal of becoming a more transparent and integrated news organization. Most important, we're further opening the lines of communication with our readers and using new ways to make the newsroom more accessible."
Naturally, Editor & Publisher does not provide a link to the new blog or the press release about the changes. The theory is that once you leave Editor & Publisher, you really don't want to return to that smarmy publication.

The new blog can be found here.

The other story at Editor & Publisher? "Tribune Co. Revenue Dropped 9.3% In October" and even then, E&P forgot to note the redline misery in the stock value <----- and national sales <------ . (From CNN Money)
  • Circulation revenue fell more than 6 percent because of declines in single-copy sales and discounts for home delivery, the Tribune said.
  • Shares in the company fell $1.23, or 4.3 percent, to $27.37 <-------
  • Publishing revenue in October dropped 7.9 percent to $287 million, with
  • ad revenue sliding 10.6 percent to $222 million.
  • National ad sales dipped 2.3 percent with softness in auto, transportation and technology categories partially offset by an increase in the movie category. <-------
  • Classified ad sales slumped 19.2 percent, as real estate tumbled 26.9 percent on significant dropoffs in Los Angeles, Chicago and Florida.
  • Help wanted ad revenue declined 21.7 percent and
  • automotive fell 4.9 percent.
  • Interactive sales were a bright spot, rising 11.4 percent to $22 million.
  • Retail advertising sales slid 7.8 percent as declines in department stores, amusements and electronic categories were partially offset by a rise in the health care category.
  • Broadcasting and entertainment revenue slipped 13.3 percent to $96 million on declines in television group revenue and Chicago Cubs revenue.
  • Television revenue fell 7.1 percent on dropoffs in political, movies and retail, partially offset by strength in food/packaged goods, telecom and restaurant/fast food categories.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Foney Falafel Fable

The FBI responded to an article in the Congressional Quarterly alleging that the FBI had a program to monitor the sales of Middle Eastern food products in the San Francisco Bay area in support of counterterrorism intelligence gathering.

They don't. As John MillerAssistant Director, Office of Public Affairs, wrote,
Having never heard of this, I spoke to the counterterrorism managers, who in the story were identified as having hatched the plan, as well as everyone else who would have had any knowledge of it. Nobody did. At one point in the story, writer Jeff Stein opines “as ridiculous as it sounds,” in reference to the alleged food monitoring plan, which reportedly was described to Mr. Stein by “well-informed sources.”

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Hiring spies to be spies

Nov 13, 2007 - This story will be underreported.
An illegal immigrant from Lebanon with ties to the militant Islamic group Hezbollah lied her way through background checks to become an agent for both the FBI and CIA, and then used her position to obtain information about her relatives and a U.S. investigation into the group, authorities said Tuesday.
Nada Nadim Prouty, 37, pleaded guilty to conspiracy, unauthorized computer access and naturalization fraud in federal court in Detroit and agreed to cooperate with authorities in an investigation into the security breaches.

Prouty’s case is a major embarrassment for the FBI and CIA, which supposedly had tightened their screening and monitoring of personnel after CIA officer Aldrich Ames and FBI Special Agent Robert Hanssen were caught selling secrets to foreign governments. But officials stressed that the investigation has not uncovered any evidence that Prouty gave Hezbollah or its operatives classified information.

Law enforcement officials said a multi-agency probe is underway to determine how the breaches occurred and what Prouty might have done with the information she accessed from FBI computers and whether she obtained information from the CIA.

“It is hard to imagine a greater threat than the situation where a foreign national uses fraud to attain citizenship and then, based on that fraud insinuates herself into a sensitive position in the U.S. government,” U.S. Attorney Stephen J. Murphy in Detroit said in a statement.

In her signed plea agreement, Prouty admitted to accessing FBI computer files on Hezbollah first in 2000 and again in 2003, when she accessed case files into a top-secret national security investigation into the militant group that was being conducted by the FBI.

At the time, Prouty’s brother-in-law was a suspected Hezbollah operative who owned a Detroit restaurant where Prouty had worked as a waitress and was suspected of having strong ties to senior Hezbollah officials in Lebanon, the group’s headquarters.

Prouty also was accused of improperly taking classified information home with her while at the FBI and of working with other Lebanese nationals in what appeared to be a conspiracy to gain U.S. citizenship through fraudulent marriages and then to obtain government law enforcement, intelligence and military jobs with security clearances.

The investigation is being conducted by the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement bureau, with assistance from the State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service and the Internal Revenue Service, officials said. ICE spokeswoman Kelly Nantel said it was too early to say what kind of security breaches might have been involved.
The breaches seem severe just from what they know now.
The U.S. government has designated Hezbollah, also known as the “Party of God,” as a global terrorist organization. The Shiite group also has financial ties and other links to Iran. Hezbollah also has had a significant fundraising presence in the United States, particularly within large Middle Eastern enclaves in cities such as Detroit and Dearborn, Mich.

Prouty came to one of those enclaves in Michigan in 1989 on a one-year, non-immigrant student visa. After overstaying her visa, she obtained a fraudulent marriage in 1990 by paying an unemployed U.S. citizen in Detroit to marry her, court records state.

From there, Prouty forged her way into obtaining U.S. citizenship and worked as a waitress and hostess at a Middle Eastern restaurant chain called La Shish Inc. that was owned by a suspected Hezbollah operative named Talal Khalil Chahine. Chahine even wrote a letter for submission into Prouty’s immigration file attesting to the validity of Prouty’s false marriage, the court papers said.

In 1999, Prouty was hired by the FBI as a sworn agent and sent to its Washington, D.C., field office, where she worked on a squad that investigates crimes against citizens working overseas. She was not assigned to work on investigations involving Hezbollah.

The next year, Prouty’s sister, Elfat El Aouar, married Chahine. And less than a month later, Prouty accessed the FBI case management system, “without authorization, and beyond her authorized access,” to query her own name and that of her sister and Chahine. She also began taking “an unknown quantity” of classified information home with her, against FBI policy, court records state.

In August 2002, Prouty’s sister and Chahine attended a fundraising event in Lebanon where the keynote speakers were Hezbollah leader Sheik Muhammad Hussein Fadlallah and Chahine himself, who authorities said was suspected of being a senior member of the organization.

The next summer, Prouty illegally accessed the FBI computers again. This time, she accessed the bureau’s Automated Case System to obtain information about a national security investigation into Hezbollah that was being conducted by the FBI’s Detroit Field Office, court records showed.

Later that year, Prouty joined the CIA and remained there until earlier this month.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Can you spell hubris?

Interesting article at E&P on the speech by Tom Curley, CEO of the Associated Press. As usual, E&P doesn't provide a link to his speech. They excerpt from it. These are some points he made and how they saw his message.

- Young people the world over are hungry for news. They just don’t prefer our traditional platforms and packaging.

- The first thing that has to go is the attitude. Our institutional arrogance has done more to harm us than any portal ... [That's exactly how E&P staff edited the sentence.]

- Our focus must be on becoming the very best at filling people’s 24-hour news needs. That’s a huge shift from the we-know-best, gatekeeper thinking.

Those are the points that caught my eye because they are related to that ominous note about control.
We have the power to control how our content flows on the Web. We must use that power if we’re to continue to be financially secure and independent enough to speak truth to power.
(I wasn't the only one to make note of it either. Rich Ord has an article in that you don't want to miss.)

For me, however, the first thing that struck is that there's a commonality in these and it is continued hubris. The AP doesn't want people linking to their stories and they think that as robbing content. Is information copyrightable? I don't think so. Readers don't think so. It's the same old arrogance and desire to be gatekeepers. It isn't about income. If the newspaper industry and the AP wanted more income they would have dropped the attitude and long-established, no longer even deniable, bias a long time ago. A viewpoint sells. That's why blogs are beating their pants off. That's why readers will no longer pay for newspaper content.

His speech is online.

The points from it, I would have made are the
"We who rule content must start making decisions, the ones that deliver journalism for another generation of readers and viewers." And, "Enforcement, too, must be a part. What we do comes at great cost and sacrifice, even death. We believe content should have wide distribution. We intend to be compensated for it."
Rule content? What happened to dropping the hubris and the gatekeeper thinking?
"The brains are the people who can add real value whether through perspective, deeper reporting or great writing. In short, we need talent, a lot of it and some of it very different."
Odd, most online readers feel that it is the one thing missing from traditional newspapers. - independence of thought and viewpoint. Newspapers don't hire reporters for their critical thinking skills or their enthusiasm for learning. They hire them because those are the qualities they lack. It makes for the conformity dictated by editors who hire, who decide what to write, when to write and, lastly, what gets published and even the headline that banners the story.

When was the last time you knew the name of an AP reporter and followed his or her writing because it was good or because you admired their writing? They're faceless scribes reworking the stories from member papers. When you work for small men, you have to be smaller.

Clinging to the old model, Curley had this to say about editors.
Great editors connect with readers and viewers. They build -- or to use the vernacular -- aggregate audiences, big or niche, with value, social currency and, ultimately, impact on the political process or social norms.
When was the last time you even knew the name of a single editor? There are no great editors in American newspapers. The current ones who have controlled content have driven papers into near-bankruptcy because readers don't want to share attitudes. They want to make up their own minds. They want reporters to be able to do the same in order to provide facts and information they can use. In electing their politicans, in funding their schools, in determining their quality of life.

People have turned away from the newspaper industry primarily because that is an industry that wants to impact social norms. Worse,they want to dictate social norms.

That's a far cry from providing content. It's control.

And make no mistake, it's not limited to controlling content.
Lest you think we’re going off the deep end and giving it all away for free, we’re coupling those initiatives with strong new efforts to protect news web sites from unauthorized scraping through tighter site protocols and content tagging. We also hope to strike some attractive new distribution deals with valuable advertising support.
Two tenets guide us: the need to adapt our old systems and practices, especially our mindsets, in order to compete, and the need to get control over our content, so that we can take a seat at the table to set the terms for the new distribution that the search engines and Web 2.0 channels offer.
To do so, the silly man thinks the AP controls the Internet.
You can bet that if they saw a Google, a Yahoo or a Facebook, they would have figured out what to do about them. You can bet that if they found a newshound like our friend Madi Reddy in India, collecting news and tidbits to share with friends, they would have found a way to feed his obsession.
The more things change, the more they stay the same.

The hubris of thinking that information is a commodity to be controlled by a monopoly would be laughable if it wasn't so destructive to a democracy.

For those of us who genuinely love newspapers and the opportunity that a newspaper has to encourage reading and learning, excite wonder at exploration and the quiet thrill of the discovery of knowledge, aren't surprised at this speech. The faceless, little man who gave it epitomizes the industry thats a business, not an art. The sooner they go bankrupt, the better.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

I have not labled the more than 2,153 stories in this blog and don't intend to do so. It's too time consuming.

Newspaper circulation declines

Steep circulation declines continue in the newspaper industry.

At Editor & Publisher (the Dutch-owned publication that follows the newspaper industry) - where editor Greg Mitchell perpetually proves that your brain stops growing from the acid in the 60's and where Vietnam flashbacks can occur daily and in response to every topic, at least for anti-war activists - are releasing the bad news a day ahead of the official figures.

E&P has learned that several major papers have suffered declines in daily circ of over 7%, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, The San Diego Union-Tribune, The Miami Herald and The Dallas Morning News.

Asked for comment, publishers of these papers blamed the decreases partly on the cut back in other-paid circulation * -- which includes Newspaper in Education, hotel, and third-party copies.

And papers have been chopping distribution areas--it's too expensive to serve outlying communities, at least in print. **

Of course, some of the decline is occurring because fewer people are reading the print version. Single-copy sales, which is a barometer of paid circulation, have tumbled in recent years. This reporting period, the category is expected to decrease around 5%.

Atlanta Journal-Constitution's circulation fell about 9% for both daily and Sunday.

South Florida Sun-Sentinel in Ft. Lauderdale was down almost 9% daily and about 6% on Sunday.

The Dallas Morning News will report on Monday that daily circ fell 7.7% while Sunday slid 7.6%
The San Diego Union-Tribune declined about 8.5% while Sunday was down about 7.9%.

Combined circulation for The Miami Herald and Nuevo Herald declined daily and Sunday about 8.4% and 12.3%, respectively.

Gains or slight increases (1%) from the St. Petersburg Times, the San Jose Mercury News, The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Philadelphia Daily News, the Orlando Sentinel, the Houston Chronicle, and The Courier-Journal in Louisville, Ky.

The new figures will include online viewership for which readers pay, more or less, what most newspapers are worth - absolutely nothing. That this should shame the industry, and doesn't, is really part of the problem.

Except for the San Diego Union-Tribune that is a fine newspaper with responsible adults at the helm, the rest of the declines are predictable in an age of choice that includes something other than abortion.

** Other paid circulation = deeply discounted, practically give-away papers. You know, airport and hotel papers that litter your hotel doorway and seating at departure gates. Newspapers that were previously counted as circulation until they got caught at it.

** Translation: Our paper isn't worth the newspaper print it's printed on.