Posts from June 24, 2005

Can’t see the forrest for the papers

Can’t see the forrest for the papers

: Jon Fine, ex Ad Age and now covering media at Biz Week, hears the bells tolling for newspapers:

Newspapers are cockroaches. No matter what is introduced into the media ecosystem, the oldest of the Big Media survives. Despite decades of doomsayers, newspapers prospered through radio, through TV and cable, through video games, through the Internet….

Not so fast. Suddenly, even sober Wall Street analysts think something new is afoot.

What looms now “is different from all other threats,” says Lauren Rich Fine (no relation), a Merrill Lynch & Co. (MER ) analyst who has covered the industry since the 1980s. Consumers are shifting decisively to online information, says Fine, especially the young, and are no longer yoked to the local newspaper. “Ads are following the eyeballs to where they make transactional decisions.” Fine recently forecast that newspapers’ profit margins are set to enter a long period of decline.

The new and troubling reality for newspapers is that even if they excel as purveyors of information to appreciative audiences, they still face tough business terrain. “They can try to be the destination where you go online and [can] be really successful with citizen journalism and blogs,” says Fine. But such innovations are “not going to pay a lot of bills.”

Yes, the economics of news have changed, fundamentally. Now the business of news has to change.

: See earlier post on business models for new here and follow the links at the bottom for more.

Nanny news

Nanny news

: In this country, the nannies are using time delays to protect our sensitive selves from breasts and four-letter words.

In Britain, the news nannies are using delays to protect the people from… news! The new BBC ethics policy dictates that:

The corporation will also introduce a time delay on its live coverage of sensitive news events such as September 11 and the school massacre in Beslan.

The time delay will last several seconds and will allow editors to cut any scenes they believe are too shocking for viewers.

Incredible. What do they think they’re protecting the public from? The acts of evil terrorists? What is served by softening that? Softening the terrorists?

Since when did you think it was your job to protect the people from the truth?

: Here is the BBC’s policy. Here they say they don’t want to report the demands of, say, hostage takers and influence the outcome of their actions. OK. But they also say:

we install a delay when broadcasting live material of sensitive stories, for example a school siege or plane hijack. This is particularly important when the outcome is unpredictable and we may record distressing material that is unsuitable for broadcast without careful editing.

What’s suitable and for whom?

: There’s enough in these guidelines — a “book,” they call it — to keep a Kremlinologist busy for years. For example:

: On war reporting: “The tone of our reporting is as important as the reliability of our reporting.” And just what does that mean? What did that mean in their reporting of the latest war?

: And also under war: “We will ensure our online message boards are hosted to maintain a full debate and avoid offensive postings by switching to pre-moderation if necessary.” What, so they don’t turn into war?

: And here we have the boogey applied to the word “terrorist:”

The word “terrorist” itself can be a barrier rather than an aid to understanding. We should try to avoid the term, without attribution. We should let other people characterise while we report the facts as we know them.

We should not adopt other people’s language as our own. It is also usually inappropriate to use words like “liberate”, “court martial” or “execute” in the absence of a clear judicial process. We should convey to our audience the full consequences of the act by describing what happened. We should use words which specifically describe the perpetrator such as “bomber”, “attacker”, “gunman”, “kidnapper”, “insurgent, and “militant”.

Oh, so insurgent, and militant, and bomber are ok but terrorist is not? Well, I’m offended not calling a terrorist a terrorist. The refusal to use that word carries a value judgment, or lack of judgment, in itself.

: I was having such a good time, I flipped back to read the beginning. Here, the BBC thinks it can do nothing less than get the truth.

We strive to be accurate and establish the truth of what has happened. Accuracy is more important than speed and it is often more than a question of getting the facts right. We will weigh all relevant facts and information to get at the truth.

Others would say it’s their job to report the facts and ours to judge the truth.

: Under “Harm and Offence,” it advises this:

We aim to reflect the world as it is, including all aspects of the human experience and the realities of the natural world. But we balance our right to broadcast and publish innovative and challenging content with our responsibility to protect the vulnerable.

What the hell does that mean?

: On sources: “We should be reluctant to rely on a single source. If we do rely on a single source, a named on the record source is always preferable.” And: “We should normally identify on air and online sources of information and significant contributors, as well as providing their credentials, so that our audiences can judge their status.” And on anonymous sources.

: Surely this is a parody. First, the guidelines say: “We should not distort known facts, present invented material as fact, or knowingly do anything to mislead our audiences.” And I’m wondering, did they really have to say that? But then they add “We may need to label material to avoid doing so.” And just when do you need to distort facts, invent facts, or mislead audiences?

: And on the old objectivity thing:

our journalists and presenters, including those in news and current affairs, may provide professional judgments but may not express personal opinions on matters of public policy or political or industrial controversy. Our audiences should not be able to tell from BBC programmes or other BBC output the personal views of our journalists and presenters on such matters.

In other words, do a really good job of hiding what you think.

: No hypnosis, no exorcism, no subliminal programming.

: On weblogs:

: We will exercise the same level of editorial care with weblogs as we do with other forms of content. This policy will also apply to associated external links and user generated comments.

Members of staff who write and publish weblogs should refer to their line manager. See Guidelines on Conflict of Interest

Why under Harm and Offence do they have a picture of two naked men?

: Nasty words are nastier online:

Offensive language can give rise to widespread offence. The use of certain, mainly four letter, words in text on the Internet may be far more offensive than a fleeting expression on radio or television. Such words may be used only in exceptional circumstances, there must be a clear editorial justification for their use and express approval must be obtained.

: LATER: On the time-delay from the NY Times story:

Some journalists questioned, though, whether removing some scenes might mislead viewers.

“It could be a dangerous precedent,” said Jean-FranÁois Julliard, an editor at Reporters Without Borders, an advocacy group based in Paris, which campaigns for the protection of journalists and their freedoms.

“In some cases I could understand that some editors might want to use it,” he said in an interview. “But they must say they are using it. It should be a very transparent process. If they say it is live when it is not, that is a lie.”

: FOR A DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE on TV showing violence, read the Lenslinger.