FRIDAY’S LINKS: Does ‘NYT’ Make Local Papers Dumber?, U.S. Press Forgets Afghanistan, Hezbollah’s PR Efforts

By: E&P Staff

In today’s edition, Jack Shafer says that the New York Times’ encroachment on local news markets has the effect of dumbing down the small newspapers already there, a charge that the U.S. media is largely ignoring the ongoing conflicts in Afghanistan, and Rupert Murdoch summons some of the most powerful political minds in the world to a News Corp. gathering at Pebble Beach.


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Shakeup at AOL
New York Post: While Time Warner is set to unveil the details on a plan to make many of the features at America Online free, behind the scenes the media giant is weighing much bolder moves to transform the troubled Internet unit. In recent weeks the company has once again approached major tech and media companies to discuss possible partnerships, and internally the company has been weighing a plan to spin off a portion of AOL, perhaps as much as 20 percent, to public shareholders, sources said.


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Front Page News? Not Quite
BusinessWeek: “Does anyone beyond the most navel-gazing of journalists care in the slightest about a small ad appearing on the front page?” asks Jon Fine. “‘It’s arbitrary to say: “It’s O.K. to have an ad facing a page but not have an ad on the page,”‘ says a top editor at a major magazine. ‘That’s silly and dumb and biased toward the status quo.’ Make that the very recent status quo. As Steele himself admits, there’s a much longer tradition of American newspapers with front-page ads than without. It’s only in the past 30 or so years — the post-Watergate era that solidified ‘objectivity’ as a journalistic ideal — that such ads stopped appearing.”


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Rupert Murdoch Summons the Powerful to Expound
Los Angeles Times: When 250 News Corp. executives gather this weekend for a management retreat at a posh California seaside resort, they’ll skip the typical team-building exercises that such confabs are known for. Why role-play when you can pick the brains of actual world leaders and rock stars? Speakers at the Pebble Beach event will include such political powers as British Prime Minister Tony Blair, former President Clinton and Israeli Vice Premier Shimon Peres. Los Angeles Police Chief William J. Bratton will opine on remaking complex organizations, former Vice President Al Gore will riff on climate change, and U2’s Bono will deliver a keynote address titled “The Power of One.”


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YouTube, Digg, MySpace: How Much Is a Non-Paying ‘User’ Worth?
ZDNet: “How much are the Web 2.0 Social Web legions of non-contributing, and non-paying, users worth?” asks Donna Bogatin. “From YouTube, to Digg, to MySpace, Social Web stars are touting enormous traffic and usage metrics. The traffic overwhelmingly involves non-contributing, and non-paying, users, however, and the usage is not well monetized. Additionally, the Web 2.0 leaders in traffic and usage are incurring greater infrastructure costs to support the growing non-paying users, and under-monetized usage.”


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How the New York Times Makes Local Papers Dumb
Slate: “Besides making local newspapers dumber, the invasion of the Times may make them less desirable to advertisers, who prefer educated readers over less educated ones because education is an excellent marker of affluence,” writes Jack Shafer. “By extension, the arrival may even erode the value of some local papers.”


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Lifting the Cover of the Hezbollah PR Effort
CJR Daily: “Reporting from a war zone almost invariably entails certain moral or ethical compromises made on the fly that are, more often than not, necessary,” writes Paul McLeary. “If being led around by Hezbollah ‘press officers’ is the only way for reporters to tour bomb-damaged neighborhoods in Beirut, so be it — as long as they disclose as much.”


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A New Model For Getting Rich Online
Washington Post: For hundreds of thousands of people, the dream of making an Internet fortune works like this: Earn pennies at a time in exchange for allowing Google Inc. or Yahoo Inc. to place advertisements on a personal or small-business Web page.


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Most U.S. News Orgs Ignoring Afghanistan
American Journalism Review: Some media critics have labeled Afghanistan the “forgotten war” and worry about the consequences of the underreporting, of a nation caught unprepared for the dangers in such a volatile place. Television news, with the potential to reach many millions, has been shamefully inadequate. Print fares better but leaves a lot to be desired, given the importance of the subject. Stories filed from the region paint a troubling picture of a nation reverting to lawlessness, with Islamic extremists getting a powerful second wind.

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