Murdoch, Obama Top List of Speakers for ASNE 2005

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By: Joe Strupp

News Corp. mogul Rupert Murdoch will be among the speakers at this year’s American Society of Newspaper Editors conference, slated for April 12-15, which will also include sessions on topics ranging from the Iraq War to Spanish-language newspapers. Other notable names at the annual convention will include rising Democratic star Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) and veteran First Amendment attorney Floyd Abrams.

Murdoch owns only one U.S. newspaper, the New York Post, but he can claim worldwide media dominance with the Fox TV network, Fox News Channel, various other media empires, and, of course, dailies in Australia and the United Kingdom. He’s likely to tackle any number of subjects related to his holdings. Cross-ownership, government censorship, and even estate taxes are issues facing both Murdoch and American newspapers.

“He is a knowledgeable and important player in the U.S. media scene who has found some things that work,” ASNE Executive Director Scott Bosely said about Murdoch, whose actions and news approach have not always drawn support from newspapers. “We think he would be an interesting person to speak to the group.”

President Bush has also been invited, according to ASNE officials, but has yet to confirm an appearance. Since Bush took office in 2001, he has spoken before ASNE only once, during his first year. The president appeared during last year’s combined convention with the Newspaper Association of America, but that speech was technically part of the NAA events.

“We never know with the president until a few weeks out if he will come for sure,” Bosley noted. “But we have not been told ‘no.'”

Abrams, who has been a key player in the ongoing confidential-source battle in the Valerie Plame case, will speak about freedom of information.

Other workshops and sessions at the Washington, D.C., gathering will include those focused on the future of newspapers, new training initiatives, “how to create a homeland security beat,” succession plans for small newspapers, and the war on terrorism.

On the final day, incoming ASNE President Rick Rodriguez of The Sacramento (Calif.) Bee will assume his post, replacing current president Karla Garrett Harshaw, editor of the Springfield (Ohio) News-Sun.

After a sharp attendance drop that began in 2001, when the number of paid attendees dropped below 600 for the first time in many years, the conference has seen a steady increase, Bosley said. Last year’s gathering was the most crowded in three years, with more than 600 people taking part for the first time since 2000.

“Last year was the first year in a while that we climbed back in to the 600’s,” Bosley said. “We had been as high as 700 in 1999 and 2000, but it has slowly been creeping back.”

No major changes are expected for this year’s event. The convention fee, at $500 per person for ASNE members, remains unchanged, having last been increased in 2000. More information is available at www.asne.org.

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