THURSDAY’S LINKS: Singleton Shrewd, Times Co. PR, Fleischer on White House Press Briefings

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By: E&P Staff

In today’s edition, some details and analysis of the McClachy/MediaNews deal, former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer has some thoughts about what the daily briefings have become, and the Times Co. girds for a war with shareholders.


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McClatchy/MediaNews Deal Has Two of Deal Singleton’s Hallmarks
The acquisition allows Singleton to save money by combining resources at newspapers that are close to each other, and it has the potential to soften the competition from a well-financed neighbor.


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‘The Briefing Is No Longer a Briefing, It’s a TV Show’
“Gone are the days when this daily session was a serious affair, with mostly serious questions asked and mostly serious answers given,” writes former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer. “Instead, the public is now treated to a spectacle in which the media do their best to pressure the White House, regardless of which party is in power, into admitting that much of what the president is doing is wrong, and the White House pushes back. The two sides talk past each other, and the viewing public gets to watch a good fight.”


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Why Do Plagiarists Do It? Because They Can
“The standard rundown of plagiarism excuses includes accidental copying, occupational or personal stress, and even mental illness, as in the case of former New York Times reporter Jayson Blair,” writes Jack Shafer. “I reject those excuses, too, and counter with a more plausible set of explanations that rely on neither psychobabble nor the DSM-IV.”


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Fitzgerald Grills Rove Again in Plame Case
It was the fifth time Mr. Rove has appeared before a federal grand jury in the case. The appearance came at a politically sensitive time for Mr. Rove, who was relieved of his policy portfolio at the White House in a staff reshuffling earlier this month and now faces the challenge of helping Republicans maintain their primacy in the midterm elections this fall. Mr. Rove last appeared before the grand jury in October, and his lawyer has said he is not a major figure in the leak inquiry and will ultimately be exonerated.


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New York ‘Daily News’ May Bid for Philly Papers
The New York Daily News is among at least five entities that have expressed interest in the Philadelphia newspapers. The Daily News’ tabloid format resembles that of the Philadelphia Daily News; both newspapers typically feature a single news, crime or mass-entertainment story on the cover page, with punchy articles and opinion columnists inside.


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Times Co. Needs PR Advice in Shareholder Revolt
Chairman Arthur “Pinch” Sulzberger Jr. and other top management have been criticized for putting off the concerns of Morgan Stanley portfolio manager Hassan Elmasry and for a share price that’s plummeted 50 percent since 2002. Soon after Morgan’s attack last week on The Times, the publisher’s spokeswoman, Catherine Mathis, was phoning Knight Ridder spokesman Polk Laffoon seeking advice, sources familiar with the matter said.


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Singleton Has Earned Reputation as a Shrewd Bargainer
The 54-year-old Singleton is a deal maker, and the purchase of the Mercury News reflects his strategy of negotiating complex partnerships with other newspaper companies. By tapping his partners’ cash to help finance acquisitions, he avoids being beholden to Wall Street investors. It was pressure from shareholders unhappy with the Knight Ridder stock price that led to the San Jose company’s sale to McClatchy in March and McClatchy’s subsequent decision to sell off the Mercury News and 11 other Knight Ridder newspapers.


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Pulitzer Winner Risen in ‘Happy Haze’
Don’t expect James Risen to shed much light on his inner feelings. (MSNBC’s wily Chris Matthews, for instance, tried to press Risen into spilling his guts one day last week, but the veteran Times reporter was either too crafty or too exhausted to take the bait). Chances are that Risen won’t be spinning any terribly revealing yarns someday, either, for one of those poignant Pulitzer-season How-Did-He-Find-Out retrospectives.


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Is It Problematic When a Partisan Politico Takes a Job in Journalism, or Vice Versa?
“Don?t we want our reporters to have an expert grip on the topic they cover?” asks Vaugn Ververs. “Other professions — medicine and business for example ? cross over to journalism all the time with little of the hand-wringing that accompanies the political crossover. Sure, they bring some ideological baggage but, as the saying goes, at least we know where they?re coming from. And what is so wrong with the White House looking to someone with at least some journalistic credentials to communicate to the press?”


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Lyrics to New Neil Young ‘Impeach the President’ Song
“Neil Young?s new album, ‘Living with War,’ is an incendiary, moving, totally American document of peaceful protest that is going to make a lot of people crazy one way or another.” writes Roger Friedman. “And there?s no doubt that the centerpiece of the album, a song called ?Let?s Impeach The President,? performed as a melodic, rocking, campfire ode will be what causes the most controversy.”

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