Wednesday, June 20, 2007

'Press vital to freedom' - Defense Secretary

Arizona Republic Viewpoints editor Joe Garcia this week wrote a compelling commentary based on recent remarks by Robert Gates, Secretary of the Defense Department.

"In these difficult and foggy days of trying to identify exactly who our enemies are, Gates tried to clarify the smoggy matter when he addressed the U.S. Naval Academy's Class of 2007.

" 'The press is not the enemy,' Gates told 1,028 graduates at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, Md., 'and to treat it as such is self-defeating.'

"What?" Garcia asks. "You mean we're not the bad guys after all? News media are used to being portrayed as such: The people who bring you bad news are the real bad guys. Not so, Gates says, who urged new Navy and Marine officers 'to remember the importance of two pillars of our freedom under the Constitution: the Congress and the press.'

"Gates said the military 'must be non-political'."

"Waitaminute. Is this an olive branch being extended instead of the traditional sharp stick in the eye?

"You cannot have freedom without a free press."

Read the entire piece here -

Saturday, June 9, 2007

NYT editor imagines a Murdoch WSJ

Washington Post reporter Mary Ann Akers in her blog reports on a New York Times editor's spoof of what a Rupert Murdoch Wall Street Journal might devolve into.

"There's funny 'ha-ha' - and then there's funny 'ouch'," she writes. "The latter would best describe the reaction of Wall Street Journal reporters and editors to a tabloidized version of the paper's fabled front page lampooning a potential Rupert Murdoch ownership.

"As you can see, the mock WSJ front page looks like a hybrid of the traditional Journal, with its signature pin-dot drawings and bullet point synopses of the news, and a typical Murdoch tabloid strewn with sleazy celebrity gossip headlines, a sensational crime story and flashy lottery ads.

"And who, you ask, is responsible for sending the mocked-up painful reminder to folks at the Journal - who have been having something of a collective anxiety attack over the possibility of a Murdoch purchase? An editor at The New York Times, the Journal's main competitor.

"Larry Ingrassia, the business editor at the Times, says one of the art directors in his department created the mocked-up WSJ front page 'as a lark'," Akers continued. "Ingrassia thought it such a riot that he ordered up an electronic version and promptly pinged his friends at the Journal, where, incidentally, he worked for years before his paper let the Times steal him away.

" 'It was done as humor,' Ingrassia told us, still giggling. 'There was nothing nefarious.'

"And he said he didn't get the sense that anyone at the Journal was offended. Their reaction, he thought, was 'What a hoot.'

"Well, maybe not a full-on hoot," she wrote. "But even if the spoof did have them grasping for the Valium, journalists at the Journal had a few chuckles. (Just a few.)

" 'Most saw it as a good-natured (and wickedly brilliant) joke,' says one senior Journal staffer.

"Another senior official for Dow Jones and Co., which owns the Wall Street Journal, said, 'We're pleased to know that people at the Times actually have a sense of humor.'

"The mock front page has has been circulating around newsrooms of the Journal and Dow Jones for about a month now, ever since Murdoch's surprise $5 billion bid for the news organization was disclosed. A spokesman for the company said Dow Jones had 'no comment' on the spoofed up front page.

"As for Murdoch, he claimed in an interview this week with the Wall Street Journal that he wouldn't change a thing about the WSJ's front page: 'The front page is not boring. Absolutely not,' Murdoch said, (undoubtedly crossing his fingers!).

The JPG graphic spoof itself is here --

Friday, June 8, 2007

Anxiety, excitement and optimism for journalism

Journalism as a trade seems to be in a panic. With newsroom cutbacks in small markets like Springfield and Galesburg as well as big operations in San Francisco and San Jose, it’s not surprising that people who care about traditional journalism are anxious.

However, writes Dan Gillmor in the San Francisco Chronicle, if the issue is the future of journalism --- as opposed to corporate business models --- there's at least as much reason for optimism as fear. The same technologies that disrupt the news industry offer opportunities for creating a more diverse, and ultimately more vibrant, journalistic system.

"There's never been a better time ... to be a journalistic entrepreneur," Gillmore says, "-- to invent your own job, to become part of the generation that figures out how to produce and, yes, sell the journalism we desperately need as a society and as citizens of a shrinking planet. The young journalists who are striking out on their own today, experimenting with techniques and business models, will invent what's coming."

Read his entire piece here --

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Campus Press Act goes to governor

Illinois' public college newspapers would all be granted "public forum" status next January if the governor signs on or if his veto is overridden. Here's today's press release from the STUDENT PRESS LAW CENTER:

By Jenny Redden, SPLC staff writer
© 2007 Student Press Law Center

June 7, 2007 ILLINOIS — With overwhelming support from the state legislature, an amended anti-censorship bill is on its way to the office of Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D), who has 60 days to take action on the bill.

If the governor signs SB 729, known as the College Campus Press Act, then all public college and community college publications in the state would be designated as forums for student expression starting in January 2008. The law would effectively negate the 2005 Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision in Hosty v. Carter in that state. The Hosty decision could allow public college administrators to impose prior review and restraint on student newspapers if the publication is not a designated public forum for student expression.

It applies to Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin, which comprise the Seventh Circuit.

"Passage of Senate Bill 729 is a major step in restoring the free speech and free press rights of student journalists on our college campuses," said Edwin Yohnka, director of communications and public policy for the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois. "We are grateful that the legislators responded so positively to this idea when we brought it to their attention."

  • Illinois Sen. Susan Garrett (D-Lake Forest) introduced the bill in early February with assistance from the ACLU.
  • Senators passed the bill unanimously in March.
  • The House, which approved the measure 112-2, amended the bill last week to protect administrators from being held liable for any student-produced material and allow them to punish students who use unprotected speech.
  • The Senate unanimously approved the amendment Wednesday.

Jim Ferg-Cadima, legislative counsel for the ACLU of Illinois, said last week that the ACLU looks forward to the support of the governor. However, the bill is virtually veto-proof, he said, because of the legislators' overwhelming support.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

What's a 'free press' when there's no PRESS

There’s no definition of “press” in the 45 words of the First Amendment, so in a world of "citizen journalism," web sites, MySpace, blogs, etc., who's bound by the responsibilities that go along with a free press?

That question is posed by First Amendment Center executive director Gene Policinski in a compelling piece worth considering.

Check it out here --

Friday, June 1, 2007

Reporters without Borders calls for action after record Iraq toll

The advocacy group Reporters Without Borders wants a special police unit to investigate media killings in Iraq after a record 12 journalists were slain in May, reports Paul Tait of Reuters.

The Paris-based group expressed shock after the deaths of four journalists in five days and said police should also set up a witness protection program to help in investigations of media killings.

Since the fall of dictator Saddam Hussein, who controlled Iraqi media, Iraqis have seen the proliferation of newspapers and television. Many are controlled by political or religious factions, and Iraqi journalists, dozens of whose colleagues have been killed or kidnapped, complain some officials put them under heavy pressure.

Read Tait's piece here --