Saturday, July 2, 2011

Fox News' beginnings in the Nixon White House

It's almost too easy, but I never could resist: The folks who brought you the Watergate burglary also brought you Fox News., using the Freedom of Information Act, found a memo it dates to 1970 with handwritten notes by Roger Ailes, who later was to found Fox News and still heads it, outlining, as the memo was titled, "A Plan to Put the GOP on TV News."

The plan is every bit as heavy-handed and as partisan as could be expected from the White House in that era (and would have been just as heavy-handed and partisan if the Democrats had thought it of during the Johnson Administration, I suspect). It also is stunningly dismissive of the audience: people watch television for news instead of reading newspapers, books or magazines because "People are lazy. With television you just sit--watch--listen. The thinking is done for you." This is indeed the thinking that led to Bill O'Reilly and Glenn Beck. At no point is "fair and balanced" part of the equation.

The plan reads like a blueprint for Fox News channel and the corporation's feeding partisan stories to its TV stations around the county. This is a vital part of our media history. I recommend you read the 16-page memo then think about where the media is today -- and how vulnerable it is to political manipulation.

Sometime, how a story is told is more illuminating than the story

What I found most interesting about the Wall Street Journal's take on the book "The Deal From Hell" was not only the excellent writing of Reason's Matt Welch, but the more than subtle pro-corporate bias shown in the account of the declines of the Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times.

As could be expected from the editor of the nation's best libertarian magazine, Welch retells the story in a compelling manner. As could be expected from the new Murdoched Wall Street Journal, the incredible mismanagement is largely excused ("What's lacking is any sense of realism about newspapers' collapsing finances and any exploration of the newsroom's own culpability in failing to adapt," he writes). This isn't to say that Welch's basic story line -- after riding high, the newspaper industry is grappling to find new revenue to replace that which fled to the Internet or whereever -- is wrong, but an analysis this well-done needed balance. Maybe that's too much to ask of the WSJ in this new era.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A bold expansion of Wi-Fi and its implications

A month teaching in Italy meant not only lots of gelatto, pasta and wine, but dealing with a country struggling with what to do about wireless Internet access. Wi-Fi is rare and the nation's 3-G network was spotty. All this led to some changes in the way I sampled media. For example, the iPad was virtually useless since the spotty 3-G signal and lack of Wi-Fi meant that most of its links didn't work.

But that's not the case here where Wi-Fi is spreading like wildfire -- the latest is that Taco Bells will offer free Wi-Fi as part of a huge multimedia package just announced -- and it set me to thinking about how closely tied distribution and media success are. This, of course, supports the Obama administration's drive to expand Wi-Fi nationally (even though our state's no-nothings are trying to stop its spread) and the growing use of 3-G and 4-G networks.

I know my iPhone's range has extended my media options. I thought of how its changed the other day while checking my email during the wait for my order at Kopps.

At the same time, I noticed while sitting in the Rome airport waiting for my flight back that, even though Wi-Fi and 3-G were available, almost all the waiting passengers were consuming paper: books, magazines and newspapers. It demonstrated that even though instantly-updated media gratification is available, it's not always the best kind. My three-month old New Yorker was what I wanted to read, so I did.

Monday, June 27, 2011

A guide to Twitter for Journalists

OK, so you've decided you want to take the plunge into social media for journalists, and you just don't know where to start (or you're already doing this, but want to do it better). Well, thanks to a tip from an expert, my Marquette colleague and friend Gee Ekachia, aka , here's a link to the Knight Digital Center's Tutorial "Twitter for Journalists." Don't miss it --and if you're in one of my upcoming classes, you won't miss it since it's going to be required reading.